Travels with V
Colombo part two
For some reason we have problems finding places to eat in Colombo. Wherever we go the restaurants are few and not very nice . One evening we’re cruising in Kolupitaya, south of Galle Green, where we’ve heard there are some good eateries. But we find nothing. We ask a taxidriver to help us, and even he has difficulties finding one.
Anyway, after much driving and asking around he finds one. Hidden behind an office front, two stories up is a place called Raja Bojun. The simplistic furniture at first makes us skeptical, but it turns out they have a fantastic curry buffet. Beef, pork, seafood and vegetable curry, one stronger than the other. I eat some of everything except the prawn curry. V tries also that one and of course she gets sick. Avoid prawns in restaurants, I say.
The next day we stroll around the big Virahamadevi park, a green lung in Colombo. And a friendly man approaches us, showing his ID as a park biologist, and offering to guide us. He knows every tree and bush by name, but when we feel we’ve seen enough and want to say goodbye he reaches out a hand for a payment. V tried to warn me as he approached, and I have of course been set up by a typical Sri Lanka scam. Someone shows you some kind of (fake) ID and starts to guide you with no previous agreement. You have to state very clear: No thanks! from the start.
South of the park there is a calm and nice area with lots of foreign embassies and cricket lawns. By one of those, the Columbo Cricket Club, we find a rooftop bar, called Floor by O! All their menu items are named after top hit songs. We are the only guests apart from a group of young men dressed in the sharp fashion, and with very shiny hair.
In the afternoon of our last day in Colombo we pass the train station to buy tickets for an early next morning train. Tickets can only be bought less than 24 hours before departure, we’re told. And in the street outside something is stirring. A group of about fifty men in white clothes are demonstrating with banners and shouting slogans that we don’t understand. The people passing them on the street seem remarkably uninterested.
These men are Muslims protesting against an incident a few days earlier, where a Buddhist mob attacked Muslim’s homes, beating some people to death. This happened in a village south of Colombo, and similar attacks have happened again after our visit.
We often have the view of Buddhism as being a “peaceful” religion. But in Sri Lanka it is closely tied in with the political leadership, and agents of a long ethnic cleansing aimed at the country’s minorities, Tamils, Muslims and Christians. Just a couple of years back the terrible civil war ended when the Lankese army, equipped with Chinese weapons crushed the Tamil guerilla. And tensions are still here, but it’s not something a tourist would see. We avoid going to the north of the island, where the worst of the fighting was.
We leave Colombo for the highlands and bike around to see a gigantic sleeping Buddha. Or is he in Nirvana?