Columnists,Amra Yooseph,Top Story l by Amra Yooseph l 27 Oct 2020     - 45

Magic in the Madness

Pettah as we all know, is the hub of the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is the go to place for anything and everything. There’s a solid reason as to why many of us are very familiar with the phrase, “We can get it for much cheaper in Pettah.” (Pro tip – Bargain in Tamil. They’ll warm up to you and you’ll walk away with a happy price 90% of the time) While I personally am not a fan of the whole hustle and bustle of the Pettah lifestyle, it is one of those areas people just can’t seem to get enough of. Rightfully so.

While Pettah at first glance might not be the prettiest sight, the magic lies beyond what you see. If you look past the overcrowding of people, the tuk tuks parked at every corner and the slightly uncomfortable stares every now and then, there is so much more to look forward to. If you’re new to Pettah, navigating around the area can be an absolute nightmare. The trick is to know the significance of each street and your day in Pettah might not be as hectic as one would imagine. However, you can spend a complete day in Pettah and still fail to cover the entire area. Such is the beauty and complexity of the place.

Streets and their significance

Pettah has everything, everywhere. But most times it is easy to narrow it down to a few of the popular streets that will probably have what you need at an insanely affordable price. Always remind yourself what you came to get because 9 out of 10 times, you are likely to get distracted and go home with something you definitely did NOT need!

Here’s what you can find in the below streets.

  1. Main Street/ Front Street – Leather, Clothes, Shoes, Bags
  2. China Street – Party deco
  3. Prince Street – Toys, Electronics
  4. Maliban Street – Stationary, Wedding invitations  
  5. 1st Cross Street – Mobile Phones and accessories

Fun Fact – Did you know that all the beauty cosmetics that are sold are tucked away under ground in 1st Cross Street? Obviously, the products aren’t Huda or MAC or anything in between. But that cosmetic smell will have you going absolutely crazy in a good way.

Pettah is home to a lot of street hawkers. Apart from the naarang and other fruit and vegetable carts, there are also vendors that sell extremely cool stuff that you just don’t come across any place else. My favorite would be the weird battery operated toys that change with every visit to Pettah. Although the street vendors and their carts can block the entire area forcing you to squeeze your way through most of the time, they sure come in handy with their juices after that painfully tiring walk down the sun blazing streets of Pettah.

The city is famous for some iconic landmarks apart from the very popular Pettah Manning market. Unfortunately, the Pettah market as proposed will be relocated to Peliyagoda before the 17th of November 2020. The reason behind the initiation is to manage congestion caused by improper management that has affected residents in and around the area.

Must visit landmarks in Pettah

Most of us have grown up in the Colombo area and have been to Pettah more times than necessary. Yet, not all of us have had the luxury of visiting and learning about the other landmarks in the neighborhood. If and when you do make your way to Pettah next time, check these places out and cross it off your Bucket List – Pettah Edition.

  1. Wolvendaal Church
  2. Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque (Red Mosque)
  3. Kayman’s Gate
  4. Colombo Dutch Museum
  5. Pettah Floating Market

Walking around in Pettah is completely different to roaming around in places like Bamba and so on. There’s an art to keeping it together in the busy streets of Pettah.

Tips and tricks when in Pettah

  1. Wear comfortable clothing
  2. Heels would be a terrifying choice
  3. Don’t wear your money (If you do, Bye bye good bargains)
  4. It’s best to get around on foot
  5. Know your Tamil (Additional brownie points in the game of haggling)
  6. Have the right attitude

Pettah is not everybody’s cup of tea but it is a place we all need to visit from time to time. Relocating the Manning market might change the course of things in Pettah and definitely cause a breather in the surroundings. But that’s definitely not what Pettah is all about. It’s all about the madness that us Lankans have come to know and love.

Image Sources:
Trip Advisor
Son of the Morning Light
The Culture Trip
Discover Asia
Sunday Observer



Amra Yooseph

Amra is a full time sustainability auditor who makes time to follow her passion in journalism as a part time writer and presenter. Something she loves doing is meeting people and learning what their outlook on a given situation is. She also happens to be a big foodie and is always down for a good meal.

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