23rd May- Colombo to Unawatuna
Last nights shawarma didn’t do me any favours and I woke up at 7:30AM after a restless night. Yet somehow I was still feeling refreshed, probably because of the excitement of finally exploring the city. It was time to make up for last night’s laziness and I was ready to get revenge on myself but first- it was time for breakfast. The energy to be used that morning would be fuelled by brown toast, chips and sausages.
I, of course, had to get the first embarrassment of the day out of the way so I asked the receptionist at our hotel, ZamZam Colombo City Hotel*, if the food was Halal. Again, ZamZam Colombo City Hotel. He replied confused, stating that of course it was Halal as the owner himself was Muslim. With that out of the way, I stuffed myself with plenty of carbs and proteins, little did I know that this would be our only unique breakfast of the whole trip.
Just before we left I wondered where we could find a Tuk Tuk in this maze of a place. My thoughts dragged onwards outside only to find a Tuk Tuk right outside our hotel, just patiently sitting there as if it knew we needed one. The first place on our list of things to do in Colombo was Vihrama Devi Park. I was curious as to why a park would be on a to-do list in a city where greenery excelled all around us but when I arrived it became clear why.
The park was, quite simply, beautiful and well taken care of. On every patch of grass was a man hacking away to ensure it kept its perfect condition. Trees that seemed to have been stood there for centuries plotted themselves everywhere in sight. Although this wasn’t a religious place by any particular means, statues stood tall in every direction. The people in this country didn’t take religion lightly as it seemed and temples were on almost every road just as mosques would be back in Dubai.
While walking in the park, crows followed us at a distance, curious by our shiny cameras, possibly waiting for the right moment to swoop in and steal it out of our hands. At the foot of each tree was a bench that was taken up by couples who wandered into the park early in the morning. The park had some of it’s own variety of animals; crows, horses and ducks sprinkled the area here and there. Soon we found ourselves at the other end of the park and on the main road looking for another Tuk Tuk to take us to Galle Face.
Galle Face was a corniche of sorts, similar to the ones I’d go to before with my family in Egypt and Dubai. Since it was a corniche, this place was also naturally filled with couples leaning on each other taking in the salty air. Signs warned of the danger of swimming in such harsh conditions as well as the poisonous creatures that inhabited this bit of water. We walked along the sea, stalls set up lining all along the path all selling the same items- popcorn, crisps, water and drinks. I wondered how they could possibly compete with each other.
There was a deck half way through the path, strategically placed so you could look out at the endless blue and be hypnotised by the waves crashing over and over onto the rocks. With Galle Face ticketed off our list, we pulled ourselves away to get yet another Tuk Tuk. This time, the plan was to find one with a metre as it was hard haggling when you’re not sure of the fair price. After waving one down it soon became obvious the driver had no clue where we wanted to go.
Out of nowhere another driver pops up to our left and asks if we need help.
“Petta Floating Market?”
“Yes, yes. Come, come”
“Yes, yes. Come, come”
I tested his knowledge of Colombo and listed out the other places we planned on going to. Not only did he know them all but he also had a few suggestions of his own, pointing out touristic spots and famous buildings along our way to the market. He wasn’t lying when he told me that he knew anywhere in Colombo.
When we arrived it seemed a little empty on sight but it was getting close to noon and the heat soared so it didn’t really surprise me. However, it turns out that, according to the driver, this area was previously thriving but due to increased rent the shops were slowly shutting down one by one. There was a lovely lake and beautiful boats, that you can peddle yourselves around in, ran along the edges. It wasn’t hard to understand why this place was previously thriving.
We walked from end to end passing shops that hadn’t been approached by anyone as of yet. It’s here that we learnt that they believe the first buyer is what will determine your luck for the rest of the day. If the person interested buys something, you will have a good day of business and likewise if the person walks away without buying anything, you will have a bad day of business. They believed in it so convincingly that often they would halve the prices if you seemed uninterested.
My thirst started to get the better of me and I asked if he knew where I could get coconut water from. He restated his belief that he knew everywhere in Colombo and so off we were weaving our way in and out of the streets on a mission to buy fresh coconut water. Later on I’d be thankful that I bought coconut water as we went from Mosques to Buddhist and Hindu temples and from a hotel in Colombo to a villa in Unawatuna.
Previous Hello! Sri Lanka post.
*ZamZam Colombo City Hotel was named after the ZamZam well which supplies, what is considered as holy water, to millions of muslims worldwide