Morning boys & girls
Inshallah you are all hale & hearty, and thriving. MB is taking yet another visa trip back to UAE later today, as you gotta stay legal out these parts or they run you out of town real quick. Even if you plead you are impoverished soul from the formerly wealthy Western world it attracts little sympathy and you just get escorted to the nearest airport with a ‘don’t come back‘ warning. So gotta stay real legal.
MB has come across a great new character in recent days. An Afrikaaner/Boer who lived all through the troubled history of South Africa and is a veritable gold mine of stories. But more of him another time. Gotta wrap up the Sri Lanka trip, despite severe warning from Young Sudani lad that he will downright refuse to read the HX this week if he sees ‘Sri Lanka‘ in the title. But you just can’t let Young Sudani lads call life’s tunes lads. I mean, give a young Sudani lad and inch and he will take a whole continent (Europe), and MB can therefore not show weakness. So here goes the final episode of MB’s SL adventure. His final day in SL in the capital city of Colombo. And screw Young Sudani lad!
The bus journey from Haputhale in central SL to the capital city takes 5 giddy hours. If you sit close to the driver you get it real giddy. MB sat two seats back on an isle seat and got to witness the great game of ‘Chicken’ that is driving on the roads of SL.
Now MB is far from a nervy driver, having driven tractors from age seven or eight on the farm back home, and driving old Land Rover around the HX heartland from young age. But this driving game played in SL would not be for MB. Seems everyone’s got to play, with every driver having to pass out the vehicle ahead, in both directions on the two lane roadways. And when multiple pile-up with the oncoming traffic seems inevitable, driver pulls violently back into his own lane to screeching breaks from all the vehicles behind him. Death is avoided by mere millimeters, and when the heart palpitations die down a little the whole game starts again. Life is a circus as MB’s new South African pal is fond of saying, and the ‘Chicken‘ game is very much part & parcel of the daily circus that is driving in SL. So respectfully suggesting to all Crossers to avoid car hire if you land in SL. Contact Sanath and hire him & his tuktuk for few days to see the sights. Much much better idea.
Arriving on the outskirts of Colombo the traffic slows down considerably due to congestion, and the lack of a first world road system. The game of Chicken mercifully becomes no more possible as the bus or truck or car puffs slowly along at a pace dictated by the slow-moving vehicles in front. Occasionally one gets a run of green lights and the speed picks up a little. And it was on one such section of the roadway entering the city that a sleepy MB shot bolt upright in his seat as he saw an incredible sight as the bus passed the slower moving traffic on the inside lane. Dangling in mid-air, just a few meters from the bus window, was a man hanging from some ropes and fixed to the ropes by means of steel meat hooks fixed through his skin. The ropes hung from a timber pole supported from the back of a pick-up truck. WTF. WTF. WTF indeed!
The Dutch Hospital shopping and restaurant precinct
MB was momentarily stunned, but training kicked in in an instant as MB tried frantically to open the rucksack at his feet to get camera into action. But the bus moved quicker than MB, and the dangling man suspended from meat hooks quickly faded into the distance behind the fast-moving bus. MB used the ‘fuck’ word multiple times in addition to many other such descriptive words that vented his frustration at the incredible lost photo opp. The rucksack remained closed and the camera remained lying useless within.
1980s British band Duran Duran shot the video for the song ‘Hungry Like A Wolf’ in the Pagoda Tea Rooms in Colombo
But the Irish God looks after his flock. MB looked at the traffic ahead and noticed a number of similar pick-ups, and……… yes……….. more SL humanoids similarly dangling from similar ropes by means of similar steel hooks. ‘Thank you Irish God – you are a legend‘ shouted MB within obvious earshot of all the Muslims, Hindus & Buddhist travelers on the bus, as MB ripped the rucksack apart, clicked the camera to ‘on’ and rushed to the open bus door to get a few shots if possible as bus would pass the spectacle some seconds later. A young Sri Lankan lad (no relation of Young Sudani lad) also had same idea and with camera phone in hand and no rucksack to open had a head start on MB in the race to the open door. So in the 60 to 90 seconds that it took to pass the small procession of pick-ups with dangling hooked humans, MB tried his best to shoot off some pics over head of ‘camera phone SL lad‘ and thankfully had a little success, the evidence of which MB gives you in today’s HX blog.
The world famous Raffles Hotel group have just bought this property in Colombo harbour area and will open in next year
MB looked into this in the following days and discovered that he had stumbled across a Tamil festival called ‘The Festival Of The Veil‘ (approximately). The idea is that the participants offer the pain of being hung from steel hooks as offering to the Gods to implore their help to lift the veils from their hearts. Veils like greed or dishonesty or whatever. And as result they are better for it. We have similar stuff back in Ireland, but without meat hooks. MB is thinking about the climbing of Croagh Patrick holy rocky mountain on the West coast in bare feet – as just one example back home where the general idea is similar. Offer your pain to God for his intervention. Probably most cultures and religions have similar.
Was an incredible sight to witness. And what an introduction to Colombo!
Scenes from the Bollywood movie shoot
MB then found a decent hotel for some food and face wash to freshen up as he awaited the city guided walk that he had booked over a few emails on the day before his departure to SL. As luck would have it the meeting place for the start of the walk was only round the corner from the hotel and few hours later MB fastened rucksack on back and headed off to the Dutch Hospital to meet up with the guide Mark and 4 other walkers.
The ‘Dutch Hospital’ is now a parade of small shops and restaurants but was a real hospital in the days when the Dutch ruled SL. Some canals and architecture give evidence to the present day of the former Dutch presence. The Brits arrived some time later, with bigger ships and bigger guns, and kicked out the Dutch. As the Brits were historically fond of doing.
The walk takes place around the old harbour area, which still has many fine old buildings built by the British one hundred or more years ago. You can imaging you are in parts of London as you wander around some of this very interesting area. The guide Mark is also an interesting character. Dark shinned like all Sri Lankans, he informed MB that he is a ‘burgher’ – being part Dutch, English & Sri Lankan. Had a great knowledge of the history of the area and all the historic old buildings. And a great enthusiasm for showing off his part of the world. Was a really nice ending to the trip. Look up ‘Colombo City Walks‘ on Facebook if you ever take a trip to SL. Think one or two of MB’s pics are now on the site.
During the walk MB had the good fortune to come across a Bollywood movie being shot on some of the harbour streets. Loads of old cars, carts pulled by buffalo, and old street signs gave the impression of times past. Must try to find out name of the movie and get a look at it sometime.
Few hours later MB had consumed some food from restaurant owned by the famous SL cricketer Kumar Sangakkara back in the Dutch Hospital complex. Few glasses of vino later the taxi arrived and MB headed to the airport for the trip back to UAE. Following morning MB landed in Sharjah airport, and twenty-four hours later landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for return to work. Exhausted, wrecked, shattered! Sleep came easy in the following days and it took week or so before MB’s batteries were fully charged again.
Big SL recommend from MB. But not if you like the 5 Star lifestyle. It’s poor third world country, and all that goes with that. Fascinating place. Enjoy the trip, if you take.
Regards to all.