Friday, September 15, 2017

Colombo- remnants of the colonial past



It was the first time, someone was waiting at the airport holding a placard with our name. Officials at the airport were cordial with a smiling face.  After the formalities of  immigration we headed to exchange the Dollars into Sri Lankan Rupees. Our chauffeur, Rohita has worked in Oman and is back home after retiring. Chatting about myriad topics -including religion, war, car prices, economy, education, waste management - we reached "Stay with Travel Writers" homestay. We were surprised by how clean the city was, and thought it must be because it was late night. The following days we realised that cleanliness was part of culture and people are not used to littering.

Stay with Travel Writers is owned by Shehan, who will gladly help you with places to stay and visit. This nice house is tucked away in a quiet residential area, 10 minutes' walk from the IDH bus stop at Gothatuwa. Rooms are tastefully furnished with clean toilets. There is a big drawing room, where you can meet fellow travellers, some useful books to refer. If you are not keen on staying inside the city, this is an ideal location.


There are frequent buses to Pettah (Fort area) from Gothatuwa, route number 152 (LKR25, 45min). Perera and Sons bakery at IDH was our first taste of Sri Lanka. It is very easy to find a bakery in Colombo, than to find a restaurant to eat a proper meal. People are very busy, who stop at bakery for a quick bite. Walking around in the Pettah market - where each passage has its own specialty, ranging from Ayurveda medicine to home appliances to jewellery and gadgets - we came to an old restaurant by name Neelagiri. It is here we had our first Sri Lankan meal, veg biriyani washed down with EGB ginger beerFort Railway Station and Central Bus Station - from where you can get connected to any part of Sri Lanka - are close to Pettah market.

Fort area is a nice place to explore on foot. Few authorised money changers here give a better rate ( 1 USD = 152 LKR approx) than airport. Vehicular traffic is less and you can walk down to Galle Face from here, passing through Clock Tower, Central Bank of Ceylon and so on continuing until Kollupitiya. From there a tedious bus ride in rush hour traffic brought us back to Pettah, through Slave Island and South Beira Lake. Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre is almost in the lake and seemed to be an apt place for meditating.


Viharamahadevi park is a sprawling greenery bordered by Town Hall, National Art Gallery and Natural History Museum. One can enter park from three streets [Mw- Mawatha is the Sinhala word for street] - Ananda Coomaraswamy Mw, Dharmapala Mw and FR Senanayake Mw. Get into route number 138 bus from Pettah, to get here. There is a canteen where you get meals and snacks, and many push carts selling tasty Elephant House Ice-cream.To get back to Pettah, take the bus 120/122. Coincidentally we boarded the same bus on Gothatuwa-Pettah route for the third time, and by now the ticket collector was used to us and would give us the ticket to our stop. We bought a new local mobile connection from Hutch, only document required is the copy of passport. From the Fort Station we booked our train to Anuradhapura ,which was not difficult to get. There was a serpentine queue for the Kandy train though.

 At Gothatuwa, very close to the homestay, a serendipitous finding - Red Leaf Fruit Corner - was a relief in a place popular with non-vegetarian restaurants. This place is an excellent way to enjoy fruit diet.
  Relishing authentic Sri Lankan food,  delicious coconut rotti and Wellawahum (Sri Lankan pancake) for dessert, we shared travel stories with the owner Weerakone, he recommended to add Jaffna in our itinerary. Popular for the fresh fruit juice and pickled fruit salad, Red Leaf is busy in the evenings.