We leave the hotel in Bangkok at 04:00 and the streets are still full of life with people partying and food stalls still operating.
We take off a little late at 07:15 and Ella is soon asleep so I find myself a window seat at the back of the plane and study the landscape below.
Once away from the city the land is totally flat with vast expanses of farmed countryside and a bit further inland I can see a few hills and ranges of small mountains, all totally green, with farmed plateaux on the ridges. There are very few towns and villages. Soon we rise above the cloud line and I settle down to read.
After a three hour flight I can see the landscape of Sri Lanka, which is totally green and lush. There are palm trees everywhere and I can see tea plantations and huge swathes of grassland which might be rice fields. There are many dwellings dotted amongst the greenery and rivers winding through it all.
We land at 09:15 local time, having dropped back one and a half hours from Thailand, and after passing through immigration, we change up some money to Sri Lankan rupees and head outside to take a taxi to the train station, which takes the best part of an hour. Every driver seems obliged to beep his horn every time he passes another vehicle and the roads are chockablock so there is a great deal of horn blasting going on.
At the station we call into the tourist information office to be told that we have just missed the train to our destination and there is a four hour wait for the next one. It is not possible to book a seat and there is a chance that we will have to stand for the full two hours of the train journey. Having already been up and travelling for nine hours, I decide that the £35 taxi charge to take us the two and a half hour drive to our hotel is entirely reasonable, and off we go. There follows a further hour of horn blasting as we drive through the outskirts of Colombo. We don’t see the city centre but the areas we drive through are very poor and run down, very shabby with all buildings either half built or falling down and many areas looking like shanti towns.
Eventually we reach a new toll road that takes us through the beautiful green countryside as far as Galle, the largest city in the south of the country, and once again mayhem rules the roads.
Our destination is Galle Fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galle_Fort), an absolutely charming village enclosed by fortress walls – designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – with architecture influenced by Portuguese, Dutch and English, and a multi ethnic but largely Muslim community living there today.
We are dropped at our guest house, the Mango House, which looks charming and is extremely rustic and makes the hotel in Bangkok seem positively sophisticated. A big enough room, but with no hanging space and a very primitive bathroom, but at least it has an efficient A/C unit that has controls that work.
We have a French couple next door, and a party of four oriental lads over the landing and everyone is very friendly.
We go out for a wander through the village and to find something to eat. The food is more expensive here than in Bangkok, but there is no shortage of cafes and restaurants to choose from, and we eat on a roof terrace before again ambling around.
We climb the ramparts and alongside the lighthouse we see a pretty beach at the bottom of the wall, which is full of people, I imagine locals, making the most of their sunday afternoon.
We come across a privately owned museum and are given a personal guide around the collection of local artefacts and see demonstrations of lace making, precious stone cutting and silver smithing, all very charming, but of course we are ambushed into a jewellery sales room at the end of the tour. However they won’t be making any money from us!
We return to the room for a siesta and I am soon out like a light.
We have another nice meal for dinner and make sure to return to the guest house before 23:00, when the gates are locked.