No doubt it will be images like those above; lush greenery and warm magnificent beaches. Images similar to island life of Hawaii and Bali. Well, you won’t be wrong. Sri Lanka is indeed a magnificent island. But all this is far from the capital city of Colombo.
Let me show you what greeted me when I arrived in Colombo.
What greeted me was a crowded city, where traffic was alarmly more chaotic that what I’m more used to.
Often when you think about traffic in this part of the world, Sri Lanka and it neighbouring countries do share a similar view when it comes to traffic and driving. You would be correct to assume that.
Your first impression would have you believe that is due to the lack of education. Far from it. Most Sri Lankans and people in Colombo itself are fairly literate. It is not education, it is a matter of survival and choice. Roads are narrow and often badly maintained, not nearly developed enough to cope with the number of vehicles that need to use it. When driving, the general view is that if you see a gap, you take it before it gets taken. You need to show complete disregard for other road users and other motorists and always be vigilant.
Possibly one of the biggest problems with the traffic are the dreaded ‘tuk-tuk’ drivers; who often seem to think that they still are riding two-wheeled motorcycles. They never keep in lane and often you find that other vehicles have to do the same in order to cope with their nonsense.
Buses are also a hazard; often over crowded and noisy. Walking around on the streets of Colombo, you will most certainly hear the sound of a loud obnoxious horn every single second.
If you are more used to a systematic traffic flow and maintaining normal, safe distances from other vehicles, Colombo’s chaos will probably be a scary experience for you.
I was at a busy roundabout when all of a sudden a group of motorists decided to block and entire road and come along the wrong side of the street. Their antics blocked the roads for several other motorists and it seemed that more were following them.
The more amazing of it was that they were all doing this while a policeman was at the roundabout directing the flow of traffic. Whether or not the cop noticed the perpetrators is unclear, but in the end, I was late to an appointment and it appears that these people got away with breaking the law.
All this seems a common place in Colombo and Sri Lanka’s government is attempting to make it better by getting motorists to adhere to the rules of the road and maintain lane discipline. However their efforts don’t seem to be working. You often see NEWS reports talking intensely about it, but the situation on the roads are no where to being better.
Frankly the government’s efforts are will all be for nought as long as the minds of the people aren’t willing to change.