21st & 22nd May- London to Colombo
My trip began when I had to drag myself away from the TV which was playing Manchester United’s FA cup final game against Crystal Palace. It was around the 60th minute and with the score still at 0-0 there was no telling who would win but alas, Sri Lanka called me and the plane wasn’t gonna wait for me either so I said my goodbyes and left home a little nervously. It was my first trip away from home without any adult supervision (apparently I was an adult now, who knew?) and couldn’t have been better timed.
Putting the game aside, the trip was planned a few days after my last university assignment, concluding a stressful year and a trip away from home was the perfect calling. London can be quite a bit gloomy at times and if you don’t leave every now and then the gloom starts to consume you too. On the underground train ride to London Heathrow I repeatedly refreshed the Manchester United Twitter page hoping for some good news. Ironically, United were playing at Wembley, the very place my home existed in.
From the back garden you can see the famous arch of the stadium and yet here I was heading in the opposite direction to my flight. On arrival to the airport I did the usual routine stuff- drop my bag at check in, go through security and find my gate. Qatar airways was the chosen airlines which meant I had a quick transit in Doha before finally arriving in Colombo. Before boarding United’s success in the final meant my Twitter timeline was flooded with pictures of the celebrations and while I was getting more and more excited the closer I got to leaving to Sri Lanka, I couldn’t help but feel a little upset that I didn’t witness the win live.
You see, for a sports fan, if you can’t show up to the stadium then the least you can do as a supporter is watch your team on TV and there’s always this funny feeling of mixed happiness and sadness when your team succeeds without you having witnessed it. Happiness for the win of course but the sadness was due to a strange belief that if you don’t witness the win for yourself then you somehow didn’t really win the game with your team. It’s funny that by watching it you feel as if you played a part in the success and so when the win happens without you there’s a little empty feeling that goes hand in hand with the joy of a win.
Anyways, it was time to put that behind me and focus on making the most of my trip. I left London on the 21st of May and I was due back on the 2nd of June, there was no time to waste and everything to look forward to. 6 hours from London to Doha and 4 hours from Doha to Colombo. I actually managed to fall asleep for once and so the length of the trip wasn’t as much of a bother had I not been able to drift away into dreamland. Landing was just as stressful as it always has been for me but looking out of the plane and seeing a spectrum of greenery replaced the stress with pure excitement.
This is actually happening. I am actually in Sri Lanka.
Clicking a bunch of buttons to purchase a ticket doesn’t really give you a shot of reality and so it was only until seeing all this did I realise that this adventure was actually happening. Once again there was the usual routine things to do when I arrived- go through security, get a stamp on my passport for evidence of my trip and then get my bag. This time however, there was a little extra to do too. I was warned beforehand that currency exchange places weren’t widely available and that it was best to both, exchange currency at the airport as well as buy a phone sim card too.
That done and a phone call to the parents later, it was time to figure out how to get from the airport to the hotel. As you’d expect there was stall after stall of travel companies all offering their services literally to me. Not knowing what was a good price for a ride to the hotel, I haggled weakly with the man and soon we were in the car and on our way to Zamzam Colombo City Hotel. An hour later we were cruising around the streets trying to find the exact location. It was a little difficult to find because it was sort of hidden but still pleasant looking and beside the sea, what more could I ask for?
All along the way, lights and flags were hung, lining the streets for a festival I was unaware was happening during my stay. The streets were similar to the ones I experience back in Egypt- the only rule was there were no rules. Busses, cars, tuk-tuks and motorbikes all competed with each other for space on a two lane street which had the occasional cow walking by on. Stray dogs became a regular feature of my trip and I enjoyed watching them chase each other as a way to kill the one hour drive.
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The hotel itself was decent, nothing fancy but it was clean, had a shower and air conditioning so there was nothing to complain of. The whole journey took more out of me than I realised and it was only until sitting on the bed did I feel my exhaustion. A whole page with activities to do in Colombo was staring back at me, judging me for the decision I was about to take. Sleep, food and a movie was what I planned to do leaving the trouble of fitting all the activities in a half day tomorrow for future me to deal with.
Present me had the issue of figuring out where to eat. The man at the reception suggested a few Halal places, one of which was currently delivering food at the place. Overhearing the conversation, the delivery man offered us a ride back to the restaurant but we wanted to do at least a little bit of exploring to somewhat salvage the day. Despite giving us directions, the streets still looked like a maze, one wrong turn and we could’ve ended up at a different hotel.
Out on the main street it was pretty straightforward from here, just keep walking straight. The aim was to find a shop to buy some snacks, water and possibly insect repellent. Instead we ended up in a gas station buying water and juice not knowing the shop people were suggesting us to go to was just around the corner. On our way back we stopped for some Shawarma takeout, too tired to sit and eat there. Dinner was accompanied by The Emperors New Groove and followed by an early nights rest to prepare for tomorrows flurry of activities we planned.