The Perahera is one of Asia’s largest and most famous festivals. It has been performed every years literally for centuries and tonight I decided to go see it for myself. I seriously underestimated the crowds it attracts, however. I was told the parade started at 8.30pm, so I headed into town about 4pm to get some food and find a place to watch it. However, the streets were already jam-packed with people, some of whom had been sitting in their spot since before 9am this morning! I eventually resigned myself to "buying" a seat (£10) near the parade route and sitting in it for what turned out to be 4 hours (parade started filing past) plus 3 hours (parade finally finished!). It was worth well the waiting though with 1000s of dancers, musicians, acrobats, stilt walkers, fire-eaters, etc and over 50 elephants decorated and lit up with fairy lights. Quite a spectacle!
I managed to get a taxi and a hotel in Negombo town after my late arrival in Sri Lanka. But this morning, the hotel and the town looked hot, dirty and dusty, so I decided to find a bus to Kandy, a famous hill town in the centre of Sri Lanka. It is thankfully a lot cooler here, with much more to see and do including, and this has turned out to be quite a lucky break for me, the last few nights of the 10-day Perahera festival which culminates in a massive parade – one of the largest in Asia! The lake in the centre of Kandy looks great and gives a nice breeze to the town. At first it looks empty, but on further investigation I’ve found fish, monkeys, various wading birds, pelicans and a couple of huge monitor lizards [see photo]. My hotel is up a steep hill from the centre which has great views over the town and, in the evening, catches the sounds of the drumming and singing from the Perahera festival.
I'm on my way to Sri Lanka - country 93 on this year's push to reach the 100! I'm sending this entry from Bangkok's airport where I change planes. and it's so nice to work with an unblocked internet connection!
The trip so far has already been full of ups and downs. I got to Kunming airport in plenty of time but found enormous queues for check-in. I I joined the one which looked shorted, but was still in it 2½ hours later. Frustratingly, another of the teachers at my school casually strode in and stood behind me just as I reached the front of my queue. "No seats left" said the check-in lady. My heart sank. "Ok if we upgrade you both?". My heart leaped! So William and I shared first class seats and food on the 2 hour flight here. Will's heading to the UK and we also met (economy class!) Ross at the airport, another of our foreign teachers, who is heading to Australia. I don't think our three destinations could be more far apart! Anyhow, a 5 hour wait here and then a 3-hour flight, arriving in Sri Lanka at a frustrating midnight, local time.
I’ve noticed an increased number of police, soldiers and security personnel around the streets recently, along with all the "western-style" cafes having their outdoor chairs and tables swept away overnight. It seems a top government leader is in town for some sort of inspection and to "improve the precious and hard-earned overall good ethnic unity in China and to make the flower of ethnic unity bloom even more brightly and beautifully." When I asked someone who was coming here and when, I was told, "Hu (Jintao), yes, but not Wen (Jaibo)!"
Past blog entries