We recently took a trip up into the ‘hill country’ to visit Kandy and the tea plantation’s of Nuwara Eliya and Ella. This part of Sri Lanka is truly spectacular and no words can do justice to some of the most breathtaking scenery I have seen. The temperature is also amazing with maximums in the mid 20’s and lows in the mid teens; not sweating is the most refreshing feeling. Kandy is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and is home to the most sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha giving it UNESCO world heritage status.
I will let the pictures capture the awe and wonder of the ‘hill country’, but for me Kandy will best be remembered for my exchange with a local shop owner.
Kandy is a touristy place and so the local businessmen are all about the not so subtle art of stalking potential customers to entice them into their shops. After walking no less than 100m and being accosted by five local merchants I decided to pull out the old tourist trick of pretending I spoke no English. So when merchant number six barreled over and began asking if was I married, telling me that I looked like a movie star, and that I could not live without five pashminas and a wooden elephant (all of which are the highest quality at a very good price), I muttered a disinterested “no English” in my best Eastern European accent.
Quickly changing tack the shopkeeper asked me which country I was from. This led to two critical mistakes. Mistake #1 – answering in English and therefore admitting I actually knew English and Mistake #2 – saying I was from Germany.
My response was swiftly met by a barrage of German questions (at least that’s what I assume it was – he might have bluffed my bluff). I knew the game was up and I responded with a completely unconvincing “Yaaah?”. Massive FAIL.
The next thing I knew I was being accused of not being German (rightly so) and that I was a terrible liar (also true). For the next five minutes I was given the biggest dressing down about not telling lies in Sri Lanka and how Sri Lankans are honest people and that I was a disgrace. I copped it sweet. And fair enough, he was on the high moral ground in the mountain capital of Buddhism riding the Clydesdale of high horses. I had no excuse and I was taking the scolding I deserved.
Then the conversation changed. The horse bucked and the doyen of integrity suddenly came tumbling down morality mountain. For the next five minutes I was told how he hated Germans, that they were the worst people, that they were crazy and rude and that Scottish people were the best tourists (because they were not as drunk…right). I felt like I was stuck in a 1942 propaganda film. With the shopkeeper having lost the upper hand, I took this as my opportunity to escape and swiftly headed down the street straight out of there.
I had learnt a valuable lesson – Tajikistani is my next fake nationality and I better Google a few phrases before I try it on.