Greetings from beautiful Sri Lanka! We had a really easy flight here from Chennai, it only took around an hour and a half. We touched down in Colombo around lunchtime, and despite some pushy tuk-tuk drivers hanging around outside the airport it was easy to find the bus into the City centre. The bus was cheap and comfy, despite the fact that the TV at the front was blaring out a repeat of a Sri Lankan live music show from New Years Eve. We had a Christmas song stuck in our heads for days after!
The first thing that struck us on the bus journey was the lack of honking horns, and the second thing was the lack of rubbish. It was clear that we were no longer in India! Unfortunately some things are the same – we got massively ripped off by a tuk-tuk driver who took us to our hostel from the bus stop. Because we hadn’t got Sri Lankan rupees straight in our heads yet and we had just got off the airport bus, we were an easy target. But, these things happen and you live and learn! On the plus side our hostel was really central so we could walk everywhere after that.
We were pleasantly surprised by how clean and modern Colombo is. Right next to our hostel was the Fort district – this is where the World Trade Centre and all the banking offices seem to be located, so there were quite a few shiny new buildings and fancy hotels.
On the first evening, we wandered to Galle Face Green which is a lovely pedestrian area along the seafront. We joined locals and tourists alike, out for an evening stroll and a view of the sunset. After our first taste of a cold Lion beer, we went to bed excited and positive about what our trip to Sri Lanka has in store.
We had one full day to explore the city and we spent it pretty well, in seeing some interesting sights and eating some excellent food. In the morning, we wandered around the chaotic market stalls in Pettah, swerving food carts towering with colourful fruit and vegetables and listening to the calls of street vendors who seemed to be selling anything and everything! We also had a peek at the candy-striped Jamil Al-Ulfar Mosque which is one of the prettiest we’ve seen and apparently quite unique. It was built in 1908 by an unqualified architect!
For lunch we went on a hunt for one of the more famous local food joints in the city – Hotel de Pillawoos. This place is known for its delicious kottu – a Sri Lankan dish made from chopped up roti (a kind of flatbread) fried with spices and vegetables (or meat, if that’s your thing). It was great, and really spicy!
In the afternoon we continued our walking tour of the city, taking in some more of the architecture including the Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil, one of the oldest Hindu temples in Colombo, and the shiny new Lotus Tower, which is still under construction.
Although many visitors use Colombo as a transport hub only – getting off a plane and then heading down to the beaches or into the hill country straight away – it’s definitely worth spending a day or two looking around this modern, clean and interesting city.
Everyone says one of the things you must do in Sri Lanka is travel by train – specifically one of the routes up in the hill country. We found that all the trains to Kandy (our next destination) were fully booked, but we were still able to buy a Second Class unreserved ticket. This meant that we had to jostle for position on the platform and elbow our way onto the train, but we were able to get a seat and somewhere to store our rucksacks in a Third Class carriage. It was comfortable enough (for us, probably not for the many people standing!) and the open windows afforded an excellent view and welcome breeze. We had to change trains and do the whole ‘fighting for a seat’ thing again en route, which meant that we spent the last fifteen minutes of the journey squished up in between carriages with no room to move, but it was worth it when we got off the train at Kandy. We instantly liked the look of this pretty town with its central lake and forested hills, and our guesthouse is amazing. Its high up above the town, but the killer walk uphill is worth it for the views from our balcony!
C & D xx