Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Poya & Apo

The luscious eyes of a Sri Lankan beauty
(since you are asking, I took the photo of this traditional dancer at the Conference Dinner)

Yes, I did say I would be coming back this way. Been in Colombo since Sunday afternoon for the APSA Congress 2007 as well as the various Executive Committee meetings.

Food in Ceylon (old Sri Lanka) is not much different from back in Malaysia. In fact there was Tong Yam for dinner, nasi goreng, fried noodles, brinjals and curries, of course.

Breakfast at the hotel is more modest compared to Maldives and hotels in Malaysia but still generous except I miss my chicken porridge but than there is the "string hopper" - apparently a British name for "apo" but Malaysians will be more familiar with apom. Over here it is served in the shaped of a bowl and you can have an egg in it. Eat with chilly and curries. I would say this has been my favourite breakfast for the past 2 mornings.

So, what is "Poya", you ask? This is one day every month where alcohol is totally prohibited - during full moon. Poya is also a monthly holiday to allow the Buddhist to fulfill their religious obligations. That was yesterday (Tuesday) and the restaurants and bars (even those in the hotels) do not serve liquor - and the streets are quite deserted. This law is observed religiously. I thought it a great idea - gives people a chance to detox.

Conferences are about meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones. Nihal, Utpal and I walked the streets of Hanoi at midnight in 2003 and we continued our "tradition" again on Monday night except we now had a tour guide (Nihal was born and bred in Colombo). We try to appreciate and not be judgmental. We walked for 2 hours through tight security around the old fort area which is residence to the Prime Minister. Every street leading to the area has soldiers on the streets and in bunkers keeping a watchful eye. Vehicles are flagged down at random to look for suspicious characters. We were flagged down when we took a "toot-toot" or taxicab (those modified scooters) and our guide was "interrogated" (ok, a bit of an exaggeration here) and had his passport checked. Apparently, they leave foreigners pretty much alone. If you are wondering why all the fuss, its their way of staying vigilant against Tamil Tiger attacks. From what I see, the locals seems to take it all in their stride. I am told that other parts of the island are less stressful for travellers. I will know tomorrow when I go a day trip to Galle, an ancient World Heritage Site.

Lik Meng renewing friendships with Nihal and Utpal and making a new one.
The old gentleman (2nd from right) is Terry McGee, a household name in academic circles. He used to teach at Universiti Malaya in the 1960s or 70s.

Part of the APSA Executive Committee right after the elections yesterday evening
from left : Yukio Nishimura and Utpal Sharma (Committee Members)
Lik Meng (President); Mahanama (Vice-President) and Anthony Yeh (Secretary-General)
Missing from picture are Do Hau (Past President) and Hsia

Time to go catch some sleep. Leaving for Galle at 6 am (2 and half hour journey) and from Galle straight to the Airport for home. I have not really seen much of Colombo but the people are very friendly and the streets seems safe though full of rubbish and homeless people in some parts. At the conference I heard some animated discussions about the work being done by planners and others to improve the life of the local people. Politics however seems to be the spoiler here too.


Karim said...

Hey Lik Meng,

Your photos look so professional! Nice work.

hani soraya said...

Alamak Dr, you're so lucky!