I'm sure I was ripped off
I had read in my guidebook about the old Town Hall in Colombo and it stated that you could just go in and have a look round for nothing although it was nothing exciting. Well, they were certainly right about the second part as it really is underwhelming to say the least. As for the matter of price, the book had already proved to be inaccurate once that day in stating that the National Railway Museum charged a 500SLR entrance fee which it does not. It was published in late 2012 and I know things change all the time and that a guidebook is out of date before it is even printed.
After the obligatory photograph, I wandered towards the door and was immediately accosted by a pretty elderly Sinhalese man who apparently spoke no English but literally dragged me by the arm up the stairs of what is rather a fine old building. It was opened in 1873 following Colombo's designation as a municipality in 1866. It is pleasant enough to look at externally and internally although it is looking a bit tired.
By the time we had got to the top of the stairs I had attracted a retinue of four men and one woman who proceeded to take it in turns to hustle me through the extremely limited attractions of the "Museum" Basically, the upstairs Council chamber has been turned into a tableau of a meeting there some years ago and it is pretty poor. The mannequins are pretty battered about and the clothes have all seen better days, none of them in this place! There are few old counting machines etc. and a couple of fading monochrome photos on the walls and that is about it.
Having been rushed through with almost indecent haste (not that there was much to see), I was directed to a fairly respectably dressed younger man who politely, in good English, asked me to sign the visitors book. I did that and then he demanded payment. As I say, I had no idea if this was legit or not but I suspect it wasn't. I handed him 200SLR (about £1 and more than it was worth) but was told that, no, it was 500. I questioned the sum of 500 even though that seems to be standard for Museums in Colombo and it was very politely explained to me that as I had five guides it was 100 for each one. I told him I had not asked for one guide let alone five.
I was convinced now it was a ripoff but I really could not be bothered arguing over £2:50 much as it rankles with me being taken for a ride. This was reinforced by the fact that in a country obsessed by bureaucracy (courtesy of my nation) there was neither receipt not ticket issued. I even get a ticket for a five pence train journey. It was just too much hassle to start a row. I have no doubt that the Sri Lankan authorities scan travel websites regularly as I know they do in other Asian countries so let's hope someone in the tourist police sees this and acts on it. You do not need to go in, if you look at my photos you have seen the place.
In the unlikely event that this is a legitimate charge then it is excessive and the place still qualifies as a tourist trap.
Better to take a photo outside and move on.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go inside, it is not worth it.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Just what he thinks you will pay.
I have thought long and hard about where to put this tip as it refers to a bar where I had a wonderful travel experience which you can read about in my blog and with the benefit of hindsight and more local experience I have decided that it is indeed a tourist trap and best avoided.
I realise that beach bars attract a premium, even if the beach in question is nothing to write home about as it is here. The reader may know from elsewhere that my luggage had been lost by the airline, I had been up for hours and after a small doze I really fancied a beer and so I went walking along the Marine Drive in Wellewatta looking for a suitable place to relax. I did not know at that point how hard it is to find a bar in Sri Lanka and had not yet discovered the excellent Topaz bar in the Sapphire Hotel (see separate tip).
I eventually came upon this place which I believe is called the Baracola although there is nothing in the way of signage to indicate this. It is an OK place although nothing special and seemed to be near enough empty every evening I went there. Obviously the locals know something. I had no idea as to what the local price of drink was and so when I eventually left having been charged 400Rs. for a can of Lion lager, I thought that must have been about the norm. The second time I went there I was charged 350 as I was a "good customer". Great, I am always up for a bit of discount. In the intervening period and in a story far too long to relate here in a tip I had been befriended by a Sri Lankan TV film crew and even, at their behest, played an unpaid gig on a guitar that they had very helpfully supplied. The crew had been good enough to buy me several beers thereby generating income for them. Great fun and that is the wonderful travel experience I alluded to earlier. All these evenings had been overseen by Dilip, the owner / manager.
I returned a couple of nights later and when I examined bill I found that the price had suddenly jumped to 450 per beer and as I had eaten some lovely fish the bill came to 4800. Suddenly there was a "service charge" of 200Rs. added which had never happened before. I know now that service charge is generally 10% and Govt. tax 14% or thereabouts so he was just being lazy and trying to squeeze a few extra Rs. out of me. If he was indeed applying tax properly it aould have come to more. I am fully aware that we are talking about literally pennies here but I do not like people taking advantage of me because they think they can squeeze a few extra rupees out. I should temper this statement by stating that the vast majority of Sri Lankans I have met thus far on my trip have been scrupulously honest and wonderfully generous, so do not let this particular negative tip put you off visiting this amazing place. Just don't bother, there is nothing special here.
Unique Suggestions: You really don't need to go here.
Fun Alternatives: If you really fancy a drink in Wellewatta, you could do worse than the Topaz Bar in the Sapphire Hotel on Galle Road.
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
The tour guide commsion
your guide or driver will try to take you to a handicraft or gem shops where he will receive a commission.Wether your alone on a tuktuk or if you are part of a tour group from a reputable tour company ex. jetwing walkers you would be invariably be taken to a shop, factory spice garden where you would be expected to purchase goods at a very high price.The commissions vary from 20% in clothes shops and spice gardens to 50% in gem and handicraft shops. Commissions in Colombo and along the south coast are invariably lower than in other parts of the country.Kandy and Pollanaruwa have the highest commissions.
Unique Suggestions: Only shop when you are alone. Always send your driver away.If your in a tour group it is best to wait till you get a day at leisure. Catch a tuktuk and send the driver away. All shops outside colombo offer commision. So it is better to do your shopping in colombo. shops down the coast offer low commisions and therefore low prices. The exception being masks shops in ambalangoda. Book will not talk about this racket because the writers would have been taken to these shops by their drivers. Shops which are notorious for offering tour guide commissions are Kandy:-Oakray woodcarvings, lakruka woodcarvings, jayamali batiks,all gem shops especially prasanna ,senani silks and gems, zam, hemachandra,amith,ishani the list is endless.any shop in kandy, pinnawala,kandy road and dambulla road should be avoided.In Pollanaruwa Nishantha,Premadasa, New Gamini and Dhammika wood carvings are notorious. In Colombo Lakmedura, Origins,Lanka Hands for handicrafts and Premadasa, Wijaya Gems and any so called Gem Bureau offer commisions. As of November 2011 government run shops Laksala,Kandyan Arts and crafts association and the craft village(janakala kendraya) offer 10% commissions a measure to get tourists as tourists flock to such notorious places
Fun Alternatives: Your best alternative is to buy at the airport,hotel shops ect.The following shops do not offer commisions. They are in Colombo.Barefoot, Paradise Road, Odel.These hardly have cheap handicrafts or souveniers so its best to go to this quirky little shop called Lakpahana run by an NGO.Unbelievably cheap for obvious reasons. It is situated on reed avenue just past the cinamon gardens police station. For gems it is best to buy them in your own country.
- Business Travel
- Arts and Culture
Your walking down the sidewalk when a friendly man approaches you and says something like "Nice day for a walk" etc, small talk, and then he will say your staying at such and such hotel, and maybe you are, maybe your not, either way he works for the hotel, see's you there etc etc.
"I am on my way to the elephant festival, today is the only day, special festival" your thinking, wow cool, he then tells you that he'll take you and show you and grabs a tuk tuk, your thinking this will be cool. He takes you to the Buddhist temple (Name escapes me), there is no festival, but an elephant. He has a reason, you believe him and takes you back, then it's time to pay the tuk tuk driver, who is in on the scam. Depending on how greedy they are they can ask as little as 1800 Rupees (You can go anywhere in Colombo and back for 500 Rupees) to apparently as much as 20,000 Rupees.
A tuk tuk driver who didn't know I had fallen prey to this explained the scam to me just as it happened to me, to even say where it happened which was on my way to the Galle Face Hotel. I knew it was a scam as soon as we arrived at the temple and gee, no elephants and crowds. Oh well, if they wanted some outrageous amount I would have walked away.
The Dutch Period Museum
This is the uncommon place in the Colombo city area, this is build by the British people to secure and proved information to the people who are visit to see the history of the Dutch who ruled the sri lanka during the 16th centaury, The old `Dutch House' on Prince Street, Pettah (Colombo 11) this was originally the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow along with five other houses of the influential.
This museum was opened to the communal in 1982 by the sri Lankan government . This construction embodies the exclusive architectural facial appearance of a colonial Dutch town house.
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
The Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention
This is the main auditorium and reception edifice ( the prime conference hall) which located in the Colombo city Area, This impressive octagonal building was a gift from the Chinese government in memory of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike ( the former Prime minister) .
it was build in mid of 70’s , in front of this fabulous man made architecture you can see beautiful l Buddha Image, it is the replica of the aukana Budda Statue,
- Historical Travel
Please do not pay the snake charmers or stop to look at them. snake charmers remove the venom of the snakes thus causing them to starve to death over a very short period. It is incredibly cruel and only continues because tourists pay money to see it. Please help this awful practice stop - do not pay snake charmers.
- Family Travel
the snake charmer
The old trick to get money from tourists... the snake charmer... this one had not one King cobra but two. he must have been waiting for us: my other half is a snake freak and couldn't resist...
Unique Suggestions: take loads of photos - it's the only reason why you'll pay the money.
Lonely Planet cafe review cock-up
The 9th edition of the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka guide book has a review of a cafe in Cinnamon Gardens called The Commons. The review states that "it's a perfect spot to take a break or settle in to read the Sunday papers." Now, while the cafe is lovely-big comfy chairs, chilled out music, interesting menu-unfortunately it's not open on Sundays so unless you've got back copies of newspapers, it just aint gonna happen.
Fun Alternatives: The Paradise Road Cafe, 1km down the same road, has the same vibe as The Commons, with fantastic views of the Town Hall, but is open on Sundays
Change all your money at the...
Change all your money at the Colombo airport itself. The Bank of Ceylon offers decent rates too. You don't have to change your euro, Yen or Sing$ into US$ first and the rate is much better than back home.
If you must try coral watching at Hikkaduwa try to get a full boatload of at least 6 people to share the cost. Each boat trip for half an hour cost about US$22 and the Lonely Planet warnings were right, it ain't worth it. No harm swimming though in the turquoise clear water. Forget about the corals.
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