Note : This post is in a series of posts covering our entire Sri Lankan backpacking experience. Please refer to individual posts covering the places visited.
For City Tips jump to the bottom.
PLACES VISITED – FORT, PETTAH, GALLE FACE GREEN, WOLVENDAHL CHURCH, ST. ANTHONY’S CHURCH, ST. LUCIA’S CATHEDRAL, SRI PONNAMBALAM VANESAR KOVIL
The first thing that struck me upon landing in Bandaranayake Airport (CMB) was the courteousness of the people, the dark, pleasant faces of the locals and their permanent sunshine smiles, a feeling that manifested into a belief as we backpacked the country. One would be hard pressed to find a grumpy or ill-mannered Sri Lankan (not that we were seeking out for one!!) and towards the end of our 15 days backpacking journey we were left with fond memories, a big list of friends and a big smile on our faces as well.
From the well maintained airport to the leafy and up market suburbs of Saffron environs, from the splendid, well preserved promenade off Galle Sea Green to the crowded streets of Pettah, the people were found to be very gracious, helpful and cheerful.
We happened to be in the city during the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the city was spruced up and readied for this international event in a spectacular fashion. Although most of the arrangements seemed to be directed to making all international guests comfortable and make them leave with a favorable impression, the overall benefit seemed to be for the city and its citizens.
Bustling with activity yet disciplined in behavior, crowded yet quiet, cosmopolitan yet rustic, Colombo stands as a shining example of the progress of this island nation.
DAY 1 – Arrived at Colombo Bandaranayake Airport. Stayed at Hotel Saffron, located at Galpotte Road, about 38 kilometers from the airport. A tuk-tuk from here to Galle Green takes about 25 mins and costs about 300 rupees.
In the evening visited Galle face Green, walked along the promenade which houses a range of up-scale hotels, embassies and urban-chick homes, watched the sunset from the viewing deck near the flag post on the promenade front, did some shopping at ODEL shopping center and had a delicious meal at an open air restaurant named SUGAR Bistro and Wine Bar.
Day 2 – Shifted to YWCA which is located on Union street as we quite loved the ambiance of this place, with it’s quiet environs and inviting gardens and with basic rooms in the elegant and colonial main block. Most importantly it was situated in the heart of the city, not far from Galle Face Green road and a short distance from the Fort railway station and principal bus stations as well.
Visited the following places:
Fort – The Location of Janadhipathi Mandiraya, the President’s House and the beautiful sandstone structures which houses the Secretariat.
Pettah – The busy shopping center. It’s many criss-crossing roads mark out sections which specialize in various trades from sarees and textiles, spices and condiments, goldsmiths and jewellers.
Wolvendahl Church – A Dutch Church built in 1757 and described as “The Westminster Abbey of Ceylon where so many brave Hollanders lie buried”.
St. Lucia Cathedral – an imposing structure which is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka.
St. Anthony’s Church – An old Catholic church which houses a ‘miraculous’ statue of St. Anthony. There is a museum within the premises dedicated to the life of St. Anthony.
Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil – A Shiva temple constructed in 1857 and carved in granite.
Day 3 – Departed for Kandy via train. Boarded at Fort.
Day 3 to 13 – Visited the other cities and sights in Sri Lanka (Covered in subsequent posts).
Day 14 – We ended our backpacking journey back in Colombo and stayed back in YWCA for a day before boarding a flight back to India. Did some shopping at House of Fashion and Odel and walked along the Galle Green promenade one last time.
1) Shopping at House of Fashion – A 4 storied shopper’s paradise there are some amazing deals on most international fashion brands. You get everything from Apparels (I brought a Nautica T-shirt for SLR 450/- only), electronics to bags and fashion accessories. Plan on shopping BIG. Be aware the mall closes down by 8.00pm.
2) Tuk tuks (the erstwhile three legged cousins of Indian auto-rickshaws) are the most economical and fast way of travelling within the city. They are available almost at all locations and all of them are paid by the meter.
3) Train Bookings – For all your onward journeys, if travelling by train, proceed to Fort Railway station and book your onward tickets at the earliest. Most of the trains have a special “Viewing Carriage” meant for tourists but they are usually full booked. Other option is doing an prior online booking for the special carriage seats via some authorized companies.
4) Enjoy the sunset at Galle face Green followed by wine and dine at the Sugar Bistro and Wine bar on Crescat Boulevard.
5) Most of the City Sights mentioned above can be covered in a day. Start with Fort – Walk through Pettah – Wolvendahl church – Tuk-Tuk to St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Anthony’s church,and Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil. End the day by strolling along Galle Face Green.
6) The Tourism office located at 80, Galle Road is very informative and you can pick up your copy of TravelLanka – a comprehensive monthly travel guide to Sri Lanka.
7) Visas can be granted online prior arrival. USD 10 for SAARC members and USD 20 for other nationals. www.eta.gov.lk
For any further information and query please email me and I shall gladly get back to you.