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Narek Aleksanyan

Wanderings in Sri Lanka (part 1)

Sometime in October Narek was like, “Let’s go to Sri Lanka this winter. I saw my friend Nastya on Amiryan the other day and asked her about her hostel. Reminded her that she had told me that if I ever find myself around, I can crash for free and that she’ll share all the insider scoop on the country.” 

So I, tired from all sorts of Europes, said, “Sure.” 

We patiently waited for winter to come to full reign and the morning the first proper snow graced Yerevan streets, we were already on our way to the airport.

After devouring two Krispy Kremes that I had dearly missed and people watching in the misty smoking room at the airport of Sharjah (UAE), we had four more hours on the plane.

Sri-Lanka greeted us with heavy tropical air. And in 10 minutes we were in Ajan’s driver’s car on our way to our hostel.

When we woke up the next day, it was already afternoon so we decided to just wander around in Negombo, as any self-respecting tourist would do. You know, “to get the vibe of the place” or whatnot.

Following the sense of imaginary responsibility of an amateur documentalist, we entered a random yard.

At first we rejoiced every time we saw a tuk-tuk, but then got used to it and quit tuk-tuk sanctification.

At this point we were quite hungry and ate some burger-like entities. Local street food follows a strict schedule of 6-8 am and 12-2 pm, windows we had missed and were gonna miss over and over again throughout the whole trip.

Gentlewomen of the jury, let us not forget the truest reason why we’re here and head to the beach.

The sea! Yay!

The snacks demanded beer and we headed toward the seaside bar Ajan had recommended, Rodeo.

We exchanged a few unremarkable remarks with the Brits watching soccer at the table next to us – Lancaster this, New Castle that – and then walked back toward our hostel.

How We Accidentally Celebrated Sri Lanka’s Independence Day

One of the hostel guests told us that the following day was Sri Lanka’s Independence Day. They were gonna have a big military parade at nine in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s biggest city an hour away from us. 

The alarms were set but snooze buttons exist, so we woke up only at 10. In any case, we decided to go check it out.

Right next to Colombo’s Central Bus there was a huge noisy market. “A real Asian market,” we thought to ourselves proudly. Forgive us, Edward Said.

As in life, so in bargaining, you have to pretend that you’re not too attached to end results. “Either two hundred rupees or we’re taking the bus,” we announced to the tuk-tuk driver and he obliged. And, oh joy, we are again braving the urban landscape so familiar to our city-rat selves to get to the city’s central park Viharamahadevi.

After the “parade” we decided to get something to eat in the nearby restaurant and then just walk around Colombo. We got The Most Traditional Sri Lankan Meal: rice, different sauces, including coconut sambol, a few weird leaves, potato in curry, and guava juice. Narek immediately theorized that they’re testing out the degree of edibleness of various leaves from random street trees on naive tourists.  And we cussed out the guave juice, too. You know, cultural-gastronomical differences.

We were pretty tired from walking Colombo streets the whole day, so took a tuk-tuk to take us to the seaside. 

The tuk-tuk driver offered to take us there for free if we agree to participate in the scam of the century. He took us to some jewelry shop where we feigned acute interest in blue sapphires for five minutes. In exchange, the driver got two litres of petrol. And if we had bought something, he would get 50% of the profit. But of course, we’re not some petty bourgeoisie.

Then we decided to return to Viharamahadevi park to see what else they have going on. (Spoiler alert: Not much).

Active construction in Colombo.

Return to Viharamahadevi.

In the next part, we will visit other cities, fight a couple of crocodiles, take part in a Buddhist holiday, and watch the dawn at a bus station. Okay, one of these is not true, guess which one. Follow us, reader, and you shall witness bountiful wonders of the East!

Text by Nare Navasardyan

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