Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sri Lanka - insane or ingenious trip?

So as a few you have probably found out, I have taken an impromptu trip to Sri Lanka. For those of you who don't know, my former employer was nice enough to cut me loose three weeks before the end of my notice period (I resigned) and agree to continue paying me until the end of the month! A rare showing of generosity indeed! So after a solid 17 seconds of consideration once the good news had been delivered, I decided that rather then start my new job early and earn some nice double pay, I'd rather spend my time sweating buckets and arguing with tuk tuk drivers. I must have a slight masochistic streak. It seems I'm not the only one though. In bizarre circumstances, I have managed to recruit someone to join me on this poorly organised trip to the sub-sub continent. A young lady by the name of Carla has decided to partake in my laissez-faire, and sans-plan style journeying and will probably never speak to me again by the end of it. Poor decision? We'll certainly find out. Less than 48 hours later we found ourselves on a Singapore airlines A380 headed  for Sri Lanka. Some of you are also probably asking "why Sri Lanka"? Well never having ventured further than the Colombo airport, I can't really answer that question either. Apparently there's some nice beaches here, but I'll get back to you on that.

After a pleasant 14 hour journey over the indochine, we arrived at Colombo airport. Everything had gone incredibly smoothly up until this point. A little too smoothly. We didn't miss our flights, I got the chicken on the inflight meal and an under booked flight meant I got to use an empty row of seats as a couch. Of course this meant that something had to go wrong at some point. Well I basically got to the finish line before some smug Sri Lankan border guard decided he would rain on my parade. So after watching Carla pass seamlessly past the guard, I assumed I would also slide past into freedom innocuously. Sri Lanka has a system where you apply for a visa online, which is basically approved on the spot. It's a pointless piece of beurocracy, no doubt put in place simply to line the government's pockets. All you do is submit your passport number and $35 of your hard earned. Now you're free do whatever you want in Sri Lanka. You're probably all aware of that mysterious letter that precedes your passport number that you're never required list on anything. Well that little letter was the difference between me entering Sri Lanka and me not. As I had not noted the number on my application, despite it being approved, the border guard decided he would not let let me pass. I even tried to bribe the bastard 30 cold hard USD and he still wouldn't budge. I found myself being directed to an immigration office filled with extremely questionable looking native gentleman while Carla looked on from her position of freedom confused. After sitting there watching the immigration head honcho stairing at a clock for 15 minutes, not processing a single query, I decided there must be another way. I walked over to the visa on arrival desk and purchased another visa for $35. This time with the letter M. Bizarrely enough this is all it took to get into the country. What a waste of 45 minutes of my life.

This morning we arrived at our first Colombo hostel. It's an amazing villa style mansion in an extremely affluent neighbourhood (the UN headquarters and French consulate is next door) which has been converted into a b&b/hostel. It's run by an old woman who clearly takes great pride in looking after her guests. Unfortunately she suffers from alzheimers meaning we've had the same conversation with her about 18 times. I was kind of worried we'd leave the hostel and not be let back in!

Colombo itself is a bit of a shit hole. It's pretty similar to any other Indian city, yet cleaner and less chaotic. The Sri Lankans actually know the difference between a red and green traffic light and can use bins. It's refreshing to say the least. Apart from that, there's really nothing to do here except eat. Carla has had a pretty good introduction to what it's like being a white female in India/Sri Lanka. She's probably already had her head super imposed on to several different porn pictures. The amount of ogling foreign women cop here is unbelievable. We have only seen about five other Westerners since arriving, so that may have something to do with it, but in all honesty, you'd think women were an endangered species here. Anyway, I'm pretty sure Carla is contemplating picking up a Burka at the next mosque we pass.

That is one thing that has really struck me though in Colombo, the lack of tourists! I'm not sure if it's because it's low season, or because everyone comes here an immediately leaves due to its overwhelming drabness.

The tuk tuk drivers here are as bad as any other Asian city and require serious haggling. Thanks to the advent of google maps and cheap foreign data plans, I can call bullshit on them when they try to tell me a five minute drive is a 28kms away. This makes life so much easier. On a positive note though, the first tastes we've had of Sri Lankan food have been excellent and I'm looking forward to delving further into the many tastes on offer. We ate in a food court here and it was better than your local Indian joint by a country mile.

Tomorrow we take the train to a place called Kandy. With a name like that it has to be good. Apparently the train route is supposed to be incredible, so we're looking forward to that. The overall route we have decided on taking is to start in the country's highlands and then make our way down south to the beaches.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully my next entry will be more interesting!