On Boxing Day (8th anniversary of the 2004 tsunami) we go by tuk tuk a few miles up the road to the Dutch colonial, and world heritage town of Galle. It is a bit like a Sri Lankan Disneyworld. Somehow it feels fake. Although it is strangely quiet – not only are cars not allowed in the few streets of the old town, but there is hardly anyone there, all the people we see walking around are white tourists and all the shops are staffed by locals, creating a very colonial atmosphere of brown serving white which doesn’t feel quite right, but then hasn’t it been that way for the whole trip? (Not entirely, in most other places there have been a large number of Indian, Arab and Sri Lankan holiday makers and in many hotels we have been the only white guests.) Like the hotel and the beaches, here we see more white people than we have seen in the previous fortnight, looking and acting like tourists: taking photos, wanting the best table, wondering why their order is taking so long. We like to think we’re not like that, but maybe we are? Slight strangeness aside, I love Galle. It is pretty, photogenic. The shaded streets give a little respite to relentless humidity. You can linger at cafes watching the world go by. There are no cars rushing past, no horns blaring and there are shops with attractive things in, not just tourist tat; shops you want to browse and linger in and chat to the shopkeepers and buy keepsakes. We haven’t had that since Colombo. And yes we are tourists, and while it is a journey, it is also a holiday and I want to take photos, and buy mementos and eat long languid lunches and be hot and get a little bit sunburnt and shake sand out of my sandals. The heat and humidity have taken their toll on many buildings, especially in the back, out of sight, alleys. It is as Paul Theroux describes, “that decay that pass for charm in equatorial outposts.” We climb the narrow, spiral stairs to Mama’s rooftop cafe and there have our last rice and curry banquet, surrounded for the first time by blond, curly-haired young children.

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