Colombo, Sri Lanka. Humid, rainy season, Asian success story, frustrating and my 94th country.
As stated ever so briefly last night, getting into the city from the airport with a completely clueless taxi driver (whom we contracted through the airport taxi service) who was forced to stop every four minutes to ask passersby where our hotel was (and who could not see very well) was a journey all its own for about 90 minutes. Then, upon arrival, our hotel could find no record of booking or payment. Eventually resolved. I must admit to having flashbacks to the Indian visa nightmare while trying not to feel animosity toward the subcontinent and its neighboring islands.
Today has been well…odd. Slept well, showered, Steven went to the gym, and then we hit the streets. Ever so briefly. We were soon talked into getting into a tuk tuk and being taken to the Full Moon Poya happenings at the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. Wow. Some of what glitters is gold and some of the Buddhas are very golden. It seems the gods come in all colors and shapes and are quite different in personality, appearance and general quirkiness depending on their countries of origin: India, Thailand, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, Tibet … A plus for eastern religions since—even though religion is almost always detrimental to world peace—the variety of the east does make for better photo albums. The temple is completely full of relics, gifts, photos, every kind of memento related to Buddhism. Many visitors were present this fine holiday making offerings and reading and eating the free meal served downstairs (I think for the poor but I’m not sure). I was not proud to think that all of this would have to be under lock and key in the U.S. because we have become a nation of thieves and defacers.
We were briefly tempted by one of the many ‘guides’ and ‘drivers’ and ‘friends’ and briefly signed on to a two-day trip out of town to some major sights. It was not too pricey and seemed like a great deal until Steven started researching tours, trips, outings on line and reading up on the many small deceptions that occur especially on some of the out of town jaunts. Nothing horrible or dangerous, just petty and disconcerting. In any case we cancelled and are now going on a day trip to Sigiriya cave and another world heritage site with another agency. Maybe.
Turns out Sri Lanka is one of those countries with endless and constant and incessant and annoying offerings of every kind of tourist-related service. First place on the trip we’ve encountered this. Seems odd in a way since Addis is less well off economically than Colombo and it didn’t happen there. But this particular form of entrepreneurial activity thrives in some places and not others based on poverty of course but, I suppose, culture, religion, former colonial influences and more all play a role in attitudes toward ‘hustling.’
We did make it to the grocery store around the corner and have crackers, peanut butter and jam, yogurt, cream cheese and Oreos! Steve is happily eating Indian/Sri Lankan food at every opportunity but I’m thinking of checking out the Burger King across the street tomorrow! I am such a travel foodie failure.
We can come home a week from tomorrow. Yay……. I think I would have left by now if Steven weren’t handling the money, taxis, visas at borders, and communicating with hotel personnel and drivers. I have the luxury of becoming increasingly antisocial as the days go by. It’s not that I don’t like the many interesting people all around me; I just don’t want to talk to them.