“The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment. And perhaps even more than that, it's having the ability to recall such moments in their totality, to contemplate them like jewels.”
~ Paul Bowles
The Ocean waves slam against the sea wall just a few feet outside the windows of my hotel. There is a clap of thunder and lightning brightens the sky. For most of the night I have been drinking Arak, a distilled coconut alcohol. I look out my window and In the distance through my blue alcoholic haze, I see nothing but darkness. I’m in Colombo, Sri Lanka, formerly known as Celon.
A couple years ago when I was working in Kuwait I had a 4 day weekend and sure as hell didn’t want to waste my time by staying in Kuwait. The country of Kuwait is the most boring place I have ever lived and it seems that everything is illegal.I hopped on the next thing smoking outta there and that was a Plane to Colombo Sri Lanka. It took about 4 hours to fly from Kuwait City to Columbo.
I passed through the customs check without incident, walked outside was immediately accosted by several taxi drivers claiming to have the "Best taxi in Colombo". I picked a quiet and unassuming looking driver that was standing just outside the swarm of other drivers.
His name was (is) Sunil, turns out I made a good choice, I told him I needed to go to the best 5 star hotel in Colombo. He dropped me off in front of the "Celon Continental Hotel Columbo", I thanked the man, paid him his fee plus a tip, then asked him to wait while I checked in. He agreed so I slipped him a few extra rupees for the wait.
I proceeded to check in, drop off my bag, grabbed my camera then hit the door. Sunil was still waiting and I hopped in to the Taxi. We headed out, I asked Sunil his rate for a 1 hour tour of the city, I cannot remember the exact fee but by western standards it was a ridiculously low fee. It is a practice of mine to hire a local guide whenever I’m in a foreign city/country for the 1st time, so far it has worked out well. As luck would have it Sunil was a Local guide also and had a cousin with a van and, for a fee, we could tour the countryside the next day if I was interested.
We settled on a fee for a guided tour which would include the town of Kandi, the Botanical gardens, an Herb Farm, a tea plantation, and an elephant farm. Sounded cool. Standing outside my hotel the next morning at the appointed time, sipping an excellent cup of Celon tea I was surprised to see Sunil and his cousin arrive on time!
In most 3rd world countries they are habitually late. For instance, if a shop opens at 10 am, they show up around 10:20 or so, drink tea, chat with friends then finally open the doors at say just before 11.
Being from the west I find their casual approach to time a little annoying but it is something you have to deal with if you want to live in Asia. It is the same in Singapore, Philippines, Thailand etc. similar to the "manana" attitude of the Mexicans or "Rez time" in the USA. Anyhoo, we proceeded out of town and up into the mountains toward the town of Kandi. We were driving along for about 15 minutes or so when I spied a Billboard advertising "Tomahawk brand mountain bikes", we pulled over so I could snap a pic.
Along the road were many young ladies all dress in RED selling Cashews, I also saw Local men with birds and forest animals for sale. Once, I saw a guy with several porcupines for sale, I didn’t ask why but I’m assuming they are a food source. We plodded along and stopped at the agreed on places, my favorite being the Botanical Gardens outside Kandi. I was informed by Sunil that the film "Bridge on the river Kwai" was filmed at the gardens and along the local river - kinda cool, it’s one of my favorite old movies.
The Tea plantation was interesting, I did the entire tour, sampled all of the teas, bought 1/2 a kilo of fresh tea, took some pics etc. We had been touring the whole day and it was about a 6 hour drive back to my hotel so we agreed to head back. The entire day of exploration cost me about $30.00 and it included my guide’s fee, lunch, beer, tips, tea etc. a pretty good deal.
When I arrived back at the Celon Continental I partook of the excellent dinner buffet, and took in the Fashion show at the hotel. I grabbed a brewski and ambled across the street to the beach, I sat on some rocks in the darkness, drank my beer and listened to the surf breaking on the rocks.
It had been a great holiday weekend so far the only thing I was dreading was going back to Kuwait.