Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital was the last stop on a route that lasted a month in the island of Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon.
The city shows little attractive to visitors without significant tourist, historical or cultural attractions, and given it’s large and highly congested traffic that create a noisy and polluted atmosphere, that mixed with the hot and humid climate, don’t produce much enthusiasm to make city tours.
The oldest part of the city is called Colombo Fort, which once was really limited by walls, of which nothing remains. Survive some imposing buildings attesting to the power of British colonialism, where the between were modern buildings grow, with offices, hotels, and luxury housing, making this neighborhood, where is also located the official residence of the president, in a quiet, sophisticated and well-policed area.
Not far away, at a distance that can easily be done on foot, is the Galle Face, a promenade that stretches along the sea for about a kilometer. During the day, under the burning sun, few venture in these place, but after five o’clock, with the end of the working day and as the sun is going down, Galle Face starts attracting much of the local population that occurs here relishing the fresh sea breeze.
While watching the sunset, is time for a walk, chatting, dating, play with the kids and to enjoy a snack, sold in more than ten stalls that line up along Galle Face. For an unknown reason, all the stall sell the same kind of snacks: pol roti, ulundhu vadai and parippu vada, which does not offer great choice to those who want to eat something other than fried.
But what aroused most interesting was the walk through the neighborhood located next to Colombo Fort, Pettah, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the Sri Lankan capital, which is currently occupied by an extensive bazaar where you can find a bit of everything from food, textiles, electronic goods, jewelery, clothing, etc… in a cluttered and busy environment, which seems dominate by chaos, but in Pettah the trade is organised by streets where each one is sold a specific type of products.
Along the streets of Pettah that due to traffic, the large number of people, the street vendors and lots of goods piled along the sidewalks, seem too narrow, porter move hastily transporting goods on the back or pushing hand-cars in an effort increased by the tropical warmth felt from the beginning of the day.
So the stay in Colombo was marked by the bustling bazaar of Pettah and the walks by the sea, along the Galle Face, savoring the warm breeze coming from the sea.
Where to stay in Colombo:
In Colombo, the cheapest options for accommodation are located further south of the city, so for those who want to stay in Colombo only for one or two nights, on arrival or at the end of the trip, the best option is to stay in Colombo-Fort. At Colombo-Fort is located the train station and two bus terminals, as well the bus stand for the bus to Negombo Airport, officially called Bandaranaike International Airport.
However, Colombo-Fort is a very expensive area in terms of accommodation, without many options. In a hostel, a bed in a dorm costs around € 18 (Cityrest Fort Hostel) so the cheapest option was the YMCA, a century-old institution that occupies an equally ancient building.
Not being very well referenced in the touristic guides, YMCA Colombo offers reasonable conditions, with a diverse range of rooms, from dorms, to double. The toilets and bathrooms are shared. The rooms along with the bathrooms need some repairs, but the basic is assured. The rooms are decorated with classic and heavy furniture that matches with the austere and sober style of the place, that together contribute to creating a captivating atmosphere that makes you forget the little flaws. YMCA is a good place to stay in Colombo, but a bit overpriced
Address: 39, Bristol Street, Colombo 01
Tel: 011-2325252 / 3
Email: [email protected]
Dorm (male or female): 1500 LKR
Single room: 2050 LKR, shared toilet
Another alternative for those who do not intend to spend much time in Sri Lankan capital, or must stay for only a few hours, between a train, a plane or bus trips, is to stay in the Pettah area. Directly opposite the railway station in Colombo-Fort, across the street, are several “hotels” and guest houses that rent rooms, usually above restaurants (in Sri Lanka commonly called by “hotel”) or shops. The area is busy and noisy, but for a short stay can be a good option.
Where to eat in Colombo:
After the short stay in Colombo, two places pop up, that are recommended sites:
One of the options was in Pettah to taste a delicious rice and curry in the local atmosphere: a restaurant frequented predominantly by Muslims, but where easily find vegetarian food:
Address: 57, Bankshall Street. Petah, Colombo 11
This “hotel” that has nothing to do with rent rooms, serving among other things, a tasty rice and curry for 110 rupees, with the right to “refill” and many smiles among the prying eyes of other unaccustomed customers the foreigners in this place.
Colombo Fort, two blocks behind the YMCA, is the Ruhunu Food Center, a big restaurant serving a bit of everything: rice and curry, snacks, sandwiches, hoopers, roti, kottu… very busy and a bit crowded, but with very good food, and a lot of smiles. Even at dinner, you can find here rice and curry, which unusual in Sri Lanka, where this dish is reserved for lunch.
Food Center Ruhunu
Address: Lotus Road, Colombo 01 (near the Sri Lanka Telecom and Sir Baron Jayathilaka Mawatha Road
Transportation in Colombo:
Colombo distances are great with the city to extend for several kilometers south along the sea, so the tuk-tuk is a good choice, although the traffic is intense, noisy and the air polluted.
Buses are by far the cheapest solution, and given the large amount, for sure that there is a bus to any part of the city.
However, my experience was limited to walking, hiking between Pettah, Fort and Galle Face, easily made on foot.
At Colombo-Fort are concentrated the main public transport services, serving the city as also other parts of the country: train station (Colombo-Fort), and two bus terminals, Colombo Central Bus Stand and Bastian Mawatha Bus Station, all located within 500 meters.
How to go to Colombo Airport (Negombo):
Colombo Population: 650,000
Columbus elevation: 9 meters