29.07.2015 - 31.07.2015 31 °C
Yesterday we arrived in Jaffna after a couple of days in Anuradaphura. The first guesthouse we stayed in was more like a ghost house - no other travellers and no staff that we could see. It turns out that the manager is building a new hotel a few doors down hence his absence. We checked out the following morning and moved in to another place nearby. On the surface it was fine - friendly family, other guests and nice food. The matriarch of the household was showing us pictures of her daughter and telling us of her sons imminent marriage arrangements. More on that place anon.
We hired a van to bring us around the multitude of sacred sites that are in Anuradaphura. It's a really interesting place but after SE Asia a few years back we appear to have severe temple fatigue. The fact that all these temples are in places with 35 degree heat might be a contributing factor. It was a case of looking around for an hour, sweating buckets and getting back to the air-conditioned van for some respite. Harry was wearing some short shorts so we had to stop to pick him up a sarong to preserve his modesty at the religious sites. After four or five hours of historic sites we were cooked so we went back to the guesthouse.
There's nothing like a cool Lion Lager to cool you down in these parts. It was followed by a nice meal prepared at our lodgings. A group of Chinese people were also staying there - they were doing an eleven day tour in a minivan, staying in one spot each night and getting on the road the next morning. Their driver knocked out the local Arrack for me to sample. It's the local spirit which is derived from coconuts. You mix it with soda lime and ice - not bad but one taste was enough for me. Whilst this was going on one of the staff was playing with the house dog. He'd pretend to hit the kids and the dog would protect them by attacking him. It all seemed like good enough fun. For whatever reason he then brought out another dog. With all the ongoing excitement the dog took a nip at Paddy. That put a dampener on proceedings. No skin was broken but it left a nasty bruise. This morning there was no mention of the incident by the owners - it was as if it never happened. As we were leaving the owner produced the dogs vaccination records but there was no apology from him or the staff member responsible for the incident. I suppose it just confirms the superficial relationship between traveller and host. It shouldn't surprise me that much but it confirms a few things in my own head about this country.
Jaffna is another funny spot. We took the train and it was a bumpy ride for the first half of the journey - the second part was considerably smoother. The reason for this was that the second half of the line had been replaced after the long conflict with the Tamil Tigers - the line only reopened in 2014.
We're staying in some basic accommodation and sharing it with some of the local critters - a frog on the bathroom and a grass snake in the bedroom. They removed the snake this morning - they didn't really know how to do it, one chap tried to entice it into a plastic bottle with no success. Eventually they got it out with a sweeping brush. Breakfast was a bit of a major fail too - we thought we were getting fruit but got a curry instead. The kids were not impressed. We hired two tuk-Turks to explore the Jaffna peninsula and it was a great buzz. We ended up taking a boat to a Hindu temple on an island to celebrate the Pura festival with a few thousand other pilgrims. Mad buzz. On our tour we also saw how ravaged the place is from war. Every second building has been bombed out. Depressing stuff but they're slowly building the communities again. We'll have a look around Jaffna city tomorrow.