07 April 2007

Land of Serendipity and Tuk Tuks

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.


angel said...

Lucky u din show my pic, or else u sure kena kidnap by the ar neh neh wan... :P

Why is the spiciness so err.. so spicy?

Oh, and I love Serendipity! ;) So serene, but luckily not pity :PPP

Infectioner said...

go immigrate to sana lor :P

Applegal said...

Wow, the sky's so blue and the sand's so white! You weren't kidding when you said the seafront was pretty!

Che-Cheh said...

I wonder... how does the air smell? Is it like India? I've never been to India but I've read and heard a lot about the 'smell'. *although I don't know how it 'smell' like la :P

may said...

really cool photos! I haven't come across a post about Sri Lanka before, this is a nice one. and more tuk-tuks outside of Thailand? amazing! I wonder if Sri Lanka started it first, or Thailand... :)

Ellone said...

i like the last pic, nice nice ^^

Jemima said...

You should have taken a photo with Marina. :)

The hotel lobby looks nice.

moz monster said...

The ar neh neh all ah ... they show me a pikcher and ask if I know the gal in the pikcher wor ... and it's your pikcher !!

Now I have to meet you and ask you for autographs for my ar neh neh friends ...

In case you didn't know ... I like Australia and New Zealand better, and better still ... I like Malaysia best !!

Yeah ... Galle Road runs parallele to the sea, and is one of the main thoroughfare in Colombo.

The picture is what is known as Galle Face Promenade, which is really pleasant.

Hahahaha ... now that you've mentioned it, yes, there is a smell in India and one in Sri Lanka too.

The Indian smell is earthy, and with some hint of spice - a bit pungent, definately exotic. In Colombo, the smell is of the sea !!

Hehehe ... I have no idea who started tuk-tuk first. But the tuk-tuks here are definately more dare devil compared to the ones in Bangkok. I never thought that was possible !

I believe I'll have more trips there, so I'll definately have more to write about Sri Lanka !

Thanks ! It's the Grand Cinnamon hotel, a very decent 4 or 5 star hotel, and it's not far from where the Galle Face promenade is too !

I saw her while I was at a breakfast discussion, and she was having her own breakfast as well !

The hotel's pretty good, actually.

nyonyapenang said...

wah...i like that of the coast road...sea sooooo blue and sky soooo clear and i like your write-up too.