Friday, December 18, 2009

Where we went

For those of you that might be looking at the pictures, I will write this in the order of them. Here's where we went:

The airport isn't actually in Colombo itself. Colombo is a half-hour south of the airport, and this small beach town is a half-hour north. Not wanting to struggle in finding a hotel at 10pm, Jodi had booked our hotel ahead of time, so we had a wonderful driver pick us up from the airport.

This was it ended up being after landing: Negombo-Unawatuna-Colombo-Kandy and back to the airport.

When we arrived at our hotel in Negombo, we immedieatly went out onto the beach. We thought it was beautiful and a wonderful place to be. The waves could be heard crashing against the beach and a gentle breeze blew across the sands. Equipped with a flashlight, I jumped the fence surrounding the hotel and walked down to the water. It seemed beautiful at the time, and there was something I didn't expect to see on the beach. Crabs. Lots of crabs. Crabs from 3 inches wide, to a staggering 7-10 inches (from longest leg to the opposite longest leg). And they were the cool crabs that hide in the sand with just their eyes poking out. Only since it was night, they were all out, running across the sands, running into the water when I got to close, and digging themselves under the sand to hide. It was an incredible sight.

The next morning I woke up to a cloudy day. Not to bad I figured, since we were spending the day in transit, it would cool us down. So we hopped on a local bus and made the journey down to the touristy-beach town of Unawatuna. The bus was supposed to take about 3-4 hours, but of course, being a local bus, it took closed to 5. Tired, dirty, and sweaty from the bus, we stepped down in the city of Galle, the major bus hub next to Unawatuna.

I thought Negombo was pretty and that there was a nice beach. (Again,) how wrong I was. Unawatuna has hotels and restaurants that literally touch the waves. The sand is warm, fine and of a wonderful color, and the ocean was calm, clear and warm. It was as close to heaven (in beach terms) as I had been to in a while.

Let me be an activist for a minute: having hotels so close to the beach is not a good thing. They ruin the wild life, leave no space for dunes or other natural flora, and the waves constantly hitting the foundation actually jeopardize the structural integrity of the whole building. These things SHOULDN'T be so close to the water.

Now let me be a snotty tourist: Being able to eat with your feet almost touching the water is one of the most pleasant feelings in the world. You could constantly hear the ocean, you could sip a cup of tea and literally jump from your seat into the ocean. It was, how to say this, wonderful.

But it's bad, all very bad.

In fact, remember that tsunami in 2004? Yeah, well this place was hit. HARD. But due to such fervent foreign aid, this tourist vista was the quickest place in Sri Lanka to be rebuilt. Strange how it's the most touristy place that gets rebuild the fastest. All for the pleasure of tourists. We saw a picture of one man's shop. This is what we saw: a picture of a broken building, literally with only a foundation left. It was dated 2004. When I asked the shop owner what we did when the tsunami came he said (with his fingers) that he ran. That just north of here was a big hill that everyone ran up to. The picture next to that was his shop. New, pristine, rebuilt. That one was dated "May 2005". Less than a year. Before I walked out of the shop he said: "No more tsunami's for a thousand years." Apparently, (as I heard this a couple times) in many oceanic cultures, tsunamis are not something to be talked about lightly or commonly. As if they were angry gods that come when we do the most damage to each other. At least that was my impression of how they thought of it.

Then we moved on from Unawatuna. Up north to Colombo. Taking a small A/C bus from Galle to Colombo, the ride was way smoother than when we came down to Galle. Then we reached Colombo. A bustling city with tons of small markets littering the sidewalks, tons of people, and constant horns, it was quite reminiscent of India. Jodi and I stepped off the bus, and opened our wallets. A dead fly, a paper clip, and ten Sri Lankan rupees. And if you paid attention in my last post, you'd know that ten rupees will get you a good chuckle from a local, but that's about it.

So with our backpacks on, we searched for an ATM. Up and down the busy Colombo streets, sweat poured down our faces. The foot traffic made things worse, I was hitting people left and right with my pack. First we found an ATM in a train station - nothing. Didn't work. We were told we had to cross the tracks and the ATM on the other side would work. So we went there, and to our fortune, it did work. To make a long story short, we got our money, got in a tuktuk, found the private bus stand, and made our way to Kandy. Up into the hills we went.

After some three or four hours on the bus, we made it to the hill city of Kandy. Actually, most of the descriptions of life and culture in Sri Lanka that I talked about in my previous post centers on this city. From Kalpetta, to Gangtok, to Kandy, every hill city I have so far visited in Asia has been amazing. When we arrived, I ordered a cup of filter coffee. That was probably one of the worst experiences of my life. I exaggerate, but Sri Lanka and coffee don't mix. Instead, try the tea. Sri Lanka has some of the most delicious tea in the world. And being situated in a hill station, the tea is even fresher and more appealing than at the beaches.

So we spent the next few days relaxing until we had to head back to the airport on Thursday. One day we went to the botanical garden. I could spend some time explaining, in long strenuous words the botanical gardens, but they would never do a justice. Instead, check out the pictures. We also went to a small tea shop that serves you samples (for a cost) of the tea they have. Delicious.

While there we also met an Englishman named Paddy. Only having started traveling 3 or 4 years ago (he is now 43) he seemed like a person who had been traveling his whole life. He was a source of innumerable moments of inspiration, taught me some guitar tricks, and was a great source of information. Besides, if we hadn't met him, Jodi and I most likely would have killed each other. Literally. So the three of us spent evenings on the balcony of the "Olde Empire Hotel", playing guitar, singing songs, and recounting and relating to experiences we've had. As well as giving each other support for future endeavors that have been in the back of our heads.

Or at least my head. Let's just say... remember all those blog posts from before I settled in Bangalore? When everything was exciting, constantly in motion?

The adventure is about to start again...

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