9th – 11th February – Colombo, SRI LANKA
Safe to say that the first day in Colombo was a complete blur. No, not because of booze (I know what you’re thinking!), but the fact that we ended up staying up for about 32 hours. After leaving Pondy we got a cab back to Chennai, stopped at St. Thomas Mount to see the great views over Chennai, then headed to Steve’s family who kindly fed us and let us chill before heading to the airport. Our flight wasn’t until 4:30am (no flight curfew here!) but we got to the airport at 11:30pm. Cue hours of idleness, keeping eyes open and late night coffee. Our flight only took one hour, so before you know it ‘bye bye India, hello Sri Lanka’. You wouldn’t think it, but when we got to Immigration it was full of Chinese tourists, and I mean full.
It turns out that due to maintenance works, Colombo’s airport only operates between 4pm to 8am every day, so they have a gazillion flights to deal with in such a short space of time. I bloody hate travelling as well.
Obviously because we arrived so early (9am) we couldn’t check into our hotel until midday, so we had to occupy our time for a few hours, I’ve never felt so tired in my entire life, even worse than that horrendous bus trip from Pune to Goa! A few hours nap in the afternoon didn’t really help so we felt the only solution was to head to the pub! Hehe…
Seems a common occurrence that we rock up in a place only for it to be a bank holiday (interestingly they have 25 every year in Sri Lanka!), which it was here – they had a parade celebrating Nawam Maha Perahera, which is a Buddhist cultural pageant. After witnessing Kochi Carnival last month we decided not to go, better to see it on the telly and avoid the crowds. They have around 50 elephants all dressed up making their way through the streets, chained up like prisoners made to parade through a looking box (note sarcasm!)
We popped to the famous Gangaramaya Vihara Buddhist Temple (easy for you to say), this was where the festivities were to commence, so it was pretty busy. If not known already, Sri Lankan’s main faith is Buddhism, already we have seen plenty of stupas and shrines dotted around the place. The temple was a bit hotchpotch, full of various knickknacks, statues of the Buddha (Steve said it was like a big TK Maxx). Can’t say I was a fan of the place, seemed the opposite to what the ‘religion’ is all about. Have you ever seen a stuffed elephant before? No, neither had we until visiting this Temple! I gather that temple elephants get stuffed after they pass away. Very strange, but full credit to the taxidermist, must have taken a while! The only nice thing about the temple was seeing the huge Bodhi tree, and people worshipping it, we took some time out to watch and ‘tune in’ 🙂
We also stopped off at the rather sci-fi-esque Sambodhi Chaithya, which was built in the 1950s. Again, another place of worship if you can take the heights. Lovely to walk in and read all the Buddhist quotes, the man was ahead of his time!
After a day of walking the hot streets of Colombo the following day we decided to head down the coast to Mount Lavinia, only two train stops away and at a cost of 10p return it was a bargain. We were very content here, it was incredibly beautiful and chilled, not sure our livers would be in good working order afterwards though (enjoyed a few nice cold Lion lagers)
Three days in and I can’t tell you how many times we have both said ‘it’s so much nicer than India’. We mean this affectionately as we loved our time there of course. It’s busy here, but nowhere near compared to some of the places we’ve visited the last three months. The streets are clean, no stray dogs, no litter, and for once actual useable pavements! For us Davies’ who like to walk everywhere, this is a blessing. After three months of walking on roads and basically looking down at our feet constantly (in case you trip), these last few days have been fantastic! Long live the Colombo pavements!
The Cricket Club Cafe – surprisingly this was Steve’s suggestion. A pub/restaurant themed around cricket, obviously. Cricket on the telly, cricket merchandise, and cricket newspaper articles, went here twice, mostly for the cold beer, although on Friday they didn’t sell it because of the festival / bank holiday. Had Gooch’s Fish & Chips twice – it was that good.
Upali’s – we both wanted to sample some Sri Lankan cuisine and surprisingly there isn’t a lot of restaurants that do it! Luckily, we came across this one mentioned in the guides, and it didn’t disappoint. Had a rich, lovely marinated Prawn Curry with some wholemeal rice and Sri Lankan bread. Fannnntastic.