My first time in Colombo, I did really a silly thing. I was so happy that I finally arrive in Bandaranayake airport, Colombo, so I take a selfie with Buddha statue which I see in welcome gate. One guy just clean the statue and he said nothing to me, until I read an information board, “Please don’t take a picture with your behind to Buddha, because it shows disrespect.”
Aww.. I don’t know that! That’s why everyone looked at me with such an odd eyes! :S
Anyway, I said sorry to that guy and just leave the place soon. Shy enough to be in that area longer.
I went to immigration and welcomed by a smile greeting. What a warm welcome! Mostly immigration officer will show a boring face and act like they are the boss and we need their permission to get inside the country. But this guy was warm enough and I feel so good about it. Even later I was a bit confuse with my passport. I applied the visa (ETA) through their website and already got the approval, so the guy only stamp my passport but I was expected will get a visa sticker as how in another counties I’ve been. I need to re-confirm to another security whether I already able to enter the country with that stamp only (?) – Yes, they said.
First time you go out from the immigration and baggage area, you will see duty free stores which make you feel like you are in a supermarket, since they are offer some household stuff such as washing machine, television, refrigerator, hahaha, my first time seeing a duty free shop like that. Usually they only sell some liquors, perfumes, chocolates and candy. Extraordinary!
If you spend few days in Sri Lanka, I suggest you to use a local sim card. The famous one is Dialog. You can find many local sim card stores in the airport, but when I was there, Dialog store was full with people. I think it’s ok to take another brand, so I chose Etisalat. It was cheap enough. 500 rupees for 2G internet and I added another 100 rupees for calling. I just need to added another 100 rupees in my last 2 days in Sri Lanka because that 2G already finished since I uploaded many photos from my phone 😀
There is an express bus from the airport to Colombo Central Station (or they called it Pettah) with cost so cheap, around 120 rupees (USD 1) and takes around 45 minutes by the highway. The other option is to take slower bus number 187 to Pettah, longer and cheaper (dunno how much, because I didn’t take it).
Once I arrived in Pettah, there is a friend already wait for me there. He is Mahesh, one of the active member in Couchsurfing. There was a doubt for me when I planned the trip to Sri Lanka and wanted to ask local people through a travel community called Couchsurfing. Since I am a member of Couchsurfing, I always try to get in touch with local before arrive in one’s country – that’s make me easy to know tips and recommendation of travel in their country, so I did the same to Couchsurfing Colombo. But since the day I put my question and travel details, many guys messaged me from different kind of person but almost have same thing, they are new member in Couchsurfing and mostly has no reference. It’s a bit common secret to extra careful while travel alone, especially I am a woman. And if you are a passive member of Couchsurfing, new and haven’t got any reference yet, the first good start is to attend the meet up/gathering in the town, so another Couchsurfers can know you better and later able to give you a testimonial. Since this site depends on trusting each other members.
Good thing that I finally able to get in touch with real active Couchsurfers in Colombo, which later help me with some useful information for the trip. Mahesh is one of them. Before he moved to Philippines for his job, he spend a time to show me the city – what a honor for me!
First thing first. I should eat cause I was so hungry like a monster. Flight 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo not so easy for me, especially after those airlines incidents lately. Once the plane had a turbulence, the only thing I can do only pray and pray. I was so nervous! Once we landed, I really want to shake hands the pilot and say thanks because he fly us safe to Colombo! May God bless him.
Know that I am so hungry, Mahesh brought me to Upali Restaurant. It’s really a nice restaurant and the excellent one. We tried a rice and curry package meal with Malu Mirisata (Chicken) and fruit juices and cost us around 11 USD. That’s ok, since the place is kind of a fine dining restaurant. After eating, we continued the walk to Independence Square. I was lucky because Mahesh accompanied me to try the public bus, even it’s not harmful at all, but nice to have friend to help me understand the bus ride.
I think public transportation in Colombo is the best way to travel. Yeah, indeed the driver can be so crazy. I recognize from the way they drive, they like to take other road and honking loudly when there is another car from the opposite direction. But the loud horn make it sounds like their fault, not the bus driver! Crazy! But the most incredible thing is, how those car won’t be mad and just give way to the bus. I imagined if that same case happen in Jakarta, people can be so mad and fighting to each other!
Another special thing from the bus is how the person who collect the money has one machine in their hand – such as the card machine when you buy something, and will ask your destination, then give you the ticket which automatically printed from that machine. One by one he does the same thing to each passenger. That’s incredible! Even if the bus is full! Although the bus ticket is so cheap, he still do it diligently 🙂
Arrived in Independence Square, I feel so amazed with the building. In general, I feel so amazed with Colombo city, this town is beyond my expectation. I already prepared for some crowd, hot and unorganized city. Until I saw it with my own eyes, how Colombo has many beautiful old buildings. I guess for the locals it doesn’t matter so much, they have already seen it everyday. But for me, who come from Jakarta which only has 1 beautiful Cathedral and few old buildings – the idea of Colombo still has their old buildings is interesting. Now they use it for another purpose (such as shopping arcade and restaurant). I think it’s fine, rather than let it becomes dusty by the ages and ugly because no one maintain it.
Talk about the city, as a normal city, of course they have some area which counted as crowded and slum, but in Colombo, as I can see, there is a mixed style between locals and their invaders remaining assets. And Colombo itself can counted as green city, even you can also see some modern buildings built here and there. I don’t like modern buildings, there are ugly. So I hope it won’t change the face of Colombo in the future.
Because it is a green country, of course some animals still love to be in here because they still able to get some food, that’s my conclusion about Sri Lanka, since I saw many animals around the town, such as black crows, dogs and monkeys. In some area, I can see big lizard and another variety of birds. No one shoot the black crows, my friend said. Hear hear, in Jakarta, those animals already migrated to another place because of our heavy pollution – so be grateful Colombo! 😉
Talking about public transportation, I can say using public transportation is way too much cheaper than taking tuk-tuk (or taxi, as they called it). Only in Colombo you can see taxi with meter, while in other town in Sri Lanka, you need to bargain with the driver. My expenses mostly higher because of paying the tuk-tuk. So you better to travel with 1 or 2 friends (because tuk-tuk only max for 3 passengers) and share the cost. I really like the colorful of tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, since in Indonesia, I only see the blue color (for new ones) and red color (for really old ones). My favorite tuk-tuk color is black, it is sooo cool! But don’t worry, actually they also have normal taxi (with small car or sedan type) and I even saw they have hop on and hop off bus for city sight seeing. Cool, eh?
Last, to re-charge our energy, we stopped in a really cool Tea Lounge. Jakartarians knew already about coffee shop, but it was my first time to go to tea lounge. They only serve tea (and some snacks of course)! Any kind of tea, hot and cold. I tried an Earl Grey Ceylon Tea with Vanilla Ice Cream and few of mint leaves on the top – What an excellent day!
- Upali Restaurant is in CWW Kanangara Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Phone : +94112695812.
- Dilmah Tea Lounge available in Shopping Arcade behind the Independence Square and Dutch Hospital (used to be hospital but now becomes place for hang out).
- If you visit Sri Lanka, don’t forget to try their Lion beer!
My first Lion Beer!!! Uoooooooo 😀