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November 18, 2003

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First day in Sri Lanka, a place often considered to be just an island extension of India. Yet major differences arise after crossing the channel. First off, Sri Lanka is mainly Buddhist, not Hindu. It's less crowded than India, and more Westernized in manners, style, and dress code. And the Sri Lankans don't like India - they hold the typical feelings of a small country overshadowed by a larger neighbor: resistance to cultural influence and resentment at being categorized as an insignificant subset of the region.
Is it safe? Violent conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government scares away potential visitors. The conflict is ethnic and religious - Hindu descendants of Indian settlers want a separate homeland in the north, independent from the Sinhalese (ethnic Sri Lankans) that practice Buddhism. The Tamil Tigers (the Hindus) have carried out suicide bombings against the Sri Lankan targets in the capital city, Colombo. Soldiers fortify all government buildings. Yet outside Colombo, in the major tourist towns and along the beaches, no signs of war exist.
Fancy cars swing around pagoda roundabouts under the skyscrapers of downtown Colombo.