I didn’t think I could write an entire post on Colombo, but as usual, I’ve found something to ramble on about. I stopped in Colombo, not because I wanted to visit a big sprawling metropolis but because I needed to visit the immigration office. You can only get a 30-day visa online and my ticket is booked to leave Sri Lanka in 5 weeks. FYI: The process to extend was easy, but it’s expensive.
Thankfully I did some research and found out that there is an a/c public bus from the airport into town for 120 rupees instead of the nearly 4000 rupees for a taxi (which is just a tuk tuk here). Once at the bus station it was chaos, buses and tuk tuks everywhere. I thought 600-800 rupees ($6-8) was too much for an 8 minute drive to my hotel, so I asked someone about taking a public bus. I got lost looking for bus 138 and when I found it, the driver understood enough to let me off at the public library (cost: 18 rupees). I then got lost trying to find my hotel – super fun while wearing your pack in a big city that is 32 degrees and 80% humidity. I thought my hotel was $30 night, but that was actually USD and with taxes, it was closer to $50 per night. Sri Lanka is already feeling so much more expensive than India.
I didn’t do much for the rest of the day – there were not many options for restaurants in my neighbourhood, so lunch was a veggie burger and fries and dinner, of all things, overpriced (yet delicious) Indian food.
I assume I chose the hotel because it was a 20 minute walk to the immigration office. I mapped out a walking tour of Colombo starting at the Immigration office, with coffee being the second important stop. Unlike India, where you can find filter coffee and even espresso in all the tourist areas, it’s apparently much harder in Sri Lanka. I couldn’t locate the decent coffee shop I had found on trip advisor, so I unfortunately ended up at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, waiting for them to open at 9:15 and paying $10 for a latte, stale croissant, and water. It was busy and hot and I was starting to feel a bit grumpy, but then I had a nice 2 hour reprieve at the National Museum – it is an excellent museum and was the highlight of my visit.
I followed this with a nice walk through the park and a visit to a huge Buddhist temple – amongst all the tourists snapping photos of themselves with Buddha (which is considered disrespectful btw), I circumambulated the stupa and felt much more relaxed. On my way out of the temple, an Australian girl, Bronwyn, asked if I was traveling alone and if she could join me. I said sure and dragged her to the rest of the sites on my “to-do” list, which included visiting a Buddhist meditation space, the Dutch Hospital, and then lunch at Pagoda Cafe, where they filmed Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf video.
After an expensive iced tea and an easy SIM card purchase later, we parted ways and I went down to Galle Face Green where couples can be found canoodling under umbrellas. It sounds much nicer than it actually is, so I didn’t stick around. I walked from 8:30am until 5:30pm that day. Imagine wandering around a modern city of 4.6 million people wearing the same travel clothes you’ve worn for the past 3 months, amongst people in suits and fancy dresses, in tropical/sticky weather. You just feel gross and my plantar fasciitis is now back with a vengeance.
You could almost be in Vancouver until little things remind you that yes, you are still in Asia. I was awoken at 5am by a man hoarking up the contents of his lungs, and then later in the day getting to really test my bathroom sprayer technique since nowhere offers toilet paper and I’d forgotten mine. Another thing I noticed was the lack of street people but there were still lots of street dogs. I have upwards of 20 people a day asking me for money in Victoria, yet never see a stray dog. Not that any person or dog should be living on the street, but it’s certainly something to ponder.
All in all, I can’t say I hated Colombo, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not needing to go here. Pizza for dinner then off to the beach in the morning!