Getting up early the next morning, we succeeded in shooting the sunrise, which was all so important for our work. While the sun was making its way up the horizon, we took a quick swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, along the Northern edge of Negombo.
After the good morning swim and sunrise shooting, we decided to check the Silver Sands breakfast. The breakfast package comprised of mixed fruit juice, eggs (fried or otherwise cooked), toasts with jam and butter and tea or coffee. Well you can call it a standard continental breakfast if you like to and all this cost only US$3.5 per person. If you think that this is expensive, wait till you get to some really expensive place like Singapore for example. The juice was tasty it comprised of coconut, papaya and bananas.
We had ordered a car to take us to Colombo and take us around. The driver came to the hotel at 8:00 am and we set off for the first time to Colombo. I wanted to take the car without the driver, but all those warnings that I had read about regarding traffic in Sri Lanka and all the associated nightmares, forced me to curtail my desire and stick with the driver.
Once we got out of the hotel compound I started noticing the traffic and to tell you the truth, those who write or say that traffic in Sri Lanka is very bad, are either from very small countries where they have very small populations and accordingly very few cars or those people have very narrow exposure. Traffic conditions in Sri Lanka are far better than in UAE or Thailand or Indonesia, let alone countries like India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Yes there are many vehicles on the road. Yes the roads are narrower than they should be, but speed limits are observed very strictly. Drivers push their brake pedals to let the pedestrians cross and traffic is not at all chaotic. One can drive in Sri Lanka very comfortably, only if one’s eyes and brains tend to remain open and coordinated.
yes sometimes moving objects do pop-up in front of you, but since the speed limits are low there seems to be no problem in stopping for the drivers. Traffic conditions in Colombo are worse than they are in the smaller town of Negombo, but for me as a resident of Lahore, Colombo traffic is something like night time traffic in Lahore.
Enough of the traffic report. We headed first of all to the World Trade Center. I thought that there might be some observation deck at the top floor, from where we could see the whole city and take some real cool shots, but getting to the WTC Colombo we lost our hope of taking a top view of the city.
We went around to the other side of the buildings (WTC) and fixed our camera on the coast near the old cannons installed in front of the old parliament building. the view from there was good and we could get a good panorama of the city. But few minutes later a man came from across the street and asked us if we had permission to film in that area. Upon our inquiry we were told that the place where we were standing was high security area, because the old parliament building now served as the Presidential residence. Well cutting through all the conversation that we had with that guy, which at times was not very pleasant, we moved on.
After twice failing to do what we wanted to do, we decided to head for the Gamgaramaya Buddhist temple. This temple is right in the center of Colombo. For foreigners entry to the temple costs 125LKR and you have to take your shoes off before entering the temple.
Although it is a Buddhist temple, but don’t be surprised to a statue of Ganesh at the entrance. We were surprised in the beginning, but than upon inquiry we were told that since historically Sri Lankan princes, especially Prince vijay, who was a Buddhist, got married to an Indian princess, who was a Hindu, so all the temples built by Vijay contained Hindu deities also for the purpose of the Queen. This started and merged the two religious temples into one. This is a fine example of coexistence, where gods of different beliefs are residing together. This also unites people into one as the Sri Lankan Buddhists don’t feel odd going to Hindu temples just as the Hindus can come to Buddhist temples.
Our next stop in Colombo was the main market. Getting to the market we felt as if we were in Karachi in some place like Zaib-un-Nisa street or Zaitoun area in Cairo. The market is very Indo-Oriental. you have stores selling a lot of tiny-miny stuff in a mix of stores. There is not clear demarcation of products. Prices are fixed so to say and the store keepers are very polite and cultured. Since Sri Lanka is a tourist spot and a lot of foreigners of all creeds and races frequent this place, locals don’t bother the visitors with inquisitive looks, but it is common as in any eastern market to call the customers off the street to buy stuff or to offer services on the sidewalk.
We wanted to go to the Chekhov museum, but unfortunately our driver had no idea about it. so we decided to come another time to Colombo, since it was just 30 odd minutes drive from Negombo, where we were staying. We postponed any further visits till the next day and went eating. Our first option was Perera & Sons. It is something of a local fast food. In fact it is a bakery. Our next option was to go to McDonald’s or KFC. Local food was ok for me, Wasif and Sajjad, but for Vera it was too hot. So we decided to go to KFC and have our lunch there.
Ok, now one thing, which I forgot mentioning earlier are the mosquitoes. They are in abundance in the urban areas. All the hotels have mosquito nets installed over the beds and if you like to sleep with you ocean facing window open, don’t even think about removing the net. Otherwise you might not be recognizable in the morning. Hotels do offer air-conditioned rooms, but hey, coming to tropical islands and sitting behind closed doors and windows and not even feeling that cool breeze, which comes from the ocean, is a little odd if not insane.
Our joy ride continues. Stay with us and we will take you a long way into the paradise called Sri Lanka.