After volunteering for two weeks, I took some time to travel through Sri Lanka. First, I visited Colombo for four days then headed down the coast of Sri Lanka.
Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka. The city is crowded and traffic and pollution is a major problem. The taxi drivers were the craziest that I have used. My friends and I were nearly killed while riding in a local taxi. Other than the taxi drivers, my visit in Colombo was fun. I visited a local orphanage that my friend had worked at. We helped the kids draw pictures and I made them paper airplanes. I visited Galle Face Hotel which is one the oldest hotels in Asia and I shopped at Sri Lanka's only department store, Dell's. But like many places in the world, the local political situation has become increasing violent. In Sri Lanka, the relationship between the Tamil population and Sri Lanka government has slowly deteriorated. While I was in Colombo, there was a suicide bombing which killed the third highest ranking general in the Sri Lanka army. On the day of the general's funeral, there was a huge military presence in the city. On the street near my guesthouse, there were soldiers stationed every fifty meters armed with an automatic machine gun. A pretty crazy sight.
From Colombo, I headed south to Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa is located on the west coast of Sri Lanka and is a popular beach to visit and surf at. Unfortunately, I was unable to surf because of the monsoon season. But I spent my three days there checking out the many restaurants, reading and watching some of the World Cup matches.
From Hikaduwa, I took a tuk-tuk to Galle Fort. Galle Fort is an old Dutch fort built in the 1600's. The fort sits near the ocean and is surround by 10 meter high walls. I stayed in a local guesthouse which was owned by a jolly, white haired old man. For the two nights that I stayed at the guesthouse, we chatted and drank some of the local rum, anarak. I arrived on a Sunday and in the evening Sri Lanka families flew kites, played soccer and had picnics on the fort walls.
One of the last places that I visited before leaving Sri Lanka was Unawatuna. Unawatuna is a sleepy beach town with a plethora of restaurants, hotels and bars. It was a nice place to relax and just hang out. While I was there I hung out with a couple of people that I met, swam in the ocean and visited the many restaurants.
Sri Lanka was hit pretty hard by the 2004 Tsunami. During the bus ride south I saw numerous memorials for the victims and I saw the remnants of many washed out buildings. It is estimated that around 30,000 people died from the tsunami. Galle was one of the hardest hit cities. The tsunami wave was estimated to be over 10 meters high. On the train ride back to Colombo I saw a train that was wiped out by tsunami. It is an estimated that 1500 people were killed, many of them children. It was a very tragic event which the Sri Lankan people are still trying to recover from.