England in Sri Lanka – 12th October 2018

A day off may be a ‘day off’ for some of the crew but the work never stops for others. Commentators might get the chance to explore the city but engineers are always worrying about wireless points and power-outages etc. So at least we can share some of the sights and sounds of the city with them while they’re stressing.

Having grown tired of hearing how ‘quiet’ Dambullah was and how there was ‘nothing to do’. It was time to explore. It’s been over 10 years since my first visit and I’m sure I’ve never done it justice. I haven’t.

Toasted sandwiches cost 900 rupees in our modest (but delightful) hotel. This morning I bought a delicious, freshly baked baguette with boiled egg, onion, carrot, tomato and a bit of fresh chili for 35 rupees. Both were good but the latter was far better. It’s too late in the night to do the conversion rates but you get the idea!

The Dambulla open-air market is a delight, not just to those shopping for supper. While fresh fish and seafood is the norm on the coast, inland regions have traditionally specialised in the preserved, salted option. Unquestionably visually stunning, it challenges the olfactory senses. It stinks. Really.

Underwear, however, and children’s clothing, is of extraordinary value. Five pairs of panties cost as much as two egg sandwiches and a fine pair of shorts with two good tee-shirts for young Fernando would be less than two pounds.

More perspective was provided by a pretentious café just over the road which catered for my four-day coffee drought by providing an Americano at an eye-watering price of 13 egg-baguettes. It was called “The Travellers Rest” which might have given me some warning. Still, it was good coffee.

Better than the coffee was the oblique, nameless shed next to the café sporting two almost pristine Austin classics – a Morris and a Cambridge. I’m not a car person but, anybody can see that sort of quality, even when they’re waiting for an over-priced coffee.

Evening ended with a truly stunning cocktail function hosted by the Sri Lankan Tourist Board at the remarkable Kandalama Hotel, all 967 metres from tip to toe. Cocktails and canapes were memorable, and the dancers were so good they managed to stop English cricket journalists mid-snack for over five minutes!and earned a spontaneous, genuine round of applause.

The ice sculpture of a batsman which towered over the delicious salmon, chickpea and sushi starters may have been a small step beyond the practical. Stunning as it was, and notwithstanding the industrial strength of the air-conditioning, the splashes from the melting were landing on people 15 feet from the centrepiece halfway through the evening. It was one of the finer PR events many of us had ever been to. And would it persuade us to recommend Sri Lanka as a venue?

No. Because every single one of us who has been here before has been doing that for years already. It is an extraordinarily beautiful country.

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