A Travellerspoint blog

Airing our dirty laundry

sunny 30 °C

We had only really gone through Galle (where we are staying), in tuktuks, so we decide yesterday morning to go for a walk around the town. We have been told several times that there was a Governor of Sri Lanka in 1855, who had the surname Ward. Walking into town yesterday we came across Ward Road. Reading up about him, Henry Ward was a decent fellow and did lots of good for Sri Lanka. He was married to Emily Ward and had two sons; Dudley and Swinburne (possible future family names??). There has been no Governors with the surname Mulligan, but Bill reckons they will have opened a pub somewhere.

We cannot go anywhere here, without people shouting out to us, coming up to say hello, or trying to take us somewhere. The night before, Bill had gone out alone to go to the shop; before he went I made him write the name and road of our hotel down as he is notorious at getting lost. Needless to say, he got lost, he said the streets were teeming with people and everybody was asking him if he was lost and if he needed help. This man said he would show Bill the way and he went down a narrow lane, Bill said he didn't want to go that way and the man told him, he was not a liar and Bill was to follow him. He did take Bill to a shop, but not the one he was originally heading for. On his way back to the hotel, Bill was obviously wandering around lost and a tuktuk driver who had previously given us a ride, took Bill back to the hotel free of charge.

Anyway, there we were wandering around the streets, people were coming up to us, asking us where we are going? where are we from? where are we staying? and do we like Sri Lanka? We would estimate that eighty percent of people that speak to us, end up wanting to take us somewhere or want money from us, but nobody is threatening and they are all extremely polite. When we refuse, they just tend to turn around and leave us immediately. I was talking to a man today, who told me his whole family died in the tsunami and he just has his daughter left and would I give him money so he could give her fruit, when I said sorry, he just turned in the opposite direction. Strolling around Galle, we walked around the fruit and vegetable market and people were really happy to tell us about things we didn't know. We also made our way to the spice market, but they got bored with us, when we told them we were not going to buy anything. We love the vibe and activity going on in the streets and the people rushing around.

Walking into Galle, we had come across our washing hanging on a line, down the road from our hotel (it couldn't have been more than thirty minutes from us handing it into the hotel). It had just rained and it was soaking wet on the line (I would take it in and wash again at home). Today we asked when we would get our washing back and they said midday as it was just being done!). It did come back smelling nice. We went to eat in the fort in the evening and as we were eating, we could see people pointing up the street, Bill went to investigate. He came back telling me that it was a Komodo Dragon, just walking down the road, which was over three foot long. There were several dogs barking at it, but their owners took them away, as they told Bill it can give quite a punch with it's tail. It looked like a crocodile, without the long nose.

Chris had nominated Bill to have to jump in the sea (some sort of challenge). For days, Bill has been saying "I have to jump in the sea today". Well, today he did. Walking to the fort, there is a pier and when we got there, there was a group of older teenagers jumping in the sea and messing around. We were asking them if the sea was deep enough to jump into and they were not quite understanding what we were saying. They did start to say Bill had to pay to jump in the sea, but we just told them, that we were not going to give them money and Bill was going to jump in the sea. After, Bill had done his jump, the boys then proceeded to show him how to jump in the sea properly. Bill said the sea was rather dirty, but lovely and warm.

Tomorrow we are going to Mirissa, which is a seaside resort about thirty kilometres away. We have arranged for a tuktuk to take us.

Posted by mulliganward 06:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

Noisy neighbours

rain 31 °C

Galle is on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka and is famous for it's fort, which we visited yesterday.

The fort was originally built in 1588 by the Portuguese and extensively fortified by the Dutch from 1649 onwards (today the properties inside are owned by the Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people). It was certainly a surprise to us, as everywhere we have been in Sri Lanka so far, has been very noisy and hectic; whereas the fort is extremely calm and beautifully maintained. The fort did suffer some damage in the tsunami in 2004 and has had extensive work done in recent years. We walked around the wide paved streets and walked towards the lighthouse, which was built by the British in 1883, to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria. We went inside the Anglican Church, where the caretaker, proudly went around showing Bill all the things he should take pictures of (and asked for money when we left) and we also went into the Dutch Reform Church, which was beautiful and very serene inside. The shops inside the fort were very nice tourist shops, none of the usual rubbish and I could have spent sooo much money.

We had originally booked a hotel within the fort and then for some reason (which we can't remember) cancelled it for this hotel. I spent a good while sulking when we were in the fort, because we didn't have a hotel there as it is so beautiful, I tried to get Bill to agree to change hotels, but he was having none of it. Our hotel is fine, but it is largely a guest house (most hotels in Sri Lanka are). However, we are the only guests here, there must be about ten members of staff, hanging on our every want. When we leave our room in the morning, they are virtually standing outside the room, waiting for us and a shout goes out, that we are up. We handed our key in for our room to be made up (just one key!) and they handed it to someone to do the room immediately. On an evening, they ask what time we want breakfast, as if we have a lie in, so does everyone else!

People in Sri Lanka are very friendly (although they do seem to be trying to make money out of us a fair deal); everybody says hello and asks if we like Sri Lanka and everybody asks if it is our first time in Sri Lanka. We have also had a couple of occasions, where a man comes up to us and says hello, and says "can't you remember me, I'm the chef from your hotel". The first time we were a bit puzzled, but by the second time, we had sussed they were on a scam. Interestingly enough, they say they work in the most expensive hotel in Galle, which we are definitely not in (although, maybe that's where all the other guests from our hotel are, because they are not here).

Our hotel, several restaurants and a supermarket we went to, have been dry; not selling alcohol. We originally thought it may be across the country, but we have read that there are very high numbers of drinkers per capita in Sri Lanka. Yesterday, we came across a 'wine store', which virtually had blackened out windows and most of the drink was behind shutters. We felt like a couple of old lags, creeping into the wine store to buy a couple of bottles of beer. Mind you, we obviously didn't feel too bad as will be popping along again tonight.

Today, we went Unawatuna, which is a beach resort about five kilometres from Galle. The tuktuk driver who took us there was called Fred. The beach was damaged extensively by the tsunami, with all the homes and hotels on the beach being swept away and hundreds of people killed. The beach used to be in the top ten best beaches in the world, but there were no rules or regulations applied to the rebuilding. It is still absolutely beautiful, but a lot of the restaurants are half built or just shacks. There were quite a few sellers on the beach, going up and down selling their wares. One man, called me the 'No thank you lady' as I said it so many times. They were not a nuisance, many of them would sit and talk, one man, started to rub 'tears' away from his eyes because we wouldn't buy anything off him, and he said his children will have to live off chicken and rice because we didn't buy anything! I sat talking to a man, when Bill was in the sea, and I asked him if he was in Unawatuna when the tsunami struck, he said he was but he didn't talk about it.

The people on the beach today were telling us that it was very quiet there, because of the monsoon season. We have seen a bit of rain in the last few days (it is raining now), but it hasn't been too bad. In most of the countries we have been in, people have looked forward to the rain, but everybody we have spoken to about the rain in Sri Lanka have said they don't like it. It's certainly a respite for us; we left the beach after lunch today because we couldn't cope with the heat any longer. The food here is very good (although there doesn't seem to be many restaurants in Galle), their curries are very subtle and full of flavour, and when you order a curry, you get lots of side dishes with it. Neither of us had ever sat on a beach eating curry before, surrounded by women, showing us all the beautiful materials they were trying to sell to us, all very surreal.

Posted by mulliganward 05:35 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

The train to Galle

sunny 30 °C

We booked out of the hotel in Colombo early this morning so we could catch the ten thirty train to Galle. Whilst having our breakfast before leaving the hotel, we witnessed five wedding parties coming into the hotel to have their photos taken (in about thirty minutes). All the couples (except one couple, who were in Western dress) had the traditional Sinhalese wedding outfits on. The bride, wears four saris over the wedding celebrations and a headband called a nalpata. All the brides we saw this morning also had armlets on to ward off bad luck (no comment). We think the grooms look magnificent as they wear a nilame suit over their sarong and shirt and an eight cornered hat. Along with all the grooms, were three or four little boys all dressed the same, they were so sweet. It seems that June is a very lucky month for weddings in Sri Lanka.

When we got to the station, there were hundreds of people hanging around; to get our tickets we had at least six different people giving us advice, pointing in different directions and trying to pull us to different places. Ignoring them all, we got our tickets (after we woke the man behind the counter up). There was a man who was pointing to a board which told us which platform our train went from and we headed that way. Our train was late, so it gave us time to people watch and there was a lot to watch. Everybody crowds onto the trains and there are people hanging onto the bars on the open doorways; we have seen pictures of this but to see it was certainly interesting/frightening to witness.

All around us were people selling things, there were people selling food, lottery tickets, a man selling children's colouring books and a man selling toe nail clippers! We were sat, crammed onto a bench waiting, and the man who had shown us the board earlier, came back and said we had to sit in a different place to get onto second class for when the train came; we followed him and waited for the train. As the train was due in, the man appeared again indicating which carriage we needed to get onto. Oh dear me, we have never seen anything like it, the train came and everybody just pushed their way on (not letting people get off); I pride myself with getting seats in the rush hour in London, but there was absolutely no way I could get on that train. When we eventually got on, our man had saved two seats for us and was stopping people sitting in them. I went to my bag to get some money out, and he shook his head and walked away. I was almost in tears with help and kindness that a stranger had shown to us....the man then appeared again, with a card and a piece of paper! The card said that he was deaf (we had done a lot of pointing and thumbs up) and the paper showed us the donations people had given him previously. We were happy to give him the equivalent of two pounds and off he went. We do feel that although he was helping us for money, he certainly did us a great service. As we left the station, he was on the platform waving us goodbye.

We thought there were a lot of people selling things on the platforms, but it was crazy crazy on the train, there were different sellers walking up and down the train, selling a plethora of items. There was a man selling lychee, pineapples, samosas (I don't think that man had been near water in several months), someone was selling balloons (yes, balloons), a man in a suit was selling gold chains, we had several lottery sellers, there was a ice cream man on there, limes were being sold and mangoes.

There were some very strange goings on in the carriage, there were two men and a third man, who we couldn't work out if he was the 'Godfather' or a kidnap victim, as the two men watched his every move. When they got on the carriage there were no spare seats (they should have got our man on the job) and they started to intimidate someone on the carriage to give up his seat, he refused and eventually another man in the carriage gave up his seat for them. They sat the 'Godfather' down and stood over him for the rest of the journey. Most of the men in the carriage were chewing betel (which is a leaf, which is a mild stimulant), our problem was the spitting that goes with the chewing, all through the journey the men in the carriage were spitting out of the windows.

I was sat next to the open window and the journey followed the coast line and it was definitely the prettiest train journey we have ever been on. The smells on the other hand were not so pretty, a fair proportion of people walking around in the train had not washed in a while and the smell of urine when I put my head out of the window was overpowering! People were walking up and down the train, we had a 'handicapped' man, who showed us his papers to prove he was handicapped and then asked for money and a Sri Lankan man, who said he lived in Jersey and adviced us to go somewhere different than Galle.

The journey was under three hours and as we got off the train there was a man on the platform offering us a ride in his tuktuk to the hotel, which we happily took him up on. Our hotel is up a very steep hill, and the tuktuk driver joked for us to put our seat belts on before we went up it (he also asked us if we had any English money to give his children, when we got out of the tuktuk). The hotel was formally somebodies house and has that nice feel about it. We were given the best ever iced homemade ginger beer when we came in. The TV doesn't work and the hotel owner told us it was because of the rains..it's not raining.

When I close my eyes tonight, I am sure I am going to be back on that train. We have such great adventures.

Posted by mulliganward 01:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

Sri Lanka

overcast 33 °C

My visa for Sri Lanka, arrived the afternoon before we traveled, but there was no sign of Bill's visa (I told him I was happy to go without him). Luckily/unluckily when we woke up in the morning Bill's visa had arrived. As I have said before, Changi airport in Singapore, is voted the best airport in the world, and it is; it is so relaxed and you hardly know you are in an airport and the shopping is so good. Whilst we were at the airport I banned Bill from asking the price of absolutely everything (strangely enough he managed to do this whilst buying duty free champagne). We flew Sri Lankan Airways, and they asked to see the proof of when we would be leaving Sri Lankan and proof that we had enough money to live in Sri Lanka, which we had never been asked before.

From the very beginning, when we knew we were going traveling, Sri Lanka was always on the agenda for me. I remember as a child watching a programme on Sri Lanka and seeing the beautiful beaches and elephants. The changing of the name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka (before my time) just made things more mystical to me, without knowing any of the history behind the name change. Bill's Dad, who was in the navy also visited the country when it was Ceylon.

Sri Lanka’s history is a of great pride to both the Sinhalese and Tamils, the country’s two largest ethnic groups and all the people we have talked to so far have talked about their history to us a lot. The only problem is, they have two completely different versions of everything. Every historical site, religious structure, even village names seems to have conflicting stories about its origin, and those stories are, in turn, blended over time with contrasting religious myths and legends. The end results are often used as evidence that the island is one group’s exclusive homeland. So for example; did the Buddha leave his footprint on Adam’s Peak (which Bill hopes to climb in a few weeks) while visiting the island that lay halfway to paradise? Or was it Adam who left his footprint embedded in the rock while taking a last look at Eden? (I'm going with Buddha). We have heard a lot about their recent civil war and people almost seem to be apologising to us that it happened? What has struck me is when you are a long way from somewhere you hear things on the news and think how terrible, but I was speaking to someone today who had witnessed a suicide bomber kill him self in the street. The tsunami in 2004 killed 30,000 people in Sri Lanka and left many more injured, homeless and orphaned.

The curry we were given during the flight, was the best plane food we had ever eaten. I must remember when the captain says it is raining at our destination, what he actually means is that we are going to have to go through rain clouds and terrible turbulence as we land. When we landed everybody just pushed people out of the way, literally pushed them! When we got to customs we saw the desk that allowed you to get visas on arrival. As we got off the plane and walked through their duty free, we were rather amused to see washing machines and fridges on sale. We had arranged for a pickup from the hotel and the driver was there waiting for usI. I had to go to an ATM machine and was rather shocked to find that a hundred pounds was twenty thousand Sri Lankan Rupee (Bill is so much better with the money conversion than me). The driver was super nice and took my 'please drive slowly' to heart, so much so I nearly asked him to drive faster as cars beeped as they overtook us. The driver talked to us about cricket and even gave Bill a five Rupee coin, that was produced for when Sri Lanka won the World Series. Entering Colombo yesterday we could see plenty of colonial buildings and there were some streets that looked like scenes from Manchester (this very much pleased our Manchester United fan of a taxi driver). The British first entered Sri Lanka in 1776 and eventually left in 1948, when Ceylon became Sri Lanka.

Our hotel, is quite colonial and large, but very nice. Yesterday afternoon and all of the evening I slept, mainly due to the night's lost sleep I had and two Valium I suspect but I have a vague memory of a super curry from room service. Hotels in Sri Lanka are quite expensive, but everything else is very cheap.

Today, as it is our only full day in a Colombo, we decided to go on a sightseeing tour, so we got a driver from the hotel to drive us around. Our hotel is along the sea front and as we drove along we saw the sea from the Indian Ocean, crashing onto the beach. We stopped at the lighthouse, where Bill climbed the steps to take a picture and a soldier (with his guns) told him not to take pictures. As we drove around we got to see people on the streets and this we found fascinating. The streets are teeming with people, many of them casually walking on the roads, all going about their business, there has been a lot of rain here and many people were walking in the mud with their bare feet. Everybody that we met we very nice, asking if we needed any help and ribbing us about the cricket.

We went to a Hindu temple, where we were hustled for money (and had to make a quick retreat) and to a Buddhist temple, where there was a wedding going on (with beautiful music played by musicians in the temple) and we went to the National Museum. We also went to the their Liberation Square, where I heard Bill asking someone how much it would be to go into the museum (he said he thought I wasn't listening). By far the best place we visited was Wolvendaal Church, which was a church built by the Dutch in 1749. We were shown around by the caretaker, he showed us graves with skull and cross bones on (as the people had died of yellow fever) and graves with sand timers on to show people had died too early. He showed us the stain glass windows, which had replaced the Dutch wooden shutters by the English. We saw the tunnel which had been bricked over, where the prisoners used to come for services and the English organ. I was fascinated with the seats for slaves (who had literally carried people to church) as they had a high front, so nobody could see them. More than anything else though is we were both rather taken aback by the man who was showing us around as he didn't just look like Bill's Dad, but he had his mannerisms and the way he spoke. We both had a tear a in our eyes when we said goodbye to him.

Tonight we will head out for some Sri Lankan food before getting a train tomorrow to Galle. We popped into the station this morning to try and get our tickets and it was certainly very noisy and chaotic.

Posted by mulliganward 03:21 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

Can you tell me how to get to

We were really not sure if we should go to Sentosa, which is an island resort in Singapore. We eventually decided to go as it has Fort Siloso on there, which played a large part in WW2 and it was said to have a pleasant walk across to the island.

To get to Sentosa, we needed to get to a shopping centre, which was called Vivocity. Vivocity, was great, it is the largest shopping mall in Singapore and it had all of the 'normal' shops in there. Bill, who wasn't to keen on going to Sentosa, kept saying we should spend the day shopping (that is how desperate he was not to go). We decided to have brunch before heading to Sentosa and when we came out of the cafe, it was absolutely tipping it down, so we spent some time walking around the shopping centre. There was a Singapore Navy boat moored at the Quay and they had an open day, which had attracted hundreds of Singaporeans and it was extremely busy. When the rain stopped we headed for the Broadwalk; the reason we were interested in the Broadwalk was because we had walked across this bridge twelve years ago and were interested in how it had changed. All along the Broadwalk were 'travelators', which were like the moving walkways at airports. We had quite a discussion on whether we should walk and save time (Bill) or just stand still and save energy (me), which Bill said was just an excuse for me to be lazy. We were quite underwhelmed by the Broadwalk experience.

Within about five minutes of paying our one dollar entry, we had decided we had had enough and were discussing whether we should return. Sentosa, we thought was very old fashioned, Fort Siloso was closed and it was hot. Bill needed a drink so we walked around looking for somewhere and we found ourselves outside Universal Studios. This prompted another discussion on whether we should go in. Bill absolutely loathes the idea of these man made leisure parks (and always refuses to go to them), but I felt that as we were there we should go in and get something out of Sentosa (go where our travels take us). Bill 'questioned' the young girl selling the tickets several times on the price of the tickets and how she could sleep at night extorting money from people, but I insisted we brought them.

I liked Universal Studios and once Bill had got over the price of the tickets, he thawed a little and 'enjoyed' looking around. The rain earlier on must have kept the crowds away as it wasn't that busy. I know we keep saying it was hot, but it was hot, I was really struggling with the heat and had to keep finding shade and water. I did become quite excited when we came across Sesame Street and we waited to see their show (to see Big Bird, my favorite) but standing in the sun defeated me and we left the show early. We walked around Shrek Land, Jurasic Park, Sci-fi land, New York, Madagaska, Water World and Hollywood and Bill had to keep explaining the films to me as most things I didn't understand. We decided to return on the monorail, which was absolutely packed and I was so hot and tired my balance was starting to go and this kind lady gave up her seat for me.

Yesterday, we woke up to the rain. Bill went to the gym, whilst I had a happy hour doing the washing. Every time we decided to go out, it would start raining again. We finally headed for Clarke Quay, at Singapore river in the afternoon. We walked around for ages, trying to find a restaurant, we did find a Mulligan's pub, there is always a Mulligan's pub. After eating we decided to go on a boat on the river, although there was a massive black cloud in the sky. As soon as we got on the boat, the heavens opened along with thunder and lightening, although this didn't stop Bill running in and out of the cabin to take pictures. The captain of the boat, was so uninterested on what was going on he hardly took his eyes off his puzzle book to steer unless he was shouting at a little boy on board to stop crying. As the storm progressed at times we could hardly see the shore. We past the Merlion, which is the symbol of Singapore, which is half lion and half fish, and is said to represent the fishing village history of Singapore. The Merlion was moved in 2002 to it's present position in Marina Bay.

When we got back to the hotel last night, I decided to check how long getting our visas in Sri Lanka when we land will delay us. Reading online, we found conflicting advice on whether they still allowed you to do this. In a panic we applied for our visas on line,with less than thirty six hours before traveling. We were told on completion that they can take between one or two days! Well, we have been on tenterhooks all day waiting for them to be sent, but nothing yet. We hope they allow us to enter without one!! Stop press, just received an email to say they have received our applications and will get back to us within twenty four hours!!

This morning (after a night with no sleep for me) we headed to the hotel at Changi airport, which we used when we flew in. We sat next to the pool for a while, which strangely had trees in planters in it, but we could hear the planes on the run way and the stress of hearing them, made me go indoors. This afternoon, we have both had a bath in the roll top bath (it was so good, I nearly cried) and we are now watching 'Hook' with big fluffy white dressing gowns on.

Tomorrow we fly to Sri Lanka at ten in the morning (fingers crossed), which is nearly a four hour flight. We have so enjoyed returning to Singapore and spending time relaxing and seeing the sites we missed last time. We are expecting Sri Lanka to be very different.

Posted by mulliganward 02:39 Archived in Singapore Comments (2)

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