Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sri Lanka

So, I have now spent a day in Sri Lanka... What have we learned? Well, primarliy, if you're going to Sri Lanka, better have more than one day to spend here... Not because the country is so fascinating mind you - much the opposite! If you only have one day, you'll just spend it in the capital, Colombo (at least that's what I did), and Colombo is a wholly uninteresting town! I think the basic conclusion is Thailand ans Sri Lanka are both third world countries, but Thailand has tourism, so there's stuff to do and see there, while Sri Lanka is still learning (I hope it's learning anyway - clearly hasn't learned much yet). Now, the Lonely Planet did give me hints - it seemed to be struggling to come up with stuff to do in Colomobo, but there's a lot of interesting things to see in the hill country and on the ocean-side beaches outside of Colombo, but those are all further away, obviously, so it takes more than a day, thus: either skip Sri Lanka altogether or spend a few days here!

Anyway, with that out of the way... there are some interesting things here... First and foremost, the fact that you're really the only tourist around! (which, after Bangkok, is pretty refreshing). Now the plane from Bangkok (flight originating in Beijing) was full of tourists, but they must have all gone away from the city - I did see a bunch at a pool in one of the hotels in the city though, so I guess if you're in Sri Lanka, and you have to stay in Colombo, you just hang out by the pool... The main issue really, is that there just aren't enough tourists, so there isn't enough hotels/restaurants/etc, so the ones that are here are all expensive!

All that not-withstanding, went to see the 'most visually impressive' temple in Colombo (according to Lonely Planet). First part of the adventure is getting there - asked the first rickshaw driver: 1000 Rupee; too much... The guy immediately next to him can do it for 600 - deal! (I had been trying to convince the first guy to do it for 700...). Minor downside - the rickshaw breaks down half way through... After five minutes of futzing with it though, we're back on the road! (and I have one thing to try when ours will break down....). Eventually get there, and there's a stark contrast with Thailand: here the temples are actually places of worship (I think I was the only tourist there), in Thailand, they're alwats tourist attractions... Among other things, it means free admission! And you're also overwhelmed a little by all the people there, who are actually worshipping... I took lots of pictures of it all! The temple, visually, is also not all that impressive. which contributes to the whole Sri Lanka's not much of a tourist destination thing...

Back in town, wonder around see a few more attractions. A few observations: lest you forget, the place was just in the middle of a civil war three years ago, and there's still some tension, so there's soldiers everywhere! Makes you feel fairly safe, once you get past the whole 'there are guys with AK-47's everywhere thing...). Took a picture of a mounted machine gun emplacement - I suspect that picture was highly illegal! There's also 'safe zones' around all the major goverment buildings, major hotels, railroad crossings, etc. Mainly that means that once you cross (and you may have to be searched for weapons/have your passport checked when you cross), you're finally away from the locals, who are trying to sell you something!

Also interesting - these Sri Lankan kids are very 'couply'! I thought I was starting to notice that at the temple, and then I went to a city park and by a beach, and, man, just add cheerleaders and football bleachers and you're on a set of a stereotypical 50's high school movie! It's all very PG-13, but the park is full of couples in varying degrees of make out... As is the beach, but the couples here are of all ages, not just high school kids at the park!

Well, that'll be about it for now, as internet is expensive at the hotel and my 30 minutes are up, bright and early (4AM early!) tomorrow morning off to the airport to fly to Cochin to meet Lott, Logan, and Cyrus and see the rickshaws for the first time! BTW, I assume the Indian rickshaws are more similar to the ones in Sri Lanka, than the ones in Bangkok... this is too bad because the ones in Bangkok actually had a suspension! I'm sure these do as well, it's just not very good... or maybe it's just the terrible, terrible roads!

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