Monday, 16 January 2017

Egypt versus Sri Lanka

No, Egypt haven't taken up cricket as far as we know, and we're not sure they've played Sri Lanka in anything, ever. This is just a contrivance so we can cover both countries in one blog post*. Be aware that the following comparisons are based on brief observation and pretty much no knowledge.

Essex girls pass on some tips
Steering and accelerating like someone who wants to die,  and who wants to take everyone with him, is standard in both countries.

But Egypt gets special status for driving at night with the lights off, unless drivers think oncoming traffic should see them, in which case they give them a blinding flash of headlamps on full. 

Winner: Sri Lanka.


Great Sri Lankan locations can't make up for bland Hoppers
A classic Full Egyptian comprises floppy flatbread, crisp and moist falafel, delicious fried vegetables, savoury mashed beans ("Foul Mesdames", unfortunately), fresh juice and eggs. At least. Each dish is gorgeous. 

A Full Sri Lankan meanwhile is String Hoppers, which are soft packet noodles wrapped around sweet coconut and Hoppers, which are sweet crêpes, then dahl and fruit. Whatever.

Winner: Egypt.     

Tourist costs
No backpackers in the crazy queue up Sigirya
Our hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings cost £50 for the two of us. Hotels were £15/night. Entry into the Necropolis, Abu Simbel etc - Egypt's big ticket items - was so cheap as to be unmemorable.  Public transport and food were pennies. The country is a bargain.

Sri Lanka hotels and public transport were the same but, boy, the big ticket items were so much we sometimes didn't go. $30 each to climb a big rock (Sigirya)? No. The same for an afternoon at an ancient city (Pollonaruwa)? Just, yes. £175 for another hot air balloon ride? Sri Lanka is a seller's market right now and sometimes you feel you're being fleeced.

Winner: Egypt.
Old stuff
Tranquillity in granite. Pollonaruwa, Sri Lanka
Egypt has the antiquity - there's stuff over 4000 years old, some of it mint. But there's a familiarity to the sights and not so many surprises.

Sri Lanka has rain (unlike Egypt), so things haven't weathered so well, but few of us could put a name to any of the island's fabulous Hindu statues. And those Buddhas carved from stone are more mesmerising than the Donald Trump of ancient Egypt (Ramesses II at Abu Simbel). And then there are Dambulla's painted caves that hold more atmosphere and mystery than the brightly-lit tombs of the Kings.
Winner: A tie.

Tourist hospitality
Jo braving an expert
Several times in Sri Lanka we had to go up to parked tuktuk drivers to ask for a ride. Shop owners smiled politely from behind distant counters. My gentle haggling intimidated the car hire guy.

In Egypt meanwhile the horse-and-trap drivers, stall owners, and the alleged cook from our hotel (our hotel clearly had an infinite number of cooks) spotted us from three miles and were advertising their or their brother's services in seconds. Relentlessly. Agonisingly. Almost viciously. Just Please Go Away.

Winner: Sri Lanka.

Natural scenery
Lakes, hills, monasteries, monkeys, Jo, Sri Lanka
The Nile is nice and its banks are classic. The desert is beautiful if you like that kind of thing (Dave yes, Jo no). The Red Sea coast is stark but of course, lovely underwater.

Sri Lanka meanwhile has jungle, savannah, high mountains, Scottish highlands (if you squint), strange rocks, pretty tropical beaches, and its own coral reefs. No competition.

Winner: Sri Lanka

Daylight fills the room...
Internal doors
The things we take for granted. Egypt has internal doors like ours, you know, two bits of plywood half an inch apart.

Someone has sold in a different concept to the Sri Lankans. Their doors and door frames are made of just-strong-enough plastic.  They let light through.  But, perhaps significantly, they fit snugly enough to keep mosquitos out. Maybe they are onto something.

Winner: Sri Lanka. Why not?

Overall winner
A silly concept I suppose. Both countries are amazing, as most countries are. Go to Egypt. It is suffering and it needs the income even more than Sri Lanka at the moment; its tourist industry is on its knees while Sir Lanka's is up and running. The sights are timeless and amazing and the place is currently a bargain. And this is how to deal with the hassle.

* Laptop broke in December and we couldn't bring ourselves to blog by smartphone. The replacement is a £200 Lenovo MIIX 310, with which we are very happy despite its Thai bamboozling. Still looking for the hash key, and always forgetting where @ is.