The World's memorable maiden journey to Sri Lanka
The World recently made its maiden call to Sri Lanka with stops at Galle on the East Coast and the capital city of Colombo. Galle is a small city with wonderful people. We rode around the town in a three wheel taxi cycle, without money, in search of a cash machine and sim card. We kept telling the driver we had no local money and he said he didn’t care…if we did not pay him, someone else would hire him later. He even paid for our sim card because we were able to find that before going to the ATM. After getting cash and paying the driver back plus his fare, we returned to the Ship feeling very good about our first experience of Sri Lanka.
The next day we went to visit an elephant orphanage that is home for about 75 abandoned or injured elephants. Costs are covered by government and private grants and tourist contributions. All the elephants looked very healthy.
Following two days in Galle, we sailed to Colombo. This is a large city with heavy traffic and lots of people. However, we were struck by how clean the city is and again really enjoyed all the people we encountered.
Like the rest of Sri Lanka, Colombo is growing and becoming a popular tourist destination. The significant change that has taken place is that the 30 year civil war ended a couple years ago. While there are still occasional outbreaks of violence, the conflict that had resulted in huge loss of life and enormous costs to all the people has ended. The peace dividend is evidenced by the massive construction and numerous vehicles on streets that had not yet been expanded to accommodate the growth.
The highlight of our visit was the New Moon Parade of elephants. We went a couple hours early to visit the main Buddhist temple in Colombo and found the primary male elephant (the “Big Tusker” according to a Buddhist monk I spoke with) being blessed by a senior monk and outfitted in regal gear. We spent a couple hours at the temple, walking around, talking to people and of course taking pictures. Everyone was over the top friendly and open to our questions and cameras, including local police and special forces soldiers.
All in all, our stops in Sri Lanka were great, but too short. Many of our fellow travelers shared our sentiments. We couldn’t help but compare our visit to India, which by comparison felt dirty and very beaurocratic. Hopefully, the Ship will return to Sri Lanka on its next South Asia Journey.