Day 69 – Sunday, March 15, 2015 – Colombo, Sri Lanka

We arrived on time in Sri Lanka. This was a result of the captain maintaining an almost constant speed of 20 knots for two and a half days. As you recall our departure from Myanmar was delayed by almost a full day due to the tides. The channel in the Yangon River is too shallow for any large vessels to enter or exit except on a rising tide. Fortunately for us the seas were calm and the ride was smooth despite the speed. However I hate to think of the extra fuel consumed at this speed.

Below is a little Wiki information about Sri Lanka, if you are interested.

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country near the south-east of India in South Asia. Sri Lanka, known until 1972 as, has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3,000 years, but there are theories to suggest that Sri Lanka had pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbors made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through World War II.

Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, dates back to the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BC. The country’s recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively ended when Sri Lankan military defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009. Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital, and largest city, of Colombo. It is also an important producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber, and the native cinnamon, the island contains tropical forests and diverse landscapes with a high amount of biodiversity.

The city of Colombo is located on the western coast of the island. Our tour took us to the southern city of Galle.

Sunrise over the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka as we approached the harbor.

Quiet Sunday morning of the port at Dawn.

To be a working mostly commercial port, Colombo is a beautiful port.

Our tour today took us from the city of Colombo to Galle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the southern part of the island state. It was an 8 hour tour with what was estimated to be a 2 hour drive each way over modern highways. The highways were modern, but unfortunately our transportation wasn’t. Our coach was comfortable, with air conditioning and plenty of legroom, but it’s mechanical condition left a lot to be desired. If our speed exceeded 45 mph, the driver seemed to struggle to keep it from weaving. As a result our drive was closer to 2 ½ hours each way.

I kept seeing these little stands on the street and could not understand what they were. At first I thought they were newsstands, but I didn’t see any papers. I finally realized they were selling lottery tickets.

Looking up a side street, you can see the old and the new. A Hindu temple in the foreground and a towering edifice under construction in the background.

I was amazed at the highway system in Sri Lanka. Their freeways were very modern and obviously supported by tolls.

Along the modern highway you could still see many pastoral scenes which could have been happening a century ago.

A friendly wave

The entire length of the highway is bordered by a chain link fence. I assume to keep stray water buffalo off the roads. It also served as a clothes line for the local people. This is a scene which was repeated continuously along our trip.

We had a scheduled “refreshment stop” which was actually an opportunity to purchase good from an extremely overpriced “gallery”.

Close-up of a mask

This carver was working in a little shed outside the gallery.

If I tried this, I would probably be minus a few toes…

Following our break, we entered the old city of Fort Galle. It was a very interesting and we all wished we could have had some free time to explore here. As it was we visited a museum which was a complete waste of time and then given about 40 minutes along the coast.

Much of Galle was damaged or destroyed in the tsunami of 2004 where the ocean was forced miles inland along the southern coast. Fortunately, most of the damage has been repaired or reconstructed although there are still a few places where the evidence of the 10 year old damage occurred.

These young men were enjoying the sunshine and clear blue water.

Kay, hot and windblown…

It’s tough to be a hat seller on a windy day. He was continually retrieving and arranging his wares.

These guys were enjoying what appeared to be a pick-up game of cricket.

After leaving Fort Galle we went for lunch. It was at the Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel, a quiet elegant setting for a delicious meal.

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I was pleased to get my “made in Sri Lanka” beer. The brand was Lion, the size was huge 625 ml, and the taste was good.

We were presented with over 100 choices on the buffet. It was an opportunity to try new and different tastes. Of course there were dozens of curry dishes, shrimp prepared in a variety of ways, cuddle fish and other exotic dishes.

This was only one of about 5 or six stations set up with delicious dishes to choose from.

The calamari was excellent, served with pineapple and a mild curry.

I couldn’t resist trying the crud and treacle. The curd was a yogurt made from water buffalo milk. Treacle is made from the syrup that remains after sugar is refined. This was the dark variety which has a distinctive smoky flavor. Together they made a very delightful dessert.

The view from the restaurant patio was beautiful. Room here command $300 USD and up per night, quite expensive by the island’s standards.

One of the most amazing features of the hotel was the spiral staircase from the lobby. The railing was made of metal figures engaged in different activities. I could have spent an hour just studying the staircase. It was a work of art!

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As we were leaving, I asked one of the bellmen if I could take his photo. He readily agreed and made everyone line up for the photo. It is obvious that some were more pleased with this task than others…

On the return trip, this is one of the many examples of British Colonial architecture we observed.

We arrived back at the ship with about 45 minutes before all aboard. There was a small market with about two dozen vendors which we perused before going aboard. As always at these markets the colors alone are spectacular.

We all came to the same conclusion that none of us was interested in dinner, having eaten so much lunch later in the day than was normal for us. Instead we showered, rested and then view the evening’s movie “Kill the Messenger” in the Wajang Theater. We then attended the entertainment in the Queen’s lounge.

It was a long and tiring day, but had its high points.

We are at sea tomorrow on our way to Cochin, India.

Goodnight…

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