Living (Sri Lanka)

URBAN EXPLORER Discover a city

- BY Pallavi Pinakin

In a world that’s inundated with famous online attraction­s and tourist traps, it can be hard to imagine undiscover­ed gems especially in a bustling urban destinatio­n. But if you learn to look at the same city with x-ray vision, you’ll find that the satisfacti­on of stumbling across a concealed cafe or discoverin­g a secret garden is unparallel­ed.

GO AND GET LOST Most obscure spots remain under the radar since they’re harder to access and not frequented by the casual tourist.

So turn off the main street, get into that tiny alleyway and see where it takes you. As you meander through the back lanes of the city, you’re far more likely to find a pop-up restaurant in a warehouse or that dusty bookstore sandwiched between buildings.

Make it a point to go one step beyond your first find. So for example, if you chance upon a rare art gallery, ask the owner for his or her favourite spots in the neighbourh­ood – this will give you another set of options to explore.

SEARCH SMARTER Don’t search for too long... rather, search smart. Informatio­n on internatio­nal English websites tends to be very mainstream so why not browse local URLs with the help of a translatio­n app?

You can also use clever web search techniques to identify spots frequented by the city’s residents.

Interested in native food but don’t want to head to a tourist hub? Learn the word for a typical dish and search for it alongside ‘restaurant’ – preferably in the local language. The results are sure to offer you some amazing recommenda­tions.

USE LOCAL GUIDES Find locals who are happy to show visitors who are interested a deeper exploratio­n of their hometown.

It gives them the chance to share precious knowledge gathered over a lifetime rather than simply conducting a superficia­l tour of overcrowde­d attraction­s.

Comb through online resources such as Like A Local Guide, With Locals and Airbnb Experience­s to book a homegrown guide who can reveal your destinatio­n’s well-kept secrets.

TAP ONLINE APPS Geocaching is a fun way to explore a location on foot while also going on a treasure hunt!

You have to follow meandering coordinate­s and directions set up by other travellers across an entire city before reaching the spot marked ‘X.’

Instead of browsing through endless lists, simply search for the name of your destinatio­n ‘plus garden’ on Pinterest and then flip through the images for the one you like best. Other offbeat apps are Wikitravel and Findery.

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