Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city and the commercial capital. As such, there will be much to explore here, but if there is one destination you shall not miss, it is the Pettah Market. Arranged in traditional bazaar layout, you will find each street devoted to a different type of good. Merchandise is piled high in tiny shops and laid out for purchase along the pavement. Whether you are looking to stock up on traditional goods, purchase fresh produce for the day’s meal, or just ingest the sights and sounds of Colombo, the Pettah Market is the place to be.
This market can get very congested in the middle of the day as people are buying for the day’s meal or the tourists are coming out to explore. To avoid crowds, try arriving at the Pettah before 10 am or later in the evening. The middle of the day will host more interesting options, but may not be the most enjoyable.
You will find the entrance easily with the distinction of the Khan Clock Tower. This tall monument is centred in a roundabout and formally marks the entrance to Pettah. This is also a great location to spot beautiful architecture. When you are ready to enter, you will descend down Main Street and from there, depending on your shopping list, you can make your way around from there.
If you are searching for Stationery and pretty paper goods, you can take a stroll down Maliban Street and Second Cross Street. From Main Street, you will make a right turn onto Second Cross and go a few blocks to find Maliban Street intersecting.
For electronics and DVDs, you can head to First Cross Street and also Prince Street, both intersecting with each other. On Prince, you can also stock up on toys for the children or as souvenirs for little loved ones back at home.
One of the most exciting finds at the Pettah Market are all of the colourful Saris and bags in traditional fashion. There are 3 locations in the market to find clothes, shoes and bags. You will want to start at Main Street and after browsing the shops here, make your way down to China Street, on the left, where you can also find party items. If you head to Bankshall and hang left, you can view the Mosque and then make a left onto Second Cross Street so as to circle back to Main Street. Your last apparel stop will be at Front Street which intersects with the entrance of the market.
The fresh produce in Pettah Market is famous for being sold cheap, at wholesale prices and in bulk (but not required.) You will find the vegetables and fruits down at Fifth Cross Street Market.
If you are able to take a local with you, it is recommended. Locals get better prices than tourists and if you have someone that is fluent with the language, you will be able to bargain and likely pay any price you want.
Many of the vendors and hawkers will ask you to look at their merchandise and be very pushy. If you are not interested, a polite refusal should be sufficient. If the salesman persists, duck into a local shop, and they are sure to back off.
With many people visiting the market, it is best to be smart about your belongings. It may be best to invest in a money belt or to limit yourself to a certain amount of cash. Also, like previously stated, tourists are likely to pay higher prices. If you are polite and keep a positive demeanour, you might be able to negotiate a better deal. With a money belt, a comprehensive travel insurance plan and a good attitude, the Pettah is an essential stop for anyone headed to Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jerome Decq