When we landed in Sri Lanka, we went straight to Kandy instead of going into Colombo. The roads are excellent, so outside of rush hour it doesn’t take that long, but we felt like it would just feel hectic to go in and spend the night just to leave again. Another option would’ve been to stay in Negombo, at the beach, for a couple of days at the beginning of the trip. But we were eager to get things started. In the end, however, we wanted to see Colombo before going home.
Where to stay in Colombo…
We booked two nights at the cheapest upscale hotel we could find, the Renuka City Hotel. It did seem quite fancy after two weeks on the road, with a gym (that we didn’t use) and a pool out on a terrace overlooking the sea, and a bar (that we did use) with excellent service. It was right on the Galle Road, meaning that our bus from Galle dropped us right outside, and access to public transportation to get around the city is excellent. The area also seemed really safe, and we walked a lot, even into the old town. So if you enjoy walking, you can really get around most of the places a tourist might want to visit in Colombo on foot.
… and where to eat
When we arrived at our hotel, we looked on Google maps for all the places nearby, and we found a lunch place just around the corner called The Curry Pot. It was very cheap, less than 200 LKR, and you point to what you want and get it served on a lotus leaf! It sounds unbelievably hipster, but most of the other customers were business people on their lunch break.
Gangaramaya Temple, filled with Buddhas
One of my favorite things to see in Colombo was the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. The grounds are huge, and everywhere you go there are Buddha figures in all shapes and sizes, gathered from around the Buddhist world. My favorite was a room with huge statues in bright colors. The ticket includes a separate temple out on the lake nearby, and while that is not quite as impressive, it’s really nice to be out there watching the busy city from a distance.
Shopping in the Pettah
The bazaar district of Pettah is Colombo’s original shopping area, one of those where similar shops are gathered in one street so that you know exactly where to go for light bulbs or padlocks. It’s a multicultural area, very busy and crowded but not in a threatening way. People simply don’t care about the tourists as they go about their business, which is quite refreshing. Even if you don’t want to buy anything it’s worth strolling around to enjoy the ambience of the place. Just make sure you’re not that one annoying tourist who blocks the road when taking pictures!