I cannot believe that a few months before I was talking about cancelled trips! I have traveled a lot since then. I went to Gulmarg, then we first went to Jagatsukh, then to Sri Lanka and finally I traveled for work to Guwahati and Shillong. And I never thought I would say it but I feel tired today.
Actually between Sri Lanka and Shillong there was hardly a gap! I arrived on 23 April, late at night, took a colleague out for lunch on 24th along with completing paper work for another visa (let me get it and the details to fall in place and then I will talk about the destination. All I can say now is that I am excited) and left the next day for Guwahati from office itself. Now that was hectic. I landed yesterday night at Delhi and today I was back at work (I save leaves for travel so no off day for me just because I am a little tired).
I have never traveled like this before and I have to say I found it hectic. I am not saying that I would ever give up on a trip because it was hectic. But before this stretch I never thought of travel and hectic in the same sentence.
Also with functional internet connection at both Sri Lanka and North East India I managed to keep blogging which adds to something, I don’t know what. Don’t get me wrong, I love having internet connection while I travel but it means after everything is over I have to find some time to write a post. I know this is self imposed and no one is forcing me to do it but then it probably adds to the fatigue. And I can hardly fall asleep if I have not blogged that day!
The Sea at Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
Also I started missing home food. We are no great cooks and the food is very average at home but after a few weeks of being on the road I was longing for some daal, chawal and ghar ka sabzi. This is also a first for me! Of course I missed my daughter too, a little more than all my previous trips this time!
So while I am looking forward to my trip in mid May (I do hope all the chips fall in place) but from now to 9th I want to recover first. I am going to keep my weekends free and not cram anything else in between. Or so I hope!
I often think of what to wear when I visit a new country. Being from India I would admit I am not very adventurous when it comes to dressing and in many places of the world I will pass off easily as moderately dressed. I did not bother too much before visiting Sri Lanka as I thought they would be quite similar to us and I was right in a way.
Sri Lankan Sari
This is the Sri Lankan saree and a lot of shop assistants on the airport wear it. I requested this lovely woman to pose for me as I wanted to click her lovely dress as well. Now this looks quite similar to our Indian sari Of course women in Sri Lanka wear the sari the way we do as well.
A Women in a Jeans and a Shirt at Matara, Sri Lanka
I clicked this picture at Matara at Sri Lanka but this could have been anywhere in India too. And it that sense I was right that women dress quite similarly to us Indians in Sri Lanka too.
Women in Galle, Sri Lanka
And this was from our walk at the fort ramparts at Galle and once again salwar kurta and sari are very common Indian dresses too.
A Local Couple at Matara, Sri Lanka
But then there are some differences too. I thought a lot more women and women of all age wear skirts in Sri Lanka than I have seen in India. This is not to say that Indian women do not wear skirts but I have not seen too many people in their 50s or later wearing skirts in India barring say in some North East states.
A Woman with a Surf Board at Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
But the biggest difference between India and Sri Lanka was about the women on the beach. A lot of tourists wear bikini on the beach and they were left alone. I don’t think I can say the same for Indian beaches. I have seen women in bikinis in Goa and to some extent in Andaman too but they got a lot of attention, most of it unwanted too.
My nephew and I also noticed that the local people seldom visited the same part of the beach as the tourists. We were quite mystified by this as well. So I asked a young tuktuk driver that how did Sri Lanka (I can vouch for only the beaches I saw and that was Mirissa and Unawatuna beach. Matara had no tourist on the beach, there were only locals and no one, absolutely no, was wearing a bikini) managed to keep its beaches hassle free for women? How come the locals did not come to the same places as tourists even though there were loads of women going around in bikini? He told me that the shack owners severely discouraged locals to come and loiter around or cause trouble for women. They could of course come but they were not welcome to sit idle and harass women. He also said locals around Unawatuna and such places see women in Bikinis since they are babies and hence they get used to it. But otherwise loud behavior is discouraged on the tourist beaches so that they keep coming to Sri Lanka.
This explanation is based on one person account but I can certainly say that I thought women were left alone on the Sri Lankan beaches generally. I did not witness a single unpleasant incident in my entire stay. And I thought that was remarkable!
Even though I am a mountain person I do like to take beach vacations as well. In South Sri Lanka we visited three beaches in all. We stayed at Unawatuna and did Mirissa and Matara as day trips. As I prepare to take the connecting flights back home tomorrow, I will leave with images from each of the beaches we visited.
As we stayed here we spent most of the time around Unawatuna. It is a lovely beach which was terribly affected in the tsunami of 2004. If you go to the restaurants they show pictures of the beach and the nearby areas after tsunami and what a horror they are! Tsunami stories are very common here. I saw pictures where buses were lying upside down. But enough about it. Today it is a beautiful beach again which does roaring business.
Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
Mirissa is about 30 km from Unawatuna and any tuktuk driver would drop you there. It is quieter beach than Unawatuna. It has one big hotel and rest smaller ones. There are plenty of shacks to eat and almost all of them have sunbeds where you can laze around. I tried reading a book but most of the times I failed. I was happier gazing at the sea than anything else. I saw many beginner surfers at Mirissa.
Matara is a local beach about 40 km away from Unawatuna. It is a beautiful place. It has none of the shacks of Unawatuna and Mirissa. In fact it seems to be very popular with local couples We arrived here mid day and it was blazing hot. Given that there were no places to sit we soon gave up on it. In this picture you do not see the couple’s as they are sitting in the shade of the coconut trees most often with an umbrella in the hand as well.
Tomorrow we head back. How I wish we had time to explore a few more beaches in Sri Lanka. After reaching I am almost immediately heading back to Guwahati and Shillong for work. But somewhere I will find time to tell you detailed stories from Sri Lanka.
Even before going to Unawatuna I knew about stick fishing and I was completely floored by those pictures. So I was on a keen lookout for stick fishermen in the region. I got my opportunity today. We were going to Mirissa Beach from Unawatuna and even though it was mid day we saw two fishermen on their sticks. So we asked our auto driver if he would stop? He parked by the road and my nephew and I ran to the spot.
The first question asked by a local fisherman, standing by the beach, was if we would pay money, all in sign language. So yes the activity is a bit commercialized. I was willing to pay and 200 Sri Lanka rupees (100 Indian rupees passed hands). My auto driver was very apologetic and said it was not like that. But as tourists kept coming, they would pay on their own and then the expectation built.
Stick Fishing, Sri Lanka
I was content with a few pictures but my nephew had other ideas. He asked in sign language if he could go and sit on the stick and the fishermen were quite willing, They helped him climb up that stick and soon he was perched there, fishing rod in hand and all!
My Nephew Tries his Hands!
Later he told me that he asked fisherman what if the stick snapped? The fisherman told him he will fall but he would still be fine. In fact the stick next to him in this picture is a broken one. He remained perched there for quite some time! And all of us had a good laugh!
Stick Fishing in Progress, Koggala, Sri Lanka
When he came down we saw he had minor cuts on his feet and everyone around was quite concerned. My nephew told me that the steps leading to the top were slippery. Then the fishermen turned to me and asked if I would like to go?
There I Go!
I never refuse an adventure when it comes my way. Soon with the help of a fisherman I was there, on top of the stick with a fishing rod in my hand. I giggled like a school kid. The fisherman sitting next to me asked me if I was from India. When I said yes and he asked where from (all in broken English and sign language) and I said Delhi. It was a pity that they don’t speak English and I hardly could converse with them. They were happy that I did not pose too many challenges while getting up or getting down. I am also privileged that I got to sit on that stick. Traditionally the territory remains in the family and is passed from father to son.
After Stick Fishing
When I was getting down the fisherman next to me escorted me out and the other person stood near the rocks so that I would not get any cuts like my nephew. Did we catch any fish? Well no, but in that duration neither did the fisherman! This last picture was on demand of the gentleman who escorted me out. And I guess my grin tells it all, it was such fun. If my nephew was not there I don’t think I would have asked to do fishing and what fun I would have missed on!