If your in need of a free drink and cigarettes and your into gambling then it's well worth checking out one of Colombo's many casino spots. My favourite happens to be Bally's.
The majority of the clientele here tend to be Chinese so don't go there with the expectation of bumping into some fellow Brits - cause you won't!
I usually find the time flies here and being the night owl I am i end up catching first light down at the ocean front at Kinross beach. Makes for a pleasant night.
Dress Code: casual
The aural nightmare that is karaoke arrived in Sri Lanka pretty late and it's probably still at the height of it's popularity. There are karaoke bars pretty much everywhere and it's a common destination on a night out. There are two main types of places that I went to:
First up there's the family places where kids and couples and grandparents come, have something to eat, and have a good old family sing-song. If they don't serve alcohol you can usually bring your own but some people do what I never thought was possible - sober karaoke. There's usually a mix of Sinhalese and Western music to sing along to. As the western music is often mostly Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion I'm quite pleased that the Sinhalese stuff is generally most popular!
Then there's the late-night karaoke bars, open till the early hours and often for men-only. Here the singing is usually dominated by one or two drunks as it takes second place to drinking. No actually third place in importance as the bars are also full of beautiful hostesses to make the customers feel welcome. There's no prostitution on the premises but phone numbers are often swapped and arrangements made for later dates. It's also quite common for guys to find proper girlfriends here (girlfriends rather than future wives - there's an important distinction!)
There's no pressure though and it's a good place just for a late night dance and to have a laugh with some of the girls. Watch out though and keep track of what you're paying for - some places (not all) will present you with an astronomical bill at the end of the night.
An integral part of Sri Lankan nightlife, particularly in Colombo, is the casino. Sorry for the stereotype but Asians are generally tremendous gamblers and Sri Lankans are no exception. Rich Sri Lankans anyway, as poor ones won't get past the doormen. The casinos vary wildly from serious high-stakes glitzy halls to cheap, fun dives - some friendly, others a bit intimidating. Overall the casinos, often open 24 hours, are very fun places - somewhere I spent a considerable amount of night time (and money!)
For more info see my Colombo pages
Sri Lanka isn't generally the liveliest country in the world. If it's 24 hour beach parties you're after or wild hedonistic raves then it's probably not the place to come. But things are changing.
Two decades of war and curfews have meant a generation of Sri Lankans got used to going to bed early and staying at home. But the peace process has meant more people are venturing out at night, and more places are opening for them to go. Colombo obviously has the greatest choice in terms of nightlife and there are now all night casinos, nightclubs open until 6am, even coffee shops on Galle Road open until the early hours of the morning. New bars are opening with increasing regularity, although most nightclubs are still connected to large hotels. It's not exactly the most happening place in Asia but it is getting better.
I am afraid that if you are after night life then i am afraid Sri Lanka is not for you. We amused ourself in the bar most nights and playing pool! My dad went to a so called night club once that only had 4 people in so I didnt bother!
A few nights the hotel put on traditional dancers or crab races but that was it. Usually we dragged dinner in the restaurant on as long as possible! which was OK as the food was great!
Dress Code: The restaurant does have one policy that men must wear long trousers for dinner but there was no code for the women.
After the Kandy Dance show, we all moved to an outdoor area, next to the theatre. Here we saw impressive firewalking.
I understand in theory why they do not get burnt feet, But I still find it hard to believe firewalking does not hurt!
In Kandy we went to a Kandy Show. There was drumming, fire eating, plate spinning and Lots of Dancing with each dance telling a different story. It was very good & The evening was finished of with some fire walking.
Not the best scanned in photos, I know, so enlarge the photo
We stayed at the Thailanka Hotel during our travels around Sri Lanka. The evenings entertainment were these 3, playing South American Music. They were actually very good.
It was a bit surreal to be in Sri Lanka, in a Thai related hotel, being sung to by 3 men dressed as Mexicans, singing South American Music, whilst eating European food!
Okay the lowdown on the local brews.
Toddy is a sort of beer made from coconut milk. And Arak is the destilled version. Barrels are carried on thatched bullock carts, meandering across the road as drivers refresh themselves en route. Even bullocks lose their mournful demeanour towing the toddy home. For every five hundred rupees you invest, you reach a state of total alcoholic collapse more quickly with toddy than any other beer. Also, toddy can be turned into arak, a spirit popular for its fiery strength and flavour, very useful for clearing blocked sinuses and cleaning engines.
The fascination of toddy is not that it tastes like an old puddle. If a drink contains as much sediment as the Ganges, its nutty texture has little appeal unless you have watched someone risk his life to collect it. Toddy is not for the air-conditioned wine-bar tourist. Toddy is for travellers in coconut groves, using a cracked coconut shell dipped into a leather bucket. But you can be a lot more sophisticated when partaking of arak. To this you add some lime and and cocnut milk. Its almost yummy.
Middle Eastern culture has a long history with arak. Countries like Lebanon and Turkey are famous for their arak. In Eastern India arak is produced by distilling fermented sugar cane juice. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka, arak is made by distilling the juice of palm trees.
There are two main night spots in Hikkaduwa, the Bassline which is open on Friday's and Tuesday's for live music and DJ'S they charge 100Rs if there is a live band, and the Top Secret which is Saturday nights they only charge if there is a live band. Both venues have bars but charge more for drinks so it might be wise to have a few before you get there also at the end of the night the beer gets warm. The music is chart, house and techno with a little reggae thrown in. The night ends at both venues when the last person leaves usually around 6am.
If you like a drop of the amber nectar, do not expect to do it with any degree of comfort anywhere except the major towns or resorts.
In the smaller towns, the smallest, dingiest room in the town tends to be the bar, and you get the feeling that you are a pariah and should not really be indulging.
Your fellow customers will be the local dregs, and the state of health of some of them will give rise to serious doubt as to the wisdom of breathing the same air.
If you get away from the major tourist areas and you like a drink, don't have too many expectations.
Verwacht in Sri Lanka geen uitgebreid nachtleven. Alleen in Colombo, de hoofdstad, kun je op dat gebied wat verwachten. Het avondvertier in de hotels beperkt zich meestal tot folkloreavonden.
Maar er is op ander terrein genoeg te beleven.
Top Secret is right on the beach in Hikkaduwa, It is a normal bar during the day where you can hire surf and body boards and also get lessons on how to begin surfing. On Saturday nights there is sometimes live music with a 100Rs fee to get in, but most of the time they have Western and Sri Lankan DJ'S playing reggae, rave, techno, house, trance and Western chart music. The price of the beer goes up from 100Rs to 140Rs on dance nights. There is also a selection of spirits and cocktails and by the end of the night some people get very drunk.
The Bassline has live music from bands from Colombo playing reggae cover songs and other bands playing Western and Sri Lankan music, also they have Western and Sri Lankan DJ'S playing house, techno, reggae, rave and trance. There is a small stage on which to dance or you could dance away the night on the sand. There are tables and chairs to sit down at on the beach. The venue is open on Fridays and Tuesdays from 7pm until the early hours. The entry fee when there is a live band is 100Rs. The night usually starts with fireworks going off in every direction and sometimes through the night, so keep your head down.
There is not much to the nightlife in Kandy because most of the places close around 10pm, but there is one place that stays open and it is called The Pub which is open from 11am to 11pm and it also serves food, it also has a cybercafe which is open from 8am to 8pm. Ask any tuk tuk driver and he will take you to the Pub.
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