I rant you risten

Saturday, June 02, 2007

In my mind, I'm goin to Sri Lanka

Revolutionario Anxiety
Thee days before we’re scheduled to leave and the aerial unit of the Tamil Tigers attempt to bomb the military fuel complex at the international airport. News breaks out that flights have been cancelled and I fret for about an hour. A brief moment of apprehension was the catalyst in a series of phone calls. This is the gist of those phone calls:

The tigers tried to bomb the airport, Colombo’s shut down..

Really? Is it still safe?

Yeah, relatively. It’s just that Emirates cancelled their flights there.

I guess it’s good we’re flying Sri Lankan Air then..

Yea.. I just hope they don’t cancel our flight..

We’re still going right?

Of course, I’m not worried.

Me neither..

But we’re taking a car.. I don’t want wait around the airport for a seaplane to take us...

Fine, you sissy..

And with that, our plans steamrolled ahead.. Something magical about Sri Lanka has been calling me for years now, and this was my time to find that voice. Braving the possibility of harm, we took the red eye from Dubai. Landing in Colombo early morning and I was amazed at how everything worked out so smoothly and efficiently, placating my anxiety about our safety. A sleepy 3.5hour drive later, we arrived in Koggala village right outside of Galle, on the south west coast, ready to chill out for the next 6 days and get an initial feel for the country.

Again with the mosquitoes..
Maybe we were asking for it by visiting Sri Lanka at the start of Monsoon season, but those bastards were ferocious. Having armed myself with jungle strength mosquito lotion, and jungle mosquito pads, I thought we were safe, but I paid dearly for that error. My first two mornings there were spent inspecting the new bites all over my face and hands. It got so bad that the hotel staff, fearing a lawsuit or something worse, burned citronella and mosquito coils twice daily in our room. I became “bumpy crater face from room 5”.

There is something to be said about the satisfaction of squashing a mosquito with your bare hands and seeing the blood that was just recently sucked from your skin splattered between your palms. Mosquito killing spree mornings were a lovely tradition of revenge on the trip. The nice thing about this was after being jacked on antihistamines, lotions and various remedies, I went to see an Ayurvedic doctor who rubbed some homebrew of oils and leaves on my arms to stop the swelling – in the karmic scheme of things, it felt nice getting holistic treatment meant to be cheap, but expensive because it’s in a hotel, for free.. Did that even make sense?

I'm on vacation, sure i'll have another...
Because of my anxiety and constant complaining about looking grotesque for my vacation pictures (over 15 swollen bites all over my face).. I was fed two bottles of wine a day with a number of drinks spaced out to keep my buzz and forget about my appearance. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that numbs the urge to itch, than inebriation.. It just keeps you jovial and merry, well except for the fact that I might have spurred alcoholism, but that’s all ok now.. Hiccup.

When in Ceylon, drink Ceylon
Not that I could tell the difference, but I was hoping to drink some good tea while in Sri Lanka. Every morning, we drank tea, and although pishi was able to tell the difference, I just tasted tea. Still unable to tell a difference, we drove through the jungle for a visit to one of the world’s “best” natural tea plantations. I didn’t know this, but green tea, black tea, and white tea all come from the same plant, the variations all depend on how many leaves and how much of the stem you clip. So,,, we tasted, dabbled and bought the purveyed goods to take home as gifts; but end of the day, my lipton tea taste buds were pathetic.

Walking on a 200-acre tea plantation inspecting the various types of teas and pesticide free produce, we came across a lot of sound. Apparently the workers on the tea plantation are really into their hi-fi sets, spending all their salaries and using credit to buy sound systems. And that’s not all, these workers pit their hi-fi sets against each other and jack up the music, dancing after a long day at the plantation. Although I was taken back by the 100 year old machines used to process the tea leaves to the stuff we drink every morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how crazy the ear blasting dancehall parties got on a tea plantation in south west Sri Lanka.

Tourism, Tsunami and the Tamil Tigers
Galle was affected by the Tsunami, but unlike the other destinations like Thailand and the Maldives, tourism has suffered because of the safety concerns with the Tamil Tigers. And because of these troubles, Sri Lanka has been neglected as a popular tourist destination. A lot of people promised to help and restore the country, but those were empty promises like the ones of Shane Warne (silly twit of an Australian bowler), who pledged to restore the Galle cricket ground to its pre-tsunami charm. Well, to this very day, only 20% of that money promised has made its way, and the people have given up on him, tsk tsk Shane, you just can’t seem to get a break can you?

The locals are super friendly and really appreciate visitors, so no worries about people ripping you off or wanting to rip you off – maybe a little, but nothing too bad. And yes, there are troubles with the Tamil Tigers, but that shouldn’t deter you from going, the situation is between them with the government and not tourists.. Obviously, stay away from crowds, try not to get stuck in the thick of a busy location, keep your head down and no one will bother you at all. Some of the architecture was absolutely beautiful there with Geoffrey Bawa (Sri Lanka’s favorite architect) putting up some gorgeous buildings (I hear Kandalama on the lake is supposed to be stunning).

Goin back? mosdef
All in all, good food, beautiful scenery, nice people, and laid back life made Galle perfect for me. Being islanders, the Lankans are the coolest of the subcontinent with a definite hippie hakuna matata outlook on life. The Galle Fort, is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site, and is also the hangout littered with young lovers courting each other. The beaches and their fishermen catching sear fish and other varieties were a beautiful sight to see. Apart from the romance, one of the better memories for me, is going for a swim in a protected bay with pishi and watching a Sri Lankan father take his toddler into the water to teach him how to swim. Having a beautiful traveling companion also helps, she makes the pictures look good..

Not for nothing but...
I don’t want to gloat, but,,, there is a certain cool factor when you’re flipping through this month’s wallpaper and find them talking about your hotel. Tres hip. And yes it was dedoned out, we enjoyed the leaf.


Anonymous said...

Nice read on your trip to SL. I was actually there when the terrorists bomb the oil location. The reason apperently the airport was shutdown was becuase an unidentified aircraft came up on the radar - they feared it was a terrorist craft and shot missiles from the airport. My australian mates were leaving the next day and they were a bit scared when they turned on the tv and managed to figure out what was going on. I was leaving a few days later and went to the airport and was ready to check in - and my flight had been cancelled- all night flights were in the process of being cancelled. So i had to take the 2.5 hours drive back to the house and then drive to airport again midday the next day. anyways... great place, glad you enjoyed it also. Hopefully the situation does not get really bad.
Mat (AUS)

Bahraini Rants said...

Mat: I really didn't feel any tension driving through colombo or galle, and everyone was more than friendly. There was an increase in security, but that's expected right after an incident like the that. I'm going back again, but this time going to stay in the hill country and the cultural triangle.

It is a bit scary when you first think of it.. but it's also an adventure.. to anyone reading this, visit Sri Lanka when you get a chance.. it's a beautiful country..

Hasan said...

Groovy post! Sounds like you had a great time :)

Anonymous said...

irridescent nights turned into ginger coloured skies of morning dawn. the waves mocked the clouds, shadows played jokes on the sun and the sand fell through the hour glass as our days went by.

Pearl of Dubai said...

Definitely on my list of places to visit. A BR recommendation carries much more weight than Wallpaper anyway. Sending my best to you for a great summer -- the Pearl is leaving next week back to the USA. Keep BRing!

Anonymous said...

I wonder what James Taylor would think of that...bs

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