Sunday, July 12, 2009

National Museum Saturday

Saturday afternoon, I decided to go check out the National Museum of Colombo. I'm slowly learning my way around the city, through taxis and various rides from friends, so I'm feeling more and more comfortable venturing out on my own. Although my taxi driver didn't really seem to understand me, I ended up in the right place.

My guidebook had mentioned that it was 65 rupees (about 50 cents) to get in, so imagine my surprise when the ticketman asked me for 500 (about $4.50)!

"Why so expensive?" I asked him.
"You are not from Sri Lanka, madam?" He replied
"Well, no," I protested, "but I could be a Burgher. How do you know I'm not Burgher?"
Without missing a beat, the man said, "Then, where's your national identity card?"

...nuts. He had me there. I laughed and paid him the exorbitant amount.

Flat out, I'd say the best part of the National Museum is the beautiful colonial building in which it's housed. A large, white monolith, with ionic columns set back in a large field, I felt like I was walking into old school Washington DC architecture again. The walkway terraces between each exhibit room were wide and open, letting the tiniest of breezes flow through. I could've settled in right there on a rocking chair, a tonic and a good book.

However, that was only when I could get away from the millions of schoolchildren charging about. My guess was that they were middle schoolers, judging from their size, gangliness and rusty hygiene measures. For the most part, I was able to walk unmolested among them, peering at pottery, jewlery pieces and a pair of Buddha's golden shoes. But in one particularly boring room (photos of one of the founders in pre-independence Ceylon), a group of boys began following, surrounding me, giggling and asking for the time. In fact, I turned around so fast that I almost ran one over. They're just kids, but not wanting to play "goofy foreigner" for them, I quickly left the room.

Aside from the architecture and the overall wilted beauty of the building, I thought the jewlery, stone statues of hindu gods through Sri Lanka's history and the returned crown jewels of the King of Kandy (the place, not the food) were the most interesting. I couldn't determine if it was real or not, but in one room a giant skeleton of blue whale hangs ominously from the ceiling - that was pretty cool, too.

Despite all that, it was extremely hot and humid in the building. I was ready to leave after an hour. I haggled for a tuk-tuk, and tootled back to the hotel enjoying all the exhaust fumes that Colombo has to offer. That evening, I ended up participating in the Hash and then out for dinner with Matt (another company employee here) and some of his friends. Overall, it was an extremely pleasant Saturday. Sure beats cleaning my apartment! (Although I am starting to miss my cat...)

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