It was around 8pm, by the time we collected luggage and found ourselves walking towards the exit of Bandarnaike International Airport.
Colombo City is around 30 kms from the airport. There are pre-paid cab counters, whose agents will scare you saying that it’s late and you’ll be landing into a near deserted area the moment you step out of those airport doors, and when you approach them they’ll scare you even more with the rates!
The rate was around 3000 Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR), which translates to around 1500INR. Way too high for the Indian mind which is constantly calculating the value in INR for every amount thrown at him.
We ventured out.
And there it was. A quaint white bus, headed to Colombo, standing right opposite to the airport gates. Not so deserted after all! Said I (to myself).
We boarded the bus. It’s a bus, so you can’t expect it go by your whims. It’ll wait for passengers. The driver will stop the bus in bus stops and will vanish for quite a few minutes. But it’s public transport after all. You can’t complain…. From the airport, you’ll get a seat. But it does get quite crowded in between. But if you want to reach Colombo on a budget, this is the best way available.
We reached Colombo around 9:30pm. Out hotel was around 2 kms from the bus stop. We had to haggle with quite a few Tuk Tuk drivers (more on them later), before a Tuk Tuk driver graciously agreed to take us to the hotel, at a still quite inflated, but acceptable rate.
The Grand Oriental Hotel
The hotel, does not have much of “grand”, but definitely a lot of “oriental” feel to it. This hotel stands since the 1800s. The rooms looked old in need of maintenance. The only thing going for the hotel is it’s awesome location! Within walking distance of the train and bus station, and main city area, this is the only reasonably priced hotel in this area.
We ordered dinner in house. Chicken Curry and Roti. The food was excellent.
Next day our only agenda for the morning was to go to the “Ministry of Crabs” for Lunch and then head for Kandy.
We initially wanted to go there by Train. You can’t book trains in Sri Lanka unless you are in Sri Lanka. There are agents who has websites and does bookings for you, but when we landed there, we found that these rates they charge are 10 TIMES, the price of the actual ticket.
So we woke up early in the morning and walked down to the railway station, to find that railways are on strike. And nobody knows when they’ll be functional again! (That’s another problem of booking train tickets from before)
We came back, had breakfast in the lavish Harbor Room of the hotel and then lazed around for the rest of the morning. The city area around the hotel is so freakishly empty, it being a office area, and being closed as it was a Sunday, that it feels like a post apocalypse city.
Ministry of Crabs, run by former Sri Lankan criketers, Kumar Sangakkara, and Mahela Jawawardena, is located in Old Dutch Hospital Road. The place which is a small lane inside the main road, has an old European feel to it.
We had reserved a table (which you should too). We settled down, ordered food and soon found ourselves gorging on the jumbo Chili Ginger crab served. It was just delicious!
We went back to the hotel and booked a cab, to take us to Kandy. It costed us around 10,000 LKR for the journey (130 kms one way). Again, quite costly to the Indian mind.
Around 2pm we boarded the cab to Kandy.