A Short Guide To Colombo
I didn’t really know what to expect from Colombo prior to our arrival in Sri Lanka. I suppose, I kind of expected it to be similar to what I imagine Indian cities to be like, but not so intense. After two delayed flights from Bangkok and then again from Kuala Lumpur (thank you Malindo Air), we finally landed in Colombo at 3 am. The drive to our hotel in Colombo 3 was fairly uneventful, as you might expect at 3 am, apart from when we to one part of the city which seemed to be functioning as if it was midday, market stalls were open, shops were open, very strange.
We ended up spending 3 nights in Colombo having now moved onto Kandy. As a whole, there isn’t a great deal to do and see in the city. It’s quite like many other Asian cities and capital cities, used as a transit point into the country, due to the proximity of the international airport. It was a nice introduction into Sri Lanka though and certainly a welcoming first taste of authentic Sri Lankan food.
It is clear to see that Colombo is a city on the rise. There’s high rise, modern buildings which are being constructed rapidly across the city, most notably in the centre, where flashy apartment blocks and skyscrapers occupied by banks and financial companies dominate the skyline.
Where To Eat In Colombo
Although we haven’t been in Sri Lanka for a huge amount of time, I would definitely say one of the highlights has been the mouthwatering, flavoursome and sometimes ridiculously spicy food. Upon my research into Sri Lanka and the cuisine, I came across a lot stating that curry and rice is the national dish which is eaten for most meals. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of curry and rice about, but there is also great diversity in the choice when it comes to eating in Sri Lanka, especially Colombo.
Our favourite go-to restaurant in Colombo, which also conveniently happened to be about a 2-minute walk from our hotel was Green Cabin (453 Galle Road, Colombo). After our late arrival in Colombo, due to our multiple delayed flights, we awoke the next day around midday, bleary eyed and slightly jet-lagged. We decided to ask the receptionist at the hotel where was nice to eat around the area, he recommended Green Cabin to us.
At lunch time each day, the restaurant has a vegetarian curry buffet, which was exactly what we needed! The restaurant doesn’t look much, but we’re in Sri Lanka, so, to be honest, we weren’t expecting a grand restaurant and we didn’t want that, we wanted cheap, local and delicious food. Green Cabin delivered on exactly that. The buffet is 310Rs ($2.15) per person. On offer from one end of the table to the other was; red and white rice, a spicy but very moreish Daal, a vibrant beetroot curry, curried leeks, crispy poppadoms and a selection of spices such as dried chillies amongst pickles and other sundries.
Kotthu was one of the main delicacies I had heard to try whilst in Sri Lanka. Kotthu is made from vegetables, egg, meat (optional) and chopped up roti. Often considered the Sri Lankan fast food, we’ve been told that it’s the food of choice for locals after a few beers.
Of course, everyone will have their own opinions on this, but the tuk tuk driver who we asked, recommended that Pilawoos (417 Galle Road, Colombo) is the best place to get a warm serving of Kotthu in Colombo. Following the drivers’ advice, we asked him to drop us off at Pilawoos so we could try this Kotthu we had heard so much about for ourselves. Once again, the restaurant is very basic, very much a local eatery. On arrival, we took a look at the menu and ordered one vegetable and one cheese Kotthu. Naively we should have known the cheese would have been, of course, Dairylea (if you’ve been to Asia, you will probably know about their lack of actual cheese and love for Dairylea and plastic burger cheese). The Kotthu lived up to all expectations, the soft roti was complemented perfectly by the crunchy vegetables, making for a very enjoyable, but filling dish. The Kotthu’s are priced between 200-500Rs ($1.40-3.45).
Fort Train Station
You might be wondering why I would recommend eating at a train station. I’ve not gotten delirious don’t worry. The place where I’m recommended you to get the food from isn’t actually in the train station, it’s located right next to it. Just beside the train station there is a row of food and drink vendors plying their trade. It’s these vendors which make delicious on-the-go finger foods such as; spicy vegetable stuffed roti and meat samosas. At a cost of around 40Rs ($0.25), it would be a crime not to get a few of each to enjoy on the train ride to your next destination.
Things To Do/See In Colombo
Galle Face Green For Sunset
We decided to walk alongside the train track which lines the Indian Ocean to the west of Colombo, just past where the train track turns inland to head toward Fort Train Station. Here, we came across a large green which was filled with locals enjoying themselves, flying kites, playing cricket and soaking in the atmosphere, along with food and drink stalls lining the sea front. The stalls aren’t open all day and likewise, the area isn’t busy all day, just in the evenings prior to and during the sun setting. This was a perfect location to watch one of the most vivid sunsets I have seen in my life. The Indian Ocean is notorious for throwing up some intense and dramatic sunsets and there was definitely no disappointment on this occasion.
With a tongue twister of a name like that, I only attempted to try and pronounce this once to the tuk tuk driver, before giving up and just saying “how much to the park?” instead. Luckily he knew exactly which park I meant. Located right in the middle of the chaotic roads filled with tuk tuks whizzing in and out of traffic and buses and other drivers beeping their horns erratically every two seconds, Viharamahadevi Park is surprisingly a very tranquil and relaxing getaway.
Founded by the British Governor of Sri Lanka – Sir William Henry Gregory in 1877, the National Museum of Colombo is the largest museum in the country. The museum contains collections which hold great importance to the country such as the crown and thrown of Kandyan monarchs, as well as exhibits unravelling the story of Sri Lanka’s past. Entry is 600Rs ($4.15) for adults.
Independence Memorial Hall
Built for the commemoration of independence from the British in 1948, with construction starting in 1949. The columned hall is surrounded by statues of lions, while there is also a statue of Sri Lanka’s (formerly known as Ceylon) first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake. There is also a museum located underneath the memorial hall, which isn’t immediately obvious.
Cricket Match at SSC
Is there anything Sri Lankan’s love more than cricket? I’m not sure I have come across anything yet. Every time I get into a tuk tuk and they find out I’m from the UK, it’s always the same question “do you like cricket?” What better way to complete a trip to Sri Lanka’s capital other than watching their national sport at one of their most famous and oldest stadiums and what is often touted as the Lords of Sri Lanka.
Travelling to and from Colombo
Whether you’re arriving in Sri Lanka or you have finished your trip and you’re about to catch a flight home or to your next destination, you will more than likely find yourself at or needed to head to Bandaranaike International Airport. The hotel that you’re staying at should be able to arrange an airport transfer for you and these are likely to cost anything in the region of 3000-5000Rs ($20.50-34.50) or you will also be able to take a taxi which would probably cost slightly less. A taxi for us to arrive in Colombo 03 from the airport would have cost around 2900Rs (£20).
The majority of the buses leaving Colombo leave from the Colombo Fort bus stand. A bus to your next destination might not be the comfiest of options, but it will certainly be the most cost effective.
If you’re travelling by train to your next destination – just as we did to Kandy – it is a good idea to book your tickets beforehand to reserve yourself a seat. This can be done at the main train station, Colombo’s Fort Station. Head here, then make your way to stand 17, where you will be able to purchase your ticket with a reserved seat. For more info on Sri Lankan train journeys visit Seat 61.
Have you visited Colombo previously? Did you enjoy the city or see it as just a transit point to the rest of Sri Lanka. Or are you planning to visit Colombo?…