We go to Unawatuna, the tourist beach up the coast. This is well featured in guide books and has a hint of the hippy vibe of Goa with vegetarian restaurants, posters advertising yoga and meditation workshops and all sorts of cheap places to stay. The tuk tuk winds down a narrow lane of shops selling the usual tourist truck to the back of the Happy Banana, a huge beach bar. We walk along the beach to the far end to a section that looks quieter. Here the water is perfect for swimming, calm and warm, unlike the beach near the hotel with its powerful waves and strong undercurrent. I swim out towards the rocks, from which we later realise snorkelling is possible. Small boats carry people back and forth, but I only swim. Near the rocks is a Buddhist temple from which comes a steady chanting. It is full moon poya. I imagine this is probably the one and only time I will swim to the sound of monks chanting. We return to the Happy Banana for lunch. The whole beach and numerous beach bars are now heaving with every kind of tourist and all kinds of flesh on display – old young, toned, flabby, the positively obese, over tanned, under tanned, the demur and the shockingly flamboyant. We have cold drinks and people watch. It isn’t pretty. All kinds of water sports are taking place and the air is heavy with boat diesel. We order a pizza, but our order gets lost in a confusion of waiters and not enough staff. We make allowances for the normal Sri Lankan wait, for the fact that they are so busy, for possible miscommunication, but eventually I become annoyed. Why? We have nowhere to go and nothing to do; our waiting tuk tuk driver is happy to wait indefinitely. Is it because surrounded by western people and western values I expect something approaching a western speed of service? Or is it, more likely, that I can’t stand this mass of humanity and want to retreat back behind the locked gate of our secluded hotel?

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