On Tuesday we arrived in Colombo, a rollercoaster for the senses. Travelling from the Airport to the city we were welcomed by deafening horns and speeding rickshaws everywhere we looked. The blazing sun was beating down through heavy pollution on a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins, the remnants of the Portuguese, British and Dutch settlement evident on most street corners.
An hour’s taxi ride amidst peak-hour traffic took us to our accommodation, Casa Colombo – a luxurious oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the lengthy Galle Road. Our young concierge Kumora, took us upstairs through the cinnamon scented hallways to our room, The Prince Albert Suite, a beautifully decorated room with a hand-made brass bathtub, fresh orchids on every table and high ornate ceilings which date back to mansions original fit-out 200 years ago. That night we ate peppery Sir Lankan Curry with rice and spicy flambéed prawns, delicious!
The next morning, we took to the streets to explore, tuk-tuking our way from Casa Colombo to Paradise Road, Mawatha, then to Barefoot Ceylon, and back to Galle Road. Each driver enquiring about our nationality then proudly listing off all the Australian cricketers they can think of, retired or not; Matthew Hayden, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Andrew Simons “and Ricky Pointing…great captainship,” one said. Their obsession is plane and obvious, and Tony Greg has cashed in – his face splashed on mobile phone billboards everywhere!
Next we headed to the Pettah Market, a huge series of streets and alleyways crammed with a huge variation of fresh vegetables, dried fish, spices, clothes, jewelry and anything else you can think of. Watching we didn’t get in the way of the locals lugging enormous bags of goods up and down the cluttered paths, we stopped and set our eyes upon copious amounts of bananas, pineapples, mangoes and our favourites, chilies. After a brief drink stop in a dark and humid ‘café’ ….we tuk-tuked back to Casa Colombo for some much appreciated A/C.
From a big day of tuk-tuking around the city, here are some of my observations and tips to help us in The Lanka Challenge…
• Tuk-tuks are the lowest form of transportation on the road ‘hierarchy.’
• Only indicate if you really feel like it.
• Pimped-out tuk tuks with custom paint jobs, sub woofers and cushioned seats will usually cost more for a ride.
• Following road rules will get you nowhere, tuk-tukling requires assertiveness and aggressiveness.
• Beeping you horn is not optional, it alerts buses to your existence and prevents imminent death.
That’s all from today. Tomorrow we head off to Hotel Tamarind Tree to meet up with our fellow Lanka Challenge competitors and take a special tuk-tuk driving lesson.