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Uncool Colombo

The eating section of the Verandah Bar

The view from my room

Jan 25-26, 2011: Alas, aside, possibly, for the view from my renovated room at Galle Face, the best part of my visit to Colombo was the drive from Unawatuna. All those recommendations to skip Colombo? Spot on, except I wanted to see where my father had been during WWII. Galle Face was good for that too, I feel quite sure he would have patronized the Verandah Bar.

Colombo was close enough I made a late start from Unawatuna, beginning the day lounging on my balcony in the comfortable robe I had found in my room, with a cup of Nescafe and a book from the hotel’s library. Once again we drove a rebuilt road barely inland from a coast that had been devastated by the 2004 tsunami, and we stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to the victims. The effects of the crushing wall of water were more evident than they had been along the south coast, and I was once again very grateful for the impulse that had sent me to Laos for Christmas that year instead of to a Thai island.

Tsunami memorial

Tsunami memorial - detail

The drive took three hours rather than the two I expected, not helped by a stop at a mask museum (shop). Then I had to wait until after 2:00 for Galle Face to check me in, by which time it was hard to find anything to eat in the hotel. Although my room had been nicely renovated, and I loved the view of the sea and the hotel’s main courtyard, I was otherwise unimpressed. I thought the food, when available, overpriced, the unrenovated room I moved to my second day was way, way overdue for some TLC, and the duvet on my bed made sleep impossible. Who on earth thought duvets made sense in Sri Lanka?

Downtown Colombo

I found the older part of Colombo also in need of TLC, and not at all atmospheric, while much of the newer part was off limits, access blocked by security guards. I visited the Dutch House Museum, a total waste of 500 rupees, and the National Museum, slightly better but gloomy. While I enjoyed wandering around the parts of the central area that were not off limits, I was glad to retire to a cafe in a blissfully air-conditioned mall close to the hotel (Colombo was miserably hot and humid) where I found some much needed free wifi, and enjoyed a chat with a woman whose husband was a doctor with Operation Smile.

Off limits

I needed the wifi to confirm theĀ  time of my flight to Singapore – I had thought it left at 02:06, but then found the rather worn copy of my eticket said 12:06 (am, fortunately, not pm!) ThenĀ  Cathay Pacific’s website said it was actually scheduled for 00:45. I Skyped an urgent message to my driver, and retired to the Galle Face for an early dinner. While I was glad to have finally visited Sri Lanka, I was more than ready to move on.

Colonial era sign

Entrance to Galle Face

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