We arrived in Sri Lanka after a 15 hour journey at midnight (5.30am back home). The transit through immigration and customs was fluid and we had to laugh at the duty free stalls – one side was your customary perfumes, cigarettes, alcohol; the other side was all about white goods… because you just never know when you might need a 400-litre fridge when you’re travelling around.
I was super pleased with myself for arranging our hotel driver to meet us at the airport because it didn’t look that there were any taxis available at that hour, and he knew exactly where our hotel was. In a city as big as Colombo there are literally hundreds of accommodation options. The USD30 we paid seemed like a small price to pay for the peace of mind, particularly a mind that was surviving on a few hours of sleep and the imminent jet lag.
In we piled into a Prius hatchback, 2 bags, a backpack, surfboard, 3 tired bodies. But that tiredness soon evaporated as we hit the empty streets and flew down the freeway towards Colombo. A few kilometres out of Colombo we hit a traffic jam – at 1.45am. What the??? People lined the streets, along with decorated elephants, parade floats and other vehicles. Our driver explained that it was a Buddhist festival.
We reached the hotel and fell asleep promptly.
The next day we decided we would head into the Old Town and visit the Pettah Markets. Tuk tuks are ubiquitous and rule the roads, or in Colombo anyway. Our first venture in a tuk tuk was jointly terrifying and exhilarating. As we careened through the traffic in a little 2 stroke vehicle, I could not help thinking that it was like real life Mario Bros. At each red traffic light, they weaved and jostled for pole position before taking off in a chorus of straining gears. While I squealed in the back seat, the tuk tuk drivers traversed the roads fearlessly, judging gaps in traffic to the exact, death-defying millimetre.
Most are metered. Those that aren’t mean that you just need to check the price with the driver. And make sure you bring lots of small notes with you as the drivers don’t have a lot of change. We did have a lovely driver who didn’t even charge us to go around the block back to our hotel in the hottest midday heat. We insisted on paying him and gave him lots of isthuti (thanks). Such is the generosity of the Sri Lankan people.
Tuk tuks are super cheap and a very efficient way to travel. Some of them even have roof racks and big boot spaces. We grabbed one of these to travel from Mirissa to Galle. A particularly wise decision when we easily weaved our way through traffic when we hit the traffic on the outskirts of Galle. One of the funnest ways to travel and very memorable.