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Published: January 12th 2007
We last left you in Singapore, and when we left Singapore it was in an absolute frenzy - so much so that we almost missed our plane and we probably would have had they not called for us over the airport PA system. It all started with Suz's lost journal that contained the tickets, phone numbers, and other important details that are required when embarking on a seven month trip. Luckily we were on e-tickets so not too much drama there, the rush came from mucking around the airport trying to track down the lost diary (which we realised we'd left at the little India post office) and taking paparazzi snaps with Paris Hilton! Oh, and as a side note the nice lady at Singapore customs gave us lollies ... service with a smile and sweets!
Flying over Sri Lanka we were struck by how green and lush the landscape is. We saw little human impact - just mostly jungle with the odd scattered village. We arrived into Colombo in the pouring rain and opted to take a local bus into the city which took nearly two hours and was vying for its bit of road space alongside the other
buses, cars, tuk-tuks, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians. The road was heavily congested being peak hour and the rule of toot took over - double toot to get the thing in front of you to move, single toot to affirm your presence and long honk if someone is invading your space. There exists some semblance of order in all the chaos.
From the bus station we walked the short distance to Fort train station to take a bus South out of Colombo to where we were staying. Somehow in the hussle and bussle of the train station whilst managing bags, rain coats, and the guidebook and trying to purchase train tickets at the crammed ticket counter Suz dropped her wallet. We didn't realise this until we were on the train platform and once we realised this the panic set in. The purse had only the equivalent of $30 AUD cash but also contained the credit card. Visions of internet credit card fraudsters racking up thousands of dollars of debt played through our minds and we were lamenting our decision to do it rough using local transport. Just when the situation seemed most dire, a policeman appeared on the platform waving
Accomodation for the first night in Colombo - $20 AUD a night! (and that's expensive for Sri Lanka!)
the purse. He recognised Suz from her drivers licence and we were the only white foreigners lurking on the train platforms at that time of night. The policeman had found the wallet in the toilets, the petty thief had taken the cash and had left the cards behind. Rejoicing Suz hugged the rather startled policeman who actually looked a little uncomfortable about the whole situation. One train and tuk-tuk ride later we were firmly ensconced in our little bungalow set in tranquil garden surrounds which was the perfect antidote to the stress of the previous eight hours.
After a leisurely breakfast (taken in the leafy garden) we decided to take in some of the sights of Colombo. First stop was the National Art Gallery which consisted of 60 pieces, mainly portraits all in varying states of disrepair replete with holes and watermarks in dire need of restoration. The Museum was the anthithesis to the art gallery - every item was meticulously cared for and sparkling with cultural pride. The stone antiquities room was amazing and we were pretty awestruck at the magnificent works of art carved from stone.
On we travelled to Pettah to roam through
the old streets and on to Fort which is the business and economic precinct and is also currently a target in the recent speight of bombings. The military presence here in Colombo is intense - there are road closures and most of the roads in Fort are one way and vehicles entering are subject to random checks. On most of the street corners and guarding the main banks, government buildings and hotels stand fully armed military personnel. Rather than instilling confidence, they serve to remind us of the raging civil war and while there is no direct threat to us we've been feeling a bit uneasy since being here.
During a reprieve in the rain we walked along Galle Face Green (which is actually brown at the moment as they are digging it up to put in underground sprinkler systems) and watched as Sri Lankan couples held hands and stole kisses whilst looking out to the Indian Ocean. We ended up at the Galle Face Hotel and indulged ourselves with full waiter service on the hotel's chequerboard verandah overlooking the ocean as the sun set.
The next morning saw us board a train towards Kandy. We wound up
Sign in Tamil protesting the execution of Saddam Hussein
in first class despite only paying the third class fare and were happily enjoying the comfort and scenery of the ride. Then the armed military boarded the train and demanded to look through everyone's bags - including ours. It was really frightening as we weren't sure what was going on but when it was explained to us they seemed quite friendly and polite despite toting machine guns.
We gratefully jumped off the train and stopped off at the Pinewala elephant orphanage which was awesome. The orphanage is home to over 60 elephants and they roamed freely during our visit. They were taken down to the river and we watched them bathe in the river and then get dirty again after rolling in the mud.
We travelled onwards to Kandy by local bus which weaved its way higher and higher into the hills affording us a magnificent view of the mountains and valleys below. We spent the night on the verandah of our guesthouse overlooking Kandy town sipping "tea" which was infact beer served in tea pots with cups and saucers to disguise this as the guesthouse isn't licensed!
The weather has gone from bad to
Peak hour at the train station
No different to Footscray station really
awful in Sri Lanka - featuring heavy monsoonal rains which we're told is unusual for this time of year and the skies are constantly grey. Today we were required to purchase umbrellas and it was quite a mission trying to find one without tacky patterns and bright colours. Kandians seem to pride themselves on their colourful and decorative umbrellas, and all were out for show today in the torrential downpours.
Due to the weather today was a leisurely day exploring the city and checking out the spectacular Kandy dance show tonight. We're saving our energy for Dambulla and Sigiriya where we're headed tomorrow.
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