The Road to Mannar / Vavunia!

The road to Mannar Island, the A14, is supremely different than it likely was five years ago, and will be unrecognizable in five more years. Every fifty meters lies the remains of a Sri Lankan Army post. These posts, placed at such intervals, and the road they are on, acted as the line that kept the LTTE out. The road is undergoing incredible construction. Now it is a black tar road just wide enough for two buses to fit by each other. In five years it will be an American-like highway, with a wide median—wide enough that I saw someone house and farmland in between the sides.

We took this road out from the border city of Vavuniya on Saturday. A bit about Vavuniya: It is a majority tamil city with not a whole heck of a lot to see, but there is something peculiar about it, besides from being the last city on the way to the former border. Just about 3km to the east of the city is a Buddhist monument famous for holding Buddha’s “sacred tooth” sometime around the 4th century CE on it’s way from India to Sri Lanka. The city also has a neat mosque, but that’s about it. Oh, the cargills had some interesting beer, including an Irish Dark Red Stout, which I’m curious to try.

Our hotel, shall we say, had some character. The toilet (which unintentionally auto-drained) flushed only under the condition that you fill a bucket of water and poured it into the tank. Hot water existed only in the afternoon, presumably when the sun had heated the water up. Sorry, no “hot rod” here! There was no shower head, just a pipe. The room had three beds of varying sizes, all in different stages of destruction. The pillows smelt of must and dirt, the type that your grandmother has at her house that haven’t been washed in 10 years. The fan had two settings: decapitation speed and off. Most of strange of all was the entrance: the hotel was buried at the back of a narrow alley way. Other than that, it was a great place designed more for Sri Lankans than tourists.

Why did we choose it? It was the only place open at 6am. Good business policy. The other hotels should think of opening when the night train gets in. For 1500, LKR, I suppose we can’t complain.

Mannar Island is something else. It has a big Baobab tree, planted by Arabs in the 15th century and a whole ton of DONKEYS. The island was heavily fought over, all muslims and sinhalese at one point were evicted by the LTTE, and is still dotted with mines and the usual detritus of war. We left early morning from Vavuniya, barely catching the first bus out on Saturday 6am. Buses out here are not numbered, so don’t even try to make sense of them—you just have to ask people, and ask and ask and ask—until you find someone who knows what they’re talking about and when the bus will actually depart. Immediately after arriving in Mannar we went to Talaimannar.