It was a 4 hour drive from Tangalle to Colombo, but with a lot to see along the road. Several temples, one with two elephants living in the garden, small towns and larger cities, an area known for cashew nuts had stands selling these every few meters, an old Portugeese fort, a romantic beach full of couples with umbrellas, crazy traffic, pimped up tuk-tuk’s and full families on small scooters. In Colombo there were some demonstrations towards the new government, for raising taxes and fines with several 100 percent, but our driver was prepared and got us to the hotel without any problems.
Our hotel, Cinnamon Red, was everything Ceylon Sea was not. Efficient, elegant, artsy, 24 hour service, quiet, great food, surprisingly cheap and with an amazing roof top terrace with an infinity pool on the 26th floor. We probably spent more time in the hotel than we should have, but we had such a great time there, and never really figured out Colombo. The city was quite loud and dirty, and we didn’t really find any nice areas to walk around. We spent a lot of time trying to find a cheap place to do laundry, and ended up in a strange place with no signs quite far from the hotel. When picking it up the next day, the place was closed, and after calling the owner we still had to wait 45 minutes for someone to show up.
We booked a 4 hour city tour, but got a very strange driver, driving in 20 km/h most of the time, and who was more interested in showing us bus stations and military buildings than the actual sights. We still got to see Galle face green, the parliament, the lighthouse, the Independence Hall, Sambodhi Chaithya stupa, several beautiful mosques and churches, an impressive Hindu temple, old and new city hall, large hotels, ports, courts and statues. We had a relaxing stop at Beira Lake, with a romantic island in the middle and several couples in swan-shaped boats on the lake. The most interesting stop of the tour was Gangaramaya Buddhist temple, built in a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture. The temple itself with statues, pagoda, Bodhitree and assembly hall was interesting, and we got very fascinated by the museum. It contained some old artifacts and a lot of worthless gifts and souvenirs (like old pens, beer mugs etc.).
We spent a lot of time in Colombo booking the rest of our trip. High season starts in the middle of December, and it was a lot harder to find good and cheap places to stay. The biggest challenge was the train ride to Kandy. We were told we needed to pay in advance for luggage online, but after several email back and forth with the helpdesk we gave up and asked the reception to call them. We were advised to go to the station to arrange everything, but their printer didn’t work and they said we could pay for luggage on the train (which we never did).
Our best meal in Colombo was without a doubt at Lagoon restaurant. It is part of the posh Cinnamon Grand Hotel (with pink Christmas trees and decorations all over the place), but is located in a quiet, green oasis in the back. You pick the seafood of your choice from their display, and select how it should be prepared. We ended up with a starter (lobster tail), and 1,5 main dishes (Tuna steak and a couple of scampi in a sauce that sounded too good to miss). Everything was absolutely delicious, and we even had room for a small dessert in the end. Great night!