Jul 2, 2011

SRI LANKA: Our First 24hrs

Sri Lanka is an easy 3.5hr plane trip from Kuala Lumpur.  In spite of our 6:15am flight time, we were really excited and looking forward to our next 28 days here, especially given the experiences of our past 2 weeks as well as the fact that we haven’t been to this country before.  And our first 24hrs here has not disappointed in the least.


As with all places where you arrive by air, our first taste of Sri Lanka was at the Bandaranaike International Airport, which is the only international airport on the island and is located 30km north of the capital city off Colombo.  Immediately we noticed the females who were working there wore beautiful and colourful saris, including our immigration official.  After proceeding through immigration, we saw not only the usual duty free shops carrying liquor, perfume, cosmetics and cigarettes, but also many more shops that all sold ‘white goods’ such as refrigerators, televisions, washing machines as well as small kitchen appliances and electrical items like blenders and fans.   We thought to ourselves that surely not that many people would be carting off a fridge from the secure area within the arrivals terminal at the airport, but as we passed through to the baggage claim area and the adjoining exit area to the Arrivals Hall, we saw about 3-4 porters wheeling full sized refrigerators on trolleys through customs for their customers.  When we finally got outside the scene there was chaotic, but not because taxi drivers were vying for our business.  There were even more porters with trolleys of refrigerators, plasma televisions and washing machines, looking for mini-van taxis for their customers in which to load these new purchases as well as the luggage onto.  It was the oddest thing we’ve ever experienced at an airport.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to price these items, but pricing a new 4G iPod proved to be similar to what we would pay at home anyway.

We shared a mini-van taxi with a family of 4 Australians from the Melbourne area for the 20ish minute ride to the nearby beach town of Negombo.  While looking for a room, we couldn’t help but notice that all the beds had mosquito nets around them—hmm, guessing that mosquitoes are a real problem here!  We found a nice big room with a balcony facing the beach, had another breakfast, and all took a family nap to make up for the fact that we’d been up since 3:15am.


After breakfast we walked the 1.5km into the town centre.  Again, we couldn’t help but notice that about 40% of the men we passed (mostly the ones 40+) wore Indian ‘longgi’ and were usually shirtless on top as well as barefoot.  Many people rode bicycles, others walked and many more took the local ‘tuk tuk’.  It was very ‘Indian’ looking, but a much more ‘watered down,’ less chaotic and less populated version.   We even saw a small herd of cows wandering through the main street of town amongst the traffic.  The people we met were extremely friendly and all spoke English.  




Local Lunch;  Biriyani & Chicken
Although we had read that the Sri Lankan people loved children, it was instantly obvious to us that this was very true here.  The girls were greeted and acknowledged wherever we went.  Furthermore, the restaurant staffs which we’ve dealt with have all been extremely diligent to the needs of the girls.  For example, the restaurant that we went to for lunch was a very ‘local’ place that served ‘Indian’ type food.  They served us water (filtered, of course) in tall glass tumblers and soon noticed that Yasmine was struggling with it.  Without being asked, the server brought out a smaller tea cup with a handle filled with water for her.  Then when she finished that and was contemplating the big glass again, he quickly whisked it away from her and refilled her tea cup instead.  And after our meal, when Madeleine started to wipe her face with the torn pieces of newsprint provided (like I said, this was a very local place), another staff member, again without being asked, quickly tore up some plain butcher paper and handed that to her instead.  Then this morning at breakfast (at a more tourist oriented restaurant), we ordered 3 meals for the 4 of us as the girls always share one between them.  Normally we ask for another empty plate and divide up the meal ourselves as well as an extra setting of cutlery as inevitably they only bring out 3 settings in accordance to the number of meals ordered (but doing so always seems to bring confused looks too—don’t know why!).  But today, the server must have overheard the girls stating that they wanted the scrambled eggs because when it was served, it was already divided into 2 plates and neatly presented, with cutlery set for 4 too.  In our entire 5 months travelling, this was a first for us.  It’s a small thing, but very impressive to us nevertheless that we’ve encountered staff in two different establishments with so much common sense within our first 24hrs here, yet nowhere else on our entire trip!!


The parishioners observing Mass during Feast of the Assumption
We’ve also had a taste of Negombo’s reputation for being ‘little Rome’ due to its very Catholic population here and many churches.  At the church next to our hotel, they are celebrating the Feast of the Assumption this weekend.  Friday night saw many parishioners gathered in the forecourt of the church to attend mass which was held outside, with many more people lining the street in front.  Then again Saturday morning, they gathered for another mass and a procession of the Holy Rosary led by a marching band.  It was very interesting to see not only so many people gathered outside the church for mass, but so many of them in saris and longgis as well as small boys dressed in suits and little girls in their finest dresses.  The Catholic Church is certainly alive and well in this part of Sri Lanka.


So—this has been what our first 24hrs in Sri Lanka has been like for us.  While Negombo has been a fascinating and gentle introduction to the culture, unfortunately the beach isn’t impressive at all as it’s very windy at the moment, with the strong waves churning up the water and making it dangerous for swimming (we’ve been paying to use the pools at nearby hotels in order to cool off).  We’ve off by bus to the ancient capital city of Kandy next—stay tuned.
Fishing Boat off Negombo Beach

4 comments:

  1. Sounds wonderful and as usual its the people that make a place. After four months travel I have very little doubt about that.
    By the way, I read yesterday that people that have stamps from Sri Lanka might be treated worst by the Indian authorities when it comes down to visas. Something to check out.
    Have a great time.

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  2. Definitely the people make the place--how's Vietnam treating you??!! Visa application in, won't know til the end of the month if we get it!

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  3. Thank you for sunch an informative post. Appreciate it

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