Landing in Colombo at 3am after a flight from Singapore was perhaps not the best way to begin my travels in Sri Lanka. I had booked a hotel for one night, so that I could wake up early the next morning for my train ride to Kandy in the central highlands. During this 24 hour period, I not only got my first impressions of Colombo, but also of Sri Lanka.
Leaving the airport was a nightmare in itself, as I was very tired by this point having not slept during the night. As I walked out from the Arrivals Hall of the airport I was greeted with a mass of taxi drivers who were trying to claim my custom. In this respect, maybe Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi is not so bad after all, as it is at least somewhat orderly there. However, in Colombo, there is slightly less etiquette. Still, I had already arranged a pick up car from my hotel and the driver was standing there with my name on a sheet of paper before him. This did not deter the taxi drivers, however, as they continued to pester me even when sitting in the back of the car! Well, they’re persistent, I’ll give them that!
Roads in Sri Lanka are pretty bad, although at that sunrise hour there was little on the road by way of traffic, to be honest (I did see the odd cow though!). Generally, I am well aware that roads in Lanka are notoriously dangerous and congested. Throughout the day in Colombo (once I had dropped off my luggage in the hotel), I began to check out the city more and more, and yes the traffic and the constant sound of the horns were to leave a lasting impression on me.
Even though the traffic was continuing to scare me, I did try and watch a film during my one full day in the city. However, when I got to the cinema complex I was not actually sure there were English subtitles on the films (why would there be in Sri Lanka?), and as I do not know any Sinhala, I decided against entering the cinema complex. I would also have had to use my British debit card in the ATMs here to draw out some local cash, which was also not particularly advisable, as the ATMS looked a little dodgy to me.
There are not many brilliant tourist sites in Colombo, but you cannot come here and not check out the seafront. Much like my experience at Marine Drive in Mumbai, I saw many of the locals bathing in the presumably warm water of the Indian Ocean. The waves were fairly tame on the day I was there so the many children on the beach were literally having a whale of a time! In the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami, these parts of Colombo were destroyed by the water, but 10 years on there has been a lot of rebuilding and now things are back to normal. In fact, there were many 5 star hotels being built in this area, including one from prestigious brand Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.
When all was said and done it was time to leave Colombo after one my one night stay and jump on the train to Kandy. I was prepared for a long and bumpy ride (scheduled to take over 5 hours), but in fact I discovered that it was actually a great way of seeing the Sri Lankan countryside.
The featured image used in this article is courtesy of the Colombo Telegraph.