Day 28 - Tally Ho....Onward to Sri Lanka

Trip Start Aug 13, 2012
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Trip End Oct 31, 2012


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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Southern Province,
Sunday, September 9, 2012

MW

Ayubowan. (hello).  In Sinhalese 

A VERY early morning start, we got our wake up call at 3.30am ready to catch our prebooked cab at 4.30 to head to the airport.
Always a jolt and a surprise, for a Tassie girl, to head outdoors at that hour of the morning into a balmy, warm breeze.....
Not much traffic on the freeways at that time of the morning !

Arrived at the airport in good time, all good and efficient.
Sadly no stories of  check in nightmares or people with their open luggage strewn across in front of everyone. It all went like clockwork. Maybe only people with common sense fly at that time of the morning.....or maybe we were just lucky.
Rick would be pleased to report that the weight of our luggage had decreased by 5 kg.
I would like the right of reply to his accusations and smear campaign regarding luggage and weight and distribution but i will do so in the comments (retort) section of the blog, to his previous entry......(the Darling)
 We were in the international departures terminal before we knew it. Had an average egg n bacon sandwhich and an exceptionally good cappuccino for breakfast and then headed for our gate. 
We also stocked up on a couple of bottles of Sav Blanc in duty free, can't keep drinking beer all the time !!! 

That was quite funny - there were two elderly Indian or Sri Lankin (??) ladies dressed in their saris in the duty free shop. I had spotted them in another duty free shop on the way down the walkway - maybe they do the rounds of several of them. We went up to purchase the Sav and the ladies had trolly bags and big handbags (open) with baht laying all through it. They were talking very excitedly to each other and some other people close by, they were bustling and buzzing all around the counter. We have encountered Indian people on our travels before.
Not that we don't like them or that we would be critical or anything like that, 
us ????..... Never.
 But this nationality tend to be very......focused (or maybe i mean unfocused about anyone else or what is going on around them) then again  I guess when you live in a country with 1.24 billion other people you would become internally focused. It might be a self preservation thing. 
This may have been a sign of things to come.

I often think that because we have so much space in Australia and such a small population there is more room per sq meter for your own personal space and to look around you and observe the world 
and other people (....aka sticky breaking, I guess)
When you have that many people crammed together in one country I imagine you would become insular and concentrate on your own self and keeping some personal space, even if it is in your head. That's my theory anyway.
Sri Lanka is about the same size as Tasmania ( i have checked the land mass on GLoogle - both are approx 620000 to 624000 sq kms) and there are 22 million people living there, whereas we have less than 500 000, see what I mean?

 Sri Lanka, formally known as Ceylon.
I was always fascinated and  interested in Ceylon, even as a little girl.
 In primary school we did a project on tea and where it came from, on the last day we were to bring something from home to do with it all or dress up. 
My beautiful mother had a big roll of material, it was predominately a white background  with little green leaves printed on it. She wrapped me all up in it and put a red dot on my forehead, probably with lipstick (??) and there I was,
I had a Sari !!! I remember being pleased as punch about it all and maybe winning a prize (????) a long long time ago now so memory is getting hazy - yikes !!!

We are going to be here for 5 days and have 3 areas we are going to visit.
I am excited and also nervous, one thing I really want to do is get to see a tea plantations and the production of the tea and probably buy some. Thank you Mr Dilmah.
Our first accommodation is in a place called Galle, it is on the south coast and is a fort city, so called because of when Sri Lanka was colonized by the Dutch firstly then the British.

Wow Sri Lanka !!!!   Wow Galle !!!!
Arrived at Colombo airport in very good time, disembarked and went straight to the visa counter, everything went like clockwork, visa cost $25Aus each and then we were off to immigration. No problems, through to baggage pick up.
No problem, one bag was proving elusive but it turns up in a pile on the side of the carousel. Through customs, no problem, out into the throng, and there is our driver with a sign stating; Mr Rick Quarmby, no problem.
Out to the car and apart for some poor fellas trying to scunge a rupee out of tourists by trying to put your case into the car boot, no problem.
My fears were groundless, it was a proper car(air con) modern and safe, we were given a welcome drink (bottle of water) and an icy hand towel.
Our drivers name is Mr Gayan, who is to become our personal escort over the next few days.
Very safe driving around the outskirts of Colombo with a bit of sightseeing along the way, a truck carrying two elephants, a colourful array  of Saris, tuk tuks everywhere and cows in the middle of the road, Mr Gayan told us about the yellow markings in the middle of the road, they're meant to be for pedestrians, a "safe" zone - the people dont use them tho, but the cows are very smart, they hang out there !! Cows are sacred to the Hindus, of which there are only a small percentage here. Apparently they are a pretty well protected species throughout India and Sri Lanka as well. It is a 2.5 hour drive to Galle, we were advised it was a good day for driving, traffic would be light being Sunday, many businesses are closed and schools as well.

After an hour we hit the freeway, modern and safe. After our early start I had wondered about having a snooze in the car but dismissed the idea, thinking it would be a white knuckle, hold on for dear life trip in a crazy little rusted out Morris Minor. Nothing was further from the truth - a very safe driver, not exceeding the speed limit, on good roads in a safe, modern  car.  I snoozed for half an hour on the way to Galle.

We arrived in Galle to see the sea, the mighty Indian ocean rolling in. Fishermen pulling their nets in and heaps of seafood laid out on mats for sale along the foreshore. We soon came to the fort and drove inside. How amazing and timeless this place is. Our accommodation is lovely, (photos to follow) and I would describe it and our hosts as.....charming. If somewhat a little "organising"
* * see Ricks blog entry for a rundown of us being organised into the next 4 days of our time in Sri Lanka!! * *
After seeing our room and freshening up we had lunch here, and ordered a Sri Lankan curry each. Wow! Was it all laid on for us, so many accompanying dishes and condiments. So delicious....
We then went out for an hour or so to look around the fort. The karma of this place is very good and positive - for a town that was established around a military theme, it feels very positive and happy. We get the sense that it is a good community, maybe thats why the karma feels so good. Sometimes places that have a colonial or military history have that sad feel  and restless spirits about them. This place was a fortification back in the 1600's , that is a real long time ago and  so many people and souls have passed by here In that time...

We had a great time walking around, everyone saying hello and smiling. We came across another young Israelie couple (on their honeymoon) and had a long chat with them. Had fun with the local boys ad their cricket match, we only have to mention Australia here and it is oh "Shane Warne" and "Ricky Ponting" and even better when they find out we are from the same "province" as Ricky .

Badly in need of a rest we returned to Deco on 44 and had a snooze for an hour. We then sent some emails and checked Facebook (of course) until 7.30.
We went out to look for dinner and found a gorgeous little restuarant close by called Pedlars Inn Cafe and had a supurb dinner. A Muslim establishment so no alcohol served here, just awesome food. 
Indeed within the fort we did not see one noisy bar or pub or 7/11, nowhere to buy a beer at all - but never fear, once back to 44 they offered to bring me tea and so Rick asked for two bottles of "Lion", his new beer of choice.
So here I am sitting in Sri Lanka having a cup of tea and tomorrow I'm off to see a real tea plantation and how the tea is picked and dried and packaged.
Can't wait.


RQ

I'm doing a bit of a Tolstoy myself today : 0 

Very early start at 3.30 am today, no like that, I need my beauty sleep, and here we are again on my favourite airline Air Asia cruising up to 30,000 feet, this time on our way to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and what a hoot that is going to be. Never been, but it's sure to be very bloody interesting from what I have read, always wanted to go since I was a kid, and here we go.

Firstly though, I have to mention again that iPads are very interesting contraptions, and they are not only having an impact on this little black duck. 

Yesterday, whilst organising this leg on the Net sitting near the pool area at the Ramamda, a very young Japanese kid literally flew out of the pool at the sight of my iPad,  had a brief go on the way at Mandy's machine and then tried to reef mine out of my hands and started madly scrolling pages no doubt looking for games like a crazed banshee gone absolutely frigging mad. Leaning over me dripping wet fighting me for my iPad beside the pool, I near made The Slap or that world championship wrestling horse shit look like an episode of Humphrey Bear. His father and mother came wailing up in distress trying to drag the kid off, who was not having any of it, and the father bowed and apologised profusely as the Mum fought the protesting kid into submission and away. About ten minutes later he was making a path toward me again, and his Mum just caught him and got him in a headlock and dragged him sideways as the father stood watching aghast. I was ready for a Hulk Hogan hoof into the pool, thank Christ he didn't make it that far toward me, or I may have been in the Bangkok Post this morning "Tourist inserts foot in Japanese kids arse and he no need a ferry to cross river". He was fine until he saw the iPad, then he just went nuts. 

The first case of recorded "iPad rage" in history I reckon, at five years old if you don't mind, that's a newie.  

Two interesting observations so far this early morning, the first is no doubt a bit boring to some, particularly the fairer sex, but I found it amazing, and I'm an interesting love machine of a guy eh. The coastline at the very top end of the Gulf of Thailand, just to the south and west of Bangkok is covered with sea water farms for fish, prawns, mussels etc that extend as far as the eye can see. It's quite a sight to see them formed back from, and leading to, the coast for miles and miles and miles with narrow inlets from the sea that must be 2-3 kilometres long. That's a bloody lot of fish farm!  

The second is probably the same in terms of interestingness. Is that a word? As we took off on the eastern runway this morning, another plane took off beside us at the same time on the western runway. And we literally climbed out of Bankers airport side by side for about 5 mins until we turned right and to the west toward Sri Lanka. I have never seen that before, it was quite a view watching a plane not that far away, and beside you, as you climb up away from the airport. It's a boy thing I guess.

We will be in Sri Lanka for a week, then briefly back to Bangkok, and then home for a pit stop dust off and break. I have worked 38 years for this break, and I'm going to milk it for all it's worth. We hope to head off again for the second coming around mid-early October, once we get a few things in order, and I have had a chance to spend some time with Ollie and the kids, kayak on the Derwent and do some walking (weather permitting of course), do some work that needs doing around the gaff and reflect of the trip so far, which has been just amazing. One month into the break and adventure, and I am not at all sick of travelling, but it will be really great to spend some time at home and to eat some western food before the chilli eats my stomach lining away.

On reflection so far, Darwin runs deep in my soul and I love the way the place is progressing and booming ahead. Whilst Hobart is my home now, I guess it's true about "you can take the lad out of somewhere, but you can't take the somewhere out of the lad". 

The NT is the place to be right now for them younguns, plenty of work, plenty of young travellers about the place to play with, great lifestyle and food, and the locals are a hoot. The late night party scene is however as rough as guts, and I'd avoid that for sure. It's also quite an expensive place to live, so work one must.

Vietnam is a developing market and it's a hot and busy place. The people are amazingly resilient and very hard working, not like us lazy 9-5 Mon-Fri Aussies. I said to one fella quite stupidly on one occasion "are you working tomorrow?", and he looked at me a bit lost and said "I work everyday". The place is opening up to tourism and investment slowly, it's still a bit "hit or miss" at times, and trips n stuff can go a bit "not to plan", but overall it's a fabulous place to visit and the place is steaming ahead at full throttle albeit with the obvious signs of the odd travelling train wreck here and there. We went past a complex under development called "Greg Norman Estate", and it looked like the pictures of a deserted Chernobyl. The concept of a work week Mon-Fri 9-5 does not exist in anyones mindset outside of a few Govt agencies, you work, you sleep, you work, you sleep, you occasionally get a day off to do some stuff at home and see or help your family out. The young ones want more, and out, and the culture is changing for sure. 

The people are very tough, I suppose you get that when idiots have been trying to invade your land for thousands of years, and I found the lack of compassion and disregard toward, for example, the mixed blood kids of African-American GI's a little troubling. It wasn't their fault that they got born form a "black one". There seems to be an attitude that the darker your skin the more of a peasant and the less attractive that you are, and to see the young ladies going to extraordinary lengths to avoid the sun was an eye opener. 35 degrees stinking hot, and the young ladies are covered head to toe in hoodies, gloves and face masks riding their motorbikes. It's a "what the hell" very common sight. The young ladies want pale skin so that they can get a man, and the man is boss when you get one. Not in our country. Look out ladies, they'd burn an EEO plan and Germaine Greer with it before they'd burn a bra in Vietnam. Still, it's an extremely cheap place to visit, and it's safe if you have half a brain, and you take the time to read the Aussie Government travel advice (which is excellent) and web travel forums.

Krabi is bloody awesome, Bangkok is a loveable madhouse, and Thailand remains cheap and easy from my perspective, and it's all about me eh. Not the place for idiot westerners trying to show off how rich they are, or how much piss they can drink, those jokers easy meat for the "hungry beast" they are, particularly in Bankers. As an aside, and excuse the pun, the Thais have no issue with a man having more than one wife, and I have been asked more than once "I be wife number two, very good for you, she can relax and I please for you". So be nice to your man here ladies, even an old war horse like me has admirers, albeit Mandy just shakes her head and laughs at such statements : ) . 

Still, once again I digress. It's very cheap to visit and live here, a fabulous part of the world with a wonderfully rich spiritual undertone when you look for it. The Ramayana is a story that finds it's way through Buddhism, the Hindu and the culture way down deep, it's a fabulous and fascinating story of hardship and ultimate victory, respect and chivalry, love vs evil, respect and honestly, war and peace, hanging tough through long periods of hard times and all sorts of good stuff;  if you have ever seen the hilarious old "Monkey" TV show, ole Monkey comes from that story and he's a hoot in this one as well, as is the famous and amazing Garuda Bird. Thank goodness the Ramayana is so strong an energy and undercurrent in this part of the world, without it the society would be a complete unstructured mental madhouse I reckon, a bit like the middle east. 

If you are ever so inclined, go to Wat Pho for a good few hours in Bangkok, not far at all from BTS Saphin Taksin, and hire one of the official guides inside the temple (not one of the comedians outside), and get them to take you through the temples and to describe each section of the story which is just beautifully painted in parts in each area, it's a short version of massive yarn, but it's just a brilliant way to get an idea of the story as it builds up on you as you move around through each area.

So, I could talk under water with a mouth full of marbles eh, and it won't be long until we land in Colombo. Next stop Sri Lanka, and to the fort at Galle. Mr Gayan is waiting for us at the airport, this is going to be very interesting, I can feel it in my water.

Update PM - Galle
We arrived at Colombo on time, and this proved to be quite an experience, the airport visa on arrival thing worked just bonza, unlike Saigon, whereby it was quick easy and efficient, but she's a bit of a madhouse once you exit the building and we found ourselves well and truly in the third world once outside. Poor buggers were trying to get a half chance to shove your bag into the boot of your car so they can ask for some coins, but I had forgotten about all that stuff and we had not changed anything into Sri Lankan rupees, so I had nothing to give, which made me feel big shame and a little bit sad. 

Off we went with our driver Mr Gayan, an absolute hooter of a guy in our air cond flash car, the regal English lord muck types speeding past the seething masses. We skirted the edge of Colombo, which is a bleeding madhouse even on a Sunday (the English have left a legacy of "Sunday day off and cricket"), and then we had a two and a half hour drive to Galle through lush green fields along a very new flash highway. This country is a paradox I tell you, very poor, special and absolutely cricket mad, that's the first impression, it's everywhere in your face.

On the way Mr Gayan, who has a very quick sense of humour says "you know tourism is very good, you know, but the English when they come many years ago, they do very silly things. They came and they wanted to grow the tea, so they bought in free labor from India and paid them only with the food, and now we have the problem with these people who want our land. We want to share, but they just want. Silly the English, hahaha". One of the many clever and funny things that he said on the journey.

Into the Fort at Galle we drive and it's a whole new world here, it's hard to describe how so incredibly beautiful, fascinating and soothing this place is. We decided to have some lunch at our digs, the "Deco on 44", an art deco update of a colonial cottage with only 8 rooms, and it's simply a divine place. We thought that we were getting a small quick lunch, and out comes a feast fit for a king, I have have never seen anything like it, all for around $20 with drinks for two. It could have been served at a top spot in Sydney for $200 and you wouldn't have battered and eyelid at the price. I was stunned.

Before too long up wanders Mr Dilshan, the manager of Deco on 44, and we have a chat about the itinerary that the amateur sex god travelling IT consultant has put together, and he says "oh but you will have the problems and you are first time to Sri Lanka, I have the answers and we must ensure that you tell everyone to come here, this is very important to us, what about we do ......" So, in no time we have our itinerary  now properly sorted and Mr Gayan will be our escort and driver for the rest of the time that we will be here, he will take us to our hotels in Kandy and Colombo, stay in them also, and make sure that we are well sorted and looked after properly.  It will cost us $300 to be escorted to his best know places and taken on tours at his suggestion and or our request, driven about and informed of the "best way and price" for the next four days, in his AC car. 

Cheap for us, rewarding for Sri Lanka and the Deco on 44, I love this place already, these guys are really wonderful people and Mr Dilshan is looking for a win-win for sure. Yes he wants to make some loot, and for us to pass on the message to our friends, and that we should return, and others should come (he found the idea of the blog very good), and we want to feel safe easy and at ease in this lovely new country, and we both will, no doubt.

We went for a walk after lunch to do some recon, and we could have been gone for the rest of the day, it's simply incredible walking around something historic and amazing like this place (the whole Fort area is World Heritage listed). We stumbled across some young blokes playing a very serious game of cricket on a large tree covered paved area, and they were into it hooting and hitting like it was a world cup final. We stopped to watch and they played us up a beauty, Mandy went to take a photo and they thought it was hilarious and jumped in together and said "come closer" and we all laughed together. "Where are you from" and thanks to Ricky Ponting, everyone knows where we come from, "oh Tasmania, oh yes I know that one, Ricky Ponting, very good cricketer". And thanks to Shane Warne, and I never thought I'd ever say that, and other cricketers for helping to raise money and help out after the tsunami, they just love us Aussies. 

What a funny world we live in, I'm still shaking my head at this place and we only just got here.

Beautiful cheap dinner at a small cafe just down the road, then a slow walk about the area in the cool evening breeze. Even the tuk tuk drivers smile at you when you say "no thanks mate, just going for a walk".

Sri Lanka, Galle, Deco on 44, so glad that we came.
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Comments

Margie Talbot on

Hello there my friends I am just loving your blogs and enjoy sitting down each evening to do the catch up with guys. Sri Lanka looks absolutley amazing. Love the pics. Travel safe love to you both xoxo

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