July 2019

Exploring Colombo in a Tuk Tuk
July 2019

Nelum Pokuna.

Colombo has a perfect fusion of colonial and contemporary charm that is bound to fascinate visitors. A tuk-tuk ride is an ideal way to explore the city from Colombo 1-15.

Words: Swetha Ratnajothi and Tatiyana Welikala.
Photography: BT Images.

Interestingly, you cannot really explore the city in the chronological order of Colombo 1-15. Therefore, our journey started in Kollupitiya (Colombo 3), comprising corporate offices and shops intermingling with residential buildings. We set off down St Michael's Road, also known as Polwatte, which reflects the religious diversity of the nation. The Elanthoppu Shakthi Amman Kovil, Jumma Masjid Mosque, St Michael's Church and Sri Dharmakeetyaramaya Temple can all be visited in this area. We headed next towards the Beira Lake (Colombo 2) and visited the Gangaramaya Temple. A place of worship for those from all walks of life, the temple preserves the heritage of the country under the guidance of Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent. The Seema Malayaka is reflected beautifully on the Beira Lake, and we admired the serene Buddha statues placed around its periphery.

The Seema Malayaka reflects beautifully on the Beira Lake, and we admired the serene Buddha statues placed around its periphery.

Passing Galle Face Green our tuk-tuk then took us to Colombo Fort (Colombo 1). Amongst many colonial heritage buildings, the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct is an elegantly renovated structure from the Dutch era. It is an ideal place to relax with food, drinks, and music. Walking along cobbled Hospital Street, we discovered an array of restaurants and pubs offering mouthwatering dishes. Getting back to our three-wheeler, we made our way towards Chatham Street passing President's House (formerly known as Queen's House) and the General Post Office. We admired the monuments of a bygone era such as the Colombo Fort Clock Tower and the former National Mutual headquarters, which presently houses the Economic History Museum.

Colombo Fort, the central transportation hub is home to the Colombo Fort Railway Station. Many railway lines converge and carry thousands of people to various locations in the island. The cooling breeze engulfed us as we headed on Olcott Mawatha to Pettah (Colombo 11). We caught a glimpse of the massive Lotus Tower, an icon in the city landscape. The biggest maze of shops can be found in Pettah. This vast bazaar has everything from jewellery to clothing, electrical goods and fruits, vegetables, and spices. The narrow streets are filled with nattamis and tuk-tuks that wind through the chaotic atmosphere. As you browse through the streets, you will come across the Dutch Museum at Prince Street and the striking Red Mosque or Jami Ul-Alfar Masjid. We travelled through the Main Street, Dam Street and entered Colombo 12, Hulftsdorf, where the Supreme Court of the country is located. A must-visit place is Aluth Kade that comes alive during the evening hours as the aroma of street food drift in the air. Along the Harbour road in Kotahena, (Colombo 13) we stopped at St Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade, one of the oldest churches in Colombo. Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Kovil which is dedicated to God Shiva and St Lucia's Cathedral, which is the seat of the Archbishop of Colombo can be visited too. Grandpass (Colombo 14) is popular for many hardware stores along the narrow streets. Sri Maha Kaliamman Kovil, known as Paradise Road Kovil is located on Armour Street. This place of worship has a fascinating history and was built during the Colonial era. After, we travelled along the streets to Mutwal or Modera (Colombo 15). It was interesting to see fishermen engaged in their daily work. Families gather at the Crow Island Beach Park, especially in the evenings. We travelled on the flyover bridge in Dematagoda (Colombo 9), crossing the Dematagoda Railway tracks towards Maradana, (Colombo 10).

The Maradana Railway Station is one of the busiest and Colombo's second oldest railway station. We passed Elphinstone Theatre and Tower Hall, which are famous for Sri Lankan dramas. From Borella (Colombo 8), you can head to the suburbs of Colombo. One of the main attractions is the Royal Colombo Golf Club, which was established in 1879. Our next stop was Cinnamon Gardens (Colombo 7). Passing Nelum Pokuna - the lotus-shaped performing arts theatre, we headed to Vihara Maha Devi Park where we enjoyed a brief respite amidst the greenery and admired the impressive Colombo Municipal Council and visited The Colombo Public Library and the National Museum. National Archives, Colombo Racecourse, Independence Square, and Arcade Independence Square, are along the way and are ideal for enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the city. Back on the road, we journeyed to Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4) and Wellawatte, (Colombo 6), which have many stores offering great prices. Our journey ended at Havelock Town, (Colombo 5).

During your holiday in Sri Lanka, enjoy a day in Colombo discovering the many attractions and energy of the city in a tuk-tuk.