A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Beautiful bride

Today was the wedding! I got up super-early and walked to the hotel the wedding was at. The preparations involved hair and makeup, but then also the bride had to get put into her sari and decorated with jewelry, flowers and shiny. She was so beautiful, but also so decked out. Everything must have weighed a ton! Then, it was time for pictures. I watched as the photographer asked the bride to basically pet the bushes, stand in some stiff positions, and sit in the lobby, right next to a bunch of magazines. The poses that he was asking for were so different than poses you'd see in the states. The wedding itself was quite the ceremony. Everything had meaning, but nobody could explain to me what any of the things meant or what any of the symbols stood for, even the people who had been through this before. It was a little sad that they were so divorced from their own culture and religion. But the ceremony certainly was entertaining. The whole time, two musicians were playing on a woodwind of sorts and a drum. Unlike the last Hindu wedding I attended, they were actually playing music, and it was pleasant. The priests sat on the floor and directed everybody- stand here, smell this, wipe your hands with this, put this here, give this to that person... There were a lot of interesting parts, like when the priest pulled out his machete and split some coconuts, when people threw rice into the faces of the bride and groom, when the bride brushed the groom's hair, and when their adorable 6 year old cousin walked them around the area. I wish I had explanations to give you for those. My favorite was the fire. Throughout the whole ceremony, there was a little campfire they kept going in the middle. I kinda wanted smores. The priest used it to light up various other items, such as lamps and bananas. Yes, for some reason, they turned bananas into candles. At the end, they put a necklace onto the bride to signify they were married (sort of like putting on a ring), but there was never a "kiss the bride" moment. After, everybody came up to the bride and groom's "thrones" and gave them blessings, well wishes, and sprinkled them with rice. Then, it was food time! The food was pretty good- rice and unhot curries plus a guy making fresh hoppers. There wasn't a western-style wedding cake, but during the ceremony, people had brought around baskets of individually-wrapped cakes, and those were the cake. People hung out and chatted for a bit, and then dissipated home. I was completely exhausted between the getting up early, the food coma, and the oppressive heat/humidity during the 5 minute walk back. When I got back to the hotel, I turned the AC,on blast and passed out. When I came to, much later, I headed into town to pick up some items, including my train ticket for tomorrow. Surprisingly, there was a sign that tonight's train was sold out, and some tourists were having issues getting on tomorrow's. I guess it's a good thing I ordered ahead. I also tried to book a seat on a group tour. The tourist desk at the train station couldn't help me, so I went to a big fancy international hotel with their own tours desk. They also couldn't help me. Both wanted to get me a private driver, which is not cheap for one person. Also, not as safe as being in a group. Also, it requires more effort on my part. I really just wanted somebody to tell me where to look and what to see for one day. I'm doing my own thing all of the rest of the days. Oh well. I walked around the fancy hotel area a bit, and stumbled upon the Dutch Hospital, which is apparently a mini strip mall with a souvenir shop carrying anything you could want, emblazoned with "Sri Lanka" in big letters. So if you want typical plastic junk souvenirs, this is where to go- not a handmade thing in sight. From there, I headed to Galle Face Green, because there was a huge festival there. On the way, several guys tried to talk to me about it and escort me there, but I wasn't really feeling that. One of them insisted that he was a barman at one of the big hotels, but I'm guessing that's a standard line, given that I'd heard it from somebody yesterday as well. Generally, the people here may smile at me, and we've had to change direction to ditch a few persistent tuk tuk drivers, but I haven't experienced any really negative attention. If anything I feel like a minor celebrity in that a couple of people who I've offered to take the group picture for or who I've asked to take a picture of me have also wanted a selfie with me. However, it's nothing like India where the kids were rubbing my elbow for good luck or people were just handing me babies to hold in a picture. I'm still not quite sure what Buddhist holiday it is, but celebrating apparently involves kite flying. There were hundreds of kites flying in Galle Face Green. Some were small, but many were larger than a person, and some were longer than a building is wide. Thousands of people came out to see the spectacle and the place was packed. At first I was surprised to see the vendors absent, but about halfway down, the food stands started. They were mobbed and it was alI could do to get in for a bottle of water. After braving the mobs for a while, I was hungry enough to look for food. First place I saw was a mall with a food court, so there I ate. My "Thai" cheese kotta wasn't so different than the one I got the other night, except it had melted cheese on it. I was a little surprised that the mall music was all American pop- Maroon 5 and such. I'd expect (and hope for) something a bit more local. That was pretty much my day, as I'm not big on wandering in the dark by myself in an area I'm unfamiliar with.

priest's stuff

priest's stuff


musicians

musicians


streets of colombo

streets of colombo


Buddhist temple

Buddhist temple


Buddha in a box

Buddha in a box


Lots of kites

Lots of kites


Lots more kites

Lots more kites


Fun kites

Fun kites

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Swan Boats

I got up this morning and promptly headed out to forage for breakfast. On the way, I saw this amazing Buddhist church/temple/monastery/something. It was right in the middle of the city, but when you stepped inside the grounds, you felt calm, serene, and not like you were in a city at all. I continued on until I found a place with a long line of locals waiting for food. I said "I'll have what they're having" and ended up with a plate full of rice and unidentifiable food. One item was something pickley and spicy- sort of like kimchi. One item was dahl of some sort. One item was pink, and also spicy. The other patrons watched the "white girl struggles to eat with her fingers" show for a while, and then one offered to find me a spoon. I declined and continued amusing them. Scoop, lean forward so as to not drop it all on the floor, place mostly in mouth, chew, swallow, wipe runny nose caused by spicy food, put food into another pile, and repeat. It may have taken me twice as long to finish my meal, but I was in no rush. I paid 100 rupees (about $1.5) for the meal + a bottled drink, and was on my way, having clowned miles onto the faces of strangers. I continued walking around town (Wellawatta area) just to see what there was to see. The city is not that different from cities elsewhere- it's full of people walking, waiting for buses, or grabbing cabs. (But here, cabs aren't yellow and they come in tuk tuk form.) The streets are lined with shops, apartment buildings, and more shops. Actually, the streets are much cleaner than cities like New York. There's not a lot of trash on the ground, no icky smell, and not a whole lot of bums. The city feels a bit dirty because of all of the pollution, but otherwise, is not that bad. It certainly feels much more modern than many other cities, and certainly doesn't feel third-world. One of the few things keeping it from feeling like nay other city was the lack of diversity. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had to reconfirm to every tuktuk driver who wanted to take advantage of the tourist (basically all of them) that I didn't want a ride. I crossed over to the sidewalk by the beach, and there was one driver that struggled so much with the concept that I was out for a walk, and hence riding would defeat the purpose, so much that I had to head in the other direction to get rid of him, but otherwise they just went on their merry ways. At some point, I crossed the train tracks and went barefoot in the sand. I waded into the Indian Ocean a bit, and then got a sudden wet reminder that wave heights vary. Since I was wearing pants I was planning on wearing to a nice luncheon, I decided that going back to the hotel to wash the ocean smell out of them and let me dry was a good idea. But of course, I passed a grocery store on the way and had to duck in. A lot of the items for sale were pretty standard, but there were a bunch of interesting fruits. Also, the toothpaste came in some odd flavors like clove and aloe vera. Finally, I made it back to the hotel for a quick nap and cleanup before heading to the luncheon.

The luncheon was the Saturday buffet at Mt. Lavinia hotel- one of the fanciest hotels around. The view of the city was amazing. The view of the beach was amazing. And despite the fact that we were still in the city, we couldn't hear a drop of all the ruckus. The only sounds were the wind, ocean, and chatter from the kids playing in the pool. The food there was pretty great too, especially the dessert table. There were a variety of foods, and they were all well cooked, with lots of flavor, but not really hot-spicy. A jackfruit curry was one of my favorites, and the cheesecake was my favorite dessert. Also, I really enjoyed the honey lime pumpkin, the makani cauliflower, the ghee rice, and about everything else I ate. After lunch, we went for a walk around town. We mostly just took in a lot of the hustle and bustle while we chatted, but we did hit a few of the standard tourist sites. Galle Face Green is mostly brown now, but it was full of people enjoying the breeze. Tons of kites were high above, and we considered buying one, until we saw that there was no challenge to kite flying here. One vendor had 3 tied to a pole. If it's so easy a pole can do it, where's the fun? I did find the food vendors fun. A lot of them had these shrimp patties with a whole shrimp just plastered to the front. Even the bags of prepackaged snacks looked fun as they weren't limited to chips and such. Unfortunately, I ate waaaaaaaay too much at lunch and couldn't even think of eating so soon after. We saw the clock tower, which is cool because you can see where the lighthouse light used to be at the top, and then we wandered around a bunch of markets in the area. We stumbled upon a closed-off section of river (let's be generous and call it a pond) where they have swan boats. What are swan boats? They're paddle boats that have a roof over them in the shape of a swan's back, and a swan head sticking out the front. For about a dollar per person, you can take one out on the pond. There is apparently no limit to the number of laps you can do around the pond, you just bring it back whenever. However, given the repetitive scenery and the dodgy water, you're not exactly likely to make a day of it. We wandered around until after dark, and then tuk tuked home. I was still full enough from lunch that a snack-sized bag of Sri Lankan funyuns was sufficient for me. Really, a shower was much more important to me than dinner was. I was gross!!! But that's one of the signs of a great day.

River boat

River boat


Buddha

Buddha


Beach walk

Beach walk


View from Mt. Lavinia Hotel

View from Mt. Lavinia Hotel


Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green


Swan boat lake

Swan boat lake

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Departure and arrival

My 20 minute flight from the airport second-closest to my home to the airport closest to my home was delayed by about an hour (after we got on the plane) so I got some good sleep. However, in order to catch the next flight, I had to do the airport dash. I'm seriously considering changing my morning runs from a 5k jog to a 3 minute sprint carrying a backpack full of bricks. I seem to run the airport dash more than official 5 or 10ks.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">When I got to Doha, it was hella hot, despite being early in the morning. Fortunately, we weren't outside for long, and the inside was well air conditioned. The airport itself isn't that different than any other airport- duty free shops, some food, etc, but I did enjoy playing with the legos at the toy store.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">The men look like men anywhere else in the world, and there were plenty of women who did aswell, but also, there are a LOT of women in hijabs. Some were wearing typical western clothes-jeans and long sleeve shirts, but some were in full-length dresses. What amazed me about the dresses was that some were more body-hugging that the t-shirt and capris I was wearing. For being so covered , some of those girls sure show off their figure. Also, their personalities still shined through. Each hijab was a different color and pattern than the others. Some were plainer, some had lace, others came in crazy colors and patterns. Each girl was showing her personality by what she used to frame her face. And like a picture, some of them were really pretty with that frame. Some were even wearing a lot of makeup. In the west, we usually think of hijabs as confining and bland, but this was a rainbow of expression. I'm certainly not supporting forcing anybody to wear something they don't want to, but I can also see how some women would be happy to feel protected and still be able to express themselves. There were very few in full-veil burkas, and even those were usually embellished and not just plain black.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">Unfortunately, I didn't have time to get out of the airport (not that I'm positive I legally can), and my views were all from the airport and plane. It was kind of cool to see all the planes in livery that I am not accustomed to seeing.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;"><br style="line-height: 15.86px;">Getting through the Sri Lankan airport was easy, although they don't give you the landing form on the plane- you have to get it at a desk inside. Duty-free is a bit unique. They have fridges, washing machines, and huge TVs in addition to the usual chocolate and perfume. It's on the way in and not the way out. I can't imagine carrying a full-sized refrigerator through customs, but I guess it's common enough here that there are multiple stores selling these types of goods.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">Upon exiting this area, there are a ton of stands selling cheap SIM cards, an ATM center, and very clean toilets. Exit left to get to the buses. The one I got on seemed to be the type that leaves when it's full, not on a specific timetable, so I waited a bit, but not too long.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;"> The ride started out with a variety of green scenery- green plants by the shore, well-tended gardens by nice-looking houses, plants sprouting up in the middle of industrial areas, and trees just cleared enough for corrugated metal shacks to srping up in between.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">At some point, it turned into city. The city overwhelmed me with sights and sounds- buses with heavy engines, tuk tuks revving, honking everywhere, and the chatter of people all fought for attention. Like many Asian countries, traffic rules are different here. Lane markings are just a suggestion, and certainly don't apply to tuk tuks or motorcycles. To cross the street, you just sort of go. But, I did see quite a bit of respect for red lights, which doesn't usually go hand-in-hand with the "no rules" style driving. People really did stop and let traffic cross at the red lights.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">The bus dropped us in the middle of a huge outdoor market, not too far from Fort. It was starting to get late, I had luggage, and I hadn't yet gotten oriented to the hotel, so I grabbed a tuk tuk. Plus, I really enjoy tuk tuks. <br style="line-height: 15.86px;">They're not as cheap as you'd expect- something like $1 per km (or maybe he overcharged me, highly likely), but it was well worth it to get dropped right at the door to the hotel, especially considering I hadn't been here before and the train station was an unknown walk away.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">After a good cleanup, I met my friends for dinner and a walk. We stopped in the first local place we saw for dinner and got a few traditional dishes.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">First we got hoppers. They're kind of like if somebody made a really thin, crispy crepe in the shape of a bowl, and then filled it with stuff. The egg hopper wasn't super flavorful, but it was tasty, and great for those with delicate tastebuds. The second thing I got was a kotta. Basically, they take roti and vegetables, chop them up, and stir fry them together in a spicy sauce. It was really good. I will definitely be ordering this again somewhere. <br style="line-height: 15.86px;">On our post-dinner walk, we found a dessert place. The more interesting thing we got was some sort of fruit and grain mash that had been cooked in a big leaf. It was ok. <br style="line-height: 15.86px;">Again, the city as a whole was a bit of sensory overload. Neon lights were flashing, stores were lit up, cars and motorcycles were speeding by, and every tuk tuk driver was stopping to offer us a ride, then triple-checking that, no, we really didn't need one.<br style="line-height: 15.86px;">This was a great first evening in Sri Lanka.

Hopper

Hopper


Streets of Sri Lanka

Streets of Sri Lanka


Market

Market

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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