The local people were always willing to help, to show the correct bus or to help you find your place to sleep. We also remember Manna, from the laundry in Galle. As the amount of clean underwear started to shrink, we needed to do some laundry. We started talking with the friendly owner, Manna, and we ended up in the back of his van, driving around Galle. He paid for our lunch, arranged cheap accomodation at the beach, invited us for dinner to his home and finally took us out to town. The laundry wasn't really cheap this time (but it was really white again and even ironed) but we didn't spend a penny for the rest of that day. We had a great day because Manna showed us a day in his life and he didn't want anything in return. When we went to bed it was with a very satisfied feeling (and no this wasn't only because of the alcohol).
When getting closer in contact with the locals, you also see more of the struggles they are facing. Take Manna. His laundry is doing good business as they take care of the linen for a couple of the fancier hotels in Galle fort and he is just able to manage all the inquiries. Still, he lives in a small house in one of the suburbs of Galle. Same goes for the family Dias, where we stayed 3 times. Beneath all the laughter you see that they need to fight to keep everything running smoothly. And then I don't even mention the beggars on the streets, lots of times with deformed limbs. As hard as it is, you can't help everybody.
Talking about the family Dias, here we found the most genuine hospitality of all. We came as guests but left as family. When first staying there we planned to spend two night but ended up staying five. After extending our visa we had enough time to spend in Sri Lanka, so we decided to visit the family again. Our second visit was a long one, we stayed nine nights while we thought to stay only three. We had such a good time with the sons and moreover we met Honor. We decided to stay so we could celebrate Dias' and Farina's birthday. As a surprise we baked a cake, bought some balloons and a present. Our ultimate present was the fact that they called us their family and we got the privilege to dine with them after all the others guests had eaten. This made it an emotional goodbye, but we knew we would be back after our Jaffna trip with Honor. So we did go back and spent our last four days in Sri Lanka at Dias' place. No birthdays to celebrate this time, but we did get the chance to visit Farina's parental house. It was with pain in our hearts that we left this beautiful place with its beautiful people.
Another thing that was very beautiful at Dia's place was the nature and the mountains. There's still lots of nature to discover in Sri Lanka. When traveling in between places you always come across some tropical forest or other type of nature. We didn't expect to find this in Sri Lanka so that was a big plus. Often we enjoyed a nice walk or hike in this nature. Although a lot of forest has been cut in the Hill Country for the tea plantations. Furthermore, not all people are very conscious in conserving nature. A lot of times you see requests to keep the environment clean and to put your garbage in a bin, but still you see the locals dumping waste in the forest or throwing away plastic packaging out of the window of a bus or train. So a long way to go for making people sensible about the environment. We try to help by always putting things in a bin or in our bag when no bin is around.
Of course there are so many other little things that make your journey complete: the delicious food, smiling and waving kids, other travelers with the same mind set, seeing a dog or cat enjoying the moment of being petted, …
Plenty of reasons to stay an extra month in Sri Lanka, especially because we were still pretty nervous for visiting India. Postponing our trip to India didn't mean it would never happen, so the day came to say goodbye to Sri Lanka and take our flight to India. And this was quite a different world, especially because we arrived in a bigger city which was very busy. So we needed to get used to this all. Compared to this, Kandy and Colombo were pretty quiet. Our first impressions of India are: busy, chaotic traffic with a lot of honking and a lot of garbage everywhere. But not all is negative, we do like India more than expected. We also came across some more relaxed places with lots of green and mountains. That this is also India, we could have never imagined. The people are friendly and like to have a little chat with you. Although a lot of times they can only ask where you're from and what your “good name” is. Often they are still astonished about seeing our pale faces (yes even though we have a tan now, we are still pale here). We expected them to be more used to seeing white people. And then there is the food... Mmmmm! That certainly is a positive thing as well. There is more variation than in Sri Lanka. You can not only eat the rice and curry, but also different kind of breads like naan, parotta, chapatti, etc. The coffee tastes better and the chai tea, well we never mind having a stop somewhere to drink one of them. As you can read, we do like it here, we just need to learn to filter out all the honking.