Rolf Gibbs: Travels in India
1. Arrival In India (1)
2. Mumbai (2)
3. Goa (9)
4. Travelling Northwards (4)
5. Rajasthan (6)
6. South India (7)
7. Sri Lanka (1)
8. North India (12)
9. Departure from India (1)
About Me (1)
Photos: Great Signs of India (1)
Photos: Indians can sleep ANYWHERE! (1)
Photos: Unmade Beds (1)
* Adieu, India!
* Corbett Tiger Reserve
* Himalaya Joshimath
* Rishikesh II.
* Delhi II.
* Train from Hell: Varanasi / Rishikesh
* Indians can sleep ANYWHERE!
* Great Signs of India
* Unmade Beds
* Orchha / Kajuraho
* Agra / Taj Mahal
* Train to Delhi
* Bike Problems in Chennai
* Two Rolf(e)s Become One Again
February 26, 2005
While in southern Kerala, I had been wondering about whether Nepal would sort itself out enough -- by next month -- so that I could go there to get a new India visa. And if not, then where should I go to extend? Then someone said, why don't you fly to Sri Lanka from here? -- it's only 45 minutes by plane...
I did some research into tickets, and found a cheap one for $100 return (actually the travel agent quoted considerably more, but when I called the airline directly, I found that he was trying to rip me off by charging 25% more, and pocketing the difference. That's business in India!!!). I told the guy he was a wanker, cancelled the booking and went to another agent.
I left the next day, parking my motorcycle at Trivandrum Airport. Having nearly missed the flight, they kindly held the plane while security and immigration people processed me and led me to my seat. It was a weird luxury to sit in the clean environment of an Airbus 320, after nearly five months of Indian grime and rough edges.
When I got to Colombo, I wanted to go straight to the Indian Consulate, but I was told that it was a public holiday -- because of the Full Moon! Apparently there are so many holidays in Sri Lanka, that it is rare to ever have a full working week! If I had known, I would have come tomorrow...
A bus into town, then a rickshaw to find a bookshop -- to find a guide book -- to find a place to stay. But all the bookshops were closed! I tried walking into one cheap looking hotel, but found a (used) condom in the bathroom sink of the room I was checking into! Eventually I found one rebellious book store, well stocked in Rough Guides and Lonely Planets, and looked up good cheap accomodation, and half hour later, I was in my room at the Ottery Inn (I thought it might have been Pottery with the "P" missing, but this is not India!), which is a beautiful old 1920's mansion by the sea. 16-foot cielings and spacious rooms, quite a deal at $8 per night.
Disappointment about the holdiday became good fortune, when I heard that the February full moon is the biggest buddhist festival in Colombo, complete with a parade and ceremonial elephants. I went to the beautiful main temple and wandered around with townsfolk who had come to pray. I was touched to find that I was completely welcome (unlike at most Hindu temples in India) and felt included in the festivitities, and taking photos is not a problem. I gave a contribution to their Tsunami fund, and was thanked and given a reciept in three languages. Here are some photos of the temple: View image, View image, View image, View image, View image.
Then I found the elephants.
They were hiding their identities and using reverse psychology by wearing brightly colored costumes to distract attention, while trying to blend into the urban environment. But I was astute enough to see through their KKK-style disguises: View image, View image, View image, View image, View image, View image, View image.
After the parade, I went exploring the city of Colombo, which is much more modern and prosperous than Indian cities. I went to the Plaza Hotel, and enjoyed the air conditioning, the corporate silence, and even the slick architecture: View image.
As the tsunami hit the southern and eastern coasts, there is no visible evidence of the catastrophy which caused such mayhem and is still crippling Sri Lankan tourism, except for many signs advertising various relief funds.
After a late night, I woke up this morning to go to the Indian Consulate, which went smoothly. I have to go back this afternoon to pick up my passport with the new visa.
The strongest overall impressions of Sri Lanka (via Columbo only!), are that looks very similar to India, but is more functional and less eccentric. People are behaving relatively "normally," and I don't have that constant feeling, as I do in India, that I am in a twisted and surreal world, where I have to struggle, or get stoned, to accept or comprehend what is going on around me. People are friendly, but not with that child-like, over-the-top, exhuberance. There are loads of foreigners living here, and they seem to integrate far more than seems possible in India. Western luxuries are much more available, and there is obviously money to afford them. I even saw two Porsches drive by yesterday. And the internet connections are much faster...!
One thing is strange like India... Colombo lovers meet in the park by the seafront View image, View image, in a very public place. For privacy, however, they ALL seem to agree that using umbrellas is the only way to go: View image, View image, View image, View image, View image, View image, View image, View image
On Saturday I return to Mother India, and on Sunday is my 39th birthday. I have no idea yet how I will spend it, where, or with whom.
Posted by rolfg on February 26, 2005 01:47 PM
Category: 7. Sri Lanka
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