I arrived into Colombo airport and the familiar nerves of going through immigration settled in. I don’t know why, but I am always convinced I have done my visa paperwork wrongly and won’t be allowed in. Thankfully the very friendly man stamped my passport and let me go on my way.
The next step was to try to find my transfer driver in a sea of faces all frantically waving their name boards at you. I scanned all of the boards and couldn’t see my name, so I headed to the back wall and hung around for a while until it quietened and my options were more limited. It is always a bit daunting when you feel a bit groggy from the flight, arriving into a new country with a different language, and trying to find your feet.
Thankfully I met my driver and we went on our way to Colombo City Hostel. He had a very interesting selection of English music ranging from Westlife to Pitbull.
The drive took about an hour as the traffic was so heavy. I always forget how wild the roads are in these parts of Asia. Nearly every car was decorated with a bump or a scrape somewhere. The familiar sight of the brightly coloured tuk tuks whizzing in between cars and somehow fitting through the tiniest gaps always amazes me.
We made it to the hostel in one piece, just. It’s relatively cheap and it’s basic, about what you can expect from Asia. You get all the essentials but nothing fancy. I checked in and met the famous Sam, the guy who runs the hostel. He’s a great guy, very friendly and full of advice about Sri Lanka. I was shown to my room and had a quick shower before heading up to the rooftop terrace to relax and meet everyone else.
Up on the rooftop there was chat of going into Colombo for a few drinks. We headed to a bar called Playtricks which is set up on the grandstand of the old racecourse. The setting was great but the prices were a shock! The beer was the same price as what you would expect to pay at home. The next shock was the struggle I had to find some Sri Lankan food. Everywhere was selling burgers, pizza, pasta but no curry or noodles in sight.
After a few drinks in Playtricks we took a tuk tuk to a courtyard bar in the old Dutch hospital. There was a live band and the walls were decorated with fairy lights, setting a great atmosphere. The place was packed! Many locals were there celebrating the end of a working day, with a few tourists dotted in amongst them.
After a couple of hours of drinking and dancing I decided to call it a night and head home before my early morning train to Kandy.
The hostel provides a free breakfast. It is a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast consisting of rotti, hoppers and a couple of different curries. The food was so tasty, although at 7:30am I wasn’t quite prepared for the spice of the curry!
The tuk tuk drivers will occasionally play dumb and pretend they do not know where your destination is. In Colombo the tuk tuks are all metered so the longer you are in there the more you have to pay. Eventually made it to Colombo Fort train station with 7 minutes to get a ticket and find the train. The ticket office was still open and I chose a second class ticket, setting me back a whole 290 rupees (approx £1.50). I managed to squeeze myself on and sat in between carriages where the doors are open, providing you with a kbreeze. It is safe to sit there, but constantly standing up to let people off does get a bit tiresome.
Next stop Kandy.