2 July - Negombo
3 - Sigiriya
4 - Kandy
5 - Nuwara Eliya
6 - Mirissa
7 - Unawatuna
8 - Galle (Sunset Fort)
9 - Columbo and home
Here's an example of how technology has impacted tourism in Sri Lanka. We were told 80% of tourists to Sri Lanka are now mainland Chinese. One can go on Taobao, the online marketplace, hunt for a driver with a car in Sri Lanka, book through an agent and get driven around the country during their trip. Yeah? So?
Bear in mind, the mobile service in Sri Lanka is very good and there are several low-cost SIM card options at the airport. So, imagine being driven around the country and you decide to deviate from the itinerary, the driver doesn't speak Chinese and you don't speak English, what to do? Simple. Get on WeChat to the booking agent in China, explain the problem. The agent then communicates with the driver in English also on WeChat.
This simple work-around opens the door to so many new destinations for tourists and is a boon for service providers.
We met our driver, a very nice and friendly guy. Importantly, he had ferried many tourists around the country and was hugely knowledgeable and friendly. Many hotels/guesthouses supply accommodation and food for tourist car/bus drivers. Seems odd to have a car and driver, right?
Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million. They have two highways and a desperate need to upgrade their infrastructure. The roads are two lanes and many, many times they were tight, twisty and, as we found out once, terrifying at night time due to the lack of street lamps.
It's simply impossible to get around the country and see everything we wanted to see without a car and driver. We paid US$380 of which US$100 goes to the agency and the rest to the driver who works for another company and we tipped him too. In nearly every place we stayed, driver accommodation is provided also.
Landed from Chengdu in China (see another post) at Colombo and get through immigration in record time. Don't remember the airport much only there were a number of shops selling fridges and air con units. At the airport. I'll leave that there.
From the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel in Negombo. For this trip, since we were on a mad one-place one-night itinerary, we decided to stay in one- and two-star accommodation. Besides, there are very few resort-like, four- or five-star hotels and we liked the idea.
The next morning we went to the beach and experienced our first taste of Sri Lanka. We noticed there a number of stray dogs. Everywhere but they tended to sniff sniff then run off. Seeing stray dogs became a common feature of our trip. The beach was beautiful but the sea too rough for swimming. Then we went to a nearby beach hotel for breakfast which cost not much at all.
Back to Negombo, we went sightseeing with the first stop being St. Mary's Church then a huge fish market where the fisherman landed their catch on the beach, then traders fetch the fish and sell. Great swathes of fish were laid out drying in the sun. We then travelled to the next location: Sigiriya. It was hot; mid-30 degree C. Along the way were roadside stalls selling coconuts,