Colombo the capital

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February 3rd 2011
Published: March 30th 2011
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A beautiful island and a new adventure, my Chinese new year holiday this year led me to ... Sri Lanka. It was a ten day adventure that I cannot squeeze into one blog because we saw and did so much! Instead I will begin at the capital, Colombo.

After an overnight flight and two hours at Mumbai airport, we arrived in colombo at 5am and were very pleased to have booked a hotel for a morning sleep! 

I had no idea what to expect from Sri Lanka, and guessed it might be similar to tales I had heard about India. I was most definitely wrong. 

On our first afternoon we headed out to the train station at Colombo fort, which was a very colonial and ancient building with beautiful rickety trains inside with people hanging out of the windows and others selling things from the other side of the window. When buying a ticket, the sales clerk used an old metal stamping machine behind his desk whilst we were separated by thick metal bars like prisoners, and the timetable board was a wooden hand operated clock system with full clock faces. it was like being transported back in time.

We took the train that afternoon to Kandy, of which I will write about in the next blog. Meanwhile, I shall continue with Colombo, to which we later returned...

Around Colombo, and for the rest of Sri Lanka for that matter, the best way to travel  (if you don't mind being on the roads with little protection!) is by three wheeler - they are cheap, and driven by local people who are usually very willing to share their knowledge and their love for their country! We stayed with a lady who was fairly elderly, and lived in a rather large house with three rooms she rented out.

I have to admit that our limited time in Colombo did involve a lot of shopping, but with reason I feel! The lady we stayed with had recommended a good department store to us so we headed out first thing to take a quick look. Upon arrival we saw the Hilton hotel taxi van and thought that perhaps this wasn't the store for us if that was the clientele it attracted, however once we stepped inside....we didn't leave for three hours! It was a department store full of clothes made in Sri Lanka that were a lot cheaper than shops in Hong Kong so we had fun trying lots on! Then, whoops we found the nail spa! After traipsing round Sri Lanka we treated ourselves to pedicures. FYI the store was called Odel. 

It was amusing when we asked the sales assistant in the department store for a good place nearby for us to have some lunch, and she suggested some kind of canteen out the front that sold hot dogs or pizza and such like, so when we asked about Sri Lankan food she seemed surprised and said "you like Sri Lanka food?" to which we replied "of course" - we told her how we wanted to eat local food and she seemed genuinely surprised and delighted at the same time! I'm not sure what reputation us foreign tourists must have!

Tourists however are most welcome in Sri Lanka. It is a very proud nation and everyone we met wanted to share their country with us which was so nice! Especially after recent troubles and lack of tourism.

Post shopping, we did go a bit more local and ate a very cheap Sri Lankan lunch with a mountain of rice, before taking a three wheeler to Gangaramaya Temple where they were preparing for an upcoming full moon festival involving hundreds of elephants, all of whom required ornate masks and cloaks. The lady was explaining to us how much there was to do before the festival.

We visited a market which proved to be very amusing when Amy and I began to use Cantonese to discuss what prices we thought were reasonable to pay- for once we could not be understood and they couldn't interfere with our price discussions! Once we had made our purchases we ended up teaching them a few numbers for when some other Chinese tourists arrived!! It was funny watching these Sri Lankan men repeating "ling ling ling" (000).

A cup of tea and cake with our hostess drew to an end our brief but fun time in Colombo. She was a wealthy lady who had been in the tea industry most of her life, and it was fascinating talking to her about the changes Sri Lanka had seen before and after the British were there. She also made a very good cup of tea!

J x

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