Tuk-Tuk Took

Columbo, Sri Lanka

Enjoy the view, sit for a while, have a cocktail at the rooftop bar of the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.

Enjoy the view, sit for a while, have a cocktail at the rooftop bar of the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.

Colombo, Sri Lanka was a place that I really wanted to love.

I don't want to spoil the end of this story, but it didn't happen.

I am home now, but this is one of my backlog blogs from my trip to Sri Lanka.

My eager and enthusiastic travel partner ( a.k.a  my husband, Keith) arranged our trip to Asia in a way that broke up the flight to Sri Lanka, where his brother and his family lived. Sri Lanka seemed so exotic, wild, and a galaxy far, far away. 

Sunset in Columbo, Sri Lanka

Sunset in Columbo, Sri Lanka

We planned to stay a few days with family, then head for the countryside, visit a beach, head for the highlands, and spend time looking for wildlife. We would walk, take the train, bus, use Uber, and only take a tuk-tuk if there was no good alternative. ( A tut-tuk is a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.)

We had a plan. It was a good plan. 

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A tut-tuk is a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.

A tut-tuk is a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.

In Colombo, we enjoyed our visit the National Museum. The historic building and the collections were small and quaint. Parrots chattered in the huge historic trees. The artifacts included a few too many Budahs for me, but I did appreciate seeing the thousands of years of human habitation of the island. The nearby park had an impressive assortment of mature vegetation and paths that would have made for a lovely afternoon stroll, if it weren't for the sweltering heat.

Whoever said, 'Rules are made to be broken,' didn't visit Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Walking along Galle Beach, we were approached by a friendly gentleman using an overused "friendly" greeting and ensuing conversation. "Hi, Where you from? How long are you in Sri Lanka? How do you like it here? Where have you been? Where you going?” It is hard to be cold to someone so friendly.  While traveling, we are all ambassadors.

The big one.

The big one.

Ornate roof decoration in the temple.

Ornate roof decoration in the temple.

Usually, I would consider the conversation innocent small talk. 

Until the talk goes in a different direction. "I can get you into an amazing exotic temple celebration that only happens once a year. Elephants, there is a jade Buddha that is the largest in Sri Lanka. Very interesting. Very beautiful. I can get you there." 

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Rule number one is always ask, "how much?" Before you get in a taxi, a tuk-tuk, a boat, a plane, an elevator, anywhere that someone else is taking you. Agree on the destination and a price in advance. 

Google Maps, Airbnb, and Uber are significant contributors to our interest and ability to travel. Keith and I agreed to make the best use of Uber, but for some unknown reason, he decided to an arrangement for a tuk-tuk to take us to Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple.

Donations for the Buddha. Watches? Who knew?

Donations for the Buddha. Watches? Who knew?

I ask, "Where are we going? How much for the ride?"  My trusting travel companion gave me 'the look.' "I want to go to the temple." So off we went, an unknown price for an unfamiliar place. I didn’t pursue further inquiry.

"Here is the entrance.” “Pay here." "Go This way." Our tub-tuk driver started leading us around the temple.

“Look at this…” He told me when to take a photo, pointing out the way through the unusual displays, and a making a big deal of all the very strange alters and presentations of donations to the temple. Watches, cars, clocks, paintings, plates, furniture, Buddha statues galore, glitter, filler, flowers, and fluff gathered in piles and presentations. 

It was beautiful.

It was overwhelming.

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I was hot and tired. I don't like being led around, and I don't like being told what to photograph. 

I had enough for one day. 

We finish with a final photo of us, and we asked him to take us to our family's home.

Was that the end? No.

We had to argue that we didn't want to go anyplace else, we just wanted a ride home. Finally, he relented after we repeated and insisted "Our family is expecting us home for dinner very soon. We need to go home now!" 

And all the way home, “No we don’t want to go anyplace else. We want to go home.”

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On our first day in Sri Lanka, we paid 190 Sri Lanka Rupee for a one-hour Uber ride from the airport to downtown, which amounts to about $0.90.

So, we make it home. We start to get out and we get the final deathblow to a mortally wounded victim.  Keith asks him, "how much?"

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"8,000 Sri Lankan Rupee."  

Oh, $#{+! That is about $45.00 USD for only a few miles. We never agreed to a tour or a price for the ride. It was a classic. Demand an outlandish amount from someone who may not know what is a reasonable price.

And we only had 3,000 Rupee on us, so that's all he got, about $16.80. Still way too much. 

I know that money meant more to that driver than it did for us and my cultural expectations were misplaced. But still, I felt bad for all three of us. It was not a good transaction.

My kind and friendly traveling partner was willing to talk to a stranger, arrange for a ride without getting a price in advance and trust our driver to be honest. I love my husband’s faith in humans and his enthusiasm for exploring. 

We agreed to not discuss it again. (Sorry Dear. oxoxoxox) But the next time my logical travel partner isn’t being logical, I’ll be sensitively assertive.

After only two days in Sri Lanka, I was burned out of the whole tuk-tuk scene. It wore me down and turned me off. For the rest of our trip, I felt vulnerable and suspicious of the repetitive friendly inquiry. 

"Tuk-tuk?" "Taxi?" "Where you going?" "Why don't you want a tuk-tuk?"  "Why are you walking, I can take you there..."  "Hello... where you from?” “Want a tuk-tuk?” 

"No, no, and no, I don't want a tub-tuk! And, please don't follow me."  

Uber is my friend. 

The Lotus Tower, Columbo, Sri Lanka

The Lotus Tower, Columbo, Sri Lanka