Peter Falk wouldn't be impressed

Colombo Travel Blog

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Colonial centre, Fort area of Colombo

Arriving into Colombo, Sri Lanka's biggest city, felt like the start of mini-trip for me. The past few days were nice, skipping through a few places, but this was my destination and where my sub-continent journey really begins. The flight getting in at 7.15am was a blessing I think, as the hawkers and tuk-tuk drivers weren't yet out in force outside the airport and without too much hassle I was able to find the free shuttle bus to get to the airport bus depot. It was a short ride, and there we met the public buses that ran into Colombo. Didn't have to wait long as a no 187 was ready and waiting and the few tourists were hurried on. It was my first glimpse at the cost of things here - the hour or so ride into Colombo was 70 rupees (LKR) (70c/40p) - oh it's great to be back in Asia!! It was a slow ride as the distance couldn't have been much more than 30km - the traffic is so congested and everyone and everything is trying to get somewhere - buses honking constantly, new cars, old cars, motorbikes, cyclists, pedestrians and the ubiquitous tuk-tuk - all vying for space on the same road.

Presidential palace, Colombo city

I got off at Colombo Fort, the main transit area in the city, and as I had already decided I didn't want to stay in the polluted, grim city centre, I jumped on another bus down to the Mount Lavinia area. It's on the main Galle Road thoroughfare, so there are loads of buses going that way (LKR20/10p/20c), but again it took a long time to go the 10km. I was a bit blind as I didn't have a guidebook with me and the tourist map I picked up at the airport only had the city centre covered....hmmm, so I was just looking for signs saying Mount Lavinia and jumped off when I saw one. I knew that the Tropic Inn was on College Avenue, a side road to Galle Road, but I couldn't see anything obvious after walking around for about 10 minutes.

Galle Face promenade
It was bloody boiling too, 30+ degrees with a 20kg backpack = sweaty mess. So I took my first Sri Lankan tuk-tuk and bartered him to LKR50 to take me to the hotel as I knew it couldn't be far away. The lady at Tropic Inn was friendly, although I could hardly understand a word of her 'English'! Eventually, it did turn out that they had a dorm as hostelword had said (900LKR/£5/$8 per night) - really it was just a normal room with 3 single beds in it, and as there was no-one else there, I had it to myself. I had a wander of the main road to pick up some bits and pieces (like a power plug adaptor) before spending most of the afternoon chilling out on the beach, which wasn't too bad. I'd read the water wasn't that clean, so I didn't venture in, but the locals loved it and by the time the sunset came, the beach was packed.
Independence Hall
Couldn't seen too many tourists, other than some older citizens who must've been staying at the pricey colonial Mount Lavinia Hotel, so I just had a beer and curry at my hotel (LKR300/£1.60/$3).

I probably would've spent less time in Colombo were it not for the fact that I needed to get my Indian visa at the embassy, so I had to wait round until it opened again on Monday. I spent Sunday looking round the main city, although the sights are pretty poor I have to say. Not a great introduction for people coming to Sri Lanka really, but still I went to the Pettah market (crowded and crazy), Independence Hall (underwhelming), Galle Face promenade (with lots of Sri Lankan couples making out underneath umbrellas!) and the fort area. Although, fort area is a bit misleading, because there isn't really a fort there now, its just the main commercial and harbour area with nothing really to see.

The locals taking a dip at sunset, Mount Lavinia
It was bizarre, however, as I'd chosen to look round two days before the country's first general election since the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were defeated in May 2009. This meant that security in the area was ultra tight and walking round felt like a war-zone and there were virtually no people, no cars, buses or tuk-tuks and army checkpoints everywhere - very quiet and eerie! I wasn't even allowed to take a photo of the clock-tower! I didn't feel particularly comfortable and not wanting to unintentioanlly do something that may get me arrested, I bid a quick retreat to Mount Lavinia and the beach.

I decided not to stay any longer than necessary and after getting my Indian visa application in, I jumped on the 11.38 train bound for Hikkaduwa...

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Colonial centre, Fort area of Colo…
Colonial centre, Fort area of Col…
Presidential palace, Colombo city
Presidential palace, Colombo city
Galle Face promenade
Galle Face promenade
Independence Hall
Independence Hall
The locals taking a dip at sunset,…
The locals taking a dip at sunset…
The beach at Mount Lavinia
The beach at Mount Lavinia
Plaque for the Independence Hall
Plaque for the Independence Hall
Colombo Hotels & Accommodations review
Quirky little place!
As I didn't have a Lonely Planet to hand when I arrived in Sri Lanka, I went to the only budget place I could find online, Tropic Inn. They offer 'do… read entire review
Colombo General Tips & Advice review
Efficient service
Indian visas are fairly easy to apply for. In Colombo, they have outsourced the processing to the efficient VFS Global (433 Galle Road, colombo-3). … read entire review
Colombo
photo by: wanderingluster