Postcards from Sri Lanka (Part 2)

Day 5 - Kandy to Yala / Tinda

Highlights today = amazing drive through the hill country south to the Coast and a safari in Yala, Sri Lanka's premiere national park.

Hill Country around Victoria Reservoir
Yala Beach
Unbelievable Beach at Yala
Stupa at Tissa Glowing at Night

Yala National Park Reserve Safari Shots

I have never been on a safari. I'm not 100% clear on the ethics of it. I had mixed feelings about jumping in a jeep and chasing after animals. Our guide was respectful. Obviously safari tourism brings revenue into this remote area of southeast Sri Lanka. I'm going to read up and talk to friends about the politics and ethics of it all. That aside, it was exhilarating seeing so many (to me) exotic animals. And after hours on crazy, pot-holed roads we found an elusive Sri Lankan elephant.

Flycatcher
Sri Lankan National Bird - Wild Cock
Tree Monkey
Peacock
Wild Boar
Painted Stork
Wild Water Buffalos
Parrot
Ibises
Iguana

And the big prize of the day...

Sri Lankan Elephant
Yala National Park

Stayed at Oak Ray Beach Resort in Tissa (nearby the National Park). This lakeside hotel was gorgeous. Refreshing swim. (Again) great food. We had the honeymoon suite overlooking the lake. Picture perfect. Yet, like anything in the tropics (or elsewhere for that matter), the idyl is confounded. Our tropical paradise suite was guarded by an army of biting red ants that you had to dance around coming or going and the lakeside suite looked better than it smelled.

Oak Ray Lake Resort, Tissa

Day 6 - Tissa to Galle

Completely different country today as we moved in the beach tourism heartland of the country.

Hit the coast today..

Wider roads (indeed we were on a stretch of 4 lane divided highway that was a much more smooth ride than anything in BC). Some completely empty toll roads leading out from the main road. (Later learned that this was all part of Chinese investment / colonization of the island). Wind turbines. A massive Convention Centre. It could have been Germany were it not for the tropical vegetation. Today involved a meeting with this great dude Asanga, who was involved in Tsunami recovery efforts (the whole reason we came here in the 1st place) and then the afternoon / evening wandering around Galle, which was instantly endearing. His work was with an organization called Foundation for Goodness that I need to look up.

The coast along this stretch was stunning if you didn't look to close. Gorgeous beaches but strewn with litter. We learned about beach cleanup efforts from Asanga.
Iconic image of fishermen near Galle
Galle
Afternoon drinks at the Dutch Hospital, Galle
The Old Dutch / Portuguese Town of Fort Galle

Here is how Lonely Planet describes this unusual place:

Galle (pronounced 'gawl' in English, and 'gaar-le' in Sinhala) is the big unmissable destination in the south. It's at once endlessly exotic, bursting with the scent of spices and salty winds, and yet also, with its wonderful collection of Dutch-colonial buildings, a town of great beauty. Classic architecture melds with a dramatic tropical setting to create a reality that is endlessly interesting.

Above all else, Galle is a city of trade and, increasingly, art. Today the historic Fort area is crammed full of little boutique shops, cafes and hotels owned by local and foreign artists, writers, photographers, designers and poets.

Built by the Dutch, beginning in 1663, the 36-hectare Fort occupies most of a promontory that's surrounded on three sides by the ocean. Just wandering the old walls and streets at random yields one architectural surprise after another as you explore the amazing collection of structures dating back through the centuries. Its glories have earned the Fort status as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

A key part of the Fort’s allure, however, is that it isn’t just a pretty place. Rather, it remains a working community: there are administrative offices, courts, export companies, lots of regular folks populating the streets and a definite buzz of energy in the air.

Lunch at Mama's Rooftop, Galle

Wonderful day exploring the Old Town and dining. Lunch at Mama's and dinner at the Dutch Hospital (converted into a hot centre of bars, restaurants, and cafes) were highlights. Evening stroll around the ramparts as the cool breeze brings relief to the parched town.

Food continues to astound. When you order vegetarian curry...

Note on the ethics of this trip

Can traveling halfway around the world be justified? I don't know.

What about the carbon emissions? At home, I don’t drive and eat a mainly local, vegetarian diet but my travel footprint is pretty significant.

Moreover, I’m wary of the fortune and unearned privilege I enjoy that allows me to flit off across the world. Do I deserve to be here? Is my impact here justified?

If I say that it is justified, is that just my brain rationalizing it? We are deceptively good at rationalization.

Well, surely in a world becoming increasingly parochial – with walls figuratively and materially being built –it is important to travel - to meet others, to learn from them, be the Other for a change, no? Being the only white face often – and the feeling of that – will that not importantly nudge me in the direction of greater self-reflexivity? Am I unwelcomingly reproducing tropical neo-colonialism or welcomingly spending money in a hungry, local economy emerging out of the shadows of colonialism, war, and the devastating tsunami? Resonating most with me is how the sincere compassion of the local people is nudging me in the direction of returning to the kind-hearted person I feel I once was (especially after my last Asia trip 20 years ago)... more open to love, to patience, to empathy... after years of selfishness and cynicism born of critical academia if not my culture more generally. I'm feeling relaxed, invigorated, full of life, but still is any of this reason enough?

Endless questions... as I drink Ceylon tea and watch the lads play cricket.

Your thoughts?

The lads playing cricket

Day 7 - Galle (full day)

Enjoyed a full day in Galle - wandering around the ramparts of the old town, taking in a pickup game of cricket, eating incredible food, haggling with local shopkeepers re: gifts for friends and family (art, spices, tea, silks etc), swimming in the bathtub warm ocean, drinking Ceylon tea in funky Bohemian cafes, and sneaking to the next town for dinner on the beach.

Galle Wall
Fort
Bizarre colonialist statue
Dutch Church in Old Dutch Fort
Black tea here is a revelation...
Prawn & Mango Curry at Serendipity Cafe
Lots of sitting in cafes today including the Royal Dutch (here)
Amazing wood carvings here

My friend Jenny asked her friends to take and send her pictures of this sign in different places around the world as a birthday surprise for her daughter. Here's my contribution...

Lighthouse Beach
Beach time
City of Art
Prawn and Squid Lemongrass Curry
Typical street with Tuk Tuk and Church

Day 8 - Galle to Waskaduwa

Today we saw another completely different Sri Lanka... at a high end seaside resort at Waskaduwa. A couple days of beach holiday before heading to the capital and then home.

Last morning in Galle. School girls doing morning exercises in the park.
Scene inside Temple, Galle
Tsunami monument at site of train tragedy.
Shots of the Taunami damage at the centre
Giant Buddha at Taunami Memorial
Stupa at Kaluhara
Colours of Sri Lanka
Colours of Sri Lanka

Day 9 - Waskaduwa

Hikkaduwa Beach

A day of rest for Aaron. Cam headed to Hikkaduwa to snorkel.

Snorkelling at Hikkaduwa Beach

Instead of just renting a snorkel and mask for 50 cents I hired a snorkel guide from a cool social enterprise, a Foundation of Goodness Project.

Here's the story. Before the Tsunami, for many generations, one of the main livelihoods in the region was coral mining and burning to make quicklime (which was illegal, dangerous and an environmental nightmare. Research after the tsunami showed that in areas where the coral had been destroyed, the waves were much more powerful and destructive. This research lead to a ban on coral mining and many people losing their means of income. In response, the organization I used, commenced in 2008 to redirect local diving skills from a destructive purpose to a constructive one. Through their training program, rural young people have the opportunity to gain well paidemployment in the diving industry. Putting sustainability to work.

Saw my first accident today 2 Tuk Tuks smashed together. Driving here seems crazy. So many different types of vehicles, people, animals on the road moving (or not moving) at different speeds. Most roads are in very good condition (from massive Chinese investment) but are quite narrow. The game is to try to pass in the oncoming lane. However without many clear cut opportunities (due to the density of traffic), it is never an entirely safe bet. There is an awful lot of swerving into the (tiny) curb lane - or even off the road when able - to avoid oncoming vehicles. Buses are the top predator on the road, hurtling down the highway without a care in the world. Lots of cyclists taking their life into their hands. Roads typically wind from town to town (and it's often hard to tell where one ends and the next begins). So a 140 km day may take 4-5 hours.

Tuk Tuks
Aaron on Waskaduwa Beach

Evening stroll along the beach from our posh hotel to a small fishing village. Enjoyed chatting with locals. Caught a glimpse of their life. Out 4-5 km offshore from 2-7 am in these little self propelled boats going after tuna, mulletfish, barracuda and others. Most speak good English, have not seen too many Canadians, hate Russian tourists, see China as the new global superpower, and think Trump is a complete loon. Aaron and I had been trying our hardest not to talk about Trump but it was interesting hearing this perspective from he other side of the world.

Fishing Village
Egrets right?
Happy Hour
Eerie sunset

Credits:

Created with images by rvils - "Yala National Park" • comicpie - "Yala National Park, Sri Lanka" • Peyman Zehtab Fard - "sergeant major & surgeon fish" • mckaysavage - "Sri Lanka - 077 - Tuk-tuks waiting for fares in Kandy"

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