Monday, September 04, 2017

Jaffna - Sri Lanka - Is it worth going?

Jaffna, a city that is ravaged by a long war, almost 10 years later. The big question remains: Is it worth going?

Jaffna today (Sept 2017), is in much better shape than in 2009. There are many new hotels opened, roads rebuilt and lots of post wars ruins to be discovered. Many people seemed to be raving about some sites which I had to check out.

So here is the run down.

1) War Museum at Puthukkudiyiruppu

This place is absolutely SHIT. The war relics are kept out in the harsh sun and the location is far from civilization. There is garbage on the relics, and it is not even maintained or sheltered. Yes, there are some broken / damaged war vehicles here, but nothing that is a war-relic of note. Submarines are kinda cool, but hey, left out in the sun to rot.

Good thing is -- its FREE. Expect nothing, look at it and don't touch anything, may have pee or poop on it... Yup, outdoors, if it rains, you are FUCKED.

2) Jaffna Fort

Jaffna Fort is right in the middle of town, near the clock tower and library. They do have opening hours like 8am - 6pm, and there is no shelter if it rains. The restorative works is ongoing and the workmanship is pretty good. If you are in Jaffna, there is no reason not to go. It makes a great sunset pic as well.

3) Jaffna Library

This place is near the fort, it looks nice and historical from the outside and may be interesting to visit. But for visitors, it opens only from 4:30pm - 6pm. Yup, knowledge is rather limited, and you are not allowed to have it. I wondered why this is not burnt down during war along with all that set the rules.

4) Random construction beside the library

This place looks so cool, the silhouette looks like mini crosses. Not sure what it is going to be, not really interested to find out.

6) Clock Tower

This clock tower is at a rotary and it has 3 statues around it. Guess what, the clock actually works too. Much impressed.

7) Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil


This is one of the most significant Hindu Temples in Jaffna. Kinda historic, but damn, you need to take off your shoes and shirt to get in, and no photography allowed?

It shouts : "No tourists please"

8) Random abandoned Monastery beside Old Park in Jaffna.

Maybe this has not a lot of significance, this is a fantastic abandoned structure. There is not a lot of information on this, and there is a sign that says, "Enter with permission only" But at no where did it give you instructions on how to get permission.

Initially it seemed like another FUCK YOU, YOU ARE NOT WELCOMED  place, but as we entered and saw a guard that ignored us, this became one of the best ruins to take photos of... Bring on the HDR, snap away!

9) Kayts Island

Nice roads, plenty of plastic trash by the side of the road. Cow, Stray Dogs and Crow... That is about it. And yes, nice sunsets, shallow waters...

10) Fort Hammenhiel

This is some strange shit. It is in a Naval Base, run by the military. And the fort is also a hotel by the way. And yes, you need to pay to get to the island. It is nicely kept and food is mediocre but relatively cheap. Care to stay at the Fort Hammenhiel Resort? (Away from Civilization) With no tides and waves.

11) Delft island Jaffna

Delft Island is a relatively small island. It is accessible by ferry from Kayts. We chartered a ferry for 8,000LKR and paid a Tuk Tuk 2,000LKR for a 2 hour tour of the island to visit ALL THE SPOTS on the island.

There are some places which is simply like WTF, like a fucking huge footprint in cement, and others relatively underwhelming. But the whole island using corals as walls is simply fascinating. I've not seen so much corals as building materials before.

Delft Island is home of the Delft Pony. These are mutated horses left by the Portuguese back in the days, and they lived on the island and became shorter, smaller with long manes.

Strangely, I do not see much ponies and even though Delft Island is a wild horse sanctuary, you probably see more skinny cows. The cows have already overgrazed the grass, and it is hard to find any grass longer than 1 inch. According to the locals, there were more than 100 horses dead because the water was contaminated and there is lack of food for the horses due to the excessive number of cows.

The island is relatively unspoilt, but it is also an ecological disaster waiting to happen as I foresee that most of the horse on the conservation area will probably die off as the cows eat all the grass on the island and compete for water source.

The island is nice but depressing as you see the skinny horses and cows run free and die of starvation. The question to ask is how incompetent the authorities running the reserve are when they allow the locals to bring in cows in large numbers to compete with the limited food supply.

Pro-Tip: Bring water and an umbrella.

So, if you ask me again if Jaffna is worth the visit, I would say if you have a lot of time in Sri Lanka, then yes.. Otherwise, stay the fuck away from there. It is 4 hours from Trincomalee and no where near anything else unless you are going to Anuradhpura which is like 3.5 hours away.

Food is mediocre, land is hostile and businesses are not tourist friendly. Many museums and stores will pretend to be closed just not to serve you. There is constantly a bad smell in the air, like raw sewage. The Rio Ice Cream which seems to be a local attraction serves ice cream that taste like supermarket store brand ice cream and they add syrup to the overly sweet ice cream. No matter what name you call it, it is bad ice cream.

The hotel that has the best food in Jaffna -- Green Grass Hotel -- has pretty good Jaffna Curry, but its got small bones inside. Forget about Crab Curry, its a tiny hard shell crab which is hard to eat.

Some locals are friendly, but they do not speak Sinhala or English, landmarks are not clearly mapped, and businesses and attractions close when they like.

-- Robin Low

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bern, Switzerland... Some Photos instead of Review

Yep, Bern. Einstein lived here and there is an apartment with his photo outside.
This is a pretty place and a little quaint. Just let the photos guide you. Like many cities in Switzerland, there are several levels and rivers and bridges to make it extra beautiful.

Enjoy the photos, its much nicer in real life.