23rd May- Colombo to Unawatuna
Just around the corner from The Red mosque, or Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque as it’s also know as, was the coconut stand. They were orange King Coconuts and were bigger than any coconut I’ve held before; containing inside it easily two cans worth of much savoured coconut water. I sat down in the Tuk Tuk to save myself from the suns unmerciful rays while sipping away, enjoying my drink. I looked to my right only to see that the driver had gulped his coconut down in a flash and so I rushed to finish my drink quicker.
A gorgeous red and white building stood tall in front of us. Heading inside it was understandably a ‘tourist’ mosque, as in, it had signs instructing where we’re allowed to go and not allowed to go along with signs that tell people to remove their footwear. At this point of day there were people scattered across the mosque praying individually and a few other people preparing themselves to pray by washing up beforehand.
I was used to washing up over sinks but over here they seemed to keep it far more simple. Instead, there was a mini swimming pool of sorts outlined by plastic bowls where people would crouch over and wash up. A few pictures later and we were off to visit Buddha and Hindu temples. There were three in total- Gangaramay Temple, Seema Malaka Temple and Captain’s Garden Hindu Temple. Naturally all three were blessed with beautiful architecture.
While we visited there were people praying and meditating. Our driver explained the reasons behind why they prayed to specific Gods for specific needs. He then gave us an example by pointing to one and saying they prayed to it for clarity of mind or for knowledge if someones exams were coming up. In one of the temples, monks were freely walking around. It had a museum too where we can see antiques and three different Buddahs- the Sri Lankan, Thai and Chinese ones.
The temple was very peaceful and relaxing to the point where I almost fell asleep standing up. After trying to keep ourselves awake, we headed to the souvenir shop near the temple. The plan was not to buy anything but instead to just observe so of course we ended up buying far more than we needed. Tea, fridge magnets, keychains, bracelets and a wooden Tuk Tuk filled our shopping basket. We left with happy hearts but sad wallets.
Next up was our final destination- the Independence Square. More of a ‘drive-by’ location there wasn’t much to explore yet the area was still filled with tourists from all over the world who came to take pictures of the beautiful architecture that told stories of Sri Lanka’s past. The driver informed me that one of the picture stories was of Buddha, who meditated until he was no longer Buddha.
The image showed a healthy looking man peacefully meditating and simultaneously losing weight until all you could see was his skeleton. I assumed the driver meant Buddha meditated until he achieved Nirvana but I was never sure. Now it was time to sadly part ways with our new friend who dropped us back to the hotel with a smile. We exchanged contacts in case I or any of my friends, he informed me, needed him. It appeared that tourists were his speciality.
We got our luggage and headed to the train station to get the train to Galle. After arriving and buying tickets, we stumble to the platform only to find out the next train is in an hour and a half. With nowhere to go we had to be patient. We ended up playing games on our phones with each other while locals watched and laughed as we enjoyed ourselves. After an hours wait, the women sitting next to us so helpfully told us that the train to Galle switched platforms.
Before we knew it everyone was running across platforms to get seats on the train. Although we were last we managed to find seats and put away our luggage. The train ride to Galle would take a little over an hour and on the way there the local next to me kept me entertained by telling me stories of himself. He said to me that some Sri Lankan women had to leave their homes to Saudi, Oman and Dubai in order to work as maids because of the lack of jobs in their hometown.
He himself had to leave his hometown to work in Colombo as a travel guide but he was happy to announce that this was his last trip as he was retiring. On the way we saw Sri Lanka for what it is- a typical Asian monsoon affected country. Trees sprouted everywhere and lake followed lake for the whole ride. Many people fished and swam in the water and most people lived in bungalows. I noticed a strange, creepy trend of graves in their backyards were they kept their ancestors.
After reaching Galle we were bombarded with ‘taxi’ drivers who actually drove Tuk Tuks. With no taxis in sight our driver reassured us we could fit ourselves and our luggage in his small Tuk Tuk. Surprisingly he was right and off we were to Unawatuna. Our place was called Lands End Villa which was actually more of a mansion than villa. The owner and his family were very pleasant and welcoming; greeting us and helping us get a Tuk Tuk to a halal Indian restaurant for dinner.
The food was delicious and the restaurant packed but rather than take our time, we ate quickly as our driver decided to wait for us. A pit stop for insect repellent was necessary and soon we were home. A shower eased our sore legs and Game of Thrones soon followed before we slept. More adventures await us tomorrow.