The capital city of Colombo is one that many travellers to Sri Lanka often ignore or visit for nothing more than a night before moving on to far more interesting places. We did likewise when we arrived in the country and headed straight off for Kandy but my wife (for some reason!) was keen to visit Colombo and so we actually spent our last 48 hours in the country there following our detour via Kitulgala where I went to the main location in the filming of ‘The Bridge On The River Kwai‘ (1957).
Having been dropped off by our driver Rath in the evening we set out the next morning to the markets of Pettah by local bus. After walking around a bit we finally stumbled upon a place called Nawagiri Hotel which is definitely not an accommodation provider of any sort but it seems the word hotel is used in the name for many restaurants and bars. We had one of the traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts on offer and then wandered the area.
Perhaps the most visibly stimulating sight in Colombo is Jami-Ul-Arfar Mosque (below) with its candy-striped red and white brickwork.
We passed by Colombo Fort Station (below) and….
….then came across this interesting sculpture (below) nearby.
The area known as Dutch Hospital (below) was our destination in this part of the city. I had no idea about this place beforehand but it is actually an attractive shopping precinct with low slung tiled roofing. It features restaurants, cafes and shops. I was just thankful of some shade and a blast of air-conditioning! As for the name, that’s because it used to be a hospital when Sri Lanka was occupied by the Dutch.
After five nights in the country I was still alcohol-free as it just wasn’t available at the stores and we didn’t really pass any bars or hotel-bars selling it. I finally got a chance whilst my wife took a break for a coffee somewhere. It wasn’t the finest of establishments. Indeed, Lonely Planet warned against solo women travellers going there! As it was only morning time, it was still pretty much empty. It was only 305 rupees ($2) for a large bottle of locally brewed Lion lager. A bargain if ever there was one!
Having downed my beer quickly with much satisfaction I quickly passed the clock tower on the way back to the World Trade Centre building to meet my wife where we then took a tuk-tuk to Colombo’s largest park.
Viharamahadevi Park (below) was once called Victoria Park and was a welcome break from the noisy, crowded streets. We were dropped off by the Old Town Hall (The White House) which the driver told us looked like it’s more famous American counterpart from afar albeit one with a golden buddha in the shot!
My wife was yet again most impressed to be able to make contact with animals. This time it was horses and ponies (below) which were freely roaming the place!
Riding on local transport is always something I like to do to get a real feel of local life and it is also a far cheaper way of getting around. The nearest station to our hotel was Bambalapitiya (below) and so for just 10 rupees (£0.05!) we went on a little journey.
Mount Lavinia is located about 11km down the coast and took about 15 minutes to get to. The first picture below is of course just me acting naturally and not at all posing with a selfie stick whilst the train was in motion!! Being able to stand at the open doorways and hang off the train was a highlight of the trip for me. It was a rare opportunity to feel the natural breeze on my face as the train chugged along the coastline.
Mount Lavinia Hotel (above) was built in 1806 and we looked around it a bit as we went to the private beach out the back where my wife got caught out by the waves as she wet her toes!
The trip to Mount Lavinia was to give us something to focus on in the morning rather than just sitting around the hotel waiting to go to the airport in the afternoon. We didn’t stay too long in the area before heading back to the city.
Whilst Colombo wasn’t as bad as I imagined it was easy to understand why many tourists bypass it in favour of far more interesting places and sights. On the way back from Mount Lavinia we stopped off at a shopping mall to spend the last of our money on some drinks and dishes.
One notable thing of difference from walking around the streets in Sri Lanka is the very short time one gets for crossing the roads when the green man is flashing. A delayed start and you won’t make it to the other side in time without running the last few metres! In this land of buddha statues aplenty it is perhaps fitting that my final picture from our time in Colombo is the white buddha on the building above.
Click here to read ‘Sri Lanka 2017 Pt VI: The Bridge On The River Kwai Filming Locations’