Arcticterntalk.org

The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the tag “colombo”

What is Sri Lanka really like now in 2016?


The last 2 decades have seen troubling times in Sri Lanka with civil wars, bombings and generally consistent periods of unrest. Around 2000 this was enough to put many tourists off the idea of travelling there especially those from Scandinavia. This is now all long gone and Sri Lanka is a perfectly safe country to visit.

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On Dec 26th 2004 a Tsunami wrecked havoc on the southern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka with around 40,000 people dead and missing, however the recovery period since then has allowed a huge improvement in the basic infrastructure of the country that was essential.

IMG_1373ClockFor example the first motorway was built connecting Colombo with Galle, meaning that this journey might take 2-3 hours as opposed to over 5 hours previously with a high likelihood of meeting a few cattle on the roads.

The south-western coast is the area most often visited by tourists extending from Negombo down to Galle with various small beachside towns hosting hotels along the way.

There is no point hiding it but chaos still reigns in Sri Lanka and the check-in queues at Colombo are testimony to this chaos. Although English is spoken it is an error to presume it is spoken well and understood, even in hotels.

A typical Sri Lankan scenario might go like this:

A group of four people enter the restaurant and wait. A waiter approaches

“Table for three?”

“No, we are a group of four”

“OK follow me”

The group is taken to a round table with four chairs and prepares to sit down. The waiter then takes one chair away……..

Having said all that hotels are good but nowehere near the luxury level. Most are built next to the beach. One noticeable change in the last 20 years is the weight of the average Sri Lankan population, obesity is now very common in working Sri Lankans. In the past one could almost predict the size of the person from their job. Whereas those with simpler jobs were very thin, the managers of hotels and restaurants were larger. This is not the case today and one wonders about the epidemic of Diabetes that can be expected to arise in the next 10 years.

Many people still remember vividly the Tsunami and talk openly about it and some small Tsunami museums have opened in the south near Hikkaduwa where the Tsunami struck. To spend an hour looking at the photos and the words spoken make one feel very emotional. This event was only 12 years ago.

Sri Lankans have a lot to say and a lot of it seems to take place in the middle of the railway lines, where busy trains with people literally hanging out pass by regularly. Many other curious things happen in Sri Lanka. People use coconuts as pillows at cricket! If you head to Galle Fort, a nice place to spend a few hours walking, test cricket can be seen for free from the hilltop there.

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Better than a Teleconference I suppose

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Coconut Pillow

There remain things that need to be improved including poverty. Still too many children live in poverty but this again has improved a lot over 20 years but their smiling faces hide any worries they may have.

Sri Lanka is a great country to visit. Aside from the beach and the pools, there is a plethora of culture throughout the country and the greatest challenge facing any tourist is choosing what to see and where to stay. There however are quite well defined seasons in Sri Lanka essentially two dry and two rainy seasons a year. In the rainy season in August do not expect to be able to enter the sea or indeed want to spend much beach time. The beaches also can be a little littered with debris.

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Kalutara Beach With Rubbish

Sri Lanka is also a superb place to visit for animals and wildlife. Elephants and birds abound in Udawalawe Safari Park. Various turtle sanctuaries also exist.

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The people are also both gentle and genuine even in the more inland areas where poverty is more commonly still seen.

0000573200005731There are many towns and places to visit but Galle should be one of those to walk along the headland and the fort and see the superb old lighthouse.

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Sri Lanka V Australia at Galle 2016


During a recent trip to Sri Lanka we were fortunate enough to have a spare hour at the end of the day to watch the cricket from the Galle Fort that sits high above the ground.

00005440 Many choose to watch from here as it is free and the views are not too bad. Some locals and some tourists. A great experience to see English folks avidly supporting the Sri Lankans. Maybe the most interesting use of a coconut I have seen as a pillow for this slumbering gentleman.

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The Animals of Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka


Many travellers to Sri Lanka have heard of and visit Yala National Park however far more visit Udawalawe.Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.

Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants.

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The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir  and covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land  and was established in 1972.

Other than than the more exotic animals such as elephants , a whole plethora of birds, water monitors and other lizrd creatures seem to appear from nowhere.

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Harrogate By Picture in 20 minutes. A Lot to See


The title sounds a little like a new boy band but having only a short time to see a town there is little option than to choose just a few streets. What is immediately clear is that this a green town, as in trees, flowers and pleasant horticulture.

The architecture mostly is from times long gone and the Royal Baths have turned into Chinese restaurant, tastefully stage managed though, and the old buildings have been nicely preserved and integrated into a more modern city.Even the “authentic asian cuisine ” does indeed look authentic, resembling many of the shops in Colombo, Sri Lanka in its apparent decay, building wise. A nice touch at the Harrogate International Convention Centre, was the “tray” of biscuits. I like this place and would imagine a weekend here would not be a bad thing at all. Even the traffic warden an often maligned creature is getting seemingly a ticket to give herself from the machine!

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Sri Lanka – Memories of a Tsunami Survivor and photographs of Then and Now. Hotel Citrus Hikkaduwa


One of the more interesting characters I met in Sri Lanka was the man who looked after the poolside and his main role was to give out beach towels and beds to those who asked him. A highly intelligent man who kept and read many of the magazines left behind by the hotel guests. He was pleasant and helpful as are most Sri Lankans. He told me one day his Tsunami story. He was on duty that day and heard the eerie silence that preceded the Tsunami. He saw the waves coming and ran, so was luckier than most, and ran around 2 kilometres to collect his wife and family and then went up in the mountains, where he stayed for 6 days. No one knew what was happening, there was very little in the way of effective communications there and his memory when they came down from the mountain was dead bodies floating in the sea, lots of dead bodies.  In any other country this guy could do most jobs, but here he is doing a job way below his intellectual capacity.

The before and after photos are from the Tsunami museum at Telewatta and the ones I took, so approximately 10 years apart but the differences are eerily small.

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Tsunami Photo Museum Telewatta Sri Lanka


On Dec 26th in 2004 the Tsunami hit different Asian countries including Sri Lanka. Very many lives were lost, at least 40,000 and because records are not so excellent there numbers may well be higher. Sri Lanka in fact was the second worst country that was hit. Since then the country had had a resurgence with a second international airport recently completed in the south and the start of a motorway system embedded in the country, meaning what was previously a 5 hour trip from Colombo Airport to the south is far nearer two hours now.

What however many people remain unaware of is that there is a museum devoted to the Tsunami. From the outside it does not look like a museum, in fact it looks remarkably like a ramshackle house that was hit by the Tsunami in the Pareliya area just back from the coast. This is exactly what it is, a house ruined that has been left essentially damaged but turned into a small museum that houses photographs, paintings and stories of how local people built up their lives from scratch. There is free entry and one can leave donations in a small box.

The aim of the museum is to keep the stories alive for future generations and show people what actually happened.

When I visited in August 2014 it has to be one of the most emotional places I can recall visiting.

The museum is almost opposite the National Tsunami Monument near Pareliya junction ( where around 2000 people on a train lost their lives that morning), and is on the main road traveling north out of Hikkaduwa around 4 km or 9 km south of ambalangoda.

Their website is

tsunami-photo-museum-srilanka.blogspot.com

Further information can be got on info@kunstkoffer.nl

Below are a selection of photos I took of the photos in the museum, I challenge anyone not to find these things quite emotional.

photo 1-1    photo 2-2 photo 2  photo 3-2 photo 3 photo 4-1 photo 4-2  photo 5-1 photo 5-2

Reflections on Sri Lanka


The last time I visited Sri Lanka was 15 years ago before the Tsunami and when the civil war was threatening to ruin tourism. Many things have changed. To start with the Tsunami although a devastating event did open up many lines of altruistic development in the country. People visited and learned what a beautiful people the Sri Lankans are, investment has flooded in and importantly time is a great healer. The end of the civil war also meant that less money and effort was being expended on weopons and death. So what did I find?

The first clear difference is that when arriving at the main airport near Colombo, Bandaranaike International Airport, there are no soldiers lining the avenues that form the entance and exit. The second difference is that there are now 2 international airports. A new one has been built down south at Hambantota.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) (also known as the Hambantota International Airport)  is an international airport serving the city of Hambantota in southeast Sri Lanka.Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is Sri Lanka’s second international airport, after Bandaranaike International Airport. It serves as the secondary hubs for Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka. It is named after the Rajapaksa family.  It is also the first greenfield airport in the country.

The next set of changes are that a number of motorways have been built, mainly two lane toll motorways. At the moment they seem a bit random but eventually they will join up and make tranportation far easier. The journey time already from Colombo airport to Galle has been reduced from 4.5 hours to around 2.5 hours.  The most noticeable change though relates to the people, they weigh more. There was no evidence of the thin malnourished poverty stricken people whom 15 years ago undertook the menial jobs for almost no wages. They have vanished. There were no requests from children for pens or clothes. The schools clearly have also improved in that computers are now present in some.

This is a country on the ascent, a happy country. The people in general are satisfied with their lot. Tourists are asked not to over tip something that can endanger the local economy. The population in 2012 was 20 million and increasing. The modernisation will continue and now may be the time to visit this beautiful country before westernisation takes over.

 

 

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