Introduction to Sri Lanka
01.12.2010 - 03.12.2010
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First impressions are great. Whoever says Thailand is the land of smiles hasn't been to Sri Lanka. Everyone here is so bloody happy to see you, it's great. Even the touts are polite! Getting in to Negombo at around 9am after a 2.30am alarm call in Kuala Lumpur to get to the airport, we're tired. We pick a place for breakfast out of the Lonely Planet book and the guy who runs it is so sweet. He talks for ages on Sri Lanka and how it's getting back on its feet after the war and how everyone is living happily together now (whether that's true or not is debatable but it's nice to hear it all the same) and gives us great information on our potential itinerary through the country. We bought a bottle of water in a local shop and I got my change in the form of a chocolate bar...a great introduction!
Negombo is a small ramshackle town just north of Columbo and only 20 minutes away from Columbo airport. We were reminded of Cuba in a way. It's a good spot to start and finish your trip to SL, as it's so close to the airport, relatively relaxed with not much to do. It's quite touristy with a lot of western folk around.
So we had to decide on an itinerary. It seems the most popular way to see the country is with a tour group and there were so many touting for business in Negombo but none looked particularly reputable. We didn't want to do a tour as it would be expensive and it would mean giving up the control we have over our travels that we are now so used to. So we consulted the Lonely Planet again for guidance and stumbled across a tour group based in Columbo who also rent cars. After thinking it over we decided renting a car would be the perfect way to do it and it seemed we could do it for cheap.
We got a taxi into Columbo - not a great looking city and it's not surprising that many travellers skip past it - and met with the agency. They seemed very on the ball but unfortunately didn't have a car for us, and after seeing the traffic in Columbo this may have been a blessing in disguise. They had only a minivan which we could have with a driver for however long we liked. The driver would act as a guide as well if we need it. We were a bit iffy on this idea to start but the public transport situation didn't seem attractive especially now that our luggage includes Will's new guitar (I mentioned that right?). So we took the plunge and arranged for van and driver to pick us up the following day.
The weather isn't great at the moment, a bit of rain throughout the day so we decided to head north first. We've been told the weather will improve over the next week so if we want to drop by the beaches in the south we thought we'd do it at the end of the trip when the weather might be better. Our first stop will be Anuradhapura, one of the cities in the Cultural Triangle up north with lots of temples and ruins to visit.
It's a completely different place to what we are used to, which is great, and it's cheap which is even better. I'm looking forward to getting into the rest of the country, and hope that our driver is a decent guy from whom we'll learn even more about the place. I imagine it'll be pretty nonstop as we try to fit everything in. This is a good thing and will make us feel like we have earned our three week break on the beaches of Bali and Lombok at the end of the month.
By the way there are no photos as there wasn't much to take a photo of, I'll make up for it later.