SIXTEENTH MOVEMENT: SRI LANKA
Seeduwa, Sri Lanka
After nearly missing my flight in to India thanks to Kathmandu’s crowded airport with multiple long security lines, I was resolve to get to the airport in Goa very early; so I woke up at 09:00, showered, got ready, packed my bags, checked out, and waited for the auto rickshaw (which I had arranged two days ago) to come pick me up; the auto rickshaw arrived at 09:55 and we were off to the airport; we reached the airport in about a half hour, I entered inside, and I was pleased to see a modern, clean terminal with very few people; it was now 10:40 and I had to wait until after noon to check in for my flight that was scheduled to depart at 14:35 – plenty of time. I read some and snacked on junk food (working on burning up the last of my Indian rupees) before checking in and entering the gate waiting area, where I pulled out the laptop and typed some journal entries. When the airline was ready, I then boarded the plane and after a short delay (it was a Jet Airways flight and it is India, so delays can be expected) we took off for Mumbai. During the flight we were given a snack and I had water with a non-vegetable wrap (not sure what was in it, but it was tasty). The plane then began its descent and as we approached Mumbai’s airport, I could see many clusters of slums throughout the city, with blue as a dominant color, blue from the tarps used as walls or roofs for the slum dwellings. We then touched down and all passengers bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka (like me) waited just outside of the plane for a bus to take us to the international terminal; the bus came, we loaded on, and (surprisingly) we exited the airport, entered on to the public highway, and then were taken to the entrance of the newly constructed international terminal (did they not plan for a way to connect the domestic and international terminals during construction?); at the entrance I had to go through security again (ugh!), staffed with slow government employees (double-ugh!), before finally passing through Immigration (thank God) – I’m not sure which is worse: airport security in India or airport security in the United States; they both suck terrible, warted asshole. Oh well. I then waited around near the departure gate of my flight to Colombo (which, of course, was delayed) where I had a spicy paneer calzone, a peach lemonade, a super-enriched chocolate brownie, and a salty caramel latte (at least this new terminal is very nice and clean). Finally, we got the call; I boarded the plane and we soon took off to Sri Lanka (the country previously known as “Ceylon”). During the flight, I had two Tiger beers, a bag of fried bhat, a vegetable dish with rice, chocolate mousse, and a water. We then began our descent and landed at the airport north of Colombo (about thirty kilometers), which was decked out in Christmas cheer with Christmas trees, lights, and even a local man dressed up as Santa Claus – surprising for a country where Christians make up 7.4% of the population, but I suppose no one wants to be left out of the holiday season party. Processing in to the country was quick and painless; I completed my eVisa online about a week ago and I had no problem going right through Immigration; I then collected my bags and walked right through Customs before exiting the secured area; I then grabbed some local currency at an ATM, talked to the tourist office to find out how to get to Dambulla tomorrow, and then I walked to the hotel I had booked beforehand, which was about three kilometers away in Seeduwa (I would have taken a tuk-tuk or taxi, but the prices were outrageous, especially having just come from India – Sri Lanka fancies itself as a resort island and has set the prices to match – unfortunately – in all departments. I reached the hotel, all sweaty, and checked in; the place was kind of dumpy and dirty (they also rent rooms for three hours at a time . . . I’ll let your imagination fill in the blank); so I was sure to use my sleeping bag. I then checked some things on the internet before going to sleep.