Sri Lanka – Ziua 2 – Galle si Hikkaduwa

RO: Pfoai, dar zici ca suntem incepatori in ale schimbatului de fus orar. La prima ora in dimineata suntem toti prezenti la datoria micului dejun, pregatit in casa de gazda noastra. Un pic de roti, un pic de papaya si niste omleta picanta de-ti ia gura foc, iar pentru ca avem fete de albi, de europeni (aka rusi), se face un efort suplimentar sa se aduca niste paine. Normalaย si prajita. Si niste lapte la cutie. Expirat si lasat la soare vreo doua zile, dar care-i baiul? ๐Ÿ˜€ Bataia e pe roti, cum era de asteptat. “More roti?” Banganim si noi din cap, stanga-dreapta.ย More, more. Si niste mango piperat si sarat. Multumim pentru masa bogata si dam sa plecam, nu de alta dar avem comanda de tuk tuk-uri la intrare. Ne “imbarcam” tacticos pe banchetele din spate, salutam gazda si fix cand e demarajul mai in putere, auzim din spate, urland din tot rarunchii: “Spasiboooo ma friend!“. Pentru a mia oara,ย ma friend, we are NOT Russians.

EN: Geez, looks like we’re kind of newbies when it comes to changing timezones. First hour in the morning and we’re all present at breakfast-duty, prepared by our host. A bit of roti, a bit o papaya and some extremely spicy omlette, and because we have white faces, European faces (aka Russians), our host goes the extra mile and brings us some bread. Normal and toast. And some packed milk. Expired and left in the sun for a couple of days, but what’s the problem? ๐Ÿ˜€ We fight on roti, as expected. “More roti?” We all shake our heads, from left to right. More, more. And some peppery and salty mango. We are thankful for our meal and we’re ready to go, as our tuk tuks already wait for us at the entrance. We are “boarding” on the back bench, we say goodbye to our host and right when the speed up is more powerful, we hear a voice from the back, screaming to the guts: “Spasiboooo ma friend!“. For the umpteenth time,ย ma friend, we are NOT Russians.
sri-lanka_breakfast_footprints-villa_thalpeRO: Unde oprim intai si-ntai? Pai hai in Galle, sa vedem si fortul, si farul, si stradutele din centru. Nu de alta, dar din tot sudul cel faimos, Galle cica ar fi cel mai frumos si mai interesant oras. Fara sa fim carcotasi, daaaar… cum sa fie altfel, cand este un fost oras colonial? ๐Ÿ˜€ Cand simti urmele europenilor la orice pas, cladiri si biserici olandeze si mai presus de toate, splendoarea de Fort, patrimoniu Unesco, construit initial de portughezi, apoi cucerit de olandezi pe la 1600. Pesemne ca n-a stat olandezu’ degeaba in cei 150 de ani cat a fost prin zona. Si ce e interesant si impresionant la Galle e chiar mixul acesta oarecum ciudat de arhitectura europeana cu atmosfera asiatica. Ai strazi pavate si inguste, cladiri europene, Beetle-uri cochete, magazine, flori, cafenele, hoteluri chic, dar in acelasi timp ai o multime de tuk tuk-uri galagioase, claxoane, miros de condimente, femei imbracate in sari-uri traditionale, colorate si aurite, copii jucand cu patos cricket,ย imblanzitori de serpi care ademenesc cobre veninoase.

EN: So where do we stop first? Let’s go to Galle, to see the fort and the lighthouse and the streets from the center of the town. As it seems that Galle is the most beautiful and interesting town from all the famous southern coast. Not trying to be hypercritical, buuuut… how could it be different, when this is a former colonial town? ๐Ÿ˜€ When you can feel the footprints of the Europeans everywhere you look, Dutch buildings and churches and above all, the magnificent Fort, Unesco World Heritage, initially built by the Portuguese and then conquered by the Dutch around 1600. Looks like the Dutch people did not lose time in all those 150 years that they spent in this area. And what is even more interesting and impressive about Galle is this kind of strange mix of European culture with Asian atmosphere. You have narrow cobblestone streets, European buildings, stylish Beetles, shops, flowers, coffee shops, chic hotels, but at the same time you have tons of noisy tuk tuks, honks, smell of spices, women dressed in traditional sarees, colorful and gilded, children playing cricket, charmers alluring poisonous cobras.

RO: Buuuun, coboram din tuk-tuk si incercam sa scapam de Gigel care insista de zor sa vina sa ne ia, sa ne duca si la Hikkaduwa, sa ne lase si la cina si-apoi sa ne duca si acasa. Cheap price, sir, cheap price. Dam sa plecam, dar nu-i chip. Nu scapam de negociatorii-sefi, asa ca intram si noi in joc. Cheap price, zici? Fie! Maine, patru tuk-tuk-uri in fata vilei, vrem sa vedem Mirissa si imprejurimile, temple, elefanti, broaste, de toate! 3000 rupii de tuk tuk, dus intors, asta e cheap price! Batem palma imediat, pesemne ca n-am facut cel mai bun deal de n-a mai fost loc de negocieri. Regula de aur cand vine vorba de tuk tuk-uri: de zece ori pretul pentru albi. Ca doar de, rusii au bani ๐Ÿ™‚

EN: Oooook, we’re getting offย the tuk tuk and we’re trying to get rid of Gigel (Romanian appellationย for a taxi driver) who insists to pick us up and take us to Hikkaduwa as well and in the end drop us off to dinner and even take us home. Cheap price, sir, cheap price. We’re trying to proceed, but there’s no chance of it. We can’t get rid of the master-negotiators, so we’re playing by their rules. Cheap price you say? Ok, be it! Tomorrow, four tuk tuks in front of our villa, we want to see Mirissa and its surroundings, temples, elephants, turtles and everything! 3000 rupees per tuk tuk, return, that’s a bargain! Probably not the best deal for us, as there were no other negotiations. Rule number 1 when it comes to tuk tuks: ten times the price for white people. As Russians have money ๐Ÿ™‚
RO: Daca tot am spus de cricket, ei bine da, si singalezii sunt nebuni dupa cricket, la fel ca si indienii. Atata doar ca sportul national al celor din Sri Lanka este… voleiul, haha! Intre noi fie vorba, nu am vazut pe nimeni jucand volei, in schimb cricketul sta la loc de cinste, cu ai luiย The Lions, cum se numeste echipa nationala. Au ce au singalezii cu leul, asta desi cel mai faimos si tipic animal din Sri Lanka este elefantul asiatic. Dar, cica in trecut chiar ar fi existat o specie de leu in Sri Lanka, acum disparuta complet. Si nu e foarte clar de unde vine toata obsesia asta cu leii, dar par sa existe ceva conexiuni cu mitologia. Cumva-cumva, leul apare peste tot, ba ca parte din dragoni, ba pe steag, ba pe emblema nationala, ba purtand numele rocii de la Sigiriya sau numele echipei nationale de cricket.

EN: Andย if we’ve mentioned cricket, oh well, yes, Sinhalese people are crazy about it, as well as Indians do. Just that the national sport in Sri Lanka is… volleyball, haha! Between you and me, we’ve never seen anyone playing volleyball, but cricket really has a special place, with its national team, The Lions. Sinhalese people are quite obsessed with the lion, even though the most famous and the typical animal in Sri Lanka is the Asian elephant. But they say that in the past there really was a species of lion in Sri Lanka, now completely extinct. It’s not very clear where does this lion obsession come from, but there seem to be some connections with the mythology. Somehow the lion is everywhere, part of the dragons, part of the flag or the coat of arms, wearing the name of the Sigiriya rock or even the one of the national cricket team.
RO: Dar sa ne intoarcem la al nostru fort, care se pare ca a fost atat de bine construit de europeni, ca a protejat oarecum orasul la tsunamiul din 2004. Zidurile inalte de piatra au tinut valurile uriase departe, iar orasul nu a fost atat de mult afectat precum vecinele Unawatuna, Matara sau coasta estica. Cert e ca Fortul, cu arhitectura lui coloniala si urmele exploratorilor europeni, este cireasa de pe tort din Galle. El si farul cel alb din pozele de pe cartile postale, incadrat de palmieri, ape albastre si celebra moschee alba. Atata doar ca in realitate si fortul, si farul, si moscheea sunt ceva mai darapanate, mai murdare si mai putin impresionante. Da hei sir, asta se cheama marketing bun ๐Ÿ˜€ Si dupa doua trei discutii in contradictoriu de โ€œasta-i farul, altu-i farulโ€, am conchis ca da, suntem bine.

EN: But let’s get back to our fort, as it seems that this has been so well constructed that it somehow protected the city of the tsunami from 2004. The high stone walls kept the huge waves apart, and the city was not so much affected compared to the neighboringย Unawatuna. Matara or the Eastern coast. One thing is for sure, the Fort, with its colonial architecture and the marks of the European explorers, is the cream of the crop in Galle. The fort and the lighthouse that we can see in all the postcard pics, framed by palm trees, blue waters and the famous white mosque. Just that in reality, the fort and the lighthouse and also the mosque are a bit more dilapidated, more dirty and less impressive. But hey sir, that’s what we call a good marketing ๐Ÿ˜€ And after a couple of contradictory discussions of “that’s the lighthouse, no, it’s not”, we finally concluded that we are in the right place.ย 
RO: O ultima tura de fort, printre imblanzitori de serpi, sedinte foto de nunta si jucatori de cricket, si-apoi o luam spre centrul cel animat. O explozie de culoare, cafenele atragatoare, mirosuri de mirodenii, tuk tuk-uri turbate, copii alergand spre scoala in uniforme de-un alb imaculat, vanzatori ambulanti, nuci de cocos, matasuri si sariuri cat vezi cu ochii. Si peste toate acestea, o caldura si o umezeala de te apuca pandaliile. Oprim la hotel Galle Fort pentru o scurta โ€œalimentareโ€ cu bere Lion si nectaruri de wood apple. Mda, wood apple-ul asta e un fruct tipic Sri Lankai, cu o culoare odioasa, miros suspect si aspect scarbos ๐Ÿ˜€ Mai rau ca durianul! Insa contrar aparentelor, e chiar gustos ๐Ÿ˜€ Se gaseste pe toate drumurile, mai ales la standurile cu nuci de cocos si fructe, dar ce sa-i faci, urmam sfatul lui Andrew Zimmern, โ€œif it looks good, eat itโ€ siโ€ฆ wood apple n-arata deloc, dar deloooooc bine ๐Ÿ˜€

EN: A last tour ofย the fort, among charmers, wedding photo sessions and cricket players and we’re heading to the vibrant city center. A colorful explosion, appealing coffee shops, smells of spices, mad tuk tuks, children running in their immaculate white uniforms, barrow-men, coconuts, silk and sarees all around. And above all, a tremendousย heat and humidity. We stop at Galle Fort Hotel for a short “refueling” with some Lion beer and wood apple nectar. Well yes, this wood apple is a typical fruit in Sri Lanka, with a hideous color, odd smell andย a disgusting appearance. Worse than durian! But against all odds, it’s really tasty ๐Ÿ˜€ You can find it everywhere, especially at the shacks selling coconuts and fruits, but what can we do… we follow Andrew Zimmern’s advice, “if it looks good, eat it” and… wood apple doesn’t look good at aaaaaall ๐Ÿ˜€ย 
RO: Upsi dupsi, deja e 12 si in 20 de minute trebuie sa ajungem la gara, c-avem tren spre Hikkaduwa. Cu viteza luminii stinse iesim din fort si-o luam spre gara. Nu de alta, dar vrem sa incercam calatoria cu trenul la clasa a treia pana in Hikkaduwa. Intre noi fie vorba, ne sta gandul fix la pozele acelea din ghidurile turistice, cu trenurile albastre, ticsite de oameni, trecand peste arcul de piatra din apropiere de Ella, in centrul tarii. N-avem asa drum fabulos in sud, dar macar vedem cum sta treaba cu trenurile. 40 de rupii biletul la clasa a treia, un chilipir. Dar nici n-apucam sa decidem cu totii ce tren sa luam si de cate bilete avem nevoie, ca ne si inconjoara soferii de tuk tuk-uri din toate partile, cat sa nu ma avem scapare. Aceleasi cheap price sir se aude din toate directiile, ca la un sistem surround. Fara suparare, dar o ora de mers cu tuk tuk-ul pana la plaja nu suna prea tentant No tuk tuk, sir? We have mini van! Bun, asa mai vii de acasa. In cinci minute chipurile ne vine mini van-ul fix in fata garii. Ca cele cinci minute au devenit putin peste 30 minute, nu mai conteaza, timpul singalez e diferit, curge mai greu. Ajungem in Hikkaduwa fara zgomot de motor ambalat si fara pletele-n vant, gata pentru o prajeala la soarele ascuns in nori de doua zile. Ramanem totusi cu gandul la calatoria cu trenul, si poate-poate reusim sa-l prindem la intors.

EN: Oopsi doopsi, it’s already 20 past 12 and we have to get to the train station, as we need to catch the train to Hikkaduwa. With the speed of (turned off) light we’re getting out of the fort and we’re heading to the station. We want to try the train trip to Hikkaduwa in third class. Between you and me, we’re thinking about those touristy pictures from the guides, with the blue trains, packed to capacity by people, passing over the stone arch close to Ella, in the center of the country. We do not have such a fabulous scenery in the south but we’re still getting an idea about the train rides. 40 rupees third class ticket, what a bargain. But we’re not yet decided what train to choose and how many tickets do we need, and the tuk tuk drivers surround us from all the parts. No offense, but a one hour tuk tuk ride until we get to the beach doesn’t sound that tempting. No tuk tuk, sir? We have mini van! Ok, that’s more like it. In five minutes, they say, a mini van will come right in front of the train station. Those five minutes have become half an hour, but that’s not an issue, we know that Sinhalese time is different, it goes slower. We’re getting to Hikkaduwa without engine noise and hair in the wind, ready for some sunbathing in the sun hidden in the clouds for two days. We’re still thinking about the train trip, but maybe we’ll get the train on return.ย 
RO: Plaja de la Hikkaduwa e infinit mai frumoasa ca cea din Unawatuna. Asta bineinteles daca o prinzi dimineata sau seara, cand nu e inundata de apele fluxului. Cum am gasit-o noi ๐Ÿ˜€ Dar nu e bai, privelistea-i frumoasa, oamenii primitori iar vanzatorii ambulanti care incearca sa ne dea cearceafuri si nadragi traditionali sunt amuzanti de nu se poate. Mai-mai sa se ia la bataie vanzatorul de porumb fiert si tanti cu nadragii. Pai ce-i aici, bar de negri? Ai pus mana pe grupul de turisti entuziasti, nu-i lasi pana nu-ti cumpara toata traista de cearceafuri ๐Ÿ˜€

EN: Hikkaduwa beach is way better than the one from Unawatuna. That’s only if you get there in the morning or in the evening, when it is not flooded by the high tide. As we found it ๐Ÿ˜€ But that’s not a problem as the view is beautiful, the people are welcoming and the hawkers that are constantly trying to sell us bed sheets and traditional trousers are so damn funny. A fight was almost started between the corn seller and the lady with the trousers. Well what do you know, you managed to find a group of tourists, you’re not leaving until they buy the whole sack of bed sheets ๐Ÿ˜€
RO: Si daca tot ne place asa de mult pe Hikkaduwa, ramanem si la cina pe plaja. Unde mai pui c-avem ca bonus si-un apus de toata frumusetea. Si supa tom yum, chiar daca n-o fi ea traditionala. Dar e picanta de-ti ia gura foc, deci e-n tiparul singalez. Si rice and curry, ca-i nelipsit, si calamari si ton si paine roti. Festin. Festin cu fericire.

EN: And if we enjoy Hikkaduwa so much, we decide to stay here for dinner on the beach. We get a gorgeous sunset as bonus. And the tom yum soup, even though it’s not quite traditional. But it’s extremely spicy, so we’re still in the Sinhalese pattern. And rice and curry, which never misses from our table, and calamari and tuna and roti bread. A feast. A happy feast.ย 
RO: Prea multa bere Lion ne face sa pierdem notiunea timpului, pana ne-anunta cei de la restaurant ca intr-un sfert de ora avem ultimul tren inapoi catre Unawatuna. Ne ridicam ca arsi si-o luam la fuga prin Hikkaduwa, printre bazaruri galagioase, localnici veseli, autobuze TATA colorate mai ceva ca un clovn de la circ, claxoane, tuk tuk-uri, cantece, haos, agitatie. Pare ca ne-am teleportat subit intr-un film de Bollywood si tot haosul asta ne copleseste. Ajungem in gara pe ultima suta de metri si luam bilete catre primul tren. Hurry up, hurry up, ne tremura mainile pe tejghea cand ridica vanzatorul tonul la noi. 60 de rupiiiiiii, 60 de rupiiii, hurry up. Ajunge trenul in gara si de-aici incolo e care pe care. Toata lumea buluc pe scara, vanzatorul inca scoate biletele. E randul nostru sa urlam cu hurry up, si-apoi mai ceva ca niste balerine-n pirueta plonjam pe scara trenului. Paisprezece, suntem toti. Pfiu! Si ce sa vezi, am nimerit la clasa a doua, nu a treia cum planuiam. Locuri pe scaune, curatenie, mai ceva ca-n personalul romanesc. Pentru a mia oara am venit cu preconceptii si ne-au cam cazut in calcaie. Toate ca toate, dar tot mixul asta colorat de nebunie, galagie si agitatie a fost demential. Iar daca ieri paream sa fim un pic pleostiti si pe alocuri dezamagiti, ei bine, ziua de azi a schimbat complet roata. Ia sa vedem ce ne rezerva si ziua de maine, nu de alta, dar e ultima inainte de plecarea catre centrul tarii. Mirissa Beach, suntem cu ochii pe tine!

EN: Too much Lion beer makes usย forget what time it is, until the ones from the restaurant inform us that in 15 minutes we have the last train back to Unawatuna. We get up and start running through Hikkaduwa, passing by noisy bazaars, happy locals, colorful TATA buses that look like some circus clowns, chaos, bustle. Looks like we were transposed in a Bollywood film and all this chaos is overwhelming.ย We get to the train station just in time to take the tickets for the first train. Hurry up, hurry up, our hands are trembling on the counter whenever the seller raises his voice at us. 60 rupeeeeeees, 60 rupeeeees, hurry up. The train reaches the station and from now on, it’s dog eat dog. Everybody is trooping on the stairs, the seller is still printing the tickets. It’s our time to yell hurry up and then, as some ballerinas in pirouette we’re plunging on the train stairs. Fourteen, we’re all. Phew! And what do you know, we’re at second class, not third class as we were planning. Seats available for all, cleanness, better than the Romanian trains. For the umpteenth time we came with some misconceptions and we’re starting to regret it. All in all, but this colorful mix of madness, noise and bustle was insane. And if yesterday we seemed to be a bit disappointed, oh well, today our opinion was changed completely. Let’s see what tomorrow has for us, as it will be the last day before our trip to the center of the country. Mirissa Beach, we’re watching you!ย 

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