Frakkin' Ceylon - Day One

The walk to the baggage conveyor in Bandaranike Airport, Colombo, is quite unlike any other I can remember; here, having just returned from holiday, you can do all of your household shopping. Why not pick up a fridge? Or how about an iron? You know, a dishwasher would save an awful lot of work...
If it's funny, though, it's only just about penetrating a wall of fatigue and vague disappointment that the Sri Lankan entry visa is nothing more than a little stamp in the passport. It's 4am local, 2:30am UAE and we're dog tired, so end up doing the minimal amount of negotiating with a toothy shyster on the other side of the gate to get a local guest house. Thankfully, though, only a few minutes later we're in the Full Moon hotel, a crumbling old joint with a noisy AC unit and a menacing ceiling fan. Still, theirs are welcome sites: while it's still hot during the days in Dubai at the start of December, the grinding humidity has at least eased off. Here in Sri Lanka, that clamminess is a year-round nuisance.
A few hours of tossing and turning pass and we're back on the road, in a taxi with a fat jolly driver who is keen to practise his broken English with us. He is taking us into downtown Colombo (actually about 30km from the airport) to the train station.
When we get out, it's hot, sweaty, chaotic and the hawking starts immediately. When I was a child, being blonde with blue eyes made old women in places like Turkey coo and painfully pinch my cheeks. Now, they flag me up as some wealthy descendant of a colonial cunt. As a result, in countries like this, the hard sell is to be expected.
We fight our way to the door of the tourist information office, which claims to be official but looks like a dodgy taxi office without the puggy. Inside, we get back to negotiating, this time for tours and transfers around the island, as well as information about the trains. As poor as parts of Sri Lanka are, they have a functioning rail system in no small part due to the British invaders; where the Romans built roads, we built train tracks. So we may have raped, pillaged, tortured and burned our way around the world, but hey, at least they have some public transport to show for it.
The man in the can also gives us some vague ideas for things to do in the next couple of hours before we head down the coast to our hotel. We head off to explore, but we've not long started walking when we bump into the skeletal cretin.

Bernard is apparently a tourism and hospitality lecturer who has something to do with the nearby Hilton. He flashes us a folder that has words roughly along those lines in it. He is on his lunch break and has nothing better to do, so would like to show us around? Great! Why not?
We get in a tuk tuk – one of these for those not in the know – and head around the city. Bernard takes us to some pretty interesting places, temples mostly, and while the Buddhist ones tend to resemble little more than big white bells, the Hindu versions are altogether more garish.

This is all fine, but after half an hour or so – Bernard constantly talking to reassure us over the dangers of dodgy geezers – it's almost time to go. Now, rather than the 300 rupees each we'd agreed on (to pay the driver, not him – he was, after all, just doing it for the love of his country) he's asking for 2000. He says something about 300 being the starting price, but now wants more than three times that. Tired, angry and far more used to this kind of scam than me, Wee Mo goes ballistic, which is pretty funny especially given that there's two Buddhist monks watching the whole farce. The tuk tuk driver, for his part, seems a bit embarrassed by it all too. The only person pushing on with it, and being continually refused by Wee Mo, is Bernard, the shiny headed little shit. Even he eventually crumbles, though, and we head off.
Both suitably disgusted, we get in a new tuk tuk and clearly agree a flat fee of 300 back to the train station. In the stifling heat we drive through an open rubbish dump, which makes us both nearly puke, only narrowly avoid death on at least three occasions, and get to the train station only to have this chancing bastard up his fee too. I toss the money back into the cab without entertaining it and walk off.
The train down the coast only has third class, resulting in the classic case of it being so busy people resort to hanging from the sides. We're stuck in the middle of it all, next to the shitter. Wee Mo feels faint; I'd quite like to fight pretty much any one of the thousand people sharing the few metres around us.
About an hour and another tuk tuk later, we've somehow made it to our nonsensically luxurious accommodation – a luxury pavilion on the beach front. Things seem to be getting better, then this happens and the world is once more a wonderful place: