First Days in Sri Lanka

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June 15th 2009
Published: June 15th 2009
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My home in Unawatuna
Journey into Sri Lanka

13 June

After an odd start at the Sunflower Hotel, Negombo which is no longer the Sunflower, but the Paradise (they changed the name but didn’t tell anyone, even the taxi drivers….)
Anyway, turned up there at midnight to a very dark and odd looking place, upon further inspection I realized the place looked like a building site, they were doing renovations, another thing they forgot to mention. So I head into what would be a reception desk to 5 guys hanging around all trying to help me, one with a folder looking official, but having no idea if I should be there or not! At this stage I was getting concerned for my safety, I asked if there were other guests, to which I received no reply, I then asked if I should find other accommodation, but they told me my room was ready, so I followed a young guy up to the first floor, through debris, dust and scaffolding to my room, which was actually clean and big, so I thought OK, it is only one night, I can do this, so I put my noodles against the dodgy door because they will save me if someone comes to get me in the middle of the night! Obviously no one did, woke a few times during the night, mainly due to being a girl!

Next morning, I head downstairs, no breakfast looking area or people serving any (even though the previous evening I had been asked what time I would like breakfast, and having the sweetest cup of tea ever delivered to my room at 7.30 am that morning), so I went to for a wander down the street. I was the only westerner, everybody saying good morning and stopping me to see where I was from and ridicule the Australian cricket team! The the rains came….and so did Hussein, in his, I am cool and I single T shirt explaining to me the most important thing in the world is happiness (he is right of course, but with that T Shirt, he wasn’t getting any closer to me, so I hightailed it out of there, as soon as I returned to the hotel dripping wet to a bunch of builder types all busy doing things, someone pops up and asks if I would like breakfast now? They had probably been wondering where the hell I was considering I was the only guest. Breakfast was great and Uncle appeared to pick me to bring me to Unawantuna! A strange start, but all good so far.

We jumped in the mini van, noodles and all, and started out for the south of Sri Lanka for Galle and Unawantuna. Uncle clearly knows how to drive in a city of crazy drivers, Brahmin cows and goats taking up the road, he expertly swung around the back streets of Colombo and headed out of the city limits in no time (probably looking at 2 hours in reality). We stopped at Bentota, at the Apia Restaurant which had a great view over a tidal inlet for lunch, before making the last 55 kms to Galle to pick up Bec so she could show me my home and around the village of Una. Uncle pointed out the devasted areas, which were hauntingly obvious as we drove through villages, the amount of gravestones and makeshift cemeteries right near the water is amazing, and the number of ruins to see to remind you of what happened is quite eerie. Uncle told me he was taking a tour of tourists the day the tsunami hit and his van was floating at high speed and realized he had to get out or be swallowed up, so everyone got out and did what they could, he was swept around 300 metres and he grabbed onto a tree and held on for dear life, like many other people around him. He tells his story so matter of factorily, and here he is today, doing the same thing again with me, just not with the same ending thank god.

Anyway, got to Galle, picked up Bec from her office (which I would never have found on my own) and heading to my new home. It is a one bedroom place with little kitchen, big bedroom, bathroom, great balcony, I can’t ask for much more.

Una is a bit more basic than what I imagined. No real stores, just small home run places with the very basic stuff you need, but Galle has all the rest. Una is long, but at the moment in low season there are very little restaurants and other places open to eat and drink, so I need to make friends.

Have now unpacked, had 2 gins and feel half pissed! Until later…..

15 June

Well, I have now been in SL for a few days, have spent time at the beach getting chatted up locals, one yesterday who looked like he has seen some rough time and a fair bit of grog and weed, he sat down next to me and started talking. He began by asking the usual questions, like “where you from England?” and name and do I like it here, and I thought this is going to be hard to get him away without being rude, however he then began discussing more interesting things like the reason it is so quiet at the moment and telling me about the way of life in Unawatuna and I realized he was quite intelligent and not the average beach seller (he wasn’t trying to sell me anything), can’t remember his name now as the majority are hard to pronounce, but I am sure he will remember me. He wants to take me snorkeling!! mmm

I went to the Kingfisher Bar on Saturday with a few expats, mainly English for cocktails, which was nice. The bar is owned and run by a German lady, Christina and her SL husband, she is lovely and the cocktails were too! A lot of expats are leaving for a few weeks to head home for their summer, so there won’t be many westerners left, and there are not many tourists either as it is low season! However, I did watch one very large German tourist yesterday, pissed, nearly drown in the shallows as her husband videoed her rolling about getting knocked down by waves. She could not get up and he was just laughing at her. Maybe the tourists need lessons!

I have been exploring my local shopping markets where you have to go to a different stall or shop to buy everything, but the tuk drivers are so good they know where everything is and take you there and wait for you, sometimes even coming and helping with the bags. Yesterday, Baba my landlord and driver, took me into Galle to buy supplies and showed me the good cheap stall for fruit and veges. I paid 270 rupees for a big bag of veges, which is about $3 AUD! Got to be happy with that.

He also gave me some ideas of who to speak with when buying things from stalls or stores so I don’t get ripped off, which was very handy. I must ask for the owner to get the best price! Not so different to home really if you want to bargain.

Bargaining is quite easy here as they don’t seem to start their prices too high and you don’t have to tire yourself out bargaining, and lets face it, half the time you are bargaining over one dollar or less. Sometimes you just have to say, it is only a dollar, get over it!

Today I am on my way into the office with Bec and then to the pool to see the Women’s only classes. The teacher, an English lady has to return to the UK for her visa and is leaving today and isn’t sure when she will be back, so I have no idea what I am up for at this stage.


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