05
Mar-2014

Colombo

Sri Lanka   /  
  • Evening in Colombo Beach

  • Beira Lake

  • In the streets

  • Rail trails along the beach

  • Gangaramaya Temple

  • Seema Malaka Temple

  • Gangaramaya Temple

  • Gangaramaya Temple

  • Gangaramaya Temple

  • Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil

  • Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil

  • Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil

  • Colombo Beach

  • Viharamahadevi Park

  • Street food on the beach

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Spend at least one day in the Sri Lankan capital to visit its temples, especially the romantic  Seema Malaka Temple, our favourite because it is on the water. Walk in the shadow of the Viharamahadevi Park or along the beach when the sun goes down to try the street food. It’s a nice introduction to the country and one of the only places in Sri Lanka where you can party with locals at night.

WHAT TO VISIT IN COLOMBO?

  • Our favorite place was the Seema Malaka Temple, a peaceful Buddhist temple set on a lake with a view of the skyscrapers of the city. We come often across couples getting married there because this place is very romantic. The tourists must pay an entrance, which is also valid for the Gangaramaya temple. Near the temple, a snake charmer invites you to take a picture with a cobra around your neck. It’s a good photo opportunity but negotiate the price before because otherwise he will ask you an astronomical price.
  • The Gangaramaya Buddhist temple in a completely different style, is worth for its kitsch. It is built around a sacred tree. You’ll find all kinds of statues, including a life-size elephant and countless buddhas. It is also a very lively place  where you can easily spend hours observing locals and especially children who come to pray there.
  • The temple Sri Swami Devasthanam Kailawasanathan Kovil, a Hindu temple. It’s beautiful, with all the small colored statuettes, definitely worth the trip! As in all the temples, tourists must pay admission, and also to take pictures.
  • The Town Hall is a huge white building that is a bit like the Capitol in Washington. At the entrance you find paintings of all former presidents, we were surprised to see there even two women!
  • In front of the Town Hall, stroll in the Viharamahadevi Park where locals come for a little freshness. It is very pretty with fountains and Buddhas.

What to do in COLOMBO

  • Take pictures of you sitting on the railway situated on the beach. You can safely walk on the tracks because trains are very slow and you will have time to go away when they approach.
  • Buy a fresh coconut at the beach.
  • Stroll along the beach at sunset. On Sunday evening, observe locals who gather near the pier to enjoy the end of the weekend or spend time with family and fly kites.  Many street vendors let you try some local delicacies, including Isso Vadai, a kind of lens flour chips with 3 or 4 fried whole shrimp (with the head), spicy enough … An experience : – )

WHERE TO EAT IN COLOMBO?

As with any capital, the choice of restaurants is large and varied. A reference used by our local friends to test new places is the http://www.yamu.lk website (which is in English!!), which lists restaurants with full reviews, prices and many photos!
My local friend recommended Baracuda, a little more expensive than the normal restaurants but very nice with its lights and its location on the beach. They serve fusion cuisine between Sri Lanka and China, and also Thai cuisine.

WHERE TO GO OUT IN COLOMBO?

Our friend took us to a local bar (and therefore almost exclusively packed with guys): Station, which overlooks the beach and offers live music. You can bring your own alcohol  by paying a small fee (but not beer because they serve it).

WHERE TO STAY IN COLOMBO?

We have not tested because we had a friend there, but the Colombo City Hostel looked pretty nice.

[Update April 2016] Since our first trip, where there were only two hostels, the hostels have mushroomed and now you will be spoiled for choice. During a third trip to Sri Lanka in April 2016, I tested 2 different hostels: Mount Colonial Hostel in Mount Lavinia and Colombo 7 Hostel Inn.

  • My favorite is the Mount Colonial Hostel which was launched in February 2016 by a Sri Lankan backpacker ! Being himself a backpacker, he knows what travelers are looking for in a hostel: super friendly staff taking care of you, located 10 minutes from the beach in Mount Lavinia (known for its nightlife) and 2 minutes from the station, a small lamp and a socket next to every bed, superb breakfast  (toasts, egg, sausages, fruit … with fresh mango from the mango tree in the garden), and, coming soon (when there will be more people ), events like a barbecue in their garden. And of course a price quite reasonable for Colombo (14 euros). They even have a tuk-tuk to drive the guests if needed. The building is a beautiful colonial building but the furniture is modern, which makes one feel at home while having a local flavour :) The 6 bed dorm where I stayed had air conditioning.
  • I also liked the Hostel Inn Colombo 7 for the very welcoming staff. The hostel is small but very comfortable, the rooms have air conditioning. Strong point: the two bathrooms with a real shower and a bath. It really feels like home. The hostel is located in the center of Colombo but not easy to find. It is also brand new, opened in January 2016. It is a little expensive, 17 euros.

WHERE TO GO AFTER COLOMBO?

Colombo is often the starting point of any trip to Sri Lanka via its airport. We recommend you to start your Sri Lankan experience with the Cultural Triangle, and therefore to go  after Colombo to Anuradhapura if you have the time to do the three sacred cities (Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnawura). Otherwise, prefer the other two, as Anuradhapura is a bit far, and that will save you much time.

The train to Anuradhapura lasts 5 hours. We took a train that leaves at 6:50 am to be able to visit the sacred city in the afternoon. Book tickets in advance. First class is about 940 Rs. The advantage of the first class is that we are certain to have a seat because the seats are reserved. The train is an experience in itself. The scenery is really beautiful, the doors are open all the time, the trains are very crowded, with merchants entering at one station and leaving the train at the next one, selling drinks and pastries, sometimes even cotton candy. You might feel a bit embarrassed by the gaze from local passengers, but you will get used to it.

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