Some minor corrections and additional comments – thank you to those who sent in comments!
* Sri Lankans have charming and genuine smiles! Their whole face lights up, eyes crinkle, and wonderful white teeth! Such gracious people! OK, this is a shot of Madu, one of the staff at Tropic Inn @ No. 12. He’s a really great guy!
* It is possible to get a very good meal for two people for less than Rp. 1,000, including a soft drink and a pot of tea. [Chris tells us, “1000 RUPEE??? are you mad??? you can get an authentic Sinhalese dinner at one of the local restaurants for like, 120 Rupee for 1 person!” – Editor’s note: “LOL – Crust, where have YOU been dining? We prefer to pay a bit more for the safety margin. My stomach’s not cast iron like your’s!”]
* The MIG jets that buzz the beaches around here are VERY LOUD! They tend to fly lower than I thought safe.
* People in uniform are everywhere. It’s hard to tell if they’re ALL in the military or are police or are security guards. Those with the rifles or AK-47s seem like military … sometimes are positioned in stepped up platforms on the street, like a lookout tower. Scary. BUT, when you smile at them, they all smile back. Weird. When the Prime Minister was going through town, the soldiers guarding were NOT smiling, however. They were bossy. No pictures … and I was too scared to take them anyway. Guns have that effect on me.
* Foot spas cost Rp. 1,000 for a one-hour massage, and Rp. 500 for an half hour massage. What a deal! ($5/half hour; $10 / hour)
* There is no rice milk here in the long-life boxes, or in any other form.
* For Rp. 200, one can purchase a Ninja – a plug-in mosquito repeller for night-time use! Turn it on at night, and turn off in the morning. The one I purchased is good for 45 nights of 8 hours use. Not bad for $2.00! Just hope it works …
* “Hoppers” – a pan-fried thin crust at the sides, with a softer, thicker bottom made of farina batter – ought to be purchased freshly made, and not pre-made, to taste best. Abeen – owner of the Tropic Inn – will be giving me the recipe. I almost bought a hopper pan, but didn’t because of the lack of a recipe. The hoppers are delicious for breakfast, a quick snack, or as an appetizer. Apparently, they are eaten or offered for breakfast and for evening supper only. Tried to get some for lunch – no go. Hopper pans are little round, hemispherical things with two handles usually so they’re balanced, but I’ve seen single long handled ones, too, though they don’t sit was well. Prices range from Rp. 1200+ to Rp. 2500 ($12-25) – they’re usually teflon-coated, and varying weights of aluminum thickness.
* Bags and packages have to be checked in first in front of a store before entering. Usually uniformed guards man the counter.
* Tuk tuks can be used to “cross the street” and it’s SO worth the Rp. 100-200 ($1-2)! The alternative is to begin walking when there’s a clearing in the traffic on your side of the street, and keep walking slowly across after the middle of the road. Traffic WILL stop to let you cross – it’s totally Amazing!
* There ARE metered tuk tuks! They are half the price of the unmetered tuk tuks! A 9 km drive only cost Rp.450! Whereas, the same drive from an unmetered driver would charge Rp.600 on up!
* There ARE coins used here – 1, 2, 5, and 10 Rupees, and .25 Rupees are tiny copper coins, less than 1/2” in diameter! I can’t imagine what a 10 cent coin would be like! There are none, I guess.
* About 50% of the population are Buddhist in Sri Lanka – per Mr. Tissa, our central tour driver. About 35% are Hindu, and about 10% are Muslim. The rest are Christian. The architecture of each are very different. Buddhist temples are usually white and include a stupa and a Buddha figure, though not necessarily. Hindu temples are block-like ornate, some are colorful, honoring one or several gods. Muslim mosques usually have a minaret, onion-shaped arches, usually one large building versus separate buildings. Christian churches are complete with high fronts, cross, large front doors, and some have spires.
* “Kotu” is a Singhalese dish that is sold in street shops, and the rhythym of the metal choppers / spatulas can be heard for about a city block as they food cooks! I was told that if you order a chicken kotu, they chop the chicken, bones and all. Makes for a crunchy kotu. Surprise! So, beware of street food! Even Mr. Tissa admitted that he doesn’t eat Kotu as it doesn’t agree with his stomach! I think I’d go for the show and beat of the choppers though.
* In Sri Lanka, three main languages are taught in schools automatically: Singhalese, Tamil, and English. Other languages are offered, too, but are not required. So far, we have had no problems with talking with people here, as so many understand and speak English already! It’s not perfect, but MUCH better than in Indonesia, and even Bangkok, and definitely better than China.
* It is possible to purchase a sari and fabric for a fitted top for less than $10. Softer and more elaborate ones, of course, cost more, but not that much. The one Amy is wearing is less than $75, and the one I’m wearing is less than $15. We also learned how to wrap them around ourselves.
* Women wear saris; men wear sarongs – as Nayana pointed out, not saris! Women’s saris are long and elaborately wrapped, sometimes pinned into place Men’s sarongs can be short, covering from the waist downward, and even down to the ankles. Men’s sarongs can be topped with a shirt over the sari, or they can go bare-chested. I’m not sure who wears shawlris, but those designs are from Pakistan, if I’m correct in reading a sign. Shawlris are a tunic, long- or short-sleeved, and skinny- or baggy-leg pants, completed with a long scarf. Very attractive.
* When ordering tea, it will come with milk and sugar already added unless you say something.
* Laundry through the hostel / hotel “service” cost me Rp. 2785 (about $27) for 42 pieces of clothing – ranging from handkerchiefs to button front shirts, shorts. In Beijing, Bangkok, and Indonesia, where we couldn’t do our own laundry, never did it cost us more than $9! In the hostels, laundry usually cost between $6-8 for washing and drying ourselves. I refused to pay that much, and gave the vendor Rp. 2,000 (about $19) which was still overly generous. Apparently, this guy ISN’T the launderer, he’s just the in betweener, and was charging for picking up and delivering the laundry! I cut his commission out of the price, was what Madu told me, and he thought it was great! LOL …
* It IS possible to find a basic hostel for $2/ night, but don’t expect any stars. The hostels we’ve stayed have been averaging $33 / night for the two of us. That’s about $16.50 / night per person. So far, we’ve gotten private bathrooms every time. The lower costing ones might have shared bathrooms, no A/C (a MAJOR disaster), and in a bad location.
* Sri Lanka is where Ceylon tea comes from – central Sri Lanka has hectares of tea plantations, most started by the English centuries ago. Ceylon teas are black teas, naturally fermented and some are dried naturally as well, but most are baked in 275 F for at least 2 hours. There are several grades of teas – ranging from a rolled leaf to powder. There are a few green tea plantations that can be found here. [NOTE: roll the mouse over the pix below for captions.]
* Tourist are encouraged to dine and shop at approved Sri Lanka Tourist Board places – more for sanitary, consistent, and safety reasons than for the same collection of souvenirs. Haggling for souvenirs is possible, but, hey, a Rp.50 difference is only 50 cents! The prices for dining is pretty consistent – about 20-50% higher than local fare, but then, would one want to take that chance? Choices tend to be limited – and Indian food buffets are common.
* The thunderstorms have BRILLIANT lightning, and REALLY LOUD thunder when the storm’s right in our area! The staff ran around unplugging things, turning off the TV, router and their computers. We must be in rainy season as there’s a storm almost every late afternoon or evening.
* For some reason, it’s Friday 11 pm, there’s fireworks being blown off at the beachside. Don’t know if it’s something they do all the time, or if it’s a fluke for tonight. Sets off the dogs barking – like car alarms! I thought a generator or transformer blew out.
* Mosquito netting and screens for windows would be a good business opportunity here – a factory that could make them! I fixed our bathroom’s open windows with mesh screens that still allowed one to open and close the hinged windows. If I had fixed all four sides of the mesh in place, it would have been hard to operate the windows, so I attached a length of small diameter PVC pipe on the bottom of the mesh, bound the sides to be stiff and flat, and tacked the top edge to the window. Taa-dah! The mesh flap can be lifted to access the window! Cost: Rp. 150 ($1.50); Relief from mosquito visits – priceless!
* Another good biz opp might be as a sidewalk installer. Bill the government in basic increments, low to start with, so that people begin to appreciate the sidewalks in place (versus the rough, uneven dirt or broken concrete), and as the government and economy looks up, increase the amortization to cover the costs within let’s say, five years. Contracts after that are for new developments, maintenance, and repairs. Let’s people look UP instead of at their feet as they walk! Easier on the saris, too. ‘C)
* Skip the bamboo ones found in other parts of Asia! Planked scaffolding is for the weak – these guys just balance on the poles lashed together to paint this government building. Workers comp must be cheap? The painters waved after I took this picture.
* Pizza Hut really IS like the ones found in the States! Except the State-side ones probably don’t have employees wearing their favorite cricket team’s jerseys. Ironically enough, Pizza Hut was our first dining experience in Colombo, and where we learned most of our Singhalese words!
* Lottery tickets are sold almost anywhere – even mobile ones, sold by bicycle peddlers honking their wares! The most amusing booth was the penguin shaped ones – where the beak folds down when the booth is closed!
* But, wait! There’s so much MORE to tell about Sri Lanka!