Collision of worlds in Colombo


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Asia » Sri Lanka » Western Province » Colombo
March 7th 2017
Published: April 23rd 2017
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HE SAID...
After a comfortable flight from Singapore (just under four hours), we touched down at Bandaranaike International Airport at midnight. The airport is in Katunayake, which is 40 kilometres from Colombo. We had a reasonably quick transition through customs, although standing in a slow moving queue to get our passports checked and stamped was a little tedious in the humid midnight air. We made our way out of customs, found our pre-arranged transfer vehicle and sped off towards Colombo, arriving at our hotel (Taru Villas Lake Lodge) around 1:15am. A very tired hotel manager was waiting up for us, and after some preliminary paper work, he showed us to our room. The place was amazing, with heaps of room. We dropped our packs, showered and crashed at 2:30am.

After just four hours’ sleep, we woke at 6:30am and made our way to a small balcony overlooking the hotel courtyard and settled at a table for breakfast. We were handed menus offering a choice of either Western or Sri Lankan breakfasts, and the Western choice had a further two options – healthy or unhealthy! We decided to try the Western breakfast and leave the traditional Sri Lankan breakfast for tomorrow. I went for the healthy option (yoghurt and fruit topped with oats and treacle), while Ren opted for the unhealthy choice (fruit platter followed by fried eggs with bacon, potatoes, grilled tomato and mushroom). Both options were served with watermelon juice, tea, toast and pineapple jam, and both were fantastic.

A school was located next to our hotel, and the spirited sound of children playing drifted across the balcony as we ate. It created a lively atmosphere, and we immersed ourselves in the morning sounds of Kollupitiya, the neighbourhood in which we were staying. As the sun rose, so did the heat, and we began to question our decision to eat outside…

We finished breakfast around 8am, and about an hour later two of Ren’s cousins (Melanie and Denzil) dropped in to see us. It was fantastic to meet them, and great that they had made time to drop by and say hello. We were heading to Melanie’s for dinner that evening, and I was looking forward to meeting a few more of Ren’s cousins and aunts.

We decided to go for a quick walk to get our bearings, so we headed towards South Beira Lake which was only minutes from our hotel. On the way we passed a large recreation ground where a number of serious (and not so serious) games of social cricket were in progress. We were buoyed by the fact that girls were playing alongside boys, with no ostensible sign of gender segregation or superiority. As we wandered around the perimeter of the polluted lake, we began to wilt in the intense morning heat, so we made a quick retreat back to the hotel at 10:30am. We were desperate for a cup of tea. One of the things that impressed me most about our hotel was the complimentary pot of incredible tea that was available at any time of the day or night.

On the narrow road leading back to our hotel we met a three-wheeler (motorised tricycle with a passenger cabin, also called tri-shaws or tuk-tuks) driver called Saman. He offered to take us on a tour of Colombo, which we thought may be an option for the following day. However, we needed to get to Narahenpita (one of Colombo’s southern suburbs) by midday, as we were having lunch with Ren’s aunt Gethsie and uncle Shun, so we jumped into Saman’s three-wheeler at 11:30am and sped off in a vaguely southerly direction.

It was fantastic to visit Gethsie and Shun. I’d met Shun a few years earlier in London, but I hadn’t met Gethsie (one of Roy’s two sisters). We sat and talked for ages, and Gethsie was an amazing host. We enjoyed an incredible home-cooked meal of rice, fried fish, fish curry, polos (young jackfruit) curry, dahl (lentil curry), brinjal moju (fried eggplant pickle with red onions), gotukola sambol (pennywort salad with shredded coconut, green chillies, onions, lime and salt), and a cucumber, tomato and yoghurt salad. We finished the meal with curd and kittul (fishtail palm) treacle. It was fantastic, as was the conversation. Shun joined in when he could, but it was difficult for him to hear the conversation flow.

Gethsie talked a lot about her life as a child with Roy, and she also spoke of her work with children, having won an award in November 2016 for her outstanding work as a Childs Rights Activist. Gethsie worked with displaced children in Jaffna during the closing stages of the civil war, and I can’t imagine the horror she faced on a daily basis, being surrounded by war-driven atrocities. We could easily have stayed and talked all afternoon and into the evening, but we were heading out to Kandana (one of Colombo’s northern suburbs) for dinner, so we needed to allow time to get back to the hotel to organise ourselves. We left with a hint of sadness at 2:30pm, not knowing when we would next see Gethsie and Shun.

Our three-wheeler driver Saman was waiting for us. The traffic was heavily congested on our return trip, with well-heeled kids in luxury cars causing chaos as they celebrated a cricket match between Royal College and St Thomas’ College. Saman navigated the narrowest sections of road, squeezing between cars and only just avoiding pedestrians. When we arrived back at the hotel at 3pm, it was time for another pot of tea.

We relaxed in our room until 5:30pm, then headed north to Kandana to share dinner with a number of Ren’s extended family. We were meeting two of Ren’s aunts – Maud and Philo; her cousins –Melanie, Villet, Cynthia and Dileepa, Denzil and Nilusha; and three of their children – Denver, Diyon and Tiana. Melanie organised a driver for us, and the air conditioning in his car was very welcome. I enjoy riding in the back of a three-wheeler, especially when the wind buffets your body and cools the heavy humid air, but this trip was not suited to a three-wheeler. We drove through Colombo’s old Fort area, then made our way along busy narrow roads beside what are colloquially termed the Dutch canals (a working system of canals in the greater Colombo area).

As we approached Kandana, lightening flashed across the night sky, and we wondered if there was an impending storm. After 90 minutes on the road, we finally arrived at Melanie’s at 7pm. It was fantastic to meet Ren’s aunts and cousins, and we were so grateful that everyone had contributed to the meal. We shared red and white string hoppers (steamed vermicelli-like rice noodles), pol roti (coconut roti), pork curry, beef curry, aloo kiri hodi (potato in coconut milk gravy), pol sambol (shredded coconut with onions, chilli and lime), and ice cream. We finished the meal with a box of chocolates from Tasmania, and Dileepa shared the story of how he and Cynthia are trying to avert their two-year old daughter Tiana from getting a taste for chocolate by likening it to chilli (which she currently doesn’t like). I can only imagine the look on Tiana’s face when she tastes chocolate for the first time…

We sat, talked and shared a few simple gifts from Tasmania. Melanie gave us a couple of sarongs, and I knew straight away that these would come in handy over the next four weeks. As the night drew to a close and we were preparing to leave, the house was pounded by a deluge of rain as thunder roared overhead. We were completely drenched in the short time it took us to run to the car, even armed with umbrellas. Melanie had organised the same driver for our return journey to Kollupitiya, and this time he sped along the freeway which shortened the trip considerably.

We arrived back at the hotel around 10:30pm, and we were feeling the tell-tale signs of jetlag. It had been a fantastic evening meeting Ren’s extended family, but surviving a humid Colombo day on only four hours’ sleep had caught up with us. It was time for bed!

After a rejuvenating seven hours’ sleep, we woke at 6:30am and headed out for a morning walk around South Beira Lake. As we wandered past the Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre (built on a tiny island on the east side of the lake), we noticed a number of family groups engaged in traditional wedding photography shoots. We couldn’t help ourselves! We surreptitiously made our way across the wooden bridge, removed our thongs (flip-flops), ducked and swerved to ensure we were out of everyone else’s photos and set to work trying to take a few shots of our own. There was such a fantastic atmosphere on the island, and everyone was more than happy for us to snap some photos while they waited for the professional photographers to capture their big day.

After about 30 minutes we made our way off the island, crossed the busy Sir James Pieris Mawatha and walked to the nearby Gangaramaya Temple. Many of the wedding parties were also making their way to the temple for additional photos and public ceremonies. Run by Buddhist monks, the temple was a beautifully calm place, and we really enjoyed wandering through. We would have stayed and lingered a lot longer, but the lure of breakfast was too much…

We walked back to the hotel and settled at the same table on the small balcony overlooking the hotel courtyard. We’d been looking forward to the hotel’s traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, having opted for the Western breakfast the day before. We were served a fruit platter with watermelon juice and tea, followed by string hoppers, pol roti, chicken curry, egg curry, potato curry, dahl (lentil curry), pol sambol, seeni sambol (caramalised onion relish) and katta sambol (salty chilli and lime paste). It was sensational!

We’d organised our three-wheeler driver Saman from the day before to take us on a tour of Colombo. We clambered into the back of his three-wheeler at 10:45am and headed straight to the Independence Memorial Hall, which was built to commemorate Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain (celebrated each year on 4 February 1948). We loved the atmosphere of this open monument, located at the southern end of Independence Avenue in Colombo’s leafy (and upmarket) Cinnamon Gardens.

Saman weaved his three-wheeler through the busy streets of the neighbourhood, passing numerous embassies and official dwellings before parking outside the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. We were captivated by a serene Buddhist statue across the road from the hall, and we managed to capture a few photos before heading off to the National Museum. We wandered the Museum’s well-kept lawns as the late morning sun beat down upon us. We then clambered back into the three-wheeler and sped off to the picturesque Viharamahadevi Park (opposite Colombo’s Old Town Hall) before making an unexpected detour to Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam kovil, the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo.

Hidden behind the chaotic Colombo Fort Railway Station, this colourful Hindu temple had an incredibly calm ambiance, and we spent more time than expected wandering through its rooms and smiling at a few of its slightly peculiar carvings. We then navigated the bustling historic Fort area, gazing in dismay at the gargantuan Chinese Port City construction site on the foreshore which is breaching the ocean itself…

We kept glimpsing the Clock Tower (built 1857) from various vantage points on Fort’s hectic streets, and we started to realise that for the first time since arriving in Sri Lanka, we actually knew where we were. We dropped into the railway station to pick up tickets for our trip to Kandy the following day, queued at the station’s ATM to withdraw our first rupees, then sped back to the hotel with Saman, stopping off at the popular BreadTalk Bakery to pick up some snacks on the way.

After four hours on Colombo’s crowded bustling streets, we arrived back at the hotel at 1:45pm. We clambered out of the three-wheeler, ordered a pot of tea and settled in our room to catch up on our writing while munching on our BreadTalk snacks, which included a fish patty, mutton patty, Chinese fish roll, Chinese mutton roll, fish bun (What ‘A’ Fish) and a chocolate Swiss roll. Yummo!

At 5:30pm we made our way through the streets of Kollupitiya to the renowned Galle Face Green. We wandered the foreshore with hundreds of locals and tourists, all of whom were enjoying the hazy red sunset and the family friendly vibe. I’d watched Peter Kuruvita reminisce about Galle Face Green in his television series ‘My Sri Lanka’, and it was one place in Colombo I really wanted to experience at dusk. Ren holds fond (but distant) memories of this long stretch of dusty grass on Colombo’s oceanfront, and I can see why. Games of cricket were underway, colourful kites were in full flight, balls were being chased, dogs were being walked, hot chilli chips were being eaten, families were gathering, friends were walking arm-in-arm. There is something magical about a beachfront at dusk, and despite its dusty complexion and cheap toy stalls, Galle Face Green held an enchanting and charming quality.

As we made our way back to the hotel, the sky threatened to unleash a deluge similar to the previous night, but nothing eventuated. We wandered around South Beira Lake one last time, trying unsuccessfully to capture a reflection of Colombo’s skyline in the lake’s tranquil waters.

The place we intended to have dinner (just around the corner from the hotel) was closed, so we settled at a table in the hotel’s comfortable outdoor dining area around 7pm. We weren’t very hungry, due in part to our afternoon snacks, so I opted for a tandoori chicken wrap with chips, while Ren bypassed everything and went straight for the banana fritters with ice cream. The food was OK, and we enjoyed the comfort of dining-in. I also enjoyed my first Lion beer, and it was very refreshing after our evening walk. Ren had a sour and salty lime juice, which was also very refreshing.

We retired to our room at 8:30pm, organised our packs, downloaded our photos, ordered a pot of tea and settled in to catch up on our writing. It had been a long day, and we had an early start the following day, as we were catching a 7am train to Kandy. We eventually crashed at 10pm.

We really enjoyed our time in Colombo – everyone was so incredibly friendly, and so welcoming of us. It was a great start to our Sri Lankan journey.



SHE SAID...
Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is a bustling city and the main international gateway to the country via the Bandaranaike International Airport, which is around 40km from Colombo.

Colombo has a long history as an important port on ancient east-west trade routes, and as a result I can imagine that it was a desirable city to conquer. The city’s Portuguese, Dutch and British heritage is reflected in its cuisine and very apparent in its mixed colonial architecture.

As a capital city, Colombo doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from many visitors. I suppose in comparison with the high energy of Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore, or the hi-tech appeal of Seoul or Tokyo, Colombo may appear to be lacking in excitement. However, as always, we took in the reviews and opinions but wanted to be our own judge of a place. Plenty of people were surprised that we’d allocated so much time to get to know it. We were only spending three days in Colombo in our first week, but we’d be doubling back two more times, two days at a time (in the middle of our trip and at end of our time in the country).

As with any sprawling city, Colombo had to be broken down into manageable pockets for exploration, and we were very pleasantly surprised by how much we liked parts of it. Colombo has been divided up into numbered sectors – each with its unique features and characteristics. For this stay in Colombo we were staying in Colombo 3, which is a slightly plush and greener sibling to the colonial and commercial heart of Colombo 1 where we’ll be staying the next time we pass through. And on our last visit we’ll be staying in Colombo 7 in the southern end of the city.

When we bounced onto the tarmac at Colombo Airport, to say we were tired was an understatement. We landed at midnight and it was odd to see an airport so crowded at that hour… it was heaving with hundreds of very tired and cranky people. We'd been warned that the airport was undergoing major renovations and that it was only open to passengers from 6pm to 6am, which explained the crowds. The immigration line was seriously long, and definitely not helped by random people casually walking up to the front and cutting in. You could ignore the odd person getting away with it, but it got a bit irksome when whole groups of tourists would try to cut in – usually instigated by their tour guide.

I was so grateful that there wasn’t any hassle with the hotel driver we’d organised – he was where he’d said he’d be at the allocated time. Our hotel – Taru Villas Lake Lodge – is a small boutique hotel that sits on a little residential street on the edge of South Beira Lake. The whole house is styled in a minimalist Geoffrey Bawa-esque fashion, and seeing as our itinerary didn’t allow us to stay in any of his small hotel projects on this trip, this was the next best thing.

We'd been up for more than 24 hours when we reached the hotel, and we’d been travelling for 19.5 hours (from door to door), so thank goodness check-in took less than a minute and we were whisked up to our very beautiful room. By the time we organised ourselves and our packs, and showered and crawled into bed at 2:30am, we were zombie-like.

We like to get acclimatised to new time zones as soon as possible, so we set the alarm for 7am, even though that meant getting less than five hours sleep. Annoyingly, I was wide awake by 6am anyway!

We had a leisurely breakfast on the hotel terrace with squirrels in the frangipani tree for company. A plate of sweet tropical fruit was followed by a western fry-up for me, while Andrew opted for the 'healthy choice' of curd and treacle – which was more of a dessert option really! And of course we also enjoyed our first pot of Sri Lankan tea in Sri Lanka.

After breakfast my cousin Melanie popped in with my cousin Denzil to literally say a quick ‘hello’ on her way to an appointment nearby. I hadn’t seen Melanie for a very long time, and I was meeting Denzil for the first time. Andrew was meeting them both for the first time.

After they left we decided to walk around the lake to get our bearings and stretch our legs. While the lake is seriously polluted and has an almost florescent green hue, it has a weirdly charming quality about it too. We crossed over a bridge to Slave Island, a place where slaves were held under Portuguese rule, back when the lake was infested with crocodiles. The neighboring suburb now bears the name Slave Island too.

Given we were right in the middle of a very dense city, I was surprised by the density and diversity of bird life on the lake. There were many different types of ducks and storks, but I couldn't identify the others. There was also a small population of friendly-ish white rabbits, but their feral-looking pink eyes put me off approaching them. 😊

We walked back to our hotel, cranked the aircon up and cooled down before heading out to lunch. We caught a three-wheeler (motorised tricycle with a passenger cabin, also called tri-shaws or tuk-tuks) to Narahenpita Colombo 5 where my Aunty Gethsie (Dad's older sister) and Uncle Shun live. It was interesting seeing the Cinnamon Gardens and Havelock Town areas on our way. We also experienced the over-enthusiasm (the only nice way I can describe it) of a motorcade of loud and flashy boys from Royal College who were on their way to a cricket match between Royal College and St Thomas’.

We had last seen Uncle Shun in London in 2012, but I hadn’t seen Aunty Gethsie in about 18 years and Andrew was meeting her for the first time. Uncle Shun hadn’t been well for a while, so it was good to spend some time with him. And it was fitting that we met my Aunty Gethsie on International Women's Day, as she is someone I have always admired for her amazing work with UNICEF, Save the Children Norway and other international NGOs helping women and children in post-war trauma situations. We loved hearing her stories and reading about her most recent accolade – an award for Outstanding Child Rights Activist.

Lunch was a fabulous spread cooked by their maid Christina, which included rice, fish curry, slices of fried fish, dahl, polos (young jackfruit) curry, brinjal moju (fried eggplant pickle with red onions), gotukola sambol (pennywort salad with shredded coconut, green chillies, onions, lime and salt) which Christina is famous for, and a cucumber and tomato salad with yoghurt. We ended the meal with a very Sri Lankan dessert – curd and Sri Lankan kittul (fishtail palm) treacle. It was such a pleasure to spend time with my aunty and uncle after such a long time, and for Andrew to finally meet Aunty Gethsie. A delicious lunch was the icing on the cake. I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to them both.

We called ‘our’ three-wheeler driver Saman to take us back to our hotel. We got to experience the full force of Colombo peak hour traffic on our way back, and we were also delayed by students who were protesting the proposed closure of a private medical university that had been set up relatively recently. Thank goodness Saman was a brilliant driver and knew all the side streets and back alleys to duck through to avoid the congested roads.

The general advice given to tourists about catching three-wheelers isn’t positive, and while there may well be ruthless and reckless three-wheeler drivers out there, we can honestly say that all the three-wheeler drivers we hired were excellent. However, haggling is expected, so getting a rough idea of the cost of your trip before hailing them is a great idea. We used Saman for all our Colombo trips, and he was brilliant (we have his number if anyone is interested).

The Colombo streetscape is an interesting mix of buildings with high-rises and shiny new shopping malls sitting side-by-side with colonial buildings, old-world shop fronts, street carts and the constant manic traffic. Almost every other street has some kind of renovation or construction activity, some of it at a very large scale. It's obvious that Colombo is in the process of re-defining itself as a commercial hub and tourist destination.

At the end of our first full day in Colombo we had been invited to my cousin Melanie’s house to have dinner with a few members of my Mum’s side of the family. I already knew my Mum’s sister (Aunty Maud) and a couple of my older cousins quite well, but we were meeting my younger cousins and their partners and children for the first time. Melanie had organised a driver to pick us up, so we didn't have to worry about directing a driver to her house at night.

It was lovely to hang out with everyone, and we really appreciated that my cousins had gone to the trouble of cooking a dish each (especially on a week night) for our dinner catch up. Dinner included a spread of red and white string hoppers / idiyappam (steamed vermicelli-like rice noodles) and pol roti (Sri Lankan coconut roti) with pork curry, beef curry, aloo kiri hodi (potato in coconut milk gravy) and pol sambol (shredded coconut with onions, chilli and lime). Dessert was a selection of ice creams which was the perfect end to the meal.

As we sat around chatting, the thunderstorm that had been threatening all evening finally broke and a very heavy rain beat down. It was so heavy that even with umbrellas we got drenched walking the short distance from the house to the car. We were cold enough from the rain not to need the aircon in our room, which was the polar opposite of the night before when I’d been so hot (after arriving at the hotel) that I’d had a cold shower!

We slept the sleep of the extremely exhausted that night, but we still woke up naturally at 6:30am. We decided to walk around the lake again. We also visited the small but extremely beautiful Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre (we hadn’t been able to visit the day before as I’d been wearing shorts) which sits calmly in the lake off a little pier. However, on the day we visited it was hardly the oasis of calm that Geoffrey Bawa had designed it to be, as it was absolutely packed with couples and their entourages having their wedding photos taken. I lost count at 12 couples. We could hardly walk around the small square space without photo bombing at least two photoshoots with every step. However, we did get some seriously good Sri Lankan traditional wedding photos. 😊

The Meditation Centre consists of two pavilions – one stunningly geometrical with beautiful bronze Buddha statues lining the outer square of the shrine; while the other is centred on a bodhi tree (the sacred fig tree under which Buddha is supposed to have attained enlightenment) and holy images. In contrast to the first pavilion, the second looked dishevelled and seemed to be undergoing construction in parts. Fortunately, that allowed us to clamber up to the unfinished rooftop (which was very un-OH&S of us) and get a beautiful sunny panorama view of the lake and surrounds.

We then crossed the road and visited the Gangaramaya Temple, which comprised a main shrine, a museum and a library. It was a rambling old space that didn’t make a lot of sense, and it was very hard to photograph, but I loved it. It was full of people praying before work, and we also got to see a Buddhist poruwa (wedding) ceremony being conducted. The temple is sadly also known for its temple elephant. We saw it walk past for a blessing from the monks before it gave out blessings to people (for a donation), but we didn't really want to be part of an activity that we think is cruel. The temple cat, on the other hand, got a lot of love from me… it was happy, well fed and at peak playfulness. 😊

We returned to the hotel in time for another fabulous breakfast on the hotel terrace. This time we'd been able to order the Sri Lankan breakfast the night before, so we enjoyed a delicious spread of string hoppers, pol roti, chicken curry, egg curry, potato curry, dahl, pol sambol, seeni sambol (caramelised onion relish) and katta sambol (salty chilli and lime paste). I'm starting to appreciate the subtle difference in breakfast curries and other curries. We were in piggy heaven. If all our meals in Sri Lanka continued to be as good as the ones we’d had so far, we’ll definitely be going home with many extra kilos under our belts.

Saman, our three-wheeler driver from the day before, had offered to take us on a city tour which we started after breakfast at 10:45am. It took in the Cinnamon Gardens, Slave Island, Union Place, Kollupitiya and Fort areas.

We started at Independence Square, stopping at the Independence Memorial Hall, which as its name suggests was built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka from British rule on 4th February 1948. Very aptly, the open stone pillared pavilion design was based on the wooden Magul Maduwa (Audience Hall) in the Royal Palace in Kandy, where the British famously signed the Kandyan Convention in 1815 ending the Kingdom of Kandy (the last Kingdom to fall to the British). At the top of the monument stands a statue of the first prime minister of Sri Lanka – Don Stephen Senanayake – known as ‘The Father of the Nation’. I loved this serene and breezy building, and I could understand why it was popular with people seeking quiet solitude, as well as couples seeking privacy.

We drove past ‘Painting Street’, which is a street-side gallery of sorts for local artists, and then past all the embassies which, for some reason, Saman thought we would be interested in. We also drove past the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, the largest performing arts theatre in Colombo which was a ‘gift’ from China to the previous President of Sri Lanka (which like many things, he obscenely named after himself). We stopped at the massive roadside replica Aukana Buddha Statue (a replica of the statue situated near Anuradhapura, built in the 5th century), across from the imposing Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall (another ‘gift’ from China).

We then pulled up to the striking white colonial architecture of the National Museum, set in gorgeous gardens, and then to the equally stunning old colonial Town Hall which borders the Viharamahadevi Park (renamed from Victoria Park) where a large Buddha statue sits at the entrance. Looking at the museum and old town hall sitting in their well-manicured lawns and gardens, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were in London.

One of the highlights of our tour was the oldest and largest Hindu temple in Colombo – Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam kovil. It’s in an area called Captain’s Garden, right behind Fort Train Station and at the end of a road that seems to be the repair ground for all the three-wheelers in the city. A religious ceremony with drumming and chanting had just finished, and we were offered a very delicious pongal (rice pudding with dried fruit and spices) that was part of the ceremony. Saman was a Sinhalese Buddhist, but he surprised me by saying that he didn’t discriminate between religions and prayed at all places of worship and also spoke fluent Tamil with all the priests at the temple. After a quick rundown of all the main deities in the temple, we wandered around the very beautiful, friendly and welcoming kovil (Hindu temple) space where we noticed some statues had surprisingly western faces. The one dressed like Zena Warrior Princess caught our attention!

Next we drove to the Fort and Pettah area. It didn't take long to realise that the architecture and ambience of Fort was very different to Pettah next door. We were starting to tire by now and so after picking up our train tickets from the Fort Train station for our next day’s trip to Kandy, we made one last stop at BreadTalk Bakery for a takeaway lunch. We picked out a selection of short eats (an umbrella term for Sri Lankan fried or baked snacks) – vegetarian and mutton pan rolls (filled and rolled up crepes, that are crumbed and fried), fish and mutton patties, fish buns and a chocolate Swiss roll. We then returned to our hotel, ordered a pot of tea, scoffed our short eats and gratefully slumped into bed for a few hours.

That evening we walked to Galle Face Green, a stretch of field that sweeps along the beach near the Galle Face Hotel. It’s a gathering place in the evenings for friends, families and tourists to enjoy the cool sea breeze and watch the renowned sunsets. There were many street food carts, vendors of toys and kites, and a few established food stalls. We walked around, took in the fiery sunset through rain-cloud heavy skies and watched people enjoying their evening together. We meant to have dinner there, but none of the food carts or stalls caught our eye. To be honest, even though it was obviously a well-used and well-loved space with a nice vibe, for me the area wasn't as lively or attractive as it had been built up to be.

As a light drizzle started to fall, we walked back to the hotel for a light meal. We very rarely eat at the hotels we stay at, but we were quite tired and just weren’t that hungry after a big breakfast and late lunch. Andrew had a tandoori chicken wrap with a local Lion beer, and I had banana fritters with ice cream, and a freshly squeezed lime juice. Given my choice of dessert for dinner, I suspect our jetlag was starting to catch up with us. 😊

I’m seriously glad we didn’t just treat Colombo as a hopping-off point for the central hill country or the beaches in the south. We have enjoyed our first introduction to the diverse city, and look forward to getting to know it better on subsequent trips. We were also very very happy with our choice of hotel. Not only was it visually beautiful and extremely comfortable, we couldn’t fault any aspect of their efficient and affable service either.

Next we travel north-east to Kandy, high in the central hills.

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24th April 2017
gangaramaya temple

Excellent
Glad to see you making some pup friends.
24th April 2017
gangaramaya temple

Re: Excellent
He was a poser! And seemed very fond of his statue buddy :)
24th April 2017

Sri Lanka
Late flights, jet lag, crowds ....your boutique hotel sounds nice. I hate those zombie like sleeps because I never want to get up and yet I don't want to miss anything. The food and family sounds fantastic. Dave and I often stay longer in some locations they other recommend and so far we've never been disappointed.
24th April 2017

Re: Sri Lanka
I think we've both decided that we don't like arriving in a new place too late at night... although it didn't help that we broke another of our travel rules and packed a lot into our first day too. It's nice getting other people's opinions of a place, but isn't it fabulous to have the opportunity to experience it ourselves and make up our own minds?
25th April 2017

Nothing like I expected
Colombo looks amazing, and nothing like I expected, I had images of the chaos and pollution of Mumbai but it looks really beautiful. So good you were able to catch up with so much family and get a great feed off them, as always I just wished that somehow I could taste the food through the computer screen, tried licking it but it just ain't working. As for the feral-looking pink eyed rabbits, I have seen Monty Pythons Holy Grail so I would be scared too.
26th April 2017

Re: Nothing like I expected
This area of Colombo was very unlike what we expected too...but we hit the 'Mumbai factor' in other parts of Colombo when we returned (minus the pollution). Haha yes I did think of the killer guardian rabbit of the cave, but these ones looked more feral (and infectious!) :)
25th April 2017

What's with the leaning building?
Sounds like you had an amazing first couple of days, the food looks and sounds delicious. In a few photos there is a building that appears to be seriously leaning on the one next to it ... what's up with that?
26th April 2017

Re: What's with the leaning building?
The Colombo skyline is filled with architecturally 'different' buildings still in construction stage. We used that leany one as our landmark to guide us back to the hotel so many times, but never thought to ask what the building will be when it's finished. The food was fabulous! :)
26th April 2017

Exploring Colombo
What a great adventure! I always knew my time in Colombo was too short, so I am very envious of your adventures. And don't get me started on those delicious home cooked meals! It must've been wonderful to see and meet family.
26th April 2017

Re: Exploring Colombo
It's hard to make decisions about allocating time in cities when information can be so skewed or lacking... I was happy with the time we spent there, but still only saw a small part of the capital. I'll have to re-read your blogs on your SL trip at some point :)
29th April 2017

Jetlag
And all that through jetlagged eyes!
1st May 2017

Re: Jetlag
Jetlag is always easier to handle when we are excited about travelling...it's much harder to deal with when we are settling back into life at home and the trip is over :/
1st May 2017

Great start!
This is awesome. I feel like I'm getting a preview to my trip! Can't wait to see what Kandy is like. Safe travels.
1st May 2017

Re: Great start!
Thanks Andrea. Hope your travel planning is coming along well... :)
2nd May 2017

Colombo highlights
Action packed and a delight to read. Sadly we missed this gem on our recent trip to southern India, but might still hope to make it one day. Thanks for sharing. Keep smiling. David and Janice
3rd May 2017

Re: Colombo highlights
Thanks David and Janice. I'm ashamed to admit that I was quite shocked to see how close Sri Lanka was to southern India - almost walkable! ;) Hope you are both well :)

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