Jennifer, the kids, my parents and I had all arrived at the Columbo Airport in Sri Lanka about 20 hours earlier, all of us prepared for the adventure ahead of us. Surprisingly, in a country that saw the conclusion of a 25+ year civil war in 2009, the airport was modern, immigration was a breeze, duty free was conveniently located, and the only real oddity was the wide selection of kitchen appliances (refrigerators, ovens, etc.) available for sale next to the baggage claim belts. We had hired a driver for the week (Ruwan), and he was patiently awaiting our arrival just outside of customs. So far, so good.....honestly, a little boring!
After loading up the van, we were quickly on our way towards the town of Galle. But before we could enjoy Galle, we had to endure a 75-mile trip that took FIVE HOURS (and this is not the last time we would experience this). The roads were narrow and congested with bicycles, pedestrians, tuk-tuks, cars, delivery trucks and overly packed "express" buses that would fly by our van at twice our speed and slam on the brakes at the next bus stop. Oh, and I forgot about the random cows that would wander into traffic. If you've been to India, driving in Sri Lanka is comparable. If you haven't, I'd describe it as driving with the congestion of the New Jersey Turnpike, the free ranging wildlife of a petting zoo, the pedestrian traffic of NYC and literally no traffic rules. Exhilarating!
|Typical Sri Lanka Traffic|
After this short break, we were back in the van, dodging express buses, tuk-tuks and cows for the remaining hour to Galle.
|Deco on 44|
We spent the first evening checking out the streets and alleys inside the Galle Fort, which was recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town within the fort walls was quite different from the villages just outside and had a distinctive Dutch Colonial feel. Which makes sense, since the Portuguese first built the fort, but the Dutch fortified it in the 17th century. There were numerous local shops, small businesses and restaurants along the cobblestone streets, but after our long day of travel, we were all ready to sit down for some dinner and our first "Lion Lager". We found a great little place called Fortaleza, originally a spice warehouse built around 1600, where we enjoyed our dinner and cold beer in the restaurant's open courtyard.
Later in the morning, we ventured a little further from the hotel, checking out other areas of the fort, including several of the remaining bastions, local churches and the fresh fish and fruit markets, located just outside the fort's walls. It was on these strolls that we met the man with the python, the cobra and the monkey on a leash. (I know...finally).
|Galle Fort and Clock Tower|
|1 of 2 men with "a python, a cobra, and a monkey on a leash"|
|My favorite photo - note Cooper holding the monkey in the background|
|Peace Pagoda - Stupa|
|"I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer that my hair remain perfect"|