I thought the flights into Colombo would not be too tiring, but the last leg from Singapore to Colombo was a bit draining. The plane was full and my back, neck, shoulders and butt all decided they wanted to ache at the same time. The plane and seats were a bit worn which is what i’d read before hand about Sri Lankan airlines. On arrival i nearly had half a dozen people trying to clamber over the top of me to get their bags from the lockers. I looked at another westerners down a few rows and we looked at each other wandering what we were getting our selves into. Even worse was the plane was parked away from the terminal so despite all their efforts to get their bags, they still had to wait for everyone else to get off the plane before the bus would take us to the terminal. Thankfully the terminal was a more sedate experience.
My hotel in Colombo is easily the most expensive I’m staying in on this trip and mostly because I wanted one that was going to be open late at night when I turned up and not too far from the railway station as I have a 6am train to Polonnaruwa on Monday. The main issue is I was awake despite being tired after the flight at 4am and after lunch I’m trying to not fall asleep!
So first things first, I went to the train station to collect my train tickets. I’m glad I booked in advance for the Kandy to Ella train, as they were sold out except for the unreserved third class hanging out the windows for dear life carriage. Then the typical tuk-tuk driver carnage started. The only issue is today I wasn’t as strong as usual and ended up getting into a tuk-tuk to see the sites of Colombo. I knew the Colombo Fort area was dead on a Sunday, but thought it was a good place to wander. Somehow my tuk-tuk driver Martil convinced me not to go and get in his tuk-tuk for ten hundred rupees, which I confirmed was one thousand and expected to pay more.
The first stop was a Hindu temple because of all sorts of reasons including holidays and happiness. Entry was 100 rupees or about 80 cents. I spotted everyones favourite Hindu god Ganesh, the god for wisdom and learning and mostly known for the elephant head! I also go red dotted by the Hindu priest. Little does he realise how much I like beef.
So in an effort of fairness and to drive me further, my driver took me to a buddhist temple with much the same things as I’ve seen in many Buddist temples. All very bright with a fresh coat of paint it seems. As usual buddha is always keen on some money as well, otherwise he won’t look fondly on my travels or something like that! The main benefit of this buddhist temple was it was not on top of a hill, which seemed to be all the rage in Bhutan!
We then went to see the “White house” of Colombo, which turns out to be the Colombo City Council building and across the road keeping a keen eye on things is a big golden Buddha sitting in a Viharamaha Devi park. The sun was out now which was rather pleasant, but the weather was mostly an always cloudy and threatening to rain. Fortunately while it was a bit humid the heat wasn’t that bad and not too oppressive.
After all the site seeing, near accidents in the tuk-tuk and Martil, asking if I was happy, he suggested he could take me to lunch at a local restaurant and not an expensive place. Why I agreed I’m not sure. Turns out the restaurant was ok, lunch was affordable and included a big Lion Strong Lager. The only issue at lunch was the chicken biryani was delicious, but Martil and the waiter felt i needed a heaped tablespoon of chilli on it. I ate a little bit of it and my mouth was on fire, the chilli was potent! So got a spoon and took the chilli off the biryani which was tasty on its own. The Lion Strong Lager was nice also and helped with the burning sensation.
Finally after lunch Martil took me to a supermarket because it was cheaper to buy beer and drinks there. He was right (its always cheaper in a supermarket all around the world) and I got some drinks and snacks for the train tomorrow. Then he drove me back to the hotel, or a laneway near the hotel, where he tried to extort a lot more money out of me than we agreed. I’m wondering if the invite to his house and his wife will cook me dinner is still on. I’m certainly not going to wait for him to pick me up from the hotel to take me to the train station tomorrow. It wasn’t a lot of money and I knew the original price was not going to be the real price. He did try to stop at a shop and I said no. Still it was my own fault for getting in and agreeing to a city tour!
Always interesting doing business with certain cultures. The price is never the price. You would already know this I am sure but lots of fresh comments of theft from where you are whilst I was reading about it on the net. Travel with one eye open and enjoy the chilli, its good for you.
Wait till they serve you lotus seeds…