Monthly Archives: February 2017

Arriving at Colombo Bandaranaike Airport

Entering Sri Lanka is efficient and nearly all international service is through Colombo (CMB). Check if you need a visa, but if you do (as is most likely), an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) can be obtained online (

This isn’t a large airport and arriving on a mid-week late evening (February 2017) there was a pretty good (under 10 minute) wait at passport control.

International arrivals concourse.

There is an arrivals duty free and a large number of mostly similar household appliance stores, suggesting that these items are heavily taxed and intended for local returners who need a new microwave.

Post-customs in the secure arrivals area you’ll find multiple bank foreign exchange booths – my guidebook also reports ATMs although I didn’t see them.  As with Indian and Turkish airports, entrance to the terminal building is for passengers only so any touts (and in fact there are few at CMB) are kept on the curbside. Once at the arrivals curbside there is a booth (against the terminal wall) that will order cabs for you in addition to the lineup. Kangaroo Cabs are reliable and uber is operating in Sri Lanka. Cab fare into town (including toll) was about SR2,400- for my journey.

You can purchase smartphone SIM cards in the arrivals area – the main providers are Mobitel and Dialog, and they and others offer “tourist packages” – or you can find an in town location later. I purchased mine at the Mobitel store in the downtown World Trade Center, where I got a monthly SIM card with 8GB of data for $6.64. Either way Sri Lanka has affordable and excellent cell coverage.

The airport is about 30km north of town and served by a tolled highway – if your driver asks if he should take the highway, say yes as it is much faster.

The airport runway is under daily rehab through April 2017 which has increased check in times.

17 Hours in a Singaporean Aluminum Tube

Singapore Airlines operates one of the world’s longer non-stop flights between San Francisco and Singapore, departing bright and early at 09:25 and scheduled to arrive 18:40 the following day. I’ve flown for longer, but with stops in between, so wasn’t sure if being trapped in a metal tube for 8 hours and knowing the same is yet to come would result in me needing a polite tasering from the crew or whether it would just roll along in a kind of haze.

Hour zero. New A350, very nice. Large video/gaming screen, power ports, fold down cupholder. Seat pitch quite good for economy – there were about 3 free inches for my knees and I’m on the tall side, so this definitely works.

I was in Row 46 which was in a 5-row cabin just behind the Premium Economy section. Check where you are on or similar – having a smaller cabin is preferable.

For some reason Singapore Air persist in providing fold down foot rests. If your resting position is both feet placed close together then good luck to you, otherwise all these tend to do when folded up is hit your shin.

Hour +1. Oh, this is nice. Plenty of entertainment options – 295 movies in all languages – who doesn’t like a Gujurati detective flick – and the large screen pivots enough for when the seat in front swings back.

The catering standard is usually high at Singapore Air – depends on the airport oftentimes and SFO doesn’t in my experience have the best economy level caterers. The Asian option breakfast (dim sum) at about hour 1 was however quite good and plentiful. The evening meal (at about Hour 10) was ok – I had the Asian main, which was a bit dry.

I’m not sure if moving maps are good or bad but you certainly know what you’re in for. In this case, a long flight. Here is the little plane heading out over the Pacific after Vancouver.

Moving around to lovely Kamchatka and over the Shershov Ridge, on the seabed where aircraft shouldn’t need to go.


Almost there.

Almost there.

We arrived about 40 minutes early at around 18:00. Changi’s one of the best airports to arrive at – really well run and with enough distractions.

I wasn’t in need of Tiger Balm but this should be in everyone’s travel kit.

Terminal 3 has a good food court up the set of escalators from the main departures area – I recommend the Malay food stall which does pretty genuine satay.

Overall for almost 17 hours it went ok – good entertainment system, solid catering, good cabin ergonomics.


Go to Montreal but expect challenges along the way. Starting with the pronunciation that takes what is a French word anyway and shortens it as much as possible. Morial? M’rial? Quoi?

Then you have to overcome the Poutine Hurdle. Fries covered in cheese curds and then soaked in gravy plus the topping of your choice (here pastrami-style smoked pork, shown at the timeless Le Roi du Smoked Meat diner). Sounds daunting, and is.


Smoked pork poutine, as served at Le Roi du Smoked Meat.

Beer selections are extensive and there are great microbreweries in town. Start at Dieu du Ciel and go from there.


Prepare to see disturbing yet life affirming art at the MBAM, including lifelike fighting apes –


Old Enemy, New Victim, by Tony Matelli.

Appropriate cover is given to Kent Monkman, who explores Amerindian themes, and not only from a  transgender perspective.


Art by Kent Monkman.


Art by Kent Monkman.

I couldn’t bring myself to photograph another piece, “The King’s Beavers” as I have a soft spot for the diligent little critters:

Montreal has a lot of micro businesses in town that elsewhere would be in an industrial park – these bakers were prepping close to midnight for the following day.


Bakery, Boulevard St-Laurent

Lest a day in the 17th-century old town (it’s nice, but well reported) get you carried away with the past, Canadian gas stations are well-kept and convenient.

Etude – Station Service la Nuit

Montreal – nice place. Go go.