Our ship, the Nautica, arrived and docked very early in Colombo. At 5 AM it was still dark outside when we heard the engines rev to bring us closer to the dock. The first Oceania tour started at 6.15 am. One could leave the ship at 6 am already if one wished, literally at dawn’s first light. This close to the equator, the day has 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night time. The change between night and day is 6 o’clock, more or less. The transition happens fast. Within 20 or 30 minutes night becomes day and vice-versa. This is an ungodly hour for a retired guy like me to be up and about. I slept in. I got up at 8 am. That is more like it for me.
After a good breakfast we finally got off the ship at 9.30 am. OK. Now what do we do? We have not booked an excursion. So we again negotiated with a taxi driver to give us a city tour, 2 hours for $50,-. Some wanted $80! One never knows what one gets for the money. Does the driver speak sufficient English? Is he a good driver? Does he know the town well? Etc.
We lucked out, our young driver turned out to be OK. He had nerves of steel. His driving style was not aggressive yet some situations required me to close my eyes and just pray. The people drive like that over here. Sri Lanka is not India, but it is close. I think traffic rules are just suggestive laws here. Loose dogs, people walking in the roads, hand carts, slow tractors, double parking, mopeds squeezing in and out between cars, buses, narrow streets, no lane markings and drivers on cell phones all
Our first stop this morning is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Colombo. Gangaramaya Temple is a tourist attraction. Large, colorful and busy, it non-the-less, has strict rules. No shoes are to be worn in the holiest sections. Admission will be charged. Donations will be appreciated. It is a mixture of Hindu and Buddha. Officially it is
Note the Starving Buddha
He Fasted Before Achieving Enlightenment
|A Monk in Gangaramaya Temple|
The port itself was impressive. At 8 km long, it was a beehive of activity, packed full of containers, cranes loading and unloading ships, trucks moving to and fro, all orchestrated and organized. It made me wonder what was in those large containers. What could possibly ship
Some scientists believe that man has lived on this island for 500,000 years; some modify this to 125,000 years. For sure is the fact that humans have lived here for a very long time. The history of Sri Lanka is full of rulers, dynasties, conquerors and wars, way too many to list. Even the indigenous people, the few who are left, were not originals from prehistory. An often conquered land, Sri Lanka today is a Social Republic, with very well educated people and well situated in today's more modern societies.
Too bad we only stopped a few hours and could only see the smallest part of this historic island. Given another life time and freedom from monetary responsibilities, I would prefer a longer visit to Sri Lanka and time to study in detail this fascinating Island. The taxi trip we had was just a hint of all there is to see in Colombo and beyond. Maybe the next time I come back here I can dig deeper into Sri Lanka.
It was a good stop, there is still much to learn.