Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Colombo Trip, Sri Lanka

Joseph looking out the window on the way to Colombo. Several things of note are just how close the train tracks run beside the ocean and the clean clothes lying out on the ground to dry (shades of India). The scenery was beautiful and we all enjoyed the ride up to the Capital City of the Country.
The train station. It is about a 2 hour train ride to Colombo if you do not take the express train. We opted to stop at all the stations to get a feel for the area. On the return trip we had to twice get off the train and wait for a different train to pick us up and take us further on down the line, this seems very odd to all of us. The airport and train stations are infamous for "touts" a.k.a. scam artists.
Christine right outside the central train station in Colombo. Things to note here are the corrigated metal roofs on shops lining the streets, these shops sold everything from clothes to sunglasses, phones to jewelry. We were all impressed with how clean Colombo was and compared to India, even the high-traffic areas were quite clean. There is also a woman in a sari right behind Christine, most women seemed to wear full-length cotton skirts, so the sari was notable.
Just past the train station is this monstrosity that begs to be titled "Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!" Actually it is a monument to the Sri Lankan telecommunications systems; we all found it rather weird.
We walked from the train station to the Old Fort area (yes, old fort area in both Colombo and Galle). This photo shows the landmark old lighthouse which has been changed over to a clock tower. An "off limits" harbors is just behind the clock tower. The presidential palace was to the right past the clock tower and security was very much in evidence. This old part of the town has mostly colonial-era structures, many are in good shape and others are being renovated/restored.
Katherine was so excited to go to The Pagoda restaurant because the Duran Duran "Hungry Like The Wolf" video was filmed here in the 1980's. This is one of the oldest eating establishments in the Fort area. However, it was also undergoing a massive renovation and only available for drinks and pasteries. We were all disappointed, so the women went shopping at Lanka Hands, a multi-level store selling local crafts (including Sinhalese masks, batik and lacework, basketry and way more). Christine filled her backpack full!!!
Cargills Ltd, a once-grand Department Store built to supply imported luxury to British Planters and Colonial Administrators, was established in 1844. The building still features gorgeous glass, mahogany cabinets and lots of brass; it is a living mercantile museum.
This photo shows the still beautiful red-brick victorian Cargills Emporium. The company still has a major retail influence on the nation, in 1993 Cargills began a supermarket chain. We even shopped at the one in Wadduwa; it wasn't huge, but it was clean and air conditioned.
Scott simply had to have a picture of this! I was trying to figure out how to make a "B" with my arms to do the YMBA dance.
Beautiful Hindu Temple - bright colors are quite popular in Sri Lanka.
View from the passenger seat of a tuk-tuk. Please note how the driver is actually over the center line - very common driving practice, cause it is all about passing the guy in front of you. We took the tuk-tuks across town to another restaurant Katherine recommended.
This victorian house is the Paradise Road Gallery Cafe. We had an excellent lunch at the 2nd floor cafe. The first floor and much of the second were all retail; amazing array of housewares, home accessories and lovely gifts. Scott and I both shopped while we waited for our lunch, but as we are on the 5-Year Plan, what we bought were gifts. So much of the store reminded me of Ozzie's - great merchandise, fair prices and good customer service. As we were flying home, the terra cotta garden pieces were for looking only.
This is a sacred Bodhi Tree, we saw them all over the country and like this one, right in the middle of the road! Cow also roam freely, but we saw very few of them in Colombo.
This white-domed building is known as "Old Town Hall", but the locals call it "The White House"
Just across the street is Colombo's largest park, Viharamahadevi Park (say that 5 times fast!). It was originally called Victoria Park, but like many places and streets, was renamed in the 1950's. Working elephants sometimes spend the night in the park eating palm branches - bet the gardeners love to clean up the mess?
These are Indian Flying Fox. The are the largest of three types of fruit-eating bats in Sri Lanka
Groups of roosting bats, numbering in the the hundreds, will take over the large trees in this park. They decamp after sunset. A gardener in the park led Scott and I to the roosting bats. He took a huge fallen tree branch and wacked at the ground until the bats flew up in a flurry. Their wing span is 1.3 meters (4.2 feet) and they made an awful screeching sound, yikes! Imagine that flying over your head?
See all the bats still hanging in the trees? They were amazing and we watched them two different times - even the local population was enthralled (and probably glad that the bats eat only fruit). After the gardener got the bats to fly up several times, he looked at us and put out his hand. Scott gave him some Sri Lanka Rupees and he looked at Scott and said "I need more, I want American money". Scott prompted pulled the note out of the man's hand and said "this is all I've got, you want it or not?"
The park is extremely large, with lots of play areas. Scott noticed this bridge over a small lake in need of repair. We were surprised at how many things needed work, but Sri Lanka's economy is in the same straits as most countries.
We saw this Boy Scout monument to the Golden Jubilee (1912-1962)of the Ceylon Boy Scout Movement. We both smiled and felt it rated a photo.
It was a long, long day and the little guys passed out on the couch, we let sleeping children alone!
The Sri Lankan who took care of us for a week. Miss Pushba was out cook and Mr. Thulak took care of our house and several others in the compound. They made out holiday restful and relaxing.
Sri Lanka was a lovely trip for us, a place that we probably never would have visited if not already living over overseas.
Hope this little slice of a our travels was enjoyable. Stay safe and warm,
Scott and Christine

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