9th January 2015 – Galle, Sri Lanka
The Portuguese built it, and then the Dutch called it their own. While the Sri Lankans call it heritage, and Unesco chimed in too. The heat may be striking, and the prices take your breath away, But the fort still stands out, staring into the calm ocean blue.
I was leaving Sri Lanka today evening, and had a flight to Maldives. Everything was looking ok till last week, until the elections brought some craziness into it.
Some yesterday, was Sri Lanka’s general elections and it was a close contest. The current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was in power for 10 years and there were plenty of allegations of nepotism and corruption against him. He had himself called for an early election this year, not expecting anything to come up and hinder his rule. Unexpectedly, one of his former aides – Maithripala Sirisena – defected just 2 months before the elections and rallied to bring all the opposition and minority parties under him, and suddenly Mahinda’s position looked unstable.
The results were to be out by today, and I was warned that there could be some violence. By morning, the news came that the current president was staring defeat in the face, and there was possible riots, violence, or even a coup in the offing. Worse, there could even be a curfew where I simply couldn’t get from Unawatuna to Colombo, to catch my flight.
In the morning, one guy offered to drive me till Galle, from where I could catch an express bus to Colombo, as long as there was no curfew. Fingers crossed, we left to Galle in the morning. By the time we reached Galle, the news was out. The former president had conceded defeat and had bowed out gracefully, negating any possibility of violence. Everything was good. And no prospects for a curfew!
So, we took it slow, and had lunch at the historic Dutch hospital in Galle fort. If you are wondering about lunch at a hospital, note that the Dutch hospital is not a hospital anymore, and is now a mall. But the name is retained.
The fort itself was expansive, but there were some grouches. Like the searing heat, which made exploring it so difficult at noon. And then, the steep touristy prices for everything that you see.
Nevertheless, I finished the tour of the fort, and caught my express bus to Colombo. From Colombo to Negombo for the airport, and then a 1 hour flight to Male in Maldives.
In Male now, as I type this. More about paradise tomorrow.