Chillin' in Colombo


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December 16th 2014
Published: December 16th 2014
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Washing machines on sale at Colombo airport.
Contrary to popular belief, Colombo is not the capital city of Sri Lanka. The capital is Kotte a satellite city located beyond the Colombo city center. However, Colombo is a busy and vibrant metropolis and still remain as the commercial, industrial and cultural capital of the country with its mixture of modern life and colonial-era buildings.

I was in Colombo the first time in 2008, but only in transit and saw the city for a couple of hours only. Then in October 2010, my friend and I decided to go there as part of our Sri Lanka/India trip. We booked on SriLankan Airlines but our flight was delayed for over two hours at Bangkok airport, so we arrived in Colombo much later than the scheduled time. However, the good service received on board the plane somewhat made up for the delay. Moreover, our pick up service at Colombo airport was still waiting for us, and it was quite a relief to see the driver as it was quite late at night. We checked in at the Hotel Sapphire on Galle Road where we spent the next two nights.

The next morning I ventured outside the hotel to change some
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A motley crew of passengers crowding the currency exchange counter at the airport.
money nearby, and to have breakfast at a typical Sri Lankan food shop. The part of Galle Road where our hotel is located is not in the city center, but it is a very busy section and traffic was heavy all the time on this street when we were there. There are many small restaurants, stores and a couple of grocery stores within walking distance. Moreover, we didn't have any complaints about the hotel itself. We were upgraded to a superior room which was quite spacious with a mini-fridge inside, and wi-fi service was also available in the room.

We took a three wheel cab to the Thai Embassy as my friend needed to apply for a new Thai visa, after which we went sightseeing around the city. First stop was the Galle Face Green which is a long stretch of lawn facing the Indian ocean. It is in the financial and business district of Colombo, and a very popular place for tourists and for the locals too, particularly on weekends as they can indulge in their favorite pastimes next to the sea.

We went inside the iconic Galle Face Hotel which is one of Sri Lanka's oldest
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Hotel Sapphire entrance (where we stayed in Colombo)
(built in 1864) and most well known hotels. According to the big plaque mounted on the wall in the hotel lobby, many distinguished people have stayed there, including royalty, world leaders and international celebrities. I was quite amazed at their guest list and even took a photo of the plaque. I wondered at that time about the cost of a room there, but I am sure it is well beyond my financial capabilities!

In the early afternoon, TB member Lily who is a native of Sri Lanka, came to visit us at the hotel. She turned out to be a very nice person and took us out to a big shopping mall for lunch, and later to the National Museum. The following day we went on a day trip to visit the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala (Separate blog to follow later).

We also went to Kandy by train (separate travel blog also posted here) and on our return to Colombo we spent one more night at the Hotel Clarion as it was closer to the airport. It is a nice hotel with a pear shaped swimming pool. but as we arrived rather late we didn't have time to
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Street scene near our hotel in Colombo.
enjoy the hotel facilities, except to have dinner at their restaurant called "Tulips." We turned in right after dinner, as we had to catch the next day's early morning flight to Trivandrum in India.

My 'take' on Colombo: It is a cosmopolitan city with reasonably good infrastructure and amenities. It has a big harbor and there are many luxury hotels, clubs and high end restaurants. Some colonial-era buildings are still standing in the city, such as the Prime Minister's office, the Galle Face Court, the Royal College, the neo-classical National Museum, etc. The Colombo International Airport is a modern one with all the facilities and services as in other international airports around the world However, it is far (nearly 40 kilometers) from the city. On the whole, I found Sri Lanka to be more expensive than India in terms of food, accommodation and admission fees to public places. The country was named the number 1 destination for 2013 by Lonely Planet, so, there you go.....what more can I say?


Additional photos below
Photos: 45, Displayed: 25


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Catholic church near our hotel in Colombo.
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A vendor with a cart full of coconuts on a Colombo street.
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Chamber of Commerce in Colombo.
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Beira Lake in the heart of Colombo.
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Me at Beira Lake.
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Office buildings near the lake.
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Another view of Beira Lake.
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A modern looking bank in Colombo.
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Cab drivers waiting for customers near Beira Lake.
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In the business district of Colombo.
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A street in downtown Colombo.
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Traffic roundabout near Galle Face Green in Colombo.
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Galle Face Green which faces the Indian Ocean.
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Plaque at Galle Face Green in Colombo.
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The luxury Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.
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Sri Lankan flag at Galle Face Hotel.
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The plaque in the hotel lobby with names of prominent guests who've stayed there in the past.


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