The dates on these entries will make no sense. But below this paragraph the trip unfolds chronologically in order – from early August to early September (the pictures get better as the trip unfolds as well). Here’s a taste of what I was about to see:
In LAX airport. Let me get this straight – we are not allowed to bring in our own water bottles past the security gates to enter the boarding area. OK, Richard Reid and the crew did us no help there. Searching through a few convenient stores in the terminal I realize that all of the bottles are the 12-ounce nothing sizes. That is not going to cut it – I need mucha agua for this 12 hour plus flight. Finally found a 1.5 liter size – awesome. “That will be $4.79.” Seriously, not cool. I get the same product in grocery stores for $1.50. I understand that airport shops need to make their profit, but this is going too far. We are forced to buy water inside the terminal, and then we are succinctly price gouged with an atrocious amount. That hurt. My water tastes good though.
The check-in lady here at LAX was as a gem. I don’t think she was capable of smiling. Not smooth. Let’s stick to the positive though….
Singapore’s airport, Chiang airport, looks like a city at night. SO brightly lit and monstrously huge. It was after midnight when I arrived, and the place was a zoo still- every store still open. 5am to 1am apparently, excluding the 24-hour mini market with booze.
I already feel like kissing Singapore and I have been in the airport for about 30 minutes. People are very friendly. And there is no other airport in the world that I would rather spend the night in. Wow. From the sleeping arrangements to the bathrooms to the free internet, to the all night open mini market. This place is an in-transit person’s dream home. Too bad I messed up my time schedule on the flights over here – my sleep was not consistent…even with 20 Al Green songs, and yes, some annoying kids playing with a ball at night.
I honestly didn’t know too much about Sri Lanka before arriving to the island. I figured that the country’s capital wouldn’t be full of twig huts, but wasn’t sure if I would encounter Tijuana, Mexico, Bangkok, or some othe type of city-venue. I was simply anxious to experience the scene…whatever it would be.
The first day in Colombo started early in the morning. The main road was full of busses and cars moving around in the normal fashion for a third world country: there really wasn’t any order, but in that disorder everyone seemed to understand one another.
Along the road games was their street market. It flourishes in the mornings with fresh fruit, meat, fish, and vegetables along with the friendly activity of the locals. I was exposed to jack fruit, the king’s coconut, and more of this island’s new offerings. I love fruit, so I was excited – albeit sometimes it doesn’t take too much to get me intrigued and stoked on my surroundings.
The first local I came in contact with today approached me on the sidewalk and asked where I was from. His English was beautiful (being colonized by the British for 150 years has some pros I guess?), and he was genuinely curious to get some of my thoughts. After a few minutes I felt as though I had made my first local friend. It was a good sign.
I have a good feeling with the people here; I can’t wait to drink more king’s coconuts….
But I didn’t feel too much beyond a bit of a shock at first sight. Then I realized that this is a wild dog, no one’s pet. Not that it makes it alright, but easier not to feel horrible for the family I guess?
The port was full of a variety of fish, shark, and manta ray. The scene turned into stock exchange for a bit with the shipments laid out. Was a sight to behold.
About midday we met Samantha, our driver for the next two weeks and off to Kandy we went for the Perahera parade.
The drive out to Kandy involved a few stops – for cashews and the lady cussing at us, buying a leather stool product, meeting an extremely inviting family on the road (and learning how they make rice…by picking out off the shell-so labor intensive) and finally reaching the city at 1pm, and taking a nap.
I woke up to the swarm of bats outside of my place. The hotel is a very nice one, without a few necessary amenities like clocks. Strange. The staff is friendly, but something feels off. Very upscale place, so I feel a bit off. But I will get over that.
Tonight was the second to the last night of the Perahera parade. Lasting over 2 hours, it proved to be an interesting array of dancers, fire tossers, stilted dudes walking around, and lit elephants. There must have been fifty of them – towards the last hour I could see the other tourists getting ancy, probably hoping that no more beasts would turn the corner, but the elephant stream continued to flow heavily.
We didn’t make it out of the cemetery city (Kanday) until an hour after planned – about 8am. Said our goodbyes to the favorite servers (one of which was a Sri Lankan up and coming rapper – Jay and him got along brilliantly sharing verses), and off we were with Samantha the nice driver. Man I don’t do so well in these hotel places – unless they are for weddings and I am with heaps of friends to make the times exciting. Oh wait, or if I have a girlfriend and we can share our loving times together. Kidding, sort of.
I’ve seen elephants before, but not nearly as many as this at one time. And most of them were free to roam as they pleased. A few times the elephant keepers were yelling at me to move away from the animals as I was in the middle of about five of them – just enamored with their size and kind eyes. Translates to I was still a bit nerved to be around such mammoths, no matter how nice they are – one false step and my head pops like a grape. There would be no story to write after that one…at least not by me.
We watched a few of them eat in a stall as well. But it was troubling that the gentle souls were chained. I don’t like to see any animal tied down like that. But then they let the gang of at least 75 out to go bathing in the nearby river. The trunks shuffle in a somewhat orderly, if not hurriedly, fashion down a narrow street that ends in the river’s banks.
Got my hand read and was told that I am a lucky man. Will have three children, and two wives in my lifetime. This sage’s wisdom pulled me in and I was enchanted. But halfway into this unwelcomed reading into my soul I let the Sri Lankan know that I had only chapstick in my pocket. No dough. He then wrapped things up quickly. Two wives? Come on, I will only have one in my life…I think.
Sidenote: Before arriving to the orphanage this morning while walking on the sidewalk, an older man grabbed my arm. I thought he was begging for money, and reacted as such subtly. He wouldn’t let go, so I started to focus (I have already fallen into the ‘I am dealing with masses of people that all think I am loaded because I am white’ way of thinking). The look in his eyes told another story entirely – so warm and open. He simply wanted a handshake, nothing more. We shook hands, he gave me a gleam in the eye and a wide smile while saying, “Iubowan” for hello. An unexpected touching moment. I was embarrassed to say the least.