Meet Me in Colombo: 10 March 2024

Colombo, Sri Lanka

After many hours of traveling, we have all met up in Colombo, the sprawling city of 1.8 million and the capital of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

Kim and Kyle had the furthest to go, having flown in on a 24-hour journey from Dallas by way of Doha. Michael had a shorter 3-hour trip from Bangkok, but one that had him leave his house at 4am.

We are all feeling tired, but very happy to be together, and super excited to start our adventure!

After checking in at our hotel, Michael and Kyle set out on foot to explore the neighborhood, hunt down an ATM, and pick up some bottles of drinking water.

It turned out to be quite an ordeal! It was Sunday, and each bank we walked to seemed to be closed, and their ATMs were not accessible!

After spending way too long walking under the blazing tropical sun, we finally came to a shopping mall where we were able to withdraw some stunningly colorful Sri Lankan Rupees.

We searched high and low for drinking water, coming to a Chinese grocery story, finding nothing but a few isolated, unrefrigerated (and very small) bottles.

We wandered on through the tropical heat, and finally came to a really nice supermarket, where we bought 20 liters of fresh water (most of it would be drunk in 24 hours; you really have to stay hydrated here).

As we were walking through the neighborhood, we couldn't help but peer into each rickshaw we passed, sizing up the minimal space and starting to worry a bit about how we were going to fit our luggage.

Finally, we got back to the hotel. This had taken far longer than we had anticipated, and Kyle and Michael were exhausted. We decided to take a refreshing dip in the pool to cool off, enjoying our last few days of comfort before hitting the road.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the Rickshaw Run, we haven't booked any hotels for our time on the road. We are going to have to be flexible and spontaneous, and we have absolutely no idea where we will be sleeping each night after leaving Colombo.

In the evening, we wanted to do something special for dinner. We crammed into the back of an Uber rickshaw and set off. Space is definitely going to be tight for us over the next two weeks.

Michael found a famous restaurant called The Station, which is located on the site of an old railway station and situated between the still operational tracks and Wellawatte Beach.

It was a really nice restaurant, and we sat down with our feet in the sand and enjoyed a bottle of ice-cold Lion Lager. Lion is the most popular beer in Sri Lanka, and is pretty much ubiquitous throughout the country. Established in 1849 by English explorer Sir Samuel Baker, Lion Brewery is a Sri Lankan Institution.

We were here to try The Station's world-famous crab curry. Because each curry dish is made from scratch when you order, it can take a while for your food to arrive. It's not unusual to wait for an hour or more for your crab curry to be served. I recommend ordering a few beers and an appetizer or two to tide you over while you enjoy the sunset on the beach.

We started off by ordering a serving of The Station's famous cheese toast as an appetizer.

Triangle-shaped pieces of toast are topped with melted and toasted cheese, and small, finely chopped pieces of purple onion, red chili, and green chili. It's mildly spicy - not overwhelmingly so - and the aromatics give the cheese toast an incredible flavor.

Next, we tried pol sambol (usually just called "sambol"), which roughly translates to "coconut relish". This is a traditional Sri Lankan dish, and one of the country's popular national dishes.

Sambol is a sort of condiment made from fresh grated coconut pounded together on a granite slab with shallots, dried whole red and green chilies, salt, and fresh lime juice.

The result is a strongly flavored spicy dish that is often served as an accompaniment to dishes such as hoppers (Sri Lankan pancakes) or curries.

The sambol that we tried was served with our curry alongside slices of buttery bread, which were used as a vessel for eating the flavorful sambol. Sambol is sweet, spicy, slightly sour, and very umami. 

We also ordered a big plate of fried rice to share. Fried rice goes great with just about everything (especially seafood) and is a useful palate cleanser when you are eating something spicy, such as a curry.

All of this, however, was just a prelude to our main dish: Sri Lankan crab curry, which arrived in a sizzling bowl piled high with incredible crab meat.

We had an absolutely fantastic waiter who taught us how to expertly crack open the crab's shell to get out every bite of the rich, sweet crab meat.

The gigantic crab (this wasn't even the largest portion on the menu!) was cooked for an hour in a rich blend of turmeric, curry powder, black pepper, chilies, and other Sri Lankan spices. The flavorful curry soaked into the crab meat infusing it with all of the delicious flavors.

This was our first introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine, and what an introduction it was!

We returned home to the hotel, stomachs full, and Kyle's tongue (unaccustomed to spice) ablaze.

It was an early night, and we were all in bed by 7:30.

Tomorrow will be our first full day in the country, and we look forward to exploring some sites and landmarks in Colombo.

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