Lost in Colombo: rain, noise and bad air

Guess when I arrived in my bed yesterday? Or let’s say today in the morning…..  It was almost 6am….

Due to a little delay in Vienna I was quite in a rush to get my flight from Abu Dhabi to Colombo. All I saw from the airport was a huge new building and shopping paradise, but hey, no time for that. When I got out of the plane the heat reminded me of Austria a week ago, but also: no time for that.

The flight to Colombo was not what I would consider as “convenient”. The plane smelled like a wet cat with a dead fish in its mouth when we boarded, and I had an aisle seat in the back part of the aircraft. From Vienna to Abu Dhabi I was lucky and had no one next to me (and therefore three seats to hang around), this time it was the complete opposite. Two rather fat Germans from the Schwabenland already waited for me and the whole plane was filled with either silent, small people from India (good ones) and Sri Lanka or stupid, ignorant Germans (not so good ones) -more or less. They blew a fog of some santinizer stuff through the cabin before we started and the only good thing to mention was the cold beer and rather good food. Thanks to the beer I was able to sleep most of the flight in a kind of Ötzi-style body position.

After landing the whole immigration-visa-procedure didn’t take long, a real pleasure compared to the ages you wait for example at the US borders. And the officers where a lot nicer too. The organized driver picked me up – this is something I’d recommend everyone coming to a country like Sri Lanka, the chaotic situation with cab drivers trying to make money is incredible and it’s hot and sticky and you’ll feel better if everything is organized, believe me.

The drive normally would take about 30 min. Normally. If the driver knows where to go. My driver didn’t. And was looking and looking for the place. Finally we got there and the house owner was also happy to see me finally. I stay at “Wayfarer”, a private room rental in Cinnamon Gardens. It was a recommendation in the Stefan Lose travel guide, and….. yeah. When I entered my room, the first real culture shock happened: it was dark, hot, it smelled strange (actually this was an anti-mosquito-candle in the bathroom), there was a dirty fridge, a dirty hair dryer and a dirty water cooker. The main light was a bulb tangling from the wall and overall the room had seen better days. The blanket has a big stain on it – lucky me I brought my travel sleeping sheet. I was tired, and disappointed.

But a few hours later everything looked different as I had my breakfast on the terrace looking into the huge garden. They brought me tea, eggs, toast, marmelade, papaya, cornflakes, mini-bananas and a glass of lemonade (super sweet but delicious!). My only company where some birds, two mini geckos and the owner’s dog sitting next to me. The ladies where super nice and I had a little talk with the grande dame of the house too.

The day seemed promising and I started the walk in the city. Either I am used to it or it wasn’t too bad, there where almost no annoying men trying to catch up with me. Only two during the whole day where a bit sticky and I told them an adventurous story about me (Anna) from Germany (haha), married to a doctor who is working and visiting friends in Colombo.

The first problem was to get cash. Only one bank took my Maestro Card. Whoohoo. I didn’t have my credit card with me, a mistake I won’t make again. I should have checked the card situation at home but… ahm now I know. During the search for a bank, I got watered by a monsoon-ish rain the first time and was wet to the bone. This happened several times throughout the day, but after the second one I was completely relaxed and rushed into a snack bar or tea shop to wait with others.

To be honest: Colombo doesn’t offer a lot. I walked through Pettah, and maybe it was because of the rain or me being tired, I was a bit disappointed, because I expected more cool market life. Fort is a nice place and you see also some tourists there. I had some prawns, a cup of tea and a coke at the Old Dutch Hospital, a place definitely to worth a visit with the nice little shops, a spa and several bars. I will definitely come back there to eat at “Ministry of crab” before returning home :-)  I strolled around the quarter and discovered some really nice shops and tea shops, and even got a glimpse of my posh last night stay, but yes, I was already tired and the few sights like the clock tower combined with the heavy rain showers didn’t cause too much excitement.

Then I followed the advise to walk down Galle Face Road. Forget it. Maybe it’s nicer when there’s sun but still, it’s a stinky, super loud, chaotic street with endless construction sites. I went for a coffee in a Starbuck’s clone down around the Mc Donalds restaurant and then started the way back. I again lost the way a bit and ended in a nice street where there was real jungle in the middle of the city. Just before getting back to the guest house, I visited Odel, a big boutique shop almost like a mall, where you can get fashion, really nice souvenirs, tea, cakes and they also have a small food court. I honestly didn’t have the energy to walk to Coco Veranda, which should be a nice place to eat and drink, because just as I arrived at Odel, a guy talked to me and didn’t let me go, so I decided to rush into the boutiques to get rid of him. I had a nice small meal consisting of amazing Naan bread, a great koriander chutney, and two little bowls of chicken curry and dal.

It’s getting dark at about half past six and since I was completely alone and there are simply no street lights in the living areas of the city, I decided to get back before it would be night. Cinnamon Gardens is in general a safe area but safety first. I arrived at about 8 in the guest house. I am tired and it had started raining anyways, so yes, it is ok. Unfortunately there are no other guests, so I have no one to talk. Bit boring, but I hope, at the next place in Negombo this will be different.

The plan for tomorrow is to catch a tuk tuk to the train station and go to Negombo. With a little weather luck I can visit the beach there and have a cold beer next to the Indian ocean. Negombo is a bathing and beach city, so I hope to get in touch with other travelers. The morning after I would really like to visit the fish market, it should be nice they say. Hopefully nice than the nice things they told me to do in Colombo ;-) And then go up to Anuradhapurna, the ancient city.

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