I arrived at 0225 on the 8th and headed to my guesthouse, the Tropical Inn in Mount Lavinia. It was a bit further out of town than I expected but the Bach is one black away.

Travelling though the dark with my diver Siri, it was very reminiscent of Kenya: roads, lots of dogs, the sides of the roads covered in billboards advertising everything from Goodyear tyres to headache tablets. The dogs seem to take it quite easy, lying in the road and around petrol stations.
When I made it to the guesthouse, I crashed after the hour transfer. I woke to a very humble breakfast of omelet / fried egg (not quite sure which) at 10.30 and tried to get hold of some of the architects that I’d contacted from the UK to arrange meetings.
Heading up the Gaulle Road, the smells are quite intoxicating. You can be walking along and the most pungent spices and sweets can be floating around, then a second later, a stench of something that might have died a few days ago comes and hits you in the face. And then it will be gone again.
I went in to Colombo and found an interesting little watering hole called Sun Hill ( like The Bill!), which was basically a building site with a dining room upstairs with the most brilliant turquoise tablecloths, matching napkins. The chap that served me, Ranga, managed to find me a seat in his barren hotel on a balcony that was about a foot wide. So I squeezed on there and he bought out a chair and a stool. He seemed very keen on me having an Rp300 plate of cashew nuts covered in chilly. Goes well with a Lion beer, I must say.
Sun Hill is on the on the beach – well, the only thing that separates it from the beach is the railway line. Every now and then, when you’re enjoying the sunset with a cold beer, you feel a rumble and then a whistle as one of the many over-packed trains passes by. When I say over-packed, I mean bursting at the seams. If you think the London tube is bad, this is nothing. So I hopped on it to go back to the Tropical Inn…
I was holding on for dear life, hanging on the outside of the train, I had two people in front of me. While one of my hands was holding onto the external door bar, I managed to work my other hand onto the inside rail. Once I’d managed to find a better perch, I found out that a chap’s big belly was on top of my hand and his belt buckle was digging in to my hand. I was almost at the point of letting go, which, if not death, would have meant at least a few very badly broken bones and an early visit to the Royal Sri Lankan Hospital.
Fortunately, I made it and got myself a meal on the beach. I was able to relax, sit back, and watch some fireworks. I had to have another Lion to steady my nerves after the near death experience, though!
The following morning was taken up with contacting the architects I’d not been able to reach the day before. I managed to set up two meetings for the next day. The first is with this quite fierce sounding chap called Ranjan; and the second with a lovely sounding lady called Ruchi in the afternoon. The mission will be trying to find Ranjan’s office for an 8.15 meeting in Colombo 13. I hope the taxi will be able to find it! One thing I have noticed is if you show a Sri Lankan a map, it takes them more than a few minutes to get their bearings. Not great for the chauffeur tradesmen!
The rest of my day I visited the aptly-named tourist information office. This is quite uninformative considering its title: Providing me with the most un-detailed maps with information on places like nail and hair salons, rather than temples and pubs. As I was leaving, I bumped in to a chap called Chafer (or ‘Chauffeur’ as I called him). As I was heading back to the tropic inn, he suggested I take a tour of the temple and the oldest Buddhist museum in Sri Lanka (435 years old I think he said!).  Well, we went round the temple and he gave me all the info. We watered a big tree seven times and we said some prayers; I had a monk put a blessed wrist band on me which world protect me on my travels (‘very useful,’ I thought for Rp100); Then, of course, Chafer wanted $10 for his troubles. This was fine, but after we went for lunch I kind of despaired, when he said he had to go back to his wife and 3 children…
I visited the old district commissioner’s place on the point of Mount Lavinia, which he bought for his mistress. It’s now an ex-colonial, plush hotel. I then went for drinks with my friend’s father, who is an engineer. I’m going to stay with him on Sunday. It could be all falling into place! It does, however, depend on the meetings I have lined up and the architectural exhibition on the 17th. There, I’ll dishing out the business cards like confetti!
I had an amazing supper on the beach and as I left I saw a rat sauntering out of the kitchen… I guess that’s the way it is.
The next day I had a great meeting with the head of the architectural association by accident. He was one of the people I had emailed, but he loved the work and the idea and is giving me a map and details of the projects he has worked on. Ranjan wasn’t quite the aggressive person I thought – just a bad phone manner. He turned out to be a bit of a photographer himself. He has quite a lot of schools, boys homes and housing, all in the tsunami area for me to photograph. There might be some access issues though.
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