Our last day in Sri Lanka and it was supposed to be a fairly busy one. We got up fairly early and packed before Nigel arrived with his tuk-tuk to drive us around the city for a few hours.
First port of call was the post office to mail postcards and a package Hans had. This proved to be more awkward that it could have been as Hans’ wrapping paper wasn’t “strong enough” for the postal clerk. So we popped next door, bought some tape and mummified the package. Only the stamps apparently wouldn’t stick to the tape, so we’d have to re-wrap it. Back to another shop to buy wrapping paper (which was about the same thickness as the stuff the box was already wrapped in) and finally Hans was allowed to purchase about 3 square feet of stamps to clag on to his parcel.
The postcards were simply franked – no stamps. My apologies to the handful of you who get them and were hoping for a nice SL stamp!
Our next stop was the museum. This was to be a brief stop – Nigel reckoned on 45 minutes – but ended up being closer to 45 seconds. As we got out of the tuk-tuk, one of the staff waved to indicate the museum was shut. We still don’t know why, but we ended up going to the beach instead.
It’s hard to believe that somewhere as bustling as Colombo is actually on the coast and has a fairly passable beach. The sand’s quite large rather than the fine stuff further south, but the water is clean and there are enough people walking up and down and fishing to give it some character. Just over the train lines is the hectic city centre, but the sounds are muffled by the small distance and you could be a world away.
For lunch, we went to McD’s as is becomign traditional. Each country has their own foodstuffs that need to be perused and Sri Lanka was no different. I had a McSpicy – which was nowhere near as McSpicy as Singapore’s version – while Hans had a McFill, which was basically a chicken masalla in some kind of bread. Nice, though.
Nigel reckoned we’d need to allow up to two hours to get to the airport as the roads keep getting closed for security reasons. Not wanting to be late, we agreed with him and he said his brother-in-law would collect us at around 3:30. This would get us there in more than enough time for our flight, but after the queues at Mumbai, we weren’t taking any chances.
Enough time was left to make full use of Mala’s now working broadband. Tickets were checked, emails perused, blogs updated, photos sent and friends chatted to before we had time for one last cup of tea. Unfortunately, Gilbert had had to go out, so we didn’t get to say “goodbye” to him, but Mala waved us off.
I’m typing this up at the airport where I’ve found a wireless connection and am toying with paying for an hour’s use. It’s only 200SLR (about a pound), but I’m most impressed by the options page asking how many “internet suffering hours” I want… I’m assuming they mean “surfing” but you never know.
So, what have we learned about Sri Lanka while we’ve been here? Well, for a start, a week is not enough. If you ever visit, allow at least two weeks, preferably three. You get a 30-day tourist visa on entry and that would give you plenty of time to see everything without rushing around. The country has a wealth of history, a lot of character and some lovely people. Anyone who’s found India too much hard going due to the huge number of people should definitely consider island-hopping down here. The climate’s rather hot all year round, but in the hill country it gets nice and cool in the evening.
The people remind me of the Nigerians I’ve met. Not the ones who seem to make a bad habit of mislaying multi-million dollar sums and then ask for my help in retrieving it, but the good hard-working ones who are constantly asking what you think of their country. Sri Lankans want more tourists – they’re not daft, they know it’s a great source of income for their country. But they’re also proud of what they have, and rightly so. For a small country, it’s got a lot of history. Watching Mala pointing things out, and Gilbert showing us videos of processions and so on it’s hugely obvious that these two people alone want to show their nation off to as many people as possible.
Talking of our kind hosts, another huge “thank you” to them both for their time and effort in making our stay that much easier and cheaper.
We also noticed that a huge number of Russians visit Sri Lanka for some reason. Maybe it’s just well-advertised over there. We have also come up with a theory that only attractive Russians are given permission to leave their country, which would explain the fact that every woman we’ve seen hailing from the former USSR is at the very least hugely attractive. I guess the idea is to encourage people to visit their country. This plan would be foolproof were it not for the nightmare procedures they have in place to get a tourist visa.
Well, now to sit and wait for our flight. Next update, back in India!