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The grass is greener on the other side

Dutch Fort at Galle

Dutch Fort at Galle  

You know how we all have that neighbour who’s got better tiles, better furniture, nicer food, more friends, more faucets, a bigger TV, and we take a sneaky peek inside every time we can? Colombo is like that neighbour.

Colombo’s airport is not swanky, but feels more productive than our Chennai counterpartThere are no pigeon nests and the glass doesn’t fall off if you lean on it. Get through immigration, purchase your pre-paid SIM card, pick up your luggage, and head straight to book a super-spacious airport taxi.

The airport is connected to the city by a fantastic motorway — no overtaking, no blaring horns, no bullock carts and not a speck of garbage. We cruised along at a steady pace toward our hotel on Galle Face, overlooking the ocean. It’s dotted with Indian, American and Sri Lankan properties and has something to suit every budget.

Walking along the coast and taking in the skyscrapers, the hybrid cars, mums with baby strollers and young couples so in love, I found something I’d been missing. Peace. I sat on a bench facing the sea, gusty wind in my hair, filling my lungs with the cool, salty air. A light drizzle was building up; the speckles of rain felt like heaven on my face. The next day, we did a two-and-a-half-hour, bus-top tour. At USD 25, we could not have made a better decision! Offering a bird’s-eye view of the city, it’s the best way to experience Colombo. The restored and repainted old colonial buildings stand next to the shiny, modern high-rise structures.

What strikes you the most, however, is how green and clean the city is. It’s got lush parks and bicycle tracks; somehow, the buses and rickshaws don’t bellow out as much smoke, and people don’t inch forward at traffic lights.

You will find free-standing statues of the Buddha everywhere, pristine lakes, beautiful temples and rule-respecting citizens. Walk through the streets to explore local cuisine, but watch out for “vegetarian fish”. I would skip shopping though — there’s very little in Colombo’s malls you can’t get in India. If you have an extra day, take another bus to Galle, driving along the Expressway for approximately 90 minutes. This is the easiest way to get to the stunning Dutch Fort. Eat at one of the many quaint cafes, shop for jewellery and quirky clothes, or just walk by the clear waters. You can also sign up for a walking tour. I wish there were more signs narrating the history that once made this fort such an important defence location.

I left the city with a soul full of peace, a mind full of questions, and a heart full of hope. That peek into the neighbour’s riches was worthwhile

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 9:31:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/colombo-tourism/article6865837.ece

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