31st Dec – Galle to Negombo. Happy New Year!

New years eve and today we travelled to Negombo, Sri Lanka’s version of Benidorm and perfect for a celebratory drink. Liquor licences here are prohibitively expensive so many bars and restaurants don’t have beer on the menu but are happy to sell it to you anyway. In Negombo though, huge flashing neon signs advertised The Rodeo Pub, The White Rose and Sherryland.

The day started normally though with Al having a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of Chicken sausage, cheese and potato frittata with french fries. Then tuktuk to train station and another 3 hours standing by the open door on the wrong side of a beautiful coastline journey. Time was eased by chatting to an interesting couple who lived in Shanghai and assured us that China won’t get their act together to invade. We arrived in Colombo, the capital and then caught another train for 1 1/2 hrs to Negombo. We got chatting to a young travel agent who then arranged for his tuktuk driving mate to take us to our guesthouse free of charge. A very kind gesture and different from the usual tuktuk transactions. Eager to check out the evenings options, we dumped the bags and headed straight out for a recce of the nightlife. We noticed we were finally spoilt for options and watched people making their preparations for the night to come. Restauranteurs laying tables and bar owners hosing down pavements. We decided that the live jazz, fun party and live DJ at the best restaurant in town was possibly not our scene and planned to just wing it. On our way back we saw the imaginatively named “Pub” and broke the journey for a bottle of Lion Stout which at 8.8% is a fearsome brew and one Al hadn’t tried yet. Then on to the White Rose where we met a couple from Sedgley who owned properties in Florida, Malaysia, Southern Spain and Dubai. Back for a shower, then out to celebrate New Year.

On the way to the bars a local shouted hello at us which is usually followed by a sales pitch, but this time he asked us

Are you happy in your life?

We arrived at the Rodeo pub and sat next to some Norwegians who were eating prawns the size of dwarf lobsters. We noticed the bar had a cage on the outside and we weren’t sure if we were being kept in or whether the locals would get rowdy. This was the first place we have seen locals out on the lash and they certainly enjoy their europop. On to Sherryland which unfortunately had no sherry but did have very good cocktails where we saw an arsenal of fireworks to see in 2014.

A bit worse for wear we headed home and passed many locals in the same state shouting happy new year at every opportunity. Then we came across a Christian mass a few doors up from our guesthouse. Hundreds of solemn worshippers stood in silence in the church grounds and on the street outside. The contrast to where we had come from was quite shocking and we shuffled along failing to be inconspicuous.

At the guesthouse we were equally surprised to find the gates shut. I tried unsuccessfully to reach through and open them so we did what any self respecting tourist would do and climbed over the 5 foot wall into the garden. Al got a leg up first and just as I was climbing down she simply opened the latch and the gates swung open.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

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Soul

Been pottering around the beautiful Portuguese / Dutch / British fort of Galle on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. Architecture is beautiful and wonderfully worn around the edges.

Popped into a shop called “Ethnic Roots” They sold hand painted statues of Buddha and Ganesh, copper pots, scarves from Tibet, photos of African women with lip plates, a wooden bowl that was priced at £75. There were some British women cooing over ethnic textiles. Cold play was on. Part of my soul died.

29th December – Galle

We had a restless night due to the Saturday night beach party going on down the coast, we did walk past it when it was warming up last night but the euro pop music didn’t take our fancy. We spent 20 mins getting the bill from our relaxed cafe, which meant waking the guys up from what seemed a very deep slumber!
We then walked into town, which the previous day had been a succession of tuktuk drivers asking us if we wanted a lift, today they were conspicuous by their absence and our backpacks seemed quite heavy, eventually one did appear, only after I had worked up a slight perspiration, Guy’s was a little more than slight as he had his rucksack and hand luggage bag!
On arriving at the bus station pandemonium was prevalent. It was just after 8.30 when we arrived, and loads of buses seemed to be filling up and leaving for various parts of sri Lanka. As usual you find out where the buses are going by the constant calling of the bus conductors, just constantly yelling Matara, Columbo, Kandy over and over, again. Being a tourist though it is easy to be noticed and everyone knows you are either off to Galle, Mirissa or Kandy, that is the tourist trail. So pretty quickly we were herded along with a few other tourists and a lot of locals onto a local bus, were for the price of 250 rupees (65p each) we had a 2 hour drive to Galle. Luxury it isn’t. We had a seat, although as we are huge foreigners we did take up more room on the 3 seats we were in, and as a result I was hanging off the end of the edge of the plastic lined seat. Luckily the cheek hanging off was the one with no less than 7 mossie bites on it, so every cloud has a silver lining! However, as the bus progressed, more and more people were rammed into the aisles and any place possible. This was beneficial as the driver, the usual crazy lunatic, drove at breakneck speeds and his way of navigating through a village or town was to accelerate and continuously honk on his horn, and only break at the last moment, which would have been messy for the passengers if there was room to move.
2 hours later, it seemed much much more, we screeched to a halt in  Galle, and navigated getting off the bus, with rucksacks successfully. Vowing to take the train whenever we can in future.
We were hawked quickly for a lift to our guest house, however embarrassingly enough we didn’t have any change for the tuktuk, so had to borrow 100 rupees from the guesthouse owner.
Galle is full of tourist places to eat, which is fine if you want a cheese and tomato sarnie, however we were still wanting sri Lankan food. After a failed attempt in one restaurant, although I did have the best iced coffee ever, we tried to get roti for late breakfast in a small cafe which doubled as a batik shop, and had a photo album from the tsunami. The Roti’s were exactly as it said on the tin, dried roti with grated coconut and mango chutney on top. Guys had a fried egg on top, with mango chutney. Not a great start!
The rest of the day was spent looking for sri lankan food place for tea and me peering into all the gem shops, trying to avoid guy seeing me!
Eventually we did get a great place for dinner, photos below!

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We also saw a huge procession of dancing kids, some with lit torches (the smell of diesel in the air was intoxicating) some with massive whips, others on stilts all with no apparent regard for health and safety. The procession went on for about half an hour and also included 3 elephants dressed up in lights, bells, and tinselly outfits, again, not something you experience everyday. But it meant we had the latest night out for sometime, 9.30pm. Not sure how we will cope with NYE!

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