Voyage of Traveler / Blog

February 28, 2009

Traveler’s Postcard From Sri Lanka

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Indian Ocean — mrlawlerjr @ 5:31 pm

View Barbara’s Photo Album of this area on

Hi, Everyone,
Part of the reason I wanted to go to this country is its name.  SRI LANKA!  It sounds so exotic to say, so other-side-of-the-worldish. And it is.  Here are some highlights.
For two of our five days here we toured the island from Galle to Kandy with a professional driver, which turned out to be a great idea because the driving here is so dangerous.  We saw many sights, including:
1. The Elephant Orphanage. In the interior highlands, in the rain forest during the dry season, we stopped at a village that has about 60 elephants, including a dozen babies, and arrived during their daily afternoon bath in the river.  Quite a sight.  We got up close enough to touch one, a pregnant female who seemed friendly.  Another one lost the foot off his right foreleg from a land mine–an unintended, but nevertheless real life, casualty of the decades-long civil war by the Tamil Tiger Rebels. He hobbled around on three legs fairly well, using his trunk at times as a crutch. Also here we saw a snake charmer play a flute for a king cobra. I have a picture of Brian holding the basket with that coiled cobra standing up at full attention, while Brian has another snake, a python, around his neck.  We also saw lots of bats sleeping in a tree and a large monitor lizard.
2.  The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.  This is the largest and most holy temple in all of Sri Lanka, and one of the largest and most sacred Buddhist temples in the world. They have two of Buddha’s actual teeth here in a temple within the temple.  There is a constant stream of devout Buddhists making their pilgrimage to pay their respects, and put a little something in the offering box “for good luck.”  It is like the Sri Lankan’s Vatican. At first we were not going to be allowed in because Brian and I were wearing short pants and Barbara had on a short dress, but we covered up well with sarongs, which we happened to have with us.

On another day, we self-toured the historic walled old town in the Fort of Galle. It was first established by the Portuguese in 1502, then invaded by the Dutch in a bloody battle in 1655, and later ruled by the British, up until 1947.  There are maybe three or four thousand people jammed into about ten acres, living in two or three-story homes that are one or two, and maybe even three hundred years old, on narrow lots, with jewelry shops, cafes and bed and breakfast inns sprinkled around.

For souvenirs, for about $30 I bought a matched set of four Dutch coins dating back to 1720.  I also got a nice blue topaz bracelet for Barbara.  Barbara bought Brian a Sri Lanka Cricket Team jersey and a Sri Lanka souvenir t-shirt with elephants for me.

The six hour drive from Galle to Kandy, and then back the next day, was exhausting because the driving here is so crazy.  Imagine thousands of tuk tuks (a three wheeled motor scooter with a max speed of maybe 25–but it takes a full minute to go from zero to 25) weaving in and out of traffic. The “traffic” is everything from an ox pulling a cart to over-crowded and speeding buses, with children playing and adults walking in or very near the edge of most streets, and stray dogs and bicycles darting around too. The roads in the larger villages are so crowded it takes great effort, and lots of luck, to go just 10 MPH.  And the roads between villages are so narrow that in many places two cars could not fit side by side on the pavement, what there was of it.  Yet somehow you have all this chaos of traffic passing one another and honking their horns, narrowly missing each other.  At home in the US if you had one of these near death driving experiences you would have to stop, collect your thoughts and calm your nerves before moving on.  Here in Sri Lanka you have a very close call–like just missing a head on collision by inches–every half mile or so. It is quite common for speeding busses to drive down the middle of the road, passing tuk tuks on its side of the road and forcing opposing traffic off the road all together, with one hand on the horn.  Oh, and the busses do not stop to let passengers on and off, they only slow down some.  I do not know how the elderly manage to board and exit these busses here.  Needless to say, we saw countless wrecked and abandoned vehicles along the roads plus, sadly, two dogs and a cow–recent road kill, on the edge of the street.

The Customs and Immigration officers all have their hands out, demanding bribes.  On check in, the Customs officer required us to put all of our liquor out on the dining table so he could “inspect it,” then helped himself to a bottle of Chivas Regal and a bottle of Malibu Rum.  The Immigration officers were slightly less bold, but still insisted on a “compliment”, asking for cigarettes.  We bought a couple of cartons of Marlboros at the duty free shop in Langkawi, Malaysia just for this purpose.  We gave the two Immigration officers a couple of packs, and then they asked for a couple of beers, which we also gave them, just so we could get our passports back and get them off our boat. From what we hear from other yachties, there is a lot more of this to come, all throughout the Red Sea countries, especially with the mandatory pilots in the Suez Canal. We call this “light pirating” from guys in uniforms.  It is just part of life here in this part of the world.

We are now (Feb 28 at 1330) on passage to our next country, and are about a hundred miles south of India with 300 miles to go to Uligamu, Maldives at 07 05 N, 072 56 E.

Hook up! We just reeled in a marlin, I’m guessing about 50 lbs, got some photos, then released it.

Livin’ the Dream,
Michael and Barbara
and Brian and Brandon, too


  1. Glad you guys made a good passage. Sri Lanka is on our list. It sounds as if you’re having a great time. I head for NZL the 17th and we’ll be in Fiji by the middle of April. Send us an email with any suggestions you might have for those islands please.

    All the best,
    Bill & Janet

    Comment by Bill & Janet Wickman — March 1, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  2. Hey Michael and Barbara:


    I sent you an e-mail today to your e-mail address, the WDD8427 address. Please review ASAP for further info. We’re hoping for a reply soon. E-mail me at work or at home ( or home at I checked the blog today and see you’re headed for the Med. sometime soon. Read our e-mail, if permissible we’d like to see if we could join you sometime if YOU would like…let us know. Denise and Bruce.

    Comment by Bruce and Denise Stelzer — May 4, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

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