Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Sri weeks in Ceylon (I will not apologise for the pun): Negombo

Sri Lanka: 11oct - 3rd nov 2016

Negombo 11th Oct - 14th Oct 2016

After a quick but turbulent hop from south India to Sri Lanka we landed in Colombo the capital city and listening to the advice of many people who'd described Colombo as a big boring city we immediately left and got an over expensive taxi up the coast a few miles to a town called Negombo. In reference to the taxi we have since come to the conclusion that the first journey into any new city is going to be the most expensive journey of your time there, usually because you arrive somewhat tired and disorientated and where you arrive into, often a bus station or airport has a tendency to be well outside of the city centre. When there are public transport links they tend to be more expensive anyway and where there aren't and you're left to the mercy of the local taxi drivers then you no there's not a chance of getting a cheap ride....We truly found this out when we arrived in Probolingo, Java, so watch out for that story when we get round to telling it. This time round we ended up paying 13gbp for the journey that took only a few minutes which considering we were in one of the cheapest countries in the world was an absolute rip off (and roughly a 3rd of our daily budget), however as a side note the car was very nice and it was the first time we'd worn a seatbelt in a long time which was an odd sensation to realise.


Negombo is a small seaside town just north of Colombo on the west coast of Sri Lanka a town full of guesthouses, hotels and resorts, lots of resorts and to go along with these expensive resorts were expensive restaurants too. Not so good for us. We'd heard that Sri Lanka was as cheap or possibly cheaper than India but that this point in time we did not believe it. In any case over the next few days we ended up eating beef or chicken stir fry on several occasions, partly because it was the cheapest food in the area (surprisingly) and partly because it was a welcome break from curry which although is always tasty was starting to get a little tiresome after a month in India. This break from local food did however put us on a bit of a bad path. From this point on we ate very little Sri Lankan food until almost the end of our trip when I discovered one of my new favourite foods.

Even on a terrible camera the sunset still looks good
After arriving at the gigantic spacious guesthouse in which we were the only ones present, that included staff, we settled ourselves, had a nap and before it got dark we went for an explore of the area. We headed straight to the beach where we caught one of the most amazing sunsets I'd ever witness. The clear sky scrolled through almost all the colours of the spectrum, there were blues, reds oranges, purples and pinks. I'm a little colourblind and even I could tell the amazing array of hues on display. After the beach in Goa which had been a bit disappointing (due to the tropical rain storms, the mass of people chasing us down the beach to sell us their goods and for the fact that the previous beach we'd been on were those of the Spanish Mediterranean coast which were fantastic) we felt now as if we were in heaven. Not only was the sunset amazing but the sea was warm and the beach itself stretch on for miles, its golden sand largely untainted by either the presence of other tourists as it was still low season and only very few people selling things. Chilled as could be. Over the next few days we spent a lot of time walking up and down this beach. This was also the third sea we'd swum in on our travels.

We spent sometime walking around the various parts of Negombo as although it was quite a small town it was still spread out over a fairly large area. At one end of the town were the resorts at the other was the bus station and a few innocuous high streets and in between were canals connecting the town together, a pungent wet fish market and a few but diverse religious buildings. On one road was a church which looked like it had been brought straight from the somewhere in western Europe (thanks to St Francis Xavier, a name we'd see a lot in coming months), down the road from a Hindu temple which was near identical in design to that of the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. We also spent this time getting to grips with the Sri Lankan rupee. In India the conversion rate had been 1gbp to 88 rupees and after getting used to that over the course of a month we had to adapt to use 1gbp to 180 rupees. The transition was quite confusing especially since the two currencies shared a name.

When we took a walk to the fish market we ended up arriving a little late in the day because we'd  slept in, gotten hungry because we hadn't eaten breakfast and then been distracted by 2 big juicy burgers. Consequently things were starting to wind down, the fish and been sold or stored and the guts were starting to be washed away in big bloody rivers. We however met and end up talking to a on old fisherman who had supposedly met Rick Stein when he was filming a tv series in Sri Lanka, he then proceeded to explain how the fish were caught, stored, gutted, dried in the sun and salted. The salt both preserving it from rotting and from being eaten by the voracious seagulls flying in great numbers overhead. He also proudly told us how all the best fish is kept and eaten straight away by the locals on the coast and the rest, the salted and dried fish goes in land. His advice was to only eat fish when you're on the coast. Good advice Mr Fisherman. What struck as both as strange and sad was how we were both on the back foot and wary of this strange man as soon as he approached us. Not because we sensed danger but purely because after India where the only randomers who approached us either wanted a photo or more likely were sweet talking us whilst preparing a sales pitch. It was a sad attitude to have because it meant that for a long time after we didn't really trust random people who wanted to make conversation with us. That's not to say we weren't duped by random strangers at all in Sri Lanka but the example I'm thinking of didn't happen until we arrived in Galle at the end of our Sri Lankan experience.


Man vs Wild: Spider Edition
Our only negative experience in Negombo was the arrival of an unwanted character. Lying in bed one evening after a busy day we caught something out of the corner of our eyes racing across the wall. We then spent the next few minutes debating who should track down and kill the giant black hairy spider that had decided to make its home in our bedroom; me the arachnophobe or Sarah the pretend arachnophobe (I say spitefully). The deal had always been that I get rid of daddy long legs and Sarah gets rid of the spiders yet it was me, ME, that had to face the beast like a pathetic gladiator. As we had run out of the room the second the spider had first reared its ugly head I reentered armed with a selfie-stick a boot and a towel and spent the next 20 minutes chasing (and being chased by) the dreaded arachnid around the confines of the room before finally cornering him, squishing him in the towel, screaming, and flooding the towel and the spider with it in the sink which is where it stayed overnight. At least now when job interviewers asked me to give a time when I've had a problem and how I overcame it I'll have the perfect example. Right?

Our first overall impressions of Ceylon were very positive. It had some of the best elements of India with the food and the scenery but with noticeably less population and less chaos and all the locals we met were amazingly kind and talkative which is always a bonus.

After a few relaxing days on the Sri Lankan Coast acclimatising to the way of life here it was time to head in land. To Kandy.

Until then,

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