Asks the keeper of the Bridge of Death in the last scene of my favorite movie. “I don’t know that! Aaaahahahahhaha” – replies Sir Robin of Camelot and flies into the gauge of Eternal Peril. And what’s that to do with me? Although nobody has asked me this question whenever I hear about Sri Lanka I am always reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But what is the right answer? Colombo. The capital of Sri Lanka is Colombo. I arrived to my first leg of my journey. (note: it only works in Hungarian as I first saw the movie in Hungarian and the bridge keeper asks for the capital of Sri Lanka. In the original version he asks about the capital of Syria. If I ever am in Damascus I will write about it, too)
But let’s start my journey with my usual fuck ups. I really don’t do this on purpose but I’ve flown so many times in the last couple of years I just cannot get my shit together on time. I really should pay more attention because one day I just stay airborne without a plane. Once I got back from Scotland I had to change my winter clothes to summer outfit. I had to give up my apartment, or let’s just call it a room, as I don’t know when I would return to London or Europe for that matter. I put away a few dozens of boxes of books and some other valuables into storage somewhere in South London before I left for Scotland. I sold many of my stuff but I would never get rid of two things: books and my record player with my record collection. I managed to give the latter to a person close to my heart who will take good care of my precious collection. I hope you do! I know you do:) Unfortunately, I still had to pay rent for my old room for a few more weeks, so at least I had some place to stay at but it wasn’t uplifting to sleep in an empty room. But it was part of my journey. I had to say goodbye.
The following day I made a few last minute purchases and headed to the storage. It’s still winter in London but in Sir Lanka it’s 30 degrees. I had to get rid of all my jackets, jumpers and other warm stuff. But the catch was that I still had to get to the airport in 4degrees wearing just a T-shirt and one jumper as I didn’t want to carry unnecessary clothes to Sri Lanka. So I changed into my summer outfit at the storage and I packed a few extra shirts into my backpack which would be my only possession for God knows how long. I looked like a proper hippy on the road.
I also didn’t want to leave for Sri Lanka with messy hair so I went straight to a barber shop. And that’s when shit hit the fan. My wallet, with all my money, bank cards and my passport somehow wasn’t on me. I was hoping I hadn’t lost it as it would have been a major fuck up. If I left it in the warehouse in the midst of my changeover then at least I can get it back. But the warehouse was already closed and it would only open at 9 am the following morning and by that time I should be above Turkey sitting on the plane. Clearly, without documents I couldn’t fly so I would miss my plane and I would have to buy another ticket. Which we all know is not unusual of me. The third option was that I left it in my room as I didn’t need money or oyster card to get to the storage place as I used Uber. I couldn’t do much about it at 7pm so I tried not to worry and get my hair sorted out. But without money it proved a bit difficult. But thanks to the 21st century and Google it’s possible to pay using phones. I found a place but it was cash only. I had £15 in cash which is nothing in London. Let’s try anyways. What can I loose? Either I looked desperate or just a homeless guy with a backpack, the guy at the barber shop agreed to cut my hair for free! Ok, he was still a trainee so he couldn’t accept money but I didn’t care. He cannot really fuck up my hair. I’m almost bald. But I didn’t let him touch my beard… And to my surprise I was even given a free beer! Free haircut and a beer. But I left a generous tip. He is allowed to keep the tip…
After the haircut, I had to do one more important thing. Drinks with my friends. I paid for my gin & tonics using my phone. Thanks again Google! We had a good chat, laughed a lot and I even got my nail polished by my lovely friend. (I’ll get into that another day…) After many hugs I left and went home. Sitting on the bus in my shitty outfit with my backpack I just realized what was happening. At that moment it hit me that I was really leaving London the next day. I had no job and no home. I only had a single key to a storage place and a one way ticket to Asia. That’s it. Suddenly everything and everyone seemed so alien. I was planning to leave for many many years and finally it was within reach. I was so fuckin’ happy:) With happy smiles on my face I got home and I found my wallet sitting on my empty bed. I’m really going to Sri Lanka. I really am!
Naturally, I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t really want to miss my plane I managed to get to Heathrow on time. Let’s check-in. I handed over my passport and put my bag up onto the thing I don’t know what to call it. “Can I see your visa, Sir?” – asks the guy at the check-in desk. Oops, my visa. Shitfuck… January was so busy with all the different stuff going on I completely forgot about my visa. I mean I remembered sending an application but I couldn’t remember receiving any confirmation email. Without a visa I would have to stay in London. So let’s go through my emails. After 5 minutes of sweating and trembling I found an email. “That’s the confirmation of your application. It’s not your visa.” Shitfuck. Another 5 minutes of sweating and I found it. I have a visa for Sri Lanka! Yessss! And I only found out 2 hours before my flight. “Can I see your other ticket leaving Sri Lanka?” Again, I also remembered buying a ticket to Kuala Lumpur but I couldn’t even remember when or with which airline I’m supposed to fly. And obviously I couldn’t find the confirmation email. “No problem sir. As long as you are sure that you have one I don’t need to see it.” I’m pretty sure he just wanted to get rid of me now at this point. I looked and felt like shit. But again it worked as I got an upgrade to a better seat with bigger legroom! I got through security and I got to board the plane.
After 7 hours of shitty movies and some even shittier food I arrived to Oman where I had to kill 4 hours before I got on another plane to Colombo. I arrived at 4am. No one asked about my visa or my return ticket. They just let me in. I only had to wait 1.5 hours for my baggage. After 1 hour I was a bit worried. Then I realized if I didn’ t get my stuff I wouldn’t’ need to carry those extra shirts. I had my camera bag. And that’s all I really needed. But eventually I was reunited with my bag so now I really looked like a backpacker.
Since I couldn’t check in to the hostel before 2pm I left the terminal building for a cigarette. Yes, I still smoke. It took only 3 seconds for the taxi drivers to find me and bombard me with their really good offers. “Taxi, Sir?” No thanks. I’m just having a cigarette. Obviously, they didn’t let me smoke in peace. “Your country, sir?” England. In 20 meters I was asked the same question only 23 times. No doubt, I’m in Asia. One guy didn’t give up. He just tagged along while I was having my cigarette break. “Going to Colombo?” Yes, where else? “Hotel sir?” No, I’m good. “I know better, Sir”. I thought so. But, thanks, I’m good. He just didn’t leave me alone. I went back to the terminal to have breakfast and get rid of him. At least he didn’t come with me. After half an hour and an unidentifiable breakfast I tried to have another cigarette. The same guy found me again. I get it. That’s your job and you want my money. But after 14 hours of flying and being up for more than 30 hours I was just too tired to have any conversation let alone get into any bargaining. I told him I only wanted to go to the bus stop from there, I take the bus to Colombo. “No bus today, Sir. No bus”. Really? There is not a single fucking bus back to Colombo today? Not one. “No Sir, no bus. Taxi only”. I knew there are at least 20 buses every hour but I had enough of that guy so I gave in. He won. He didn’t give up and he won. Well done! I just didn’t care at this point. As it turned out , he wasn’t even the driver he was just a stout. His buddy arrived and he took me to Colombo. He went back to the terminal building to find another loser. Or a client. Same thing.
It took 1 hour to get to Colombo. I wasn’t sure where I was in Colombo but I just wanted to have a quiet moment and reflect what the hell I’m doing here. I just wanted to sit down and put my backpack down and have a cigarette. I found a little park next to a sewer pipe. Apart from the bugs and ants no one disturbed me. I sat there for a few hours and tried to put my thoughts together. 3 days before I was sitting in a blizzard in -5degrees at 1000 meters in Scotland. Now I’m sitting next to a sewer in 30degrees at the other end of the world. But that was the plan. And I accomplished it!
After the bug and ants had enough of me and after I got bored with water dripping from my earlobes, it was sweat not sewage water, I got up and left to find a tuktuk. It only took 2 minutes of bargaining to get the right price for both of us and off we went. The hostel looked really good. Clean, no bugs, A/C and free tea and coffee. I didn’t really understand that the 2000Rs (£9) was per night or for two nights. It was soo cheap either way. Soon I learnt it was for two nights. So I stayed another two nights after that. After getting the Wifi password I only had energy to have a shower and sleep. I only wanted to sleep for ja few hours as it was only 11am. I woke up at 8pm. I went to get some food. I found probably the shittiest place that exists in Colombo. “Go where the locals go!” Maybe not these locals. I ate something for less than £1. I think it was rice and some chicken looking meat. And it was served on a plastic plate with a newspaper on it. And then the rice. I also got a glass of water. Never ever drink tap water in Asia. Never. I completely forgot about that really good advice and I drank a whole glass in one go. Then I ate the rice with my right hand. Cutlery wasn’t an option.
I survived the delightful dinner and slept till the following morning. I was not in a hurry to go anywhere, I had as much time on my hand as I wanted. My only plan was to meet my friends somewhere south in the following few days. I had to change money so I headed to Colombo’s financial district. It is in an area called Fort which is full of banks, feeding places and bars for tourists. Fort is the old part of Colombo with lots of colonial buildings. That’s what I was told. Well… It looked like a big mess with a big clock tower in the middle of it. It’s OK but nothing old or nice. I entered the first bank I saw and handed over £300 pounds in cash. A guy took the money and started counting it. Then another guy appeared and he did the same. Then a third one came. After 5 minutes of discussion they gave my money back stating that they cannot exchange it as it was too weary. Wtf? It’s 300 British Pounds. You cannot exchange it? “No. This is not good money, Sir. But you can exchange it somewhere else.” Thanks for the advice. I’ll try. I left the bank to find some place where they would accept my money. Luckily, I found one and they weren’t fussy about my pounds. Although they didn’t take the Scottish notes:) Bankers are w…nkers everywhere. That was enough of the financial district so I decided to visit the more bubbly place of the city. Pettah district. The market.
A few words about what the hell I am doing here. I had enough of London. I got tired of it. I needed a change of scenery and live somewhere else for a bit. I don’t have any plans or goals. I want to switch off and do nothing. Well nothing is not the right word but do something which I haven’t done for a while. Photography. I needed a new place for inspiration. To meet different people and get sucked into a different culture. When I was in Japan I really enjoyed wandering around and taking photos. Speaking to complete strangers about nothing and everything. That’s my language. That’s how I channel my creative energy . I want to find stories that I can tell through my photos. Or just take nice portraits. Whatever. I don’t know. But when I see something interesting I like the buzz inside me, hunting for that perfect moment. I also want to write more. Not just this blog but something else. Something more on a serious note. And it seems I already found a story which I’d like to tell and show others. While I’m writing this post I’m already on the beach and about to meet a guy from Indonesia who runs a place in Hirikitiya. This is a little surfing town southern part of Sri Lanka. So far this place isn’t overcrowded but I’m sure it will happen in the next few years as it’s a paradise. My friends who were travelling for about a month said Hirikitiya is the best place they’ve been to in Sir Lanka. It’s a little gem. I want to write about the town, the people in it and especially about this place I’ve spent so much time in. Everyone who works there greets me with big smiles. I made a few new friends already. I want to know why they are here what they are doing. I also need to practice to be more open-minded and not to be afraid to approach people. When I was in India I took more than 5000 photos out of which there were only 20 portraits. I’ve already done more portraits in the last week than in 6 weeks in India. It’s working. I’m not afraid any more. I know it’s all about me but this is my journey through other people. It might not be the most interesting story but for me it is. And this is just the rehearsal. The premier is yet to come.
“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”