It was my first international trip. I had been to internal flights, but not the international. And hence there was no hassle of form-filling or the visa and all. And when you have the company of your loving mom with her friends circle, its kinda bit of feeling odd man out, being the youngest among the lot. But who cared. I was going on my first world tour!
The Srilankan Airlines, were not that good as I expected, but considering the low prices, it did meet the requirements. The flight to Colombo, Srilanka, was in the early morning on Saturday, 15th November 2008. The mini TV behind the seats of international flights was a new thing to me, but before I could search for the movies or any other shows, we had almost reached the Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, as it was just a half-one hour journey. There was no breakfast in the flight, and me and mom thanked ourselves that we did had few dosas in the morning which served as the mini-breakfast.The airport was pretty good. It was the first international airport outside India I landed.
It was a start with trouble. The guide who was supposed to pick up at airport did not turn up. We wasted bit of time there and eventually reached to the allocated hotel, with the help of airport travel authorities. The airport had a sight seeing facility of Colombo, with a charge of USD $10 per person. And to realize that we were charged by the travel agents $15 per person!!
We reached Hotel Camelot within 20 minutes of time. There was not much time to take rest. After lunch at the hotel, we started for sight seeing in Colombo, with the guide (whose name i forgot!) who met us at the hotel lobby. The tour was in a volvo air conditioned bus, with special mike for the guide and a special seat for him in the front.
He spoke about the Colombo geography, the religion and their percentage. I wondered how he remembered all the numbers. One fact I liked was, apart from Saturdays and Sundays, the educational institutions also had holidays on the Full moon nights every month!! So 12 more holidays!!! Wow!!! He spoke of the LTTE war. The words which striked were, “here people did not fight for religion or caste, but for land”. Fighting for land was a common thing, but for religion, or caste? I was sure he meant only India.
We had just a half day at Colombo and the next flight to Bangkok was at night 1 am or something. But since, it was international, we had to reach there just after dinner. The only places we could visit was a temple, and a shopping mall(for namesake).
The first stop was at the Gangaramaya temple. I was too busy trying to click the pics, while the guide went on describing the history and other details , which I missed. There were innumerous Budha statues, the bodhi tree, the pagoda, and the temple. I felt awkward at some points clicking the photos and wandering as if I was enjoying at a tourist spot, while people came there for praying. The outside enormous building had a wall full of carvings and looked very beautiful. Maybe it depicted some story, but whatever it was, it added a special color under the early evening light.
The volvo bus then went around to a store for shopping cultural artifacts. It had the tea, the maps, the dresses, the keychains, the silver, and brass and other items for sale. It was the first country where I would have been glad to shop, since 1 Indian Rupee = 2 Srilankan Rupees! But there was nothing much or worth to shop. We had tea from the adjacent tea shop, who also gave a famous evening Srilankan snack, which tasted good.
We had little time left by now. But the bus went through the busy market kinda roads alleys, and also some famous posh areas, some government offices, and buildings, a public park, etc. There were armed police people and bunkers at most places reminding us of the terror that still went on. The final stop was a busy apparel shopping mall, which was too busy. The building had several floors similar to the Big bazaar here, but this was only for apparel! There were so many people in and was very easy to get lost of your groups. I got a Srilankan dress for remembrance; one of the famous being women shirt tops and long skirts.
After dinner, we moved onto the airport. By now, I was familiar with the proceedings and also the form-fillings. I had even mastered both mother’s and my passport numbers! During the ample time left before the flight departure, we wandered through the airport for duty free shopping, and ended up buying tea bags!!
The night flight was a pretty damn journey. We were not able to sleep though we were sleepy. The dinner (or early morning dinner?) was not quite good for vegetarians like me and mom. We finally had to settle with the starters and the dessert. But who will have more at that time of the night!! :
Bangkok was awaiting us on the early morning of Sunday, the 16th of November.