Southern Expressway Service Area (Canonwin Arcade).

The Southern Expressway opened two gleaming service stations near Welipenna. Each houses a Cargills Food City and assorted shops like Juiceez, Dinemore, Gihan’s, Gill’s, Pascucci and New Monis. They also have ATMs and quite decent bathrooms.

Taking the Southern Expressway is like stepping (or driving) into another world. It’s Sri Lanka’s first proper highway. There are no cows, goats, dogs or even trishaws or motorbikes. It’s just a fast corridor between Colombo and Galle, cutting that chaotic drive down to about 1.5 hours.

Sri Lankans, however, have to stop, no matter the length of the trip. Hence the service area. This exceedingly modern building looks like Heathrow Airport and houses everything a traveling Sri Lankan family could need. Dinemore, New Monis for short-eats, Juiceez for juice as well as ATMs and clean bathrooms. There’s also a lonely Pascucci coffee-shop off in the corner somewhere.

Note that this stuff, however, isn’t cheap. A Juiceez juice will set you back about Rs. 150-200 and a Dinemore meal can push Rs. 500. There are no roadside kades, no Tipi-Tip, no boiled corn, nor roti, and the malu paan (at New Monis, which you must remember from the Galle Road) is not especially cheap. It’s a modern rest-stop for a modern highway, with modern prices.

Refreshments aside, the service area also a bank of ATMs (Bank Of Ceylon, Commercial Bank, HNB) and quite serviceable sinks and bathrooms. The bathrooms, for now, are actually outside the building, past the ATMs, but they’re exceedingly clean. We’ve included photos above.

Perhaps it’s not a destination in itself, but the Southern Expressway Service Area is already bustling and worth a stop if you’re on your way south. Note that there’s no gas or car repair there, it’s just for human refreshment.

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