Friday, September 22, 2017

Cruising Colombo in a Tuk-Tuk--9/18-9/22

After returning to Colombo,I stayed at the Bunkyard Hostel for two nights before heading to my last destination:  Jaffna—the northern most big city in Sri Lanka.

My scenic carriage was almost empty.  I enjoyed the views from the big window at the back of this carriage.

Our train is now leaving the Colombo Railway Station.

It was a fairly flat and comfortable ride north for about 8 hours at a cost of 1,100 Rupees—$7 on this first class scenic carriage.

Elephant Pass is the site of three battles between the Sri Lankan military and the insurgent Tamil Tigers.  Military skirmishes were frequent until May 2009, ending a 26 year civil war. Even after that few tourists were allowed up in the northern area.  This war resulted in 100,000 civilian deaths, 50,000 military deaths, and displaced 300,000 people.

The train station was right downtown and just around the corner from the Green Grass Hotel which I stayed at.  It was a good hotel with restaurant and welcomed swimming pool.

I enjoyed the cooling dips in the pool after my touring around Jaffna. I stayed for three nights and enjoyed this refreshing pool, the A/C, TV, hot water and breakfast for a cost of 3,800 Rupees per night—about $24.

Lots of vegetarian dining choices in the heavily populated Hindu area.

This music is from a nearby shop while I am filming Jaffna’s main street.  Businesses are getting reestablished and tourism has begun to increase even though there continues to be some tension among people in this area.

I noticed that there were several cows wandering throughout Jaffna which is another sign that this is a heavily populated Hindu area.  Throughout Sri Lanka just 13% are Hindus, but in Jaffna with over half a million people, 83% are Hindu, primarily Tamil ethnic group.

I could see some of the damage to Fort Jaffna caused by the civil war with chunks of missing walls as well as bullet and artillery holes.

Most of the tourists here are Sri Lankans.  Others walking about on the fort grounds are archeological workers busy restoring the buildings.

Much of the damage to this structure happened during the civil war. 

The local market is across from the fort. This is the fish market area 

Jaffna District has the highest concentration of Hindus so it is not surprising to find this large cluster of Hindu temples. 

This museum had Buddhist and Hindu items in metal, wood and stone. No pictures allowed.

I then left the Jaffna Railway Station for my last train ride back to Colombo.  Again this train was relatively empty. 

I stayed at the Bunkyard Hostel for four nights at just $2000 Rupees—$13 per night including a full breakfast.  It is one of the cleanest and well managed hostels I have ever stayed at.  I found it on Hostelworld and read some of the reviews and was impressed by the comments and rating of 91.  After getting off the Colombo Fort Railway station, I caught a local bus # 138 which stopped close to the hostel.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the place was immaculate and well designed.  

In the morning,I was pleasantly surprised that they served up a full breakfast of fruits, buffalo curd and honey, pancakes stuffed with sweet coconut flakes, and omelet to order.  They also served a Sri Lankan lunch—curries—for just 250 Rupees as well as real coffee and tea all day long.

They had a tuk-tuk tour for $15-20 USD of the major Colombo tourist sites which included a King Coconut beverage stop and a Sri Lanka lunch of Rice and vegetarian Curry.  It was delicious comprised of lotus root and pumpkin curry along with coconut and onion sambol, and and some Kim chee like vegetable mix, accented with crispy pampadam.

I was joined in the tour by a Swedish couple and a Moroccan guy. The tour of Colombo included visits in the Fort Colombo area of the the Lighthouse and beyond it the huge Chinese financed shipping harbor expansion.  

We passed several government buildings, including the President’s House, as well as some famous landmarks like the Oriental Hotel, Cargills—department store—, the Clock Tower, St Peters Church, etc.

We then made our way to the World Trade Center. The Colombo World Trade Center at 500 feet and 43 stories was bombed twice by the Tamil Tigers.  In 1997, that bombing killed 15 people.

Across the street we saw the Dutch Hospital which had been transformed into an upscale shopping and eating mall.

We headed over to the Pettah shopping area that was jammed with storefront merchants, both retail and wholesale.

We stopped for a refreshing King Coconut beverage and then walked to the “floating market” which was really a food court with floating rafts opposite the various restaurants.  We stopped for some refreshments there as well.  I had a fuda concoction consisting of a dollop of vanilla ice cream in a rose water beverage—this time it was missing the red and green jellies I earlier had tasted. 

A Swedish couple and a Moroccan joined me for the Bunkyard Tuk-tuk tour.

In the same area we saw the red and white checkerboarded Jami-Ul-Afar Mosque with several Halal restaurants clustered around it. The candy striped and checked Mosque was built in 1909 by the Indian Muslim community.

There were also several Hindu shrines in this area as well.


We explored the Pettah shopping area including the Federation of Self Employees Market right by the Central Bus Station where I can get the 187 Airporter bus.  Nearby they also have lots of fruit and vegetable stalls as well as a covered market area.

It was then on visit Independence Square—from British rule—where I toured the museum under the Independence Square pavilion.  There they had all of the names of soldiers who had died in the cause of Independence along with the political and war history of Sri Lanka.

Following that we visited the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple which is the most renowned Buddhist Temple in Colombo.  While there they were busy trimming the tree that was wrapped around the large white stupa. Throughout the complex I found thousands of relics and photos celebrating Buddhism.

We ended our tour by having lunch back at the Bunkyard as a part of the tour.

Most Sri Lankan people eat with their hands rather than utinsels as these Hostel workers are doing.

Co-ed Shower room

Hostel Manager/owner in the orange shirt.

Cost of Trip
The 23 day trip throughout Sri Lanka was $1,234 for a daily cost of $54 per day.  Food costs were $388 with a daily cost of $17 per day. Lodging costs were $410 with a daily cost of $18 per day. Travel and tour costs were $456 with $240 for the round trip air fair and much of the rest of the travel cost was for train travel.  The round trip air distance was 4,530 miles from Bangkok.  Train mileage was 1,360 miles and long distance bus mileage was 132 miles.

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