After taking the red eye flight at 2.45am, we landed bright and early in Colombo. While the pilot’s landing was worth remembering, the rest of the 4 hour flight was well worth forgetting. We were seated right at the end of the flight, so first on, last off. The seats were beyond uncomfortable so no one could grab any shut-eye. To make matters worse, the plane was freezing with the blasts of frozen air from the A/C vents hitting my head directly. I ended up with a runny nose- read leaky sinus. The aeroplane food was yummy but we all ended up eating the croissant and just sampling the omelette. All except my dad, who ate breakfast at 4am with all the gusto of a man being served a complementary 3 course meal. Immigration was a breeze and we soon found ourselves at the Dialog counter to get connected. Note to self: dual SIM phones are not as popular here as I would have supposed.
First impressions of Sri Lanka? Clean. It’s not easy to find cities as clean as where I live but Colombo is pristine. Not a speck of proverbial garbage anywhere at all, starting from the airport and all the way to the city. The first step out of the airport was like entering a green paradise. This is natural beauty- not the landscaped hard grown greenery that we’re used to, but nature- thriving. I’ve never seen trees so huge, towering like skyscrapers with trunks so massive it would take at least 5 people linking hands to hug them. The drive from the airport to the hotel was amazing. The sea at our right, and huge forest-like natural plantations on our left. There were soon signs of shanties on either side, but the scenery left me wondering if this could be a bearable poverty when your homes are embraced in the arms of nature. We checked in ahead of schedule at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel where we warmly welcomed with refreshing lychee drinks. We were lucky enough to get a room with a view of Beira Lake and the view was breathtaking. After trying, unsuccessfully, to take a nap, we decided to explore the hotel and have lunch. Lunch was a buffet at The Dining Room where I started off with the familiar Fattoush, to make sure my tummy didn’t make any scenes during our stay (IBS tummies make plenty of scenes… I BS you not). I kept lunch simple and vegetarian despite assurances from the hotel that all meat served was Halal. After lunch we explored the basement of the hotel where there were several tiny shops selling things ranging from clothes, souvenirs, art and jewellery. I picked up two pretty postcards and wondered how to send them to my friends.
We then checked with the hotel regarding the Colombo Tour Bus that we had looked up before coming, but it seemed to be unavailable so we ended up booking a 3 person 4 hour Colombo tour for the next day when dad would be busy with work. We thought not to waste the rest of the day so we grabbed a hotel taxi and headed off to the Green Path to find some paintings and then some other artsy shops filled with paintings, carvings, leather work and batik.
While the shops were lovely, we didn’t pick up anything and moved on to Cotton Collection where the men picked up T-shirts. Next? Well, we asked the taxi to take a nice route back to the hotel simultaneously playing tour guide. We saw the Prime Minister’s and President’s residence, the beach and lighthouse. We also drove past the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct which we added to our list of must see places for Day 2. The landmarks weren’t too far from the hotel, but if you’re travelling by car it’s a bit difficult to take pictures because there are next to no places to pull over. Learnt interesting things about the country on our drive back, including the fact that 75% of the population in our immediate vicinity is Muslim. :) We got back to the hotel before 4pm and everyone got some sleep except Mum. Just before Maghrib, Mum and I took a stroll down to the lake where we took some pictures and came across all sorts of fruit trees (pomegranate, apple, orange, almond etc) planted just next to the pool neighbouring the lake. My brother decided to hit the gym and we headed back to the hotel room to rest, order dinner and catch up on news of the tragic ferry disaster in South Korea. Another day in Colombo and then we were headed to Dambulla.