After spending eight glorious days at the seaside it was time for our final move. We are heading to Mount Lavinia, a beachside suburb of Colombo, and from here we will be heading to the airport in a few days and flying home to Sydney, Australia.
We left Unawatuna on the morning of April 27th and three hours later were in Mount Lavinia. We used local bus transport for the 123 km journey for a total cost of $2.90 per person.
On arrival, we managed to get a hotel a block away from the beach and once settled headed over to check it out. I was so happy, once I saw it, that we had our beach experience elsewhere. This beach was deserted, kind of grubby looking, and in this spot the sea is not great for swimming because the tide is much stronger. In addition, because of my damaged toenail, I found it very difficult to walk on sand, so after a cursory look, we were done with the beach.
In these last few days, we were really starting to wind down. The constant heat was really getting to us and it was hard to be out for hours at a time wandering around. In addition, there really wasn’t all that much of interest to either of us in this spot. We did however decide to head to Colombo proper to explore the historic Fort that was the original site of the 16th century Portuguese fortification. This area is now the commercial hub of the city and although the fortifications are no longer present, colonial influences are still apparent in the area’s architecture. We tried to follow a walking tour of the area from my travel book but a lot of it was off-limits as the President’s House is located in this area and it is a High Security Zone.
So we abandoned our exploration of the Fort area and headed to Pettah, Colombo’s chaotic and colourful commercial district. Shops in the area are organized in a bazaar layout, with each street dedicated to a particular trade, i.e. fabric, jewelry, electronics, etc. What I found interesting in this area was the way they transported goods; you would think in this day and age that vehicles would be used, but no, heavy loads were put onto long trolleys that were then transported by men. In the blazing sun, it must be horrible work. Pettah was really crowded with shoppers, vehicles and men transporting goods. I always felt I was in the way of someone!
April 29th was our last day in Sri Lanka. So we spent the day in final preparations and just relaxing. We would be leaving for the airport around 6pm for our flight that would be leaving at 1:40am April 30th. Luckily we were able to arrange for a half-day stay at our hotel so we could escape the sun and heat and could spend time in our fan room till we left. I decided to have a manicure and pedicure done before leaving. I went to a shop and there was only one girl working. Luckily there were no other customers in the shop. She spent two full hours on me and did a great job. I wondered what would have happened if another customer came in a half hour after me; would she have to wait, would my girl alternate between two people, do they ask them to come back and hope when they do it will be quiet then? I can’t quite figure out how the beauty industry here works. I enjoyed getting this done on the last day; it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours after a full holiday and best of all the shop was air conditioned.
The time finally came to go to the airport and because we were down to our final few dollars we decided to take bus transport rather than a taxi or tuk-tuk. A taxi or tuk-tuk ranged from $25 – $29 for the trip. The bus, actually two buses, cost $1.82 per person. It took two hours to get to the airport as it was rush hour but since we left many hours prior to our flight, we didn’t have to be concerned about the time. Once at the airport and checked through, we used the last of our money to buy some supper and relax with our computers. It took two flights to get us home, the first flight to Kuala Lampur and then from there to Sydney. We arrived in Sydney about 7pm Thursday and took the subway downtown, transferred to a bus, and finally walked the last few hundred metres to Sanford’s place. It was good to be home.
Sanford and I travelled together for a little over eight weeks. That’s a long time with someone in close quarters and with the tensions travelling can bring. I’m happy to report that we made it through all right! Good thing too because we are talking about going to Europe next year for three months……
Final Thoughts on Sri Lanka
I liked Sri Lanka. Of all the Asian countries I have been to (India, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, South Korea and Japan) I would say it is probably one of the easier countries to navigate. Here are my thoughts on various categories:
- Sites – The country is small enough that you can travel to various parts of the country easily within a few weeks and see the various sites that each area has to offer. I felt there was a lot of great stuff to see and a lot of variety between ancient civilization sites, the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, National Parks, tea plantations, beaches, and just wandering around the different towns/villages, etc.
- Transportation – There are many options for transport; buses, trains, tuk-tuks and taxis. Buses are the cheapest and they go everywhere and run often. We never had a bus schedule. You just find out where to catch the bus, head to the stop and usually within 30 minutes your bus would come. The only trouble with transport is it takes a long time to cover short distances. Trains are said to be the slowest, buses slightly better. The only time travel was really problematic was during the Tamil New Year when everyone was travelling and schedules were not as frequent.
- Food – My opinion, ugh! Sanford’s opinion, yum! Depends how much you like curries, spicy food, fried rice, greasy food. That being said, there were always some options for me, but I found it almost impossible to escape the grease.
- Communication and People – Enough people spoke English that it was not a problem to be understood and people were friendly. No issues there.
I feel that if I would be going to Asia for the first time, Sri Lanka would be a great place to start.