Monday, December 17, 2007

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 1

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 1

13th & 14th Dec, 07

I came to Chennai airport and tried to find baggage screening of Jet. I saw huge cue of baggages waiting to be screened. Looked like clothes being exported. I am not exaggerating some hundreds of "bale"s. Finally spoke to some guys and realised that they are garments and going to Lanka for stitching.

We found our way and boarded the plane. Some 70% of the crowd were these small, un-organised sector business people and 30% of others looked little more polished.

We landed in Colombo in 1h:15m or so. Sri Lanka looked beautiful from aerial view and filled with green trees. The airport looked very big and super neat. We cleared immigration and collected our bags. It is bit of waiting due to the garments bags.

Airport is well lit, broad and natural lights coming inside cleanly so it was a good feeling and i should admit, i was deeply impressed.

By this time the rain started and it continued for another 1 1/2 days or so (and washed away the second test match between England and Sri Lanka). The roads were good and the median was more of road separator. No high grills i mean.

The driver was easily doing 60km per hour and i could see all kind of cars Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Honda, Hyundai and our own Maruti. Driver looked well built like a pub bouncer and spoke decent english. Buses were of Ashok Leyland and they looked more of Bangalore buses than Chennai buses.

We crossed a nice Galle (pronounced as GALL) River and entered Colombo city. We started seeing lot of people, police, check-posts. Lankans were kind of cross between Tamils and Malayalees !!! The accent of their tamil or sinhala is more of malayalee and their script was bit similar to Kannada (strictly by look and feel !).

We entered fort area and entered Galadari hotel and checked into our room. We had view of beach bit indirectly. Window had a sticker prohibiting the usage of Binoculars, camera. I stuck to the instruction due to heavy guarding around the hotel.

The hotel staff were always smiling and had a eye on customer service only when you directly interact with them. Service was bad when one interacts on phone. The food was decent and priced moderately. Lot of variety of food Italian, Lankan, Indian, Continent etc. I tried one Lankan dish called Kirabaath (rice and more kozhambu types) and found it nice.

I went to office for project kick-off next day and once again went through complete security checking before entering premises. The visitor pass was issued against handing over of passport. The people from customer side were friendly and most Sinhalese. The listened to our kick-off presentation keenly and reserved their questions to the last.

We went out to have our dinner on that day braving good rain. We commuted in Auto mostly for nearby distances and some times the security stops and enquires about where one is going and whether the drive has valid papers.

We ate in Amaravati restaurent and found the food tasty and spicy.

We shifted our hotel on Saturday to Colombo City Hotel. This hotel is for price sensitive people but the facilities were quite decent. Roof top restaurant served food and one can view WTC clearly from here. We took a walk on saturday evening around 5:30pm in neighbourhood but found the roads were deserted mostly. Shops and offices were closed (due to week end) and thin vehicle movement was there. We walked into Kraft supermarket and bought water bottle and came back.

On Saturday, the rain gods went away and we had bit of sunshine. It was really humid and we started sweating. The overall feeling the first 3-4 days is bit of confusion as it looks like people go into some packets of hotel or pubs for time pass rather than stroll in roads. The malls were missing in fort area.

We ate in CCH dinner twice. We realised the lankan food is bit spicy and no pickle concept over here. Side dish quantity is very less compared to what we see in India and the lankan rice served mostly not fully or completely cooked.

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