Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Evening Thoughts in Colombo

Evening Thoughts in Colombo

For some reason I'm still feeling quite tired since arriving in Colombo on Sunday evening. There's a two-hour time difference between Colombo and KL but I don't think jet-lag is the cause of my lethargy.

MAS has a code-sharing arrangement with SriLankan Airlines, and I ended up taking a SriLankan flight because all MAS and SIA flights to the Indian sub-continent usually depart at around midnight. Arriving in a foreign country late at night makes you feel extremely disoriented. The SriLankan Airlines flight arrived at 5.30pm local time, which was perfect. Unfortunately it's a slightly longer trip because from KL they stop by in Singapore for an hour to drop and pick up passengers.

It's the hot season here too, so the weather is dry and humid. But at 31 degrees Celcius it is nothing compared to the 38.3 degrees that we have been experiencing in Malaysia recently. Business class hotels in Colombo unfortunately leaves much to be desired--most of them are old, crumbling 70s-style hotel which do not deserve the 80-90 USD a night price tag--the type with pigeon-holes behind the check-in counter, and an array of wall clocks showing the time for London, Paris, New York and Tokyo ("we're international").

The only saving grace is that most of them have a view of the Indian Ocean, where you can lounge by the pool and watch the sun set in the evenings while sipping a vodka martini. Perhaps one can even consider it "romantic"--it has that 60s luxury that's redolent of Sean Connery's James Bond movies. But the sight of Red Cross workers staying at the hotel jolts one back to the reality of the recent tragedy which had struck this country.

Food in Sri Lanka is good--it's similar to South Indian fare, with excellent rice and curries, very suitable to my taste. I usually don't have problems with food, wherever I go to. As long as there's a long cool beer to wash down what I stuff into my mouth, I'm fine. People who are on a low carbo diet will probably cringe because they usually serve you huge mountains of rice, which I can never finish. But I see my Sri Lankan friends devouring them up with routine ease. ("That's why we have big bellies", they told me).

Many of the hotels are clustered around Galle Road, which runs along the sea on the western side of the city. Along the beach, families and couples take evening strolls and the "bajajs" or three-wheelers as they call it here, would buzz their way up and down the road, trying to pick up passengers.

There's a pleasant small-town feel to Colombo. Life unfolds at an unhurried pace and going everywhere feels like taking a leisurely stroll. And I remember the small-town of my youth--families gathering at the padang in the evenings, the crimson twilight gathering behind the rubber trees, the colonial houses perched on the hillside and the bustle of birds swirling above my heard...

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