Saturday, 6 November 2010

Colombo - Ugh...

Colombo. Probably the least lovely city in all of Asia. Maybe it is fatigue talking - after all, I have been seven times to Sri Lanka and all seven times I have had to spend a considerable amount of time in the Capital. A large proportion of my family now reside here, being the best place in the country to actually earn a living, and until the end of the Civil War, it was relatively peaceful compared to other regions further north.

I have no love for the place, but it is the best connected city in the country. The hub of the rail network, linked by bus/road to every other part of the country, and it is home to the nation's only international airport, which means unless you have great planning skills, you are going to pass through Colombo at some part of your journey to Sri Lanka. Ugh...



Lying on the coast of Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean to the west, it is dominated by the sea. Colombo's port is one of the busiest in the world, and it dominates the northern reaches of the city. Its history as a colonial settlement is clear to behold, as there is very little history to the city. While the ancient settlements of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa show of the Ancient culture of the island, Colombo itself does have very little to show for it. Hustle, bustle, and lousy suburbs that try to ape their western counterparts, but without any success.



However, as I am trying to be a guide for Sri Lanka, if you are heading to Colombo, then try to head for the northern suburbs, Pettah (CMB 11) and the rough and ready Kotahena (CMB 13), avoided by the tourists who head to the south of the city, enticed by the ocean, but discovering little else in this part of the city. Colombo has 15 official suburbs in total, with post codes, as snooty as their London counterparts. Pettah houses the traders of the city, and businesses jockey with punters, as money exchanges between people. Commerce at its very best, anything you want, you can buy here in the Pettah.



Then there is Kotahena, a suburb where there is a church or a temple on every street corner. Immediately to the north of the Pettah district, it is a very Tamil area, and I am saddened to say, one of the rougher neighbourhoods in town (which if you're from London, really does not mean that much). But it is filled with character and beautiful buildings, with possibly one of the most confusing street layouts ever. Ignored by the government, whose modernisation plans for the south of the city is creating a society of have's and have not's, Kotahena is where the rich and the poor live cheek by jowl. Where everyone goes about their daily business with impunity, whether it is getting high on puff or high on worship. While it is one of the city's most fascinating areas, you have been warned, it is not for the meek and mild...



So there you have it, my trip to Sri Lanka in three places. Mannar, Jaffna and Colombo. The trip was short and sweet, and it is hard to believe that I have already been back for more than a week. As always, I do not know the next time I will go to Sri Lanka, but this time was definitely a lot of fun. It was good to see the family, good to catch up with the people, and great to eat some fantastic food!

2 comments:

magiceye said...

if i ever go to lanka, sure will remember this post!

el director! said...

@magiceye - if yougo to Sri Lanka then head to the hill country - by train - unmissable!