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up in Colombo town

Spent the day in Colombo with Debbie; riding my first Sri Lankan train. Said goodbye to host family and friends in Galle. Not as sad as I could be, though, as I know I’ll be seeing them at the end of the trip after I make a full loop of the island with Sandra. Speaking of which, my darling girl is getting in tomorrow afternoon, and I could not be more excited. We got a sweet, sweet deal with airbnb.com, a beautiful house in Colombo for only 25 per person a night–and of course, I scoped out all the good restaurants this today while wandering around Colombo (very, very boring city, it needs to be said) & am looking forward to a good catch up session. We wandered sadly around in the blazing sun for something worth looking at (not found) and eventually settled for a quick, sly dip (gave a false room number and then spent the rest of the time worrying about getting caught) &  some sunset drinks by the pool at the Galle Face Hotel. Ate the best sandwich of my life and did some fabric shopping at Barefoot and Paradise Road before turning into our wonderful room for the night, such a delicious change from the past two weeks in Galle. The next day is Independence Day in Sri Lanka, so Colombo is going to be insane, if we survive, we will be heading for the north come Monday morning on the train to Anuradhapura. 

Colombo Fruit Market (next to Colombo Fort Train Station)

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Spices for sale

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a row of beautiful caps outside of one of Colombo’s biggest mosques–Jami-Ul-Afar Mosque

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a sad, sad elephant outside of Gangaramaya Temple (if you do offer up any prayers at this temple, pray that this poor creature would be released)

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strange mish-mash of artifacts at Gangaramaya Temple

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carvings & bodhi trees at Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre in Lake Beira

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quick rest stop at the Milk & Honey Cafe near the (very disappointing) Victoria Park 

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Galle Face Hotel 

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gorgeous fabrics at Barefoot Cafe in Kollupitiya

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escaping the sun in Barefoot Cafe’s courtyard

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best sandwich of life: seared tuna on homemade cheese bread & ginger beer

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Verdict: To be perfectly honest, ignore anything Lonely Planet or any other guidebook has to say about this city & skip Colombo unless you’ve really got a gap in your itinerary. Many people (my friends included) chose to stay in beach towns like Mt. Lavinia or Negombo pre/post-trip instead of staying in Colombo before heading to the airport.

Do: However, I would say that Barefoot alone is probably the worth of popping into the city for one afternoon. It’s a magical, magical place in an old villa opened by a fabric designer who produces some of the most colorful, vibrant fabric you’ll ever see. Her collection includes clothing, housewares, and stationary, but that’s not all: Barefoot is also the showcase for many other fantastic local products; from organic soap to chai tea to intricately carved wooden elephants. You’ll get lost in the various floors and little nooks crammed full of irresistable handicrafts. There’s also a surprisingly good selection of books on the bottom floor, a perfect place to pick up long, rambling classics for the beach or spend a while browsing through gorgeous design and food books on display. The bookstore is next to the cafe, the absolute best part of Barefoot: Barefoot Garden Cafe offers  sandwiches that are fairly priced & probably will be the best thing you eat in Sri Lanka (aside from the ubiquitous rice & curry, of course). Add in a perfectly shady courtyard, live music, and funky decor: you’ve got the perfect place to forget the dust and crowds of Colombo & enter a Sri Lankan dream.

The fruit market in Pettah was a sight worth seeing (so, so so many bananas): but girls, skip unless you’re comfortable with being catcalled every 2 seconds by a fruit toting Sri Lankan man.

The Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre was a study in impressive design, but I wish I came at night, when all the statues are lit up. During the day, the experience is pretty bland (and you have to pay!)

Galle Face Hotel is amazing for sunset drinks. Just pay the 200Rs to use to the pool, and set up shop at one of the ocean-facing chairs. The hotel itself, though, is musty and unimpressive.

Don’t: Skip the entire Fort Area, Gangaramaya Temple (dusty & full of boring artifacts), and the Pettah markets & mosques (not worth dodging through the catcalling throngs of men & general chaos). Victoria Park & the entire Cinnamon Gardens–don’t even bother.

Barefoot
704 Galle Rd. Col. 3 (Kollupitiya)
10am-11pm, though call to check about hours, it seemed like they varied depending on the day.

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