I’m not gonna lie, when we first landed in Colombo I was expecting (and in some ways hoping) to see piles of suitcases dangerously tied to the top of clapped-out cars, perhaps with a chicken or two for good measure.
Instead I was met with a shiny arrivals hall, an air conditioned bus and a pothole-free road into the city.
But do not fret – I got what I “wanted” as we dragged our cases over the cracked pavements and between buildings onto the local bus. We pulled out our crude Google Maps print out of where we hoped the hotel was, and showed it to the friendly Sri Lankan conductor. He gave us a huge toothless smile and, after half an hour of trying not to fall out of the bus, he showed us our stop. Our home for the next four days, Mount Lavinia.
We had opted not to stay in Colombo’s city centre. My dad loves the beach and if anybody reading this knows the area, Mt. Lavinia can offer you that. Also, it was a bit cheaper to stay just outside of the city. Always a plus!
So in the scorching heat, we carried our bags and whitest of white/pink legs (which is not pretty in shorts) down a back road towards the beach to the hotel which promised us beach views. We walked to the end of the road with no hotel in sight, asked a couple of locals who didn’t know, and stood their scratching our already-sunburnt heads for a few minutes, when dad had a brainwave and decided to go into a nearby guesthouse and ask. He came out with nothing and just then the tall gate across from us opened and so I ran over with the map as a last resort. It turns out he was the owner of our hotel! What luck!
We were so ecstatic we’d finally found the place we overlooked the fact that we were walking through a work yard, ignored the rat at our doorstep, ran up the (unsafe) staircase to a dusty apartment with broken windows. And that’s when it hit us. Were they even expecting us? Dead (thank God) cockroaches on the floor, a bathroom that was halfway through renovation, mould, nothing but a dirty sheet on our beds, no cooking facilities or air conditioning, as promised. And probably more if I tried to think about it.
But you know what? We asked for extra sheets and then we stayed there.
Sure, we could’ve complained, demanded our money back and gone elsewhere, but where’s the fun in that? We both knew that we’d be outside exploring most of the time anyway, and hey, maybe I’m just being naïve, but maybe the owner just didn’t understand Western standards. He barely spoke English, he lived the other side of the work yard in a shell of a building covered in tarpaulin, so why should we expect him to know any better? It was cheap, it did the job, and it was an exciting/thrilling/terrifying start to our three month adventure from the UK to Australia.
Stay tuned for the next instalments – the “shanti-towns” of Mt. Lavinia, the best temples of Colombo and other attractions, the fun public transport system and the friendly locals!
(This article was written not to bitch out, but to warn people about the importance of reading hotel reviews.)