What did I learn during my walking tour in Colombo?

I’ve been in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for 5 days now. Most of the days here, I have spent working on my computer. On my fourth day, I decided that the fifth day is definitely going to be my day off. What to do on a day off in Colombo? My plan was crystal clear from the very beginning; I wanted to spend my day outside, and actually, I also knew where I would head first; in Viharamahadevi Park.

Viharamahadevi Park was formerly called Victoria Park. It is Colombo’s oldest and largest public park, which is situated in front of the Colombo Municipal Council and near National Museum. I had passed by the park numerous times already and found myself to be very drawn into that place even though I had only seen it from a distance. 

On my day off I hopped on a tuk-tuk and asked to be driven to Viharamahadevi Park. As I entered the park, I was greeted by a huge golden Buddha statue. And as I walked further into the park, I was just mesmerized by amazing big old trees that were everywhere, and actually, I felt like crying. It was just so beautiful. As it was Saturday, the park was full of people sitting on benches or in the shadows of the trees. I could tell just by looking around, that everybody was just enjoying themselves. Which only made me happier and appreciate the whole experience even more. I wandered in the park for an hour, enjoying every second.

Because of my work (and by work I mean sitting down and being passive), my task for the day off was to walk as much as I could. One week from now, I’m going to attend a wedding in India and for the first day of the wedding, I don’t have a blouse yet. So, on my day off, I decided to find the blouse and just get it over with. Feeling amazing about my beautiful walk in the park, I headed to the north, to a place called Cotton Collection, where I found myself leaving empty-handed. At that point, the day had already turned into the afternoon which, of course, meant that it was time to eat. And I already had a perfect place in mind.

I walked further to the north, into the heart of Colombo, to Colombo City Center mall. The mall itself is very modern and many of the Western brands can be found from there, I didn’t mind about any of the shops though. I headed to the top floor, to the Okra Kitchen, which serves really yummy Sri Lankan lunch buffet for 750 rupees. I enjoyed my perfect lunch and afterward I sat outside and sip my espresso, gazing down to the Beira Lake, just opposite. At that time I knew that I’m going to continue my walking tour into that direction.

I walked to the bridge which led me on to Gangaramaya Park, an island which is located in the middle of Beira Lake. As I walked around the park, gazing around the skyline of Colombo, I couldn’t believe I was in the middle of the city. I just felt so peaceful there. From there I continued my walking tour to the south, my mission on my mind relating the wedding clothes.  The place, House of Fashions, where I wanted to go was a little bit further away (actually I discovered afterward that the distance was over 3 kilometers), but I didn’t mind, it was the walking tour day after all. As I passed the Viharamahadevi park on its south side, I got to admire beautiful paintings placed on the side of the road, making my walk more colorful.

From House of fashions, I did find what I was looking for to wear at the wedding. And I returned to my hotel amazingly happy. Now, there was a lesson I learned during my perfect day off, and I’m sharing it with you now.

  1. Tuk-tuk is the way to travel in Colombo.
  2. Make sure that you either know, how much to pay for your ride and negotiate the price accordingly, or make sure that you hire tuk-tuk with a meter.
  3. When demanding tuk-tuk with the meter, it is good to know where you are going, and how long it is going to take for you to get there (approximately that is).
  4. Use Google maps to follow the route.
  5. You can grab tuk-tuk easily anywhere.
  6. Enjoy your ride, relax and be happy 🙂

A brief story behind these tips. I’ve used tuk-tuks many times in Colombo and learned that a fixed price usually is much higher than the metered price. Since I’m not very good at negotiating, I always tend to hire a tuk-tuk with a meter. The driver in front of House of fashions was offering the ride, which I knew was about 400 rupees, at the price of 700 rupees without a meter. I refused this offer and insisted him to use the meter. I followed the road on my phone and saw him just zigzagging the roads. After a while, I asked him why, and he told me a one really lousy excuse. He stopped to the side of the road and I just told him, that I’ll take another tuk-tuk and paid my ride. And I just got me into the very next tuk-tuk which was driving along the road. The total cost of the rides was around 500 rupees, which I think is a little bit more than it should have been, but still, I’d say, all’s well that ends well.

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
-Mary Anne Radmacher

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