As we landed in Colombo while it was still dark, I was so excited to wake up the next day to get my first real glimpse of this new country I was visiting.
The hotel we stayed at certainly made a great first impression already. Convenient and centrally located on leafy Park Street and walking distance to the lakeside Buddhist shrine of Gangarama, Residence by Uga Escapes is a unique boutique hotel in Colombo. Despite its central location, the property itself seems secluded and calm, a beautifully renovated Victorian era townhouse, consisting of 11 luxury suites, private courtyard, pool, gym and restaurant. The staff were so nice, I want to give a special shout-out and thank you to them! No, this is not a sponsored post, haha.
Literally one property down is a popular hangout, called the Park Street Mews, with quality restaurants, a boutique and a spa. We slept late on our last day and had the best Eggs Benedict there at Café Francais. Recommended!
Our fist evening was spent on an exciting 4 hour Tuk Tuk Safari tour of Colombo – we took the Gala Tour. Convertible “luxury” Tuk Tuks comes with sound systems, cooler boxes with free drinks and phone chargers, all included. Our driver (Randy Box – haha, tour name) was friendly and knowledgeable and we had a great time chatting to him and asking questions. The tour was an amazing combination of Colombo’s best seasonal hotspots and some local food stops.
We ate Hopper, an iconic dish made from pancake batter with coconut milk and cooked in a small wok with an egg in the middle, drizzled with curry sauce, yum! I loved the vegetarian cheese Kottu – freshly prepared in front of us consisting of leek, onions, and cabbage, and the sizzling godamba roti with egg and soft cheese.
At another stop we had a variety of curries, of which the lentil dahl was my favourite. A word of warning, Sri Lankans like their curries HOT! It was delicious.
On our second day we took a day tour with Blue Lanka Tours to Sigiriya, the lion rock fortress and Dumbulla’s Golden Rock Buddhist Temple. Although the city of Dambulla is only 148 km north-east of Colombo, it took us four hours to drive there as there are no highways and we drove through small villages with motorbikes, tuk tuks and dogs on the roads, making the going slow. Then off course four hours back! I am ashamed to say, we slept in the car! All in all, the sites was definitely worth it, but I would recommend staying closer to avoid spending a whole day on the road. We were exhausted that evening. The driver was lovely and the car was clean, but not new.
Tips for visiting Sigiriya and the Golden rock temple:
- Wear non-slip, comfortable, walking shoes – you are going climb many, many rock and metal stairs! On the day we visited it was raining on and off, which made the situation for those stairs pretty scary.
- Shoes need to be removed when entering the holy sites. Don’t be tempted to wear sandals! People were slipping and sliding on those stone stairs and I’m sure more than a few walked away with bruises on their shins!
- Take it slow. If you are unfit, this will not be an easy trip. Don’t give up! It is worth it. My legs were sore and stiff for 3 days afterwards because I was so unfit!
- Are you afraid of heights? The last couple of metal stairs may be a challenge for you at Sigiriya.
- Take your own water.
- You need to have your arms and legs covered for the temple, buy a sarong along the way if you are wearing shorts.
- It is customary for guides to wait around for tourists. These guys are very friendly and helpful. Our guides were included with the tour, but we still gave them a tip at the end. At least they are trying to earn a living, right?
- Hawkers and sellers around these sites try to sell souvenirs etc. to tourists. We did not find them overly pushy and when we said no, they left us alone.
- Lastly, wear some mosquito repellent!
Colombo was surprisingly clean, with people sweeping the sidewalks and no plastic piling up anywhere we went. Most tuk tuks are metered, but be sure to ask at your hotel how much the tuk tuk fair is, more or less, if you want to go anywhere as some of the drivers will ask a set price and overcharge you as much as double the normal fair.
We found Sri Lanka to be a friendly place, with proud locals and tasty food.
As always, I wish we could spend more time there. We were very impressed and had such a wonderful, busy time that I need to visit there again for sure!
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