Today was a day of mistakes.
The first screw up was a fortuitous one. Apparently Kim had not paid attention the previous day when negotiating the price of our accommodation. When it came to pay the next day, she was convinced the agreed price was 1500, despite it actually being 1800. I wasn’t around to correct her, so she ended up furiously negotiating a saving of 300 rupees for us.
We headed out from Mirissa for a brief stop in Galle, where we made the next mistake: trying to walk from the bus station through the fort with our bags in the midday sun. It was too hot. Way to hot. 42 degrees Celsius under the blazing sun. I’ve lived in Panama and know heat, but this was something different. Despite it not being a long walk, we were dying of heat and ready to kill each other. At last we found a café, had some milkshakes to cool off, and left our bags there to do a whirlwind tour of the fort city. Despite the heat waves blurring our views of the town, it looked quite nice. It was the only place on our trip where I wish we had more time to explore.
Unfortunately, since Kim had a henna party in Colombo as part of her friend Sarmi’s wedding party, we had to run. Not stupid enough to make the same mistake twice, we took at tuk-tuk to the bus station in order to get a fast bus to Colombo.
We’d been told that buses that take the highway – an actual highway in Sri Lanka! – can cover the 120 or so kilometers from Galle to Colombo – in only a couple hours. We asked around hurriedly for such a bus and there made our next mistake. We asked for and boarded a “direct” bus instead of “express” bus. It turns out “direct” is indeed direct, as in a straight line more or less, but not at all express. The bus definitely didn’t take the highway and stopped every 200 meters or so. It was intolerable, particularly with Kim stressing out over being late for the party. It ended up taking four hours, so Kim was two hours late.
In Colombo, we checked into the Blue Seas Guest House, which is in Mount Lavinia to the south of the city. It had good reviews online, mentioning its British owner being quite engaging and helpful. The place was indeed not bad, but we never saw much of the owner at all, and the staff, despite well meaning, was not equipped – neither with English skills nor knowledge of basic tourist tips like where to get good roti – to help us.
With Kim off with the girls at the henna party, I got to enjoy an evening on my own, which meant wandering up and down the hectic Galle street, marveling at the 20 person deep lineups at the ATMs (payday?), buying way too much beer and food and eating myself unconscious. Bliss. At least that way I ended the day with a success, not a mistake.
Theory of the Day:
The more space you have on roads, the more road rage you have. In Sri Lanka, where cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, cows, buses, and trucks all cram onto narrow two-lane streets, road rage doesn’t seem to exist despite the general unruliness. In comparison in the US, where there are huge highways and supposedly highly organized enormous intersections, road rage is at its peak. Somewhere in the middle is Europe, where roads are tighter than the US, but not nearly as much so as Sri Lanka.
- When getting buses between Galle (or Matara) and Colombo, make sure to ask for the expressway bus. Don’t accept any “direct” bus.
- Sri Lankan people don’t smell. It is often difficult to notice the absence of something, so when Kim pointed this out I was impressed. Despite such crowded and hot buses, not once did we notice a smelly Sri Lankan. Even the beggars were innocuously smelling. Maybe somehow curry has an unreported odor-fighting effect.
- When back in Canada, I’m going to make a point of being out-of-the-way friendly to obvious tourists, following in the example of the Sri Lankans. Countless times every day here I’m amazed and joyed at the overt friendliness and helpfulness of the people here. In the spirit of karma, I will endeavor to repay the favor back home.