The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to downtown Colombo is by itself an introduction to Sri Lanka. That is if you don’t take one of the ridiculously expensive luxury cabs (think western brands) or one of the still rather costly local cabs. There is also a selection of different buses available. We took the local one, searching for it felt like our adventure had started. Riding it downtown confirmed that feeling. Colorful, rickety, loud, humid, stuffed full of people – Sri Lanka, here we come.
Lanka, as locals affectionately call it, declared independence from under British rule after the 2nd World War. The British referred to it as the crown colony of British Ceylon. It was also the Brits who made the trade port of Colombo the capital of the island. We spent little time in the city, as it is not really a destination for tourism. Colorful, rickety, loud, humid, stuffed full of people, as I mentioned before. But there are also small pockets in the city that felt like modern districts of any western capital. Those were almost empty of people though, as the prices followed the style. Only the expensive polished spotless SUVs and luxury cars of the rich could be found visiting these locations that didn’t fit in with the rest. The gaping wealth gap in Sri Lanka was evident from our first drive through the town.
We decided against spending much time in Colombo, especially as we’d have more time there on the way out. At least that was the idea, as there really was no plan beyond “get to Colombo, find wifi.” The first was now accomplished and our AirBnB host helped with the latter. Hence, after a day of walking and trying out local eateries (incuding an unforgettable place we affectionately named Igor’s), we spent the evening going over maps and ideas of what we wanted to see and do. Next morning we woke early and took a tuktuk straight to the train station.