Sri Lanka December 2017

My next destination is Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). Judy and I had been south of there, in the Maldive Islands, and north of there in Central and North India, but somehow never got around to visiting.

Sri Lanka is a smallish island country, about 150 miles x 270 miles, with a population of 21 million.

I arrived in the rain last night, and more than 2″ is forecast for today. As a native Washingtonian, I’m used to rain. However, being in the midst of a storm track could make traveling around quite difficult. One of the risks of being a global nomad.

The main form of transport here in Colombo are vast numbers of ‘tuk-tuk’s, much like those seen in Thailand. I needed to get 5 km. fast in the rain last evening, so I took one. The ride is a bit hair-raising, as the tuk-tuk zooms in and out of gaps for advantage. It’s probably not safe, but it certainly is practical. Having Google Maps is helpful in getting you to where you want to go even if the driver doesn’t know where it is.

Such transport is inexpensive here. The ‘flag drop’ initial charge is 33 cents, and then you pay 27 cents per km. What a deal!

I went down to Curry Leaf restaurant to partake of their incredible buffet dinner that showcases virtually every ethnic dish made in Sri Lanka. I’m glad I did. Sri Lanka (as Ceylon) was an origin ‘Spice Island’, and this shows. Peppery hot dishes are popular, and the spicing is in the ‘Thai-hot’ zone. The curries taste closer to Thai flavors than Indian. That said, the overall taste is unique, not quite like India or Thailand. I found the food quite appealing and delicious.

Kottu Roti

Making Kottu Roti in Sri Lanka from Mel Malinowski on Vimeo.


Curry Leaf was so good, I went a second time.

Venturing out into the rough streets of Colombo, I had an interesting global nomad experience. Hearing the story may help you someday when you are in some far-flung land.

As I was walking around down in the ‘Fort’ area near the waterfront, a well-dressed man walked up beside me and began chatting. Where are you from? How long will you be here? Where are you going?

He said he just got off work at a hotel. That I simply must go see some interesting event at a temple that was just starting.

We walked for a while. Then, when I asked how far it was, and he said, oh, 3 km., I resisted. So up drives a tuk-tuk, and we get in and go the 3 km.. We get out, but the driver doesn’t ask for any payment. Odd. We go in and walk around a very big, interesting Buddhist temple (pictures are below). I paid $2 USD admission for us. There was no big event going on, by the way.

When we left, the same tuk-tuk was waiting. We got in and drove a bit. I said that I needed to get out and go get some breakfast.

That’s when the trap was sprung. The driver said “You owe me 5800 rupees (about $40 USD). I laughed. The going rate for such a taxi ride is about 100 rupees. I gave him 100.

No, no, it’s 5800! It turns out they are in this together. I get out, and walk. They threaten to get the police. I agree, that’s a good idea (although I’m mixed about this, I don’t know if the police are complicit here). They harass me for several blocks, and finally speed off.

Fending off touts and people who want to ‘help you’ is a bit of a pain here, like in India. But you must be firm, and careful to not take rides without an agreement as to the price.

The Chinese are not sitting around while American leadership plays with ‘America First’. They are expanding their footprint in the world. They are in the process of developing an enormous landfill area off of the Colombo waterfront, with a 99 year lease on most of it, and 50 acres that they are given ‘in perpetuity’@! That’s like Hong Kong was, a foreign colony.

Here is what they are building. If they pull it off, it will be pretty impressive:

This, while Trump dithers and tweets. Things are changing.

The rains continue unabated, and the news is not promising. Apparently slides have closed some of the railway lines in the mountains, as well as the road entrances to several important national parks. Today I must decide if it’s prudent to leave and do this another year.

With a gap in the rains, I’m heading up to Kandy in central Sri Lanka for the day tomorrow. Though it is only 110 km. (about 70 miles) it typically takes 2-3 hours to drive it, or 3 ½ hours by train.

Fruit is plentiful and good in Sri Lanka.

Even elephants need taxis. It’s a very long walk across town.

The highlands are lush, big and dramatic.

Due to storm damage, much of the area I planned to visit cannot be reached just now. I will have to come back later.

I have decided to start only adding blog entries when they cover something new (not in these blogs). There may be long gaps. I’m taking a few weeks off to meditate with Tai Chi. I’ll be back in late December with a report about Myanmar.

(Later note: Not long after I left Colombo, I came down with dengue fever. As I did have a few mosquitos in my hotel room in Colombo, and due to the timing of my illness, I suspect I got it there. It also is possible to get it where I am staying before Myanmar, Bangkok, so I am not sure)

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