Just one more thing…

4 Apr

For our own day in Akurala, we decided to hit the beach again for a change. I thought Mirissa was a really nice beach so suggested we went there, thinking it was about half an hour away by bike. It turned out that I’d forgotten that Galle was in between Akurala and Mirissa and the journey was acutally 90km…a pretty intense 90km at that as it was all on the Galle Road. We stopped for a drink and got chatting to a guy called Mahinder, who had spent nine months up North when the Greek merchant ship he was working on was docked there. During this conversation, a beggar came up to ask us for money. There must have been something loose under his sarong as he had the disturbing habit of fiddling with himself during the exchange. Surprising, this technique proved effective at procuring neither our sympathy nor our money.

Another dubious begging method was experienced by me in Kandy. I was bending over looking at some earrings on a table outside a shop and someone stroked my bum. I shot back and whirled around to find an old man, holding out his hand for some small coins. Um, you should be payingmefor that, Mister…

We reached Mirissa in just about one piece and spent a nice afternoon on the beach, chatting to Mum on skype and sunbathing. Craig had to speed up a bit on the way home so that we could get home before sunset (after which point the road turns extra-lethal). I just blocked this out by spending the time debating the merits of living as a vampire or a werewolf for eternity (werewolf, obviously). Yeah I like Twilight, deal with it :)

Upon requesting a small meal, Kumari managed to restrain herself and cooked us just three curries and rice for dinner

Delicious as always.

I woke up in the middle of the night, uncontrollably thirsty for some reason. I searched round our room for something to drink – nothing. Craig had finished the last of the ginger beer. I even considered drinking the arrack but Craig had finished that too! I padded downstairs to see if I could raid the fridge but the door was locked. I spent approximately one hour googling “drink tap water in Sri Lanka”, then “what happens to you if you drink the tap water in Sri Lanka”…then “will I die if I drink Sri Lankan tap water” and finally “I drank the water in Sri Lanka and I survived”. Nothing. Every single website said “never drink the tap water”. Not even one curious person (or really, really thirsty person) had tried it on the whole of the internet.

Eventually I was thirsty enough not to care. The tap water looked clean and didn’t smell like drains, so I took a tiny sip. The world did not stop revolving and my skin did not fall off. I took another…so good. I decided that was probably pushing my luck and went back to bed, dreaming of waterfalls and ice cold ginger beer. But at least now when someone else is in the same position, hopefully when they google tap water in Sri Lanka, they will see that one less-than-sensible person drank a small amount with no problems (yet). Reader, I survived! Internet, I did it for you!

The next morning we went back to Ajit’s to say goodbye to find that Ajit had already left for Colombo. We said goodbye to the family, the puppies, the cat and the two dogs. Kumari said she would keep a puppy back for me so I have a dog in Cambodia and Sri Lanka!

It was then off to Pathum’s for a final Sri Lankan breakfast with his family in the morning

Spicy tuna curry, battered coral fish, really hot sambal, dhal and bread.

We gave them the lime tree we bought the day before, promising to come back and see its progress. Silva really likes lime juice and fried fish so we thought it would be nice to give them something he could actually use.

To our surprise, we were also given presents:

Craig was bought a beautiful green sarong with batik swans on the bottom and I got a bracelet, two necklaces and a pair of earrings made from shell. Lovely :)

But all too soon it was time to get the bus so we plodded off to flag down an A/C bus to Colombo. They’re better than the local buses as there’s more space in them so you can buy your bags an extra seat and they won’t be in the way, and obviously it’s cooler. It also lulls you into a false sense of security because you can’t see as much, which makes you think every time the bus swerves it’s not because the driver’s attempting some crazy overtaking, it’s just because we were going round a corner a little fast. Much easier to enjoy the journey if you can believe that.

We got dropped off at the train station in Colombo and managed to spot Ajit to say goodbye. He sent us off to the YMCA round the corner as it was near to the bus station and it was cheap. Cheapish it was (£5.50 a night for a double room and bathroom…complete with a shower that didn’t work and a bath that would have left you dirtier than when you got in, excellent) but fun it was not. It was very dirty and the corridors stank from the shared bathrooms. Not somewhere I would have considered staying if it hadn’t been handy location-wise.

We dumped the bags and immediately left to take our nostrils for some fresh air. We stopped off in Mcdonald’s for a quick lunch (ah filet-o-fish, I hope you never get less delicious) and then went to find the Lion Pub Craig had spotted on the bus on the way in. We immediately passed another pub, the Texas Inn or something like that, but Craig pointed out that the Lion Pub had a concrete lion you had to walk through when you went in, and lions are cooler. Well, who I am to argue with sparkling logic like that? So off we walked.

And walked.

And walked.

And walked.

My new shiny flipflops instantly began nibbling, and then full on tearing at my feet. In a way it’s good because I now have so little flesh on my feet that I should be able to fit into smaller shoes. I eventually had to take them off to avoid walking like a Geisha so got some pretty strange looks – well to be fair I was getting quite strange looks beforehand as I was hobbling and trying unsuccessfully to hold back the screams of pain and tears.

But we did eventually get there, and the lion was indeed awesome

Ok so this is an actual lion but I forgot to add a picture of the concrete lion on here and it’s too difficult to go and sort this out so you will just have to imagine it. But rest assured, this lion is at least 50% less awesome than the concrete lion.

I asked the waiter where we were on the map and he said we were off it. We worked out we’d walked 10km!

For a lion.

After a couple of much needed beers, Craig went to get some cash. He took ages and it turned out he had got “sidetracked” and ended up in a tattoo parlour, as is his wont. The tattooist was amazing according to Craig so should he get something done? Well why not! And should I get something done too? Of course, that would be the coolest thing ever.

“Where did you get that done?”

“In Sri Lanka.”


“I know. But get this, that tattooist was next to a pub where you had to walk through a LION to get in.”

“OMG!” *dies of jealousy*

So we finished our drinks and went to have a look at the tattooist’s work. There were a million books of designs but not one that I wanted, and besides the tattooist was busy for another two hours. So being the committed, determined and unshakeable people we are, we went to go and get a curry instead.

Where we ended up was like some kind of Sri Lankan’s working men’s club. Bit of an odd atmosphere but the takeaway curry was good. We were warned not to eat the hot sauce because we were English, and when we did, we had a little audience of people hoping to see us erupt in a spicy ball of flames, tongue first. They looked genuinely disappointed when we said it wasn’t too hot.

Dejectedly, we headed back to the YMCA to try and get some sleep before the bus the next morning. A few hours was enough there and we left as soon as we could, hopping on a local bus for £1 before changing to the free shuttle bus to the airport at the bus station. An expensive and rather sad breakfast later, we boarded our flight back to Bangkok. Goodbye Sri Lanka, we will be back!

The flight itself was great, as was the one to Sri Lanka, as it was the same brand new plane with sparklingly clean leather seats, half-full so we could stretch ourselves out over three seats each (we need them after all that food). This was a very good thing as the person who was meant to be sitting next to us before we moved smelled very strongly of sweat and I didn’t fancy smelling that for the next three hours. I wrote the blog and read my book and before we knew it, we were landing, 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

As we stood up to get our stuff, Craig felt a tap on the back. A man was pointing at his phone and saying something too quickly to understand. Craig thought he was trying to sell him something, so he said no thanks and turned round again. Tap, tap, tap! The man pointed at his phone again and Craig took a closer look…on the phone was a video of him changing the tyre that had exploded on our way from Siem Reap to Bangkok!

The man introduced himself as Kim – he is Korean but lives in Siem Reap. He had been on the bus that day on his way to Bangkok and had given Craig some of his water to wash his hands with after changing the tyre. Kim had gone home back to Siem Reap after a few days, but then had returned to fly to Sri Lanka for two days, which was why he was on our plane. He had recognised Craig from the tattoos on his leg.

We walked with him to passport control and he kept saying “I’m so surprised!! I am SO SURPRISED!” He was very sweet and told us all about his Cambodian wife (he’s 43 and she’s younger than me!) and his baby son, but also that he was very grateful to Craig for helping getting the bus going again and that he would never forget it. Craig said that he’d got used to helping, having changed four or so beforehand, but Kim wouldn’t have it and said that he would remember for the rest of his life how he helped and got us on our way again.

We lost track of him at the baggage collection point, but he did give us his card for his guesthouse in Siem Reap which we promised to go to so we could visit him next time we were in Cambodia. We said to ourselves that it was a very strange coincidence he should be on our plane after only being in Sri Lanka for two days, but thought nothing more of it.

Once we got through customs, we found Kim waiting there for us. He was clutching a bit of paper on which he had written all of his contact details (including his name in Korean!) and said we must get in touch. We said of course and I took a picture of him and Craig so I could email it to him.

We turned to go and he said that last time he felt very guilty for not saying thank you, and had planned to take us out to dinner. We said that really wasn’t necessary and that it was nothing really but he was already reaching into his wallet. We were horrified and said that we really didn’t deserve anything, it was just nice to have a thank you and to meet him.

He waved off our objections and pressed a note into my hands. He explained that he felt really bad he didn’t do something nice for us last time, and it was clear that by meeting us a second time, he had been given a second chance. He said that we should have dinner on him and that by accepting his gift, he would sleep very well tonight, safe in the knowledge that karma had been restored. Well, when he put it like that we couldn’t refuse so we said thank you; stunned. Kim grinned and then shouted “Go, go, enjoy your dinner and good luck to you!” We walked away, mouths still open.

I uncurled my hand to find a crisp 1,000 baht note – £20 – enough to pay for five dinners for two, two nights’ accommodation (a room with our very own shower and AIRCON!), five train rides to the airport or six tuktuk rides to the train station. Incredibly generous and it will make a real difference to our time in Bangkok. Just when we thought we were beginning to think we’d seen it all, Asia continues to surprise us…

10 Responses to “Just one more thing…”

  1. hannah 4 April 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Karma in action :)

  2. jenraytion 4 April 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    You make me want to go to Asia so badly!

  3. jenraytion 4 April 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    You make me want to travel to Asia so badly!

  4. Karen Klink 4 April 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    The most amazing, wonderful experience about “adventure” traveling is how friendly and generous the local people are. I have discovered the same thing traveling in Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala. So many of them have less, but will give you whatever they have, will invite you in for dinner with their families, will go out of their way to lend a hand. All the news reports are the murders and muggings and kidnappings, which are few compared to the positive experiences one has with people.

    • toaustraliathelongway 5 April 2012 at 3:00 am #

      Definitely! We have been invited for meals, helped by locals (and other travellers actually!) and given presents – it’s lovely. The scams and thefts etc are a very small proportion of our trip compared to how lovely most people have been.

  5. Vicki 4 April 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Love that story!

  6. Carly Lewis 21 May 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Hi fellow tap water drinker in Sri Lanka. Just wanted to let you know I also drank the tap water in Colombo yesterday and so far have not come to any harm. Good to see there is someone else out there!

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