Our time in Eurpoe had come to an end and it was time to repack the backpacks and continue our adventure. It was really lovely having a base for a few months in England and we had recharged our travel batteries and were ready to go! We flew during the night to Dubai and then on to Colombo. Unfortunately we didn’t manage too much sleep as both flights had constant turbulence throughout. But we made it in one piece and although bleary eyed we were super excited to see Sri Lanka!
Upon arrival at the airport we were greeted by palm trees and heat. Our drive in to Colombo started off on a lovely two lane highway and soon descended into the working road chaos of Asia. Lanes are a guide only and braking slowly is overrated!
Our hotel was a street away from the sea and a little south of the centre. Upon arrival we were greeted by 5 men who were all very happy to see us and ushered us in to the hotel. We couldn’t work out if they all worked there or were friends of the owner but they certainly greeted us as if they all worked there!
It was about quarter to nine at night by this stage and we starving, so we dropped our bags off and hit Galle Street for some food. It seems as if Sri Lankans eat early as we were struggling to find a place still open. We stumbled upon a tiny little cafe that was still open and looked busy so we decided to try our luck. It’s amazing how quickly you become acclimatized to the Western way of things as I was a little uncomfortable with the cleanliness of the place but we didn’t have much choice. The food though was devine! I could have eaten just the roti and been happy.
The next day we headed out to the old town area. We jumped in a tuk tuk and off we went. It’s an experience just driving around in one of these things. There are thousands of them around and occasionally you fear for your life as you are sandwiched in between two buses with them slowly inching closer together. But a beep from our driver and the buses allow us through.
The fort area of Colombo is nothing too special really. Its colonial buildings are all slowly being restored but it’s still not a patch on other colonial towns we have seen. One of the highlights was supposed to be the Old Dutch hospital that has been restored and converted into cafes and shops but I must admit we were not too impressed. In saying this though the general hustle and bustle of the place is mesmeric and the people are wonderfully friendly. Their faces easily break into smiles and they are always willing to help. It really helps that English is pretty much spoken by everyone here so communication is very easy compared to other places we have been.
After we walked around the old town we headed to Pettah which according to our guide book is the market quarter. This place took our breath away. The streets lined with stalls selling everything from screwdrivers to front door mats. And not just one or two streets it was the whole suburb with everyday items soon making way for textiles and tailors and then fruit markets. It was vibrant! It also is one of the most religiously diverse areas as well with the market stalls making way for Hindu and Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques.
We were also introduced to what I would call the Indian head wobble. We had just finished our bottle of water and were looking for a bin to place it in. Not finding any we came across a street sweeper with a trolley. Tim asked her if he could put the bottle in there and was greeted with a smile and what is kind of like a sidewards head wobble/shaking of the head. This had Tim very confused as her eyes and smile were saying yes but her head was saying no. So he tentatively put the bottle in and waited for her reaction. She was happy so off we went. This particular head wobble occurred several more times so we feel we can now tell the difference between this sidewards head wobble which means yes to a standard shaking of the head. Phew!
We could have spent the whole day in Pettah just taking it in but two things stopped us- the heat and we were hungry. So we got directions for a restaurant from a stall owner and soon found ourselves eating rice with curry. This pretty much means you get a big plate of rice and then 4 or 5 different curry dishes. Mostly vegetarian with one or two meat. Maybe you can ask what you want but we just got what we were given. The depth of flavors are really mind blowing.
Our next stop was the Sri Lankan History museum which was in a purpose built old colonial building that was magnificent in itself. The museum, although filled with lots of interesting information was very hard going. It also didn’t help that we were hoping for some information on the colonisation and subsequent independence of Sri Lanka and the museum seemed to finish just before this.
By this stage we were hot and bothered and ready for a rest so we headed home for a relax. The heat is hitting us quite hard. After 5 months of winter conditions we are going to need a little time to acclimatize I think and drink about 4 litres of water a day. But can’t complain really as the sea breeze makes it bearable and tuk tuks are cheap and there are plenty of them so walking long distances hasn’t been an issue.
We headed back out an hour before sunset to the Galle faced Green which is effectively several football fields in length of dirt/grass right along the sea front. The place comes alive in the late afternoon with school kids playing football or with kites and street vendors and restaurants set up along the promenade. The sun sets over the ocean here and it is a really fun way to spend the cooler hours of late afternoon. We even saw a snake charmer charm his king cobra and then casually grab a Python out of his sack and throw that on the ground for the kids to show their braveness and touch it. I did feel quite sorry for the poor snake when one kid got scared and pretty much threw the snake on the ground.
Once the sun set we ended up in one of the restaurants that had set up shop and had a delicious meal of Kottu which is a Sri Lankan specialty of chopped roti bread, egg, vegetables and spices with your choice of meat. It has a taste and consistency of Pad Thai. Our first day in Sri Lanka and we are loving it. S
The fort area. Light house to the left, mosque with the dome and then Pagoda Tea room on the right.
Petah. Hindu temple wedged in between everything else.
Market stalls, mosque, tuk tuks and people everywhere. It really was a sight to behold.
These colourful trucks were all unloading all sorts of wares.
Dried fish of all varieties.
The fresh produce market.
All the covered markets were titled the “Federation of Self Employees”. We thought that was a great title for market stall owner.
One of our many tuk tuk rides. As you can see the traffic is thick.
The outside of the museum.
These were our snack while walking along Galle Faced Green. A few we hadn’t tasted before. The fruit mixture on the bottom right, I had tasted before as my parents had a tree when I was a kid. We sometimes ate the fruit but by themselves they were a little tasteless. Add chilli and pepper and they come into their own. Still don’t know what they are called though.
The snake charmer in action.
Sunset over the water