Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sri Lanka, Day 6

Today was the Gathering. A group of people ventured from Canada and Europe to come to the Dups/Jenna wedding, but rather than all trying to travel together, we all went and did separate things in different groups. Lori, Nuala and I have never been to Sri Lanka before so there were certain cultural and historical things we wanted to see. But others had been here before, and so went to other parts of the country and did different things, like scuba diving.

But now, a day before the wedding, everyone began to gather in Colombo and making their way to the Mount Lavinia Hotel, one of the most posh hotels in Colombo. It used to be the Governor's residence back in the day and sits on a point of land and overlooks the Indian Ocean. It's a beautiful old hotel, but the rooms were kind of basic. Still, there are compensations. We were on the ground floor, but had a balcony with a view of the Indian Ocean, where we could watch people fish or kids dive into the water. So that made up for a lot. There were also Sri Lankan employees dress up in old colonial wardrobe and the drink and food menu is impressive.

But before the full Gathering, Lori and I went on an adventure.

We've done surprisingly little shopping since being Sri Lanka. Up north there were little in the ways of gift shops or even places specializing in local arts and crafts that we found. With the number of days winding down quickly, we figured a trip to the main market, the Pettah, to do some poking around would be in order.

So one air conditioned cab ride later, we managed to find one aspect of the market. The Pettah is huge and it all depends on what direction you enter it from. However, we'd managed to arrive on a Sunday. I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it meant a lot of interesting stores were closed, making shopping more difficult. On the other hand, it was almost overwhelming the number of people and noise going on.

Adding to that is, well, Lori and I are white. So we tended to attract extra-special attention when we were walking through. Pretty much everyone was asking us to come into their store. Most were very polite although a couple did try and gently grab you by the arm to drag you in. One gentleman thought yelling "Hello, white man" would do the trick. I laughed, so it very nearly did.

We also accidentally acquired a "guide" who was trying to lead us to specific shops (where he no doubt got a commission) until we finally managed to tell him to go away. Canadian politeness is not something that always works in situations like this.

The thing about Pettah was that there was still a tremendous amount of junk. If we wanted fruits and veggies, there was lots and lots of it. And at ridiculous prices. They had 5 apples for sale for 100 rupies. That's about 75 cents Canadian. There was a moment when I wanted to buy all the fruit. The bananas in Sri Lanka are some of the best I've ever eaten.

But as for looking for gifts, not so much. A lot of Chinese trinkets and junk, or cheap t-shirts with North American slogans, knock-off DVDs and the like. There was nothing distinctly Sri Lankan about the stuff for sale there.

So after an hour or so of wandering around there, so we began to get restless. So began our Tuk-Tuk adventures. Tuk-Tuks are the omnipresent method of transportation in Sri Lanka. They're three-wheeled bikes. The driver in front, with normally two to three passengers in the back. You can either negotiate a price or you can get a metered one. The later is preferable. You can also get one very plain or very ornately decorated. They're not the fastest thing in the world, but they're cheap, agile, their drivers have death wishes and if you want to go short distances they're a pretty good means of transportation.

So we hopped on one to go to a different part of the market, only to wash out there. Then Lonely Planet said there were a couple of nice craft stores in a different part of Colombo, so we grabbed another one and tried there. After 20 minutes of getting lost we finally managed to arrive.

It was Sunday. It was closed.

So this was getting frustrating. We grabbed another Tuk-Tuk with the intention of heading back to the Lavinia Villa hotel to grab our bags, transfer them to Mount Lavinia Hotel and maybe poking around there. However, we managed to find a nice clothing store on the way, hop out and picked up a few things.

Then, finally, we all met up at Mount Lavinia. Dups and Jenna trying their best to not be freaking out considering they were getting married in the morning. Eddie who had been wandering around Sri Lanka via public bus and trains and doing his own solo thing. Niall, Rebecca, Janius and Mike who had been hitting a few sites of their own, including climbing Adam's Peak, something they were still suffering the results of. Laura, her husband (whose name I'm blanking on) and their two young children. They had been merrily bopping around the countryside using buses and whatnot. Never in a million years would I have tried it, but they were considerably relaxed about it and their kids were amazing. Dups school friend Tushar made it in from London...a pit stop on his way to two other weddings in different parts of the world that week.

Oh, and Jan, mother of the bride, who I think was enjoying watching Dups and and his Canadian family (we came this far for him, we're family) interact with each other.

It started with taking over the bar area and later moved to the restaurant for a late supper. Theoretically the bride and groom to be were supposed to be going to bed early. The bride had a 4 am wake-up call for make-up, hair and getting in her dress. And if she was getting up at 4 am, so was her husband-to-be. Just because.

He actually did need to get up that early to help with last minute set-up. What Jenna ended up doing when she parted ways around 11 pm I'm not sure. Dups ended up in Niall and Rebecca's hotel room with a group of us drinking, with stories and jokes flying. Lori and I packed it in around 12:30 am. Dups apparently didn't managed to get to sleep until around 3 am. Not sure why he bothered, but there you go. Now all that awaits is the day we all travelled half way around the world for.

Assorted Bits
1. You know how London cabbies have "The Knowledge" and they have to study for years and have an intimate knowledge of the city before they can become a taxi driver? Not so much in Colombo. Tuk-Tuk and taxi drivers rarely seem to know where they're going, or at least with us they didn't. Often they would nod their head when we asked to go somewhere, and then they would be constantly stopping asking people on the side of the road for directions. One guy took 20 minutes to get to our spot and asked directions about a half dozen times.
2. Tuk-Tuks cost 50 rupees (less than 40 cents) to get into. Our 20 minute drive cost about $3.
3. Lori has decided she wants a fully souped up Tuk-Tuk when she gets home. I'd like to see that.
4. I'm not much of a drinker, but Mount Lavinia Hotel had a chocolate martini menu. Lori and I both came to the conclusion that it had the potential to get very ugly, very quickly. I stopped at two as I didn't want to be hungover for the wedding. But they were very tasty. We took a photo of the menu. I think I'll be hitting a martini bar at some point in the future for a few more.
5. The lot of us getting together in one spot can be dangerous. We do take over a spot in a hurry. I can only imagine what the Kingston wedding is going to be like.

1 comment:

John, Perth AU said...

So the Pettah market has "aspects", like a Hindu god? Not what I expect from Buddhist Sri Lanka. Then again, my first exposure to that sort of thing was Zelazny's "Lord of Light", so I might have missed something. The fruit stalls are certainly eye-catching, though.