First Impressions of Colombo
I expected Colombo to be bustling and beautifully chaotic; and in some parts especially in the port area, it was. But as my travel companion commented, it is not the same as Mumbai, India. Indeed, travelers in the past, have been tempted to draw a comparison between the two neighboring South Asian countries.
The busiest section of the city is (not surprisingly) the center, referred to as Colombo Fort. Here, the main roads converge and they are made busy by dozens of agile tuk tuks (three wheeled taxis) whipping around the bigger vehicles in hopes of getting a passenger. And because there are way too many tuk tuks than potential passengers, the result is far from smooth traffic flow. The roads may be busy, but the commuters on the road did not give out a very impatient and hurried vibe which I usually get from larger city dwellers. Perhaps it is the calm continence that their main religion (Buddhism) is teaching, or the fact that Sri Lanka is still an island; but the people in Colombo were much more relaxed than their urban environment would predispose them to be. Sure, it is as colorful and cultural as India; with women wearing multicolored sarees and the smell of curry everywhere. But as I see it, Colombo, and the rest of Sri Lanka has its own identity, plays its very own mellow groove, which I, of course, eagerly wanted to dance to.
Finding a Suitable Driver
Colombo is a big enough city that it is hard to get around without any kind of transport. It is also quite hot and humid that it will surely make you feel uncomfortable walking around the city for hours, even in the morning. But we attempted to walk around the busy port area anyway. And sure enough, not only did the heat and humidity eventually get to us, but also the thick dark smog given off by various vehicles paid its toll.
To see all of Colombo’s most notable spots; we came up with an ingenious plan. We decided to hail a few tuk tuk drivers to ask them if they could take us around the city for 3 hours. We were quite particular with the driver we wanted. We wanted someone with decent English, and who seemed friendly and fair. We encountered this religious Sinhalese driver named Yunis, who was willing to do it for a fair price. He knew the city quite well and he freely suggested sites we could visit. It did not seem like it was the first time he had to tour around tourists (so it was not an ingenious plan after all). We already had a list of Colombo attractions we read about and picked his brain about them. Soon enough, we came up with an itinerary with the most convenient route. This was the point when our tuk tuk adventure around Colombo began.