Crazy Colombo! – Sri Lanka

Colombo appears to be a very up and coming city with the help of the Chinese who appear to be investing literally billions into the city with impressive designs and architecture popping up all over the place. In the next 5-7 years there will be a modern and swanky City Port just off the Fort area which will be a major financial hub and will really help to boost the economy in Sri Lanka. Out and about in Colombo there is a well defined British stamp on some of the architecture from when the British ruled the former Ceylon up until 1948. For now, Colombo’s look is a complete jumble of colonial buildings, concrete office blocks, temples, shabby run down establishments and new modern architecture.

View across Beira Lake

View across Beira Lake

Having to drive in Colombo would be nothing short of a nightmare, lanes appear not to exist, meaning more often than not there are at least four vehicles navigating down a 2 way street all at the same time, red lights are seldom noticed and the roundabouts seem to be a complete free for all! When crossing the road you quite literally take your life into your own hands, making my experience in Rome seem like a doddle. It’s so bad that at peak times the police actually man the crossings, controlling the traffic (as best they can) to allow the pedestrians to cross. The city is a wash with tuk-tuks; these small mean three wheelers weave in and out of the traffic being a complete law on to themselves; and everyone, no matter what beast they are driving seems to be having a love affair with honking their horns!

A busy street in Colombo

A busy street in Colombo

Right now in mid April the humidity levels are so extreme with even the Sri Lankan’s are displaying a sweaty brow and making the odd meek complaint about the heat. Today hit 37 and the only place you’ll feel a slight breeze is when walking along the promenade at Galle Face. This is the perfect place to end your day by joining the masses and enjoy the sunset, watch children fly a kite and eat incredibly cheap yet delicious street food.

Looking out across the ocean at Galle Face

Looking out across the ocean at Galle Face

As a tourist in Colombo you only really need one day to explore the city. I had read many a warning on Facebook groups about avoiding tuk-tuks because of their scams and high charges when the meter apparently doesn’t work and even when I got to my hostel the friendly staff advised me against them. Avoiding them is damn near impossible when literally every 10 seconds someone is trying to sell you a ride, and of course a very good discount price at their friends shop for Ceylon Tea and Sapphire diamonds! However before I knew it I seemed to have struck a deal with a tad of bargaining for what seemed like a fair ‘set fee’ for a “City tour”. I do feel like I lucked out with a knowledgeable driver, whom spoke good English. He took me around the main points of interest and allowed me my time to wander about and take the necessary photos. He even offered to take photos with me in them, shame his photography skills were as dire as his driving skills.

I like to walk everywhere but I have to say that I think taking a tuk-tuk was a good idea. From Colombo Fort where I was staying to the furthest point of interest being the Independence Memorial Hall it’s approximately 5.6km, and in the intense heat and walking through some less desirable places it is definitely the safest option. Colombo boasts a nice selection of religious temples; Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple is a must see, as is the Seema Malaka Buddist Temple situated on Beria Lake and for 300R you can enter both on the same ticket. The most attractive architecturally is Jami Ul-Afar Mosque better known as the Red Mosque and it truly is stunning, although when approaching it around prayer time to photograph its stature I did get some less than pleasant stares from the men! The Hindu Temple Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil really shouldn’t be missed on a pure aesthetics basis, it’s so out there when compared to British standards!

Colombo has been an experience which for 24 hours I highly recommend, but I am very much looking forward to moving down South tomorrow away from the hustle and bustle of the busy and chaotic city life.

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