I spent part of the Songkran holidays in Sri Lanka, where I stayed for seven days. It's a country I've always wanted to visit. Since the government defeated the Tamil armed groups a few years back, tourism has boomed in Sri Lanka. I wanted to see it before it's totally overtaken by tourists so I had to act fast in booking a ticket when Air Asia opened new routes between Bangkok and Colombo.
Initially I was supposed to make the holiday alone but my friend Ms C, who comes from my hometown and with whom I also went to university (we even graduated from the same course), got on board. She flew from Chennai as she is now based in India, so I waited for her at Colombo airport for six long hours.
Fortunately, Ms C was able to arrange a travel guide (and a van) for us on the last minute (thank God for her connections). This also meant our intended itinerary had to be altered to accommodate the travel guide's schedule.
We ended up in Colombo for a couple of days. We, in fact, planned to skip Colombo as it is often deemed uneventful by many tourists, but we found out otherwise. We think Colombo is quite pleasant and charming. Its streets are clean, and with ample sidewalks, compared to some cities I've been to. *looking straight at you, Manila*
Luckily, we arrived there on a weekend so it was not that frenetic in the city center. It is also manageable to get around in, with friendly tuk-tuk drivers willing to take us anywhere we went.
We decided to first drop by the market in Pettah, abuzz with people during the weekend. As they were also about to celebrate the Buddhist New Year like the rest of Buddhist Southeast Asia, the local people were doing their last-minute shopping for clothes and housewares.
Walking towards the direction of the boulevard, we passed by grand old buildings that might date back to colonial times, or at least they look colonial to us. Colombo, though, also has a good mix of modern skyscrapers, often sitting side by side with the old buildings.
Our next stop was Galle Face, the main boulevard of Colombo. It was the height of noon when we reached the boulevard but still there were many couples on dates and kids playing cricket. Oh, it was a Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the beach is, despite it being in the middle of the city. There were families swimming in the water and boys playing football on the golden sand beach.
In the afternoon we went to the National Museum, an imposing old building but is underutilized as a museum. From there we explored a little lake in the middle of the city. We had to leave quickly though because we saw heavy clouds, which in a few minutes drenched the city.
A tuk-tuk brought us back to our mosquito infested guest house in Mount Lavinia, about seven kilometers from the city center. We were lucky the rain stopped by the time we reached our beach-side guest house. By then families on a weekend break have invaded the beach, with the ubiquitous cricket matches being played on its golden sands.