Induruwa, Sri Lanka to Embudu Village, Maldives
14.08.2010 - 20.08.2010
Induruwa, Sri Lanka
Today after breakfast entertainment at our guesthouse watching the squirrel get his bread,
Svenja and I took a sobering trip south along the west coast to see the visible remains of the 2004 tsunami. We couldn't find any type of official museum or memorial dedication that was listed in our travel guide books, which would seem odd considering how hard Sri Lanka was affected by the disaster - an estimated 30,000 victims that day. But, Svenja did notice a sign indicating something to do with the tsunami along the side of the road as we were heading up from Galle, so that is the direction we headed. We took the bus south along the coast, noticing many damaged buildings still in disrepair, and beachfront cemeteries.
Hopped off the bus and walked a ways, then had a tuk-tuk approach us and asked us where we were going, and offered a free ride. We mentioned that we were heading down the coast, looking at some of the remains of the tsunami. Well, he asked us specifically what we were looking for, so I told him we were very interested in what happened, and was hoping to see some museum or memorial. And, we had also heard the remains of the train where 1,200 victims drowned was still there. But he said there wasn't anything left, it had been moved to Colombo a couple years ago, and there wasn't anything around to see. Well, we get dropped off along the side of the road nearby Telwatta, and walking a bit down the way, we actually did spot a memorial for the train victims.
While at the memorial, there were some younger kids who were staring at Svenja, and giggling at us. Now, I'm not surprised about the kids giggling at western tourists, as that seems to be the norm here in Sri Lanka, but at the tsunami memorial?? It is very interesting how most people here seem to deal with the tsunami, like the tuk-tuk driver - maybe they already have forgotten it happened, or just want to ignore it completely. Well, we walked down the road a bit to what Svenja had noticed the day before - a photo museum, where a local woman greeted us and answered questions, while we walked around looking at the sad pictures and stories of victims.
It turns out this museum used to be the woman's home, but all was washed away except the floor during the tsunami. The pictures showed young and old, locals and even tourists, who became victims. It is hard to believe that this tragedy happened so recently, and that so little was known here about tsunamis before/no prevention put in place prior (there are now warning signs on the beach).
One inspiring point; in the museum there were also quotes placed around from survivors, and photos of locals one year later full of smiles and hope...
Negombo, Sri Lanka
Today Svenja and I checked out of the nice guesthouse in Induruwa and even though we wanted to see the Perahera festival back in Kandy, decided that since all hotels there were either full, or way overpriced during this time, we'd head to Negombo for our last couple days in Sri Lanka.
Today Svenni and I took a day trip from Negombo and returned to Colombo, to see some sights we missed the first time around. We took a minibus to sketchy Pettah neighborhood where the streets were lined with the iconic Sri Lanka cargo trucks,
and made our way to the 18th c. Wolvendaal church, which was so-so. We then headed to the Grand Mosque - also so-so. Well, it was beginning to feel like maybe we did see all the main Colombo sites already! Later, we took a tuk-tuk around Viharamahadevi park to the town hall, even though we asked to be dropped off at the national museum, a couple blocks over! Well, fortunately our driver was nice enough to realize his mistake, and while we were walking over toward the museum he came back to pick us up and take us around the corner. And this museum made the trip back to Colombo worth it - great collection of ancient artifacts like ancient urns (800 BC)
and urinals (8th c.),
dating from prehistoric times. Actually got lost a couple times wandering around the museum with its unusual corridors,
so although didn't get to see everything, was enough to make the trip worthwhile. The bus ride back, I was chatting with some nice guy I was sitting next to, who kept sneaking sips of arrack, fermented palm juice.
At the airport, just visited the duty free and Svenja and I are getting ready for our flight to Male. Today, we walked around Negombo seeing the few sites available, like St. Mary cathedral's fresco ceiling,
and the not-so-glamorous lifestyles of people living by the canal.
Spent quite a bit of time souvenir shopping - but with the innate need to barter on them, still not done!
Arrived here in Male - well technically, Hulhule (or, "Airport Island") - late last night, and sweated a bit clearing customs. The bottle of arrack I picked up from Colombo's duty free is not legally allowed in the Maldives, it is a "dry" country outside of resorts, which the cashier at duty free reminded me of ("No, its a gift for home and I'll leave it in the airport in Male...." yeah, right). So after immigration and getting our checked luggage, I casually ripped open the sealed duty free shopping bag and stuck the pint in my front pocket. Svenja told me that she could see it sticking out of the pocket - I told her not to stare! And I just put my hand in the pocket and stood by while the luggage bags were put through x-ray machines. I thought I heard one of the security people say, "alcohol", but not entirely sure. Fortunately, I collected my bags and walked straight out without incident. We boarded a ferry to cross the ~2km channel to Male, and while avoiding the speeding mopeds all over, walked a short way to our hotel. This morning, we walked around trying to find a restaurant to eat breakfast, only to discover we're visiting the Maldives in the middle of Ramadan ("Ramazan", they call it here). So, virtually all restaurants are closed until sundown, and most shops/stores as well. Well, with the time that we had, walked a bit around the small island, got to see the old Muslim cemetery
and the unglamorous Maldives garbage dump on the south side of the island.
We called around and visited a few tour agencies to try and book a last-minute deal to a resort - the first company we spoke with found us on the street, and after listening to their sales pitch and thinking they were a bit shady, instead went with one recommended in the guidebook (with the amount of $$$ this is going to cost, better have a reputable company!). Well, because of Ramazan, we had to wait until 21:00 for their office to reopen, and booked a stay in 2 different resorts - off tomorrow to see the "unreal" Maldives.
Got an early start this morning from our hotel in Male, and spotted the small, loud-mouth parrot across the way that woke us up the last 2 mornings before 06:00 - of course if I had idiot owners who chained me up to a pole, I'd probably be yelling also.
We waited for the tour company guy (showing up 20 minutes late with no apology) to lead us to the boat at the dock, which departed Male,
stopped in Hulhule to pick up some other passengers arriving from international flights. Then, set off for Embudu village island resort, in the South Male Atoll (ring of coral islands). The resorts here in the Maldives are one per island, giving them all sort of unique and exclusive feeling.
From the point we docked, with someone carrying my backpack (not quite used to that!), and arriving at the reception with its sand floor and welcome drinks,
knew this was going to be a relaxing time! Svenni and I walked around the entire small island, which took about 20 minutes total, checking out the lizards,
and above all else, beautiful white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise-blue water!
Today Svenja and I spent more time doing what they do best in the Maldives - swimming in the turquoise water, and relaxing on the white powder beach (sharing space with the herons).
After the beach, we signed up for a night fishing trip. Basically, the boat took us about 1km off shore and we were given some rudimentary fishing device - handle with the line wound around, and hook tied to one end.
Neither Svenni nor I were successful in landing a fish, and one time in my attempt to "cast" my line, accidentally let go of the handle and overboard it went (oops!). Someone, we're not sure if it was the small Asian lady, bagged a huge fish which no one could identify (likely to wind up in the buffet dinner tomorrow, though). Well, although we came up empty from the ocean, still were able to enjoy an amazing sunset.