Ceylon’s Old World Charm

Prior to my trip, I already knew Sri Lanka was no modern metropolitan with mega skyscrapers, and that was perfectly fine by me because I wasn’t looking for an adventure in a city anyway. I had also anticipated the gorgeous natural scenery from the countless pictures I found online. Yet, what I did not expect to discover was a sleepy island nation cocooned in a post-colonial bubble. Sri Lanka has an authentic old world charm that often made me feel like I had been transported back in time.

Waiting to board the train to Colombo

Out of the many train trips I have taken, the Sri Lankan train experience is one of the most memorable. From the old fashioned carriages, hand-painted station signs, antique timetables… These are rare sights in an urban setting.

Random old train station in Sri Lanka

Antique-looking train timetable at a train station in Sri Lanka

I quickly discovered that the best seats to enjoy the views were on the footboards of the open doorways. As the train wound about the bends, carefree teenagers hung out of neighboring carriages. I believe this is actually illegal, but somehow any fear of danger or the need to comply with rules seem to be the least of everyone’s concerns. There was something very liberating about that.

Sri lankan local hanging out of the train travelling along coastal area

Hanging out of the train like the locals in Sri Lanka

Train snacks were a real nostalgic treat. I recall a vendor who came down our aisle with a huge basket of warm peanuts fried with tea leaves. He wrapped the shiny nuts in a piece of used paper that looked like his child’s homework. It reminded me of the single lined A5 exercise books I used back in primary school.

Favourite Sri Lankan train snack is fried peanuts with tea leaves

Fried peanuts wrapped in used notebook paper

Although I am no huge history buff, I do appreciate places that retain remnants of its heritage. Galle Fort has its past etched within its stone walls. I love the unexpected twists and turns of the alleys and its little quaint shophouses.

Against old red walls of a building in Galle Fort

Exploring UNESCO world heritage site of Galle Fort

Strolling in the streets of historical Galle Fort

Leaning against a quaint looking tuk tuk at Galle Fort

Posing at Galle Fort with large trees in the background

Colombo, despite being the capital, is quite unlike that of its hectic congested counterparts in developing Asian countries. Life here feels more slow paced and relaxed. Maybe it has something to do with its geographical position – being an island on its own and undisturbed by all the competitiveness happening on the other side of the ocean.

Exploring streets of colonial Colombo

Buddha statues of a temple in the city

The city’s Pettah neighborhood is home to a huge lively bazaar with a haphazard mix of shops and pushcarts that was overwhelming but fun to explore.

Busy bazaar at Pettah

Gazing at the haphazard shops and signboards of Colombo

Getting lost in the back streets of Colombo

Wandering the streets of Pettah market

Another interesting hangout is Galle Face Green. It felt like a huge seaside carnival set in the 70s when having fun meant snacking on cheap deep fried food, flying colorful paper kites or splashing about in the water. This must be what it feels like when my parents reminisce about the good old times.

A leisurely walk along the promenade at Galle Face Green

Looking out to the sea at Galle Face Green

Playing at the seaside during sunset at Galle Face Green

Street food carts along Galle Face GreenKite flying at Galle Face Green

Enjoying the sunset at Galle Face Green

Happiness certainly seemed a lot simpler there…


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