Monday, October 03, 2005

Leaving Colombo

Woke up early, and went to the Indian embassy to drop off my UK passport (to get my Visa). There was a pretty decent line already, but the guy in charge waved me through to the front of the line (being a foreigner). I was in and out in about 10 minutes.

When I went to the Cultural Triangle (Sigirya and the old ruins), I had to pay $40 dollars for an entrance tickets.. a pretty steep price for a country where a decent meal can cost 60 cents. Unmentioned in my book, and in no way advertised at the ticket sales points, I found out that you can get a 50% refund if you can prove you're a student. With this much time to spare, i'm happy to spend an hour to get $20 bucks.

So, I schlep down to the UNESCO Cultural office, and ask for a refund. They make me copy a form letter "Dear sir, I had the pleasure of attending your cultural places, and am in possession of a ISIC student card. Would you please be so kind... " etc, and then wait while a woman filled out 3, yes, 3 forms. Another 2 people had to sign the forms, before I could then go to a clerk, who gave me my money back. It took about 25 minutes from the moment I walked in the door to get my funds back - Crazy! But I suppose this is how they keep lots of people employed, and ensure that not too many people ask for their money back.

In the afternoon, I picked up my British passport from the Indian embassy. This time, the line was -massive. At least 80 people in front of me, snaking through the garden outside the visa processing office. However, again, the benefit of being a foreigner (even in this case, a foreigner in a hawaiian shirt and a purple skirt) kicked in, and they again waived me to the front of the line. I was a bit shocked, but quite happy to receive this benefit. Again, in and out in about 5 minutes.

Stopped by the US embassy, as it was nearby to ask a few tax questions - Oh my god. It was completely empty. Now, i've only ever been to the one in London, which is usually filled with people, so this was a big shock. Literally, not a soul in there apart from the people working there. I got all my questions answered, had a nice 20 min conversation and exchanged business cards with the Vice Consul (who is a big linux fan), and got another 24 pages added to my US passport (for free, so I can get a bunch of entry/exit stamps).

I also spent a few hours trying to hunt down a Rough Guide/Lonely Planet guide to India... all the shops in town are sold out of the India books - although seem to stock them for every other country. Quite annoying, as I fly to India on wednesday morning.

This should make flying into a strange land rather fun :)

In any case. I'm going to take a bus to Negombo, a beach town 10km from the airport in a few mins. Should arrive there at 9-10pm, and give me 2 nights there before I fly off on Wednesday.

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