An empty day provides a great opportunity to cycle through and explore the more urban areas of Colombo without the usual heavy bustle and activity impeding your progress and threatening your life every few metres or so.
We took our rides out on the day after elections, but you don’t have to wait till the next election comes along to get your game on, just try on any Poya Day or even a Sunday.
Marine Drive boasts scenic views of the ocean around Wellawatte and is a great place for a walk, jog or in this case a bike ride at practically any time or day of the week.
The beach is mostly reinforced with rocks except for around the area surrounding the railway station, which is a popular spot for bathers, families and would be touch ruggerites.
Galle Face/ Fort
Galle Face, until recently guarded by soldiers armed to the teeth watching you like hawks, is now only guarded by the said same soldiers with similar weapons watching you like owls. Which is slightly less unsettling.
Ride along the tree-lined Galle Road or park your bike and take a walk along the rocky coast and grassy lawn. Bikes aren’t allowed down the road leading right next to the water as yet. Perhaps the archaic reasoning behind such a measure will meet the destructive heat of logic soon.
Photography is still frowned upon. So make sure to take any photographs after obtaining a nod of approval from any nearby army personnel.
Fort is an island that the Dutch fortified. The name has stuck, as is obvious. There are several bridges leading into it and its massive buildings of Dutch architecture are a treat to look at.
More interesting areas like the harbour are as yet blocked to the public.
Pettah and surrounding areas.
‘Pettah’ is a generic name for an area surrounding a fort and another testimony to a dearth of creative copywriters during ancient times. Pettah is a bustling market town with a myriad of criss-crossing streets that are virtually brimming with crowds during business days.
The nataami’s and their self-propelled carts are a unique sight seen only in Pettah. But be warned, they are about as reckless as the average Sri Lankan tuktuk/bus/car driver during market days.
The Dutch Museum is a good place to visit for some archaic architecture and to relieve your eyes from the sight of garish signboards. Although its closed on major holidays.
There is many a food joint in these areas but a wise traveller will take care; good places are hard to find. We recommend Vani Villas which is a great Indian restaurant situated along Armour Street. Their vegetarian rice and curry is particularly good.
Among the chief attractions of Kelaniya are the famous Kelani river and almost equally famous Kelani Temple or Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. To get there, go along the Negombo Road past the Kelaniya bridge, you will come across the turn off to the temple after about a kilometer. The Temple is roughly located 4km along this road.
The Kelaniya Temple has a history that dates back to 500BC and the Buddha is thought to have hallowed it eight years after reaching enlightenment. The temple prospered under the Kotte era but invading Portugese almost razed it to the ground (if its murals are anything to go by). Later on, the Dutch help restore it to prominence.
Walk about its peaceful surroundings. The stupa, though not overly big, looks majestic on a sunny day. Paintings cover the interior of the temple proper and murals depicting scenes from history grace its walls. They are sure to get the art connoisseur in you fascinated in short order.
Footwear and bikes must be left outside.
Railway Quarters, Dematagoda
Tucked into a little known corner of Dematagoda lies a secluded collection of houses that date possibly from the beginning of the last century. They are placed along tree lined streets that will leave you slightly bemused when you step into them directly off the busy Baseline Road. Right before the flyover when coming from Borelle, there are a few ancient looking houses and a road to your left. The entire neighborhood consists of houses that make you feel like you stepped into a Carl Muller novel. It’s almost enough to make you demand bread for 25 cents at the corner shop.
Ride along the tree lined streets and have a rest on some dead leaves. Try and act suspicious to have the extremely rewarding experience of having an irate housewife chase you off. Take pictures with permission, if possible.