Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lankan taxi vox pop

Hotter today: a stinging sun.  So I opted to pay the $2-3 taxi fares to get to another temple and then the buzzing markets of Pettah.
Colombo has energy and a presto pulse.  The pulse runs at an even higher rate in the streets of Pettah.  I need another visit to make the most of the criss-cross of street each with their own specialty: gems, spices, jewelry, fish, saris, men's underpants.
I bought an amazing green sari, but then lost $20 somehow (after haggling over $6 for the $50 sari). I called it a morning and decided I would head back to pettah tomorrow with more strategy and better money security.
Having taken four tuk-tuks today, I can offer the following hints: only take metered tuk-tuks; even then, settle on a fee between 150-300 Rs before the trip; expect heart-failure - tuk-tuks squeeze through spaces that don't exist; the driver will never have change, so either have small money or jump out and change it before paying.
I also discovered that tuk-tuk drivers have diverse views when it comes to road rules - and when it comes to Lankan politics. One driver is unimpressed by the dynasty ruling SL and has noticed inflation and a widening wealth divide.  He commented that foreign investment is coming at a rate of knots (two huge developments being funded by Chinese investors) but that leads to higher prices that poorer locals can't manage.  Another driver was pleased to see the back of the last government and likes the strength of the current President.
Another driver was pleased that the tourist industry was on the way up and saw it as largely driven by foreign investment in hotels.  He was champing at the bit to charge white tourists more for their tuk-tuk.
The last driver knew all the names of the Australian cricket team and decided I wasn't much of an Aussie for not sharing his knowledge or enthusiasm.
The energy of Colombo is on the roads, in the markets, on the sides of streets and in the shops.  Loud, fast-paced.  Happy.  Not irritated or aggressive.  Just lively and on the move.  Keen for bigger hotels, more tourists, stronger economy and continued peacetime.

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