Sri Lanka – Letter to a Sister

I met Husband at the airport (he took back all the Sri Lankan money he had given me!) Flight and everything was fine, though much too long – 10 hours. Whenever I use a washroom on a plane, I always remember my first flight, aged eight, when you told me that if I didn’t lower the lid before flushing, I would be sucked out of the aeroplane.

As we flew into Sri Lanka, we could see the extent of the recent floods. In some places they have had nearly 35cm of rain in a day. We saw destroyed roads, flooded houses, rivers that had burst their banks. Several people have been killed.

Immigration was efficient, then we collected our luggage and walked out through the Duty Free shop. In England (and every other country I have visited) this shop is full of chocolate and alcohol and cigarettes. In Sri Lanka, it’s full of washing machines. And fridges. Obviously holidays abroad stimulate the local population into a frenzy of kitchen appliances desire.

As we drove to the hotel, we saw streets of shops selling spare parts for tuk tuks, cars with whole shrines on their dashboards, lots of flooding. We passed Hindu temples, golden Buddhas on roundabouts, giant statues of Mary. There were people hanging clothes to dry on wire fences, trees, anywhere they could really. Many of the houses were very simple, made of corrugated iron and bits of wood. Some had cows in their tiny garden area.

Hotel is lovely. Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. It’s an old colonial building, full of dark wood, carved elephants and ceiling fans. Our room has a balcony, right next to the Indian Ocean (you would love it.) I feel a little like I have walked into a film set. At 5pm every day they play the bagpipes and lower the flag (a tradition from the 1800s when the British were ruling here.)

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This evening we walked along the sea front – a bombardment of the senses. Crashing waves and a babble of languages mingle with fried seafood and spun sugar. Children playing, kites flying, an ancient snake charmer, joined by his friend with a monkey, as the sun dipped behind the brick built pier, silhouetting groups of men and families.

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I’ve never seen a snake charmer before. He took the lid off his basket and played his pipe and a snake – think it was a cobra – rose up. Then the snake got bored and started to slide towards us, so we left – he was bit of a naughty snake!

We ate dinner in the hotel buffet. Very nice, though the Sri Lankan idea of ‘very mild’ for a curry is somewhat different to mine! We watched a man frying hoppers – they’re bowl shaped pancakes, made with flour, egg, coconut milk and yeast. Delicious. You fill them with something savoury and roll them up to eat with your right hand (using your left hand – the toilet hand – is a bad mistake to make.)

While we are here, I really want to see some elephants. There is an elephant orphanage, which is where the government care for elephants that have been abandoned. It’s more of a reservation than a park/zoo I think, so am hoping it’s well run (and has happy elephants.) I’ll let you know if I do.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.

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