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Colombo

Rampaging elephant

sunny 32 °C
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7-8th April
Two days at sea and one of the guest speakers is Jennie Bond talking about theRoyal Family. The evening entertainment includes a very funny comedian and an excellent female singer. We have now won over twenty quizzes and the scrabble tournament is 7-1 to me! (I let her win and sometimes she cheats by using long words.)
9th April
Today we are visiting Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka lies 18 miles from the southern tip of India. Colombo is the largest city and capital of Si Lanka. In 1796 the British established themselves in Ceylon (the former name of Sri Lanka) which became a crown colony in 1802. Coffee was the main crop until destroyed by disease and tea was introduced in 1880's and became an immediate success.
On 4th February 1948 became an independent state and it changed is name in 1972 to Sri Lanka, a traditional name for the island.
Racial tensions between the Sinhala and Tamil communities erupted into violence in the 1980's when the Tamils demanded a separate state in the north of the island. Fighting took place mainly in the north but Colombo was affected by suicide bombings in the 1990's. It wasn't until May 2009 that the long running war came to an end.
Some facts about Sri Lanka; Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea after China, India and Kenya. Sri Lanka is half the size of England. The tsunami of December 2004 devastated coastal communities and killed 30,000 people.

We are going to take a taxi around the city with the two sisters we met last year on the Victoria. We travel on the shuttle bus to the town centre. The roads are chaotic, very busy and full of tuk-tuks . There doesn't appear to be any rules to follow. A two lane road, but the locals have made it three or four lanes. Traffic lights are voluntary, yellow boxes on a junction means get as many vehicles in the junction as you can! I have no idea who has the fight of way on a roundabout, they all seem to! Cunard give us a 'Guide to' which ever city we are visiting the night before and now I understand the advice about car hire. " Please be aware that erratic driving is common and serious injuries are common."!
The bus takes us to a gated compound with police and guards. We are surrounded by men wanting to drive us around in Tuk-Tuks. Having watched how they weave in and out of the traffic and narrowly avoid collisions we decline. We agree terms with a man for a taxi and drive off to explore. We stop at a Buddhist temple and walk around (having taken off our shoes). There are numerous golden buddhas and shrines in this temple floating on a lake. We drive off again with our driver pointing out places of interest. He tells about life in Sri Lanka as we travel. He complains about the government and price of petrol. He says that he barely earns enough to cover the petrol and his bosses make all the money. He asks us to sponsor him so that he can come to England and work. He says he works very hard. He also tell us about the police. He says that they 'earn' commission on the fines they hand out of between 10-15%. They are also known to stop people on a made up charge and demand money to drop it.
We reach another temple, this is bigger and is a cross between a temple and a jumble sale. There are lots of buddhas, shrines and then dust cabinets filled with collections of old cameras and trinkets. There is even a life sized stuffed elephant! As we are leaving a living elephant enters the temple! We walk over to see it and narrowly avoid beeping squashed as it careers around the corner followed by a man shouting at it.
We return to our driver and tell him and he points to an enclosed area in the car park where the elephant lives. It looks pretty bleak in there and the man with him wants money for us to stroke him. We decline.
We drive around the city and the traffic is still as manic. We go to a hotel on the coast for a refreshing drink. It is very colonial, large ceiling fans, lovely building painted white and excellent service. We join our driver and he takes us back to the bus drop off point. On the way he tells us that if we want to tip him we need to give him the cash as it will not be passed on by his boss. We pay him almost the cost of the taxi ride as he has been very informative. His boss mets us as we arrive and tells us he cannot accept the American Dollars as agreed at the beginning and asks Ian to get in the car with the driver to get some local currency. Maggie, Catherine and I wait. They are gone about 15-20 minutes. We are starting to imagine that Ian might have been kidnapped when they return. Only then does Ian realise that he has been ripped off. We have paid a lot more than we had agreed. Ian is very angry but the man has disappeared. When work out later that even with being ripped off it is still cheaper than a Cunard trip!
We are not sad to say goodbye to Colombo. It is very dirty and rundown. In the evening we talk to our sommelier (who we met last year and comes from India.) He is complying about how the locals in Colombo were trying to rip him and other crew members off, but that it is typical of the whole area including India. It seems everyone and anyone is fair game.
Three days at sea before we get to the Seychelles.
Thank you for your commenys we love hearing from you xx

Posted by BridgetandIan 20:46 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged colombo

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