Question: Where does the word Serendipity originate from?
Answer: Serendib, the ancient Persian name of Sri Lanka.
I'll bet you didn't know that. I'm quoting from the In Flight magazine of Sri Lankan Airways, Serendib.
I made a shortish visit to Sri Lanka, being there to meet some people and do a little bit of work. I'll be honest - there are initial jitters and worry, non more because of the security situation in that country. Go read up about LTTE or the Tamil Tigers if it interests you, but there's basically an internal terror organization that's fighting for a separate state in the north of Sri Lanka. And the fight between the government forces and the LTTE has flared up again recently, causing quite a bit of strive and suffering.
And you'd think the recent tsunami will teach people to make peace and be friendly to each other.
Due to work commitments as well as company advisory, I was sticking strictly between hotel and meetings, and didn't venture out on my own. I'd say this though: after what I saw there, I will venture out the next time.
So, what's Sri Lanka like, you ask me?
First of all there are just all these tuk-tuks. Yes ! I finally found another place with tuk-tuks that are called tuk-tuks (other than Bangkok). But the roads, while congested in the city, are much cleaner and quieter than in India. I remember telling myself on the way from the airport that it's just like visiting India, but without everyone honking at the same time. But they do drive like crazy people all the same. In my 3 days and 2 nights there, there are at least 5 heart stopping, brake busting moments, and 1 minor accident. It's hard not to notice the driving !
And next, there's all these low key, but obvious military presence. I'll be honest here - I didn't feel unsafe at all. However, if you're a Malaysian, and you're not used to a lot of soldiers behind sandbags with machine guns aimed and ready to engage, you could feel a little apprehensive. But I really didn't mind. Life goes on anyways ... and I'm back in one piece !
And then, there's the food. Sri Lankan food is non-vegetarian, and it's spicy. Take it from me, it's spicy. I had with me 3 other Indians and a native Sri Lankan most of the time when I was there. It's spicy for them as well. Take chili padi, and multiply spiciness by factor of 3 or 4. It's that spicy. But it's good for you when the weather is all hot.
What else ?
The people are friendly, and almost everyone speaks a degree or two of English, so you won't get all lost.
Tea is really nice, like they tell you it should be.
Clothes are really cheap if you want to shop (6 women tops, 5 men's shirts, 10 little girl's dresses - good quality material and make - for around RM100. Go beat that. One of my Indian colleagues did some shopping)
Weather is hot and humid, just like Malaysia. But Colombo is right next to the sea, so you get a sea breeze once in a while to help you out.
Currency is Rupee. Exchange rate is around 100 Rupees - RM 3.3
Malaysians don't require visas for tourism. Business visitors require a visa.
I saw Marina Mahathir in the hotel I was staying in !
I've had a very positive impression of Sri Lanka from this visit, and I'm sure if I get to visit again, I'll take some time off to explore Colombo and other parts of the country more.