My first full day in Sri Lanka is almost over and what a day I’ve had! It wasn’t that spectacularly busy or hectic, it was more the amount of things I had to absorb, simply looking can be exhausting!
Experiencing a new culture and way of life can initially be quite draining; in a good way of course. It all began yesterday when I arrived tired and hot from my long haul flight from Dublin. But as the plane made its slow descent towards Colombo I began to wake up. The first sight I got of Sri Lanka was the amazing lagoon surrounded by white beaches and lush green palm trees beyond, extending as far as they eye could see. It looked amazing.
My trip from the airport to the hotel in Colombo was something else. I don’t believe I have ever experienced anything quite like it. I’m convinced I was given Colombo’s craziest taxi driver. I thought the Italians were bad, but they are nothing in comparison with this guy.
Before I came to Sri Lanka my father, who is coming with my mother to visit in December, was talking about how every guide book he had read had mentioned the necessity of hiring a driver if one wanted to travel, and I now see why this is recommended. I would never be induced to drive a car in Colombo and I shall be encouraging my father to follow suite.
Basic rules of the road do not seem to apply or even exist here. Although lanes and pedestrian crossing are marked and traffic lights do exist. Rules seem to be interpreted liberally or simply ignored. Drivers drive haphazardly across lanes. Overtaking is not restricted to the right; being an ex British Colony, Sri Lankan’s drive on the left like at home. And then there are the horns. The sound they omit is usually a gentle ‘just so you know I’m here’ beep, rather than an aggressive, ‘get out of my way beep.’ For example if one car wishes to overtake another he moves out, gently beeps so as the other driver knows he is there and then passes him out. A pretty handy system really if you think about it, but totally bizarre to us of course, but it seems to work.
The entire journey from the airport was accompanied by blaring Sinhalese music and an ear splitting cacophony of car horns. As for pedestrian crossing, I wouldn’t cross one if I was paid to. In my opinion they are mere yellow decoration on the road. And finally the speed! My taxi driver was something else when it came to speed. However, after realizing that my life was not at any immediate danger I managed to settle down and enjoy the journey as there was an awful lot to see and take in.
It is my first trip to Asia and to be honest I did not quite know what to expect on arrival, but that is something that usually works to my advantage; I find that having few or no expectations ensures that one is rarely disappointed.
The amount of thing to see was just unbelievable; from the women wearing amazingly coloured sari’s and sporting umbrellas against the blazing sun, to the stalls upon stalls of exotic fruit lining the roadside, many of which I had never seen before, never mind know the name of. Now and again we would pass a cow lazily meandering down the road, cows are sacred and are given as it were a free pass. It is quite normal to see them standing on roadsides or wandering down the streets, or a calf galloping madly down the road with an unknown purpose. The vibrancy, colour and newness of everything was intoxicating, and after a while I got exhausted from looking.
To further my good impression the people I have met so far have been lovely. Sri Lankan people are very friendly, laid back, smiley and polite. I always thought that the Irish were particularly friendly but after meeting a few Sri Lankan’s I’m afraid I’m going to have to move the Irish down a notch or two on the scale.
But can you imagine living on a tropical island with permanent summer, endless supplies of exotic fruit, amazing tea, never-ending stretches of beautiful coastline, beaches, palm trees and so much more, wouldn’t you be happy and smiley too?
I know that was my first jet lagged impression, living here I’m sure will be very different, but I’m intrigued.