Travels with V
Colombo part two
We have some problems finding places to eat in Colombo. The restaurants are few and not very nice wherever we go. One evening we’re cruising Kolupitaya, south of Galle Green, where there are supposed to be some good eateries. But we find nothing. We ask a taxidriver to help us, but even he has problems finding one.
After much driving he finds one. Hidden behind an office front, two stories up is a place called Raja Bojun. The simplistic furniture 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, showing us his ID for a park biologist, 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 for a payment. V tried to warn me as he approached, and I have of course been set up by a typical scam in Sri Lanka. People show you some kind of fake ID and start to guide you with no agreement. You have to say a very clear No! 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 clubhouse with 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 we pass the train station to buy tickets for an early morning train. Tickets can only be bought less than 24 hours before departure, we’re told. But in the street outside something is stirring. A group of about fifty men in white clothes in a demonstration with banners and shouting slogans that we can’t comprehend. The people passing 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 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?