Back to Colombo

A bit of a lie in this morning, as our train wasn’t until 11:05. Breakfast was superb again, and we made use of the best shower in South Asia before finishing out packing and walking to the station.

However. We got there to find that the times we’d been given we spurious to say the least. The next express train wouldn’t be until 11:55 and would likely be late arriving anyway. This would make us about an hour late getting to Colombo.

Option 2 – haggling with a tuk-tuk driver to take us all the way up the coast road. We bargained him down to 1500 Rupees (later, Mala was quite impressed with the low price) and off we set. Now, one advantage of these three-wheeled gizmos is the natural air conditioning – there are no side windows so there’s a great breeze. The downside to this is that you also get all the fumes, diesel and dust flowing into your lungs. By the time we got to Colombo I had a thin black sheen to my skin that I had to wipe off.

Still, we got there in good time. We swapped to a local tuk-tuk for the shorter journey to Indy’s parents’ and arrived pretty much as we’d said we would – an hour earlier than we would have done by train.

We had time for a quick lunch before we were herded back out of the door and into the city again to visit one of the Buddhist temples. Today happened to be a special day on the calendar, as a young monk would be paraded in the evening and – if I have my facts right – ordained.

I’ve heard of similar ceremonies in Thailand, and we were pretty lucky to catch this one. The temple was heaving with locals and we squished through with the crowd to see the 1000+ year-old interior. Despite the usual gold and decor, this was one of the less austentatious temples I’ve seen. The ones in Thailand always seem to be over the top, in my opinion.

Afterwards, we walked down to see some friends of Mala and Gilbert – in fact people they’d been bridesmaid and best man for many years previous. Coke and Indian sweets were provided (the sweets were like candy floss, except coconutty and provided in a “lump” – weird, but nice) and then a lift given to where we’d left the car – with other family friends.

We grabbed a good position in the street and then we waited. For about an hour or so. The sun set, the moon rose, some impressive bats started to fly about and then the parade began.

This year’s parade was a cut-down version of the usual one due to worries about the Tamil attacks of recent months. Rather than the 100+ elephants, only half a dozen or so were being used and the parade shortened in length.

Regardless, it took an hour for the whole thing to pass us and it had apparently set off four hours earlier from its starting place. There was a huge variety of things in it – girls dressed as men, girls in bright peacock outfits, boys with drums, people on stilts, a huge wicker person, beautifully “clothed” elephants, fire jugglers… and of course the new monk. A boy of around eight years of age who’d had to memorise an enormous passage of the holy books which he would recite that evening.

I took a lot of snaps, and they’ll be on Fotopic as and when I can get the laptop online again. Don’t hold your collective breaths…

Dinner was provided by our kind hosts, including that old Sri Lankan favourite strawberry jelly! Then back to Mala and Gilbert’s for a moderately early night. Tomorrow we drive to the elephant orphanage and then to Kandy. A long day, and an early rise.

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