After two weeks of almost non-stop wonder at some of the charming and almost impossibly beautiful places we’ve stayed in Sri Lanka, Colombo has felt a bit charmless in comparison.
But after quite literally pounding its streets for 36 hours at the end of our trip, we reckon it should be on anyone’s itinerary at the start or end of your holiday.
We began at a 17-year old Colombo institution that happened to be 2 minutes from our Air BnB in the Colombo 4 district; The Barefoot Cafe.
The charming courtyard cafe tacks on to an equally magical craft and book shop. We people watched, ate great food, downed a knockout vanilla milkshake and toasted our good fortune for staying so close. Thanks to Claire for recommending the place she first visited 15 years ago!
Next, we were intrigued by the Fort area, an odd mishmash of grand Colonial edifices and garish modern tower blocks. Decimated in the civil war, it’s undergoing a massive regeneration and was worth meandering around for that reason alone.
We sank a couple of overpriced cocktails at unashamedly opulent The Kingsbury Hotel’s Sky Lounge for sunset over the sea; a view that could soon be obscured by a huge land reclamation programme to create a sort of Dubai Palm-lite for finance.
We then wandered in to the nearby Pettah district opposite the Fort station. It’s basically the bustling, frenetic atmosphere you expect from a big Asian city, all smoky haze, bartering market stall holders and the slight whiff of danger (and sewage). It’s worth a browse for the experience, but we had to keep our wits about us.
Our second day involved a 12km schlep across the city to uncover some of Colombo’s other limited delights.
The city’s main park – Viharamahavedi – was worth a look; all manicured lawns, water features and the obligatory golden Buddha. Plus an odd Capitol Building hybrid.
Our meandering stroll in 32c heat turned us into sweaty messes but it did mean we stumbled on a few games of cricket.
We’ve spotted dozens of kids having a hit in the street or parks during our trip but this was the first time we spotted some men (and boys) in white.
Colombo didn’t steal our hearts like Ella did, but it certainly demanded our full attention.
But having visited our next location – Bangkok – twice before, I’ve got a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet!