To begin with talking of Sri Lanka, a foreign couple recently entered into a bookshop and had asked “Is there a book to know only about the City of Colombo with details and pictures, because we will be residing in Colombo itself for few days?” So, dear traveler, when you reach Sri Lanka either by air or ship, your proper destination has to be Colombo. Unlike any other capital cities of the outside world, Colombo, is a vision and a place with pleasure by the gift of nature could be collected from this feature.
True fact remains as Sri Lanka is a place where a tourist could enjoy to the extreme and taste Sri Lankan dishes bellyful through out the year as we are a country blessed with bounty harvests of every crop, from the month of January to December. That is why when great men visited Sri Lanka used to say “it is the best place to view the universe within Sri Lanka find the universe itself”
Colombo city being the commercial capital city of Sri Lanka, it comprises entertainment, leisure and pleasure a visitor should have. It’s a patchwork of an art! The city splits to 15 postal code areas, a certain side is filled with markets, another turn there are places with cultural and spiritual values, another turn its flora and fauna, lakes and birds, another twist one would beat his toes to the music, clubs, restaurants, eating places, another access commercial places, spend nights in Grand hotels or medium guest houses. Any how to walk about in Colombo City, a white skinned or an African couple as they could be recognized as foreigners, they must not wander about alone. You have to possess a tour guide or know where you start and finish.
Speaking of Colombo city, according to your budget there are hotels to get cuddled in very comfortable rooms with full Air Conditioning and mild music. Some of the best hotels are, Hilton, Cinnamon Grand, Galle Face, and there are many more comfortable guest houses. Though Colombo is a bustling city, once you enter into a hotel one’s eyes would pop out seeing the internal décor, natural flowers, and fountains sprinkling and spouting water over the green velvet carpet of grass, tasty delicacies variety of tasty foods, Sri Lankan’s own flavours of fruits, menus to suit all tourists, dishes of French/Italian/Indian/Thai and gentlemen way of sipping a bear served by well mannered bar keepers, together with the tranquilizing ayurvedic treatments of Spas!
To wander in the Colombo City it has to be in the nights. One would feel that the word Paradise does not suffice to the busy and dusty city, completely changed in the nights well lit comfortable road ways, sinking the dust which has emanated in the morning hours has drooped down to a melancholy sound of swaying winds and the listening to the far away sea waves. That is Colombo Fort.
A traveler with a knap sack on his back, could visit the first place a recently opened shopping complex, the old Dutch building converted to a place to a shopping mall whilst sipping a cool glass of flavoured wood-apple drink or a pineapple drink. Here you can buy anything and everything you want for very cheap, Government rates, from handloom dresses up to live crabs! No fear, you can buy Sri Lankan cultural valuables from this complex. Go, visit and enjoy the rates!
FortThe best land mark is the clock tower - is the place where you can have genuine cash transactions with any bank. The Bank of Ceylon, Head Office a tall bamboo shaped building there is a separate place for tourists to have their Dollars or the Travellers’ cheques changed.
Aside is the Twin Towers.- 2nd tallest building in South Asia. One tower is the Board of Investment (the best guider for inland business) and the 2nd tower World Trade Centre. The World Famous Stock Exchange is situated in these twin towers. For a teenager, to refer your examinations to know about the stock market, here, this is the world’s best maintained place. The Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Exchange situated in the WTC building is a place where any foreigner could buy original gems at Government stipulated prices. Also the airline offices, main post office, immigration office all buildings are packed in this section of Colombo
Galle Face Greenis very comfortable in the nights. The Green is boarded to the bluish seas. It’s a large open space, for vendors and merrymakers and inhale salty air.
Adjacent to Fort Then Pettah town, Oh! a place where one should freely walk about. Avoid rush hours i.e. 7.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m. and after 4.00 p.m. till 5.00 p.m. The rest of the hours are for you to our dear valuable visitor/tourist. Be cautious of what you carry. Your money has to be in your waist belt. This is the best marketing and shopping spree on the by-road itself. Whatever you buy has to be rupees and cents. The Main Street,either sides
building, on the road all varieties of sellers. Near the Bo-Tree, you find a specially made building only for pavement hawkers, from an imitation ring to locally made slippers,bright printed fabrics, suitings undergarments, childrenwear etc.. The Malwatte Road is famous for different sizes and colours of synthetic and leather bags, you cannot decide at ones. If a foreigner goes alone, they might increase the rate, better go with a Sri Lankan guide let him bargain. You will get the best. Then the sea street is famous for Gold. You can bargain, like wise all streets are branded for different products. You must know the rates before bargaining. Then either sides of the Pettah bus stand you find sellers of fruits, costumes, imitation jewelry toys etc. Specially grapes, oranges,apples and other variety of fruits, you can buy at a very nominal rate. Fresh vegetables you can buy if you require from the Pettah Market. The Fort Railway Station staff will assist you to book tickets to travel all over the country. Becareful of Trishaws, they would ply behind you like crows. That is the cheapest for a walking traveler to get in if one feels tired.
The Dutch museumin the middle of Pettah had been the residence of a Dutch Governor during the Dutch Era. Now it had been turned to a small chapel and a lovely courtyard with beautiful flowers grown and exhibiting Dutch colonial furniture and other artifacts.
Apart, these ordinary purchases on the roads, you find shopping complexes like MajesticCity, Liberty Plaza, Crescat Boulevard are the places you may buy the best packeted and flavoured teas and cadjunuts also remember to visit Laksala where you can buy all sinhala handmade cultural products.
The Gangarama Seemamalakaya (where Buddhists monks ordained) is another main tourist attractions in the Colombo City, in a place called Slave Island. This place is surrounded by water and built in the middle with a connected bridge. This is in the Beira Lake you find scattered swimming swans.
Next to this spiritual place, there is an Island in the Beira Lake which had been now converted to a leisure spot. You find young couples seated under shades, cooing with each other. A foot bridge is built to connect to the Island.
The Bandaranaika Memorial International Conference Hallis an outright gift from the Govt . and People of the People’s Republic of China to Sri Lanka. This too should be viewed by the foreigners. This had been given to us in memory of late S.W.R.D.Bandaranayaike. This building has accommodation facilities as well as plenty of car parking space. Presently, the large halls are given to hold exhibitions,seminars and other musical and dancing stage events. The well maintained lawns,flower beds and floral trees one could see the beuaty of Sri Lanka in Colombo itself.
Then the National Museum where you find sinhala artwork sculptures, carvings, antique furniture, ola manuscripts, old paintings, costumes and jewellery worn by our Olden kings and queens and the Golden plated chair and the crown of the Sinhala last king.
ViharamahadeviParkjust close proximity to the national Museum, the city’s biggest park. It is notable for its superb flowering trees. Once you walk in here no one would ever feel even the locals that you are inside the bustling town, Colombo. You can sit under a tree and gaze upon the nature. Here you find the kids play ground. Any child is welcomed by the care takers. They get horse rides and many other children’s playing wonders. In a corner you find Colombo’s white-domed old town Hall or “white House”.
Nelum Pokunanational performance art theatre which was declared opened recently by HE the President. It is a five storied building comprising a main theater with seating capacity of 1288 seats, open air theater on the top floor. The theater houses a three tier movable stage, two exhibition halls, thirteen rehearsal halls, parking facilities for 500 vehicles, library and training facilities. This building has been put up to international standards and the best in the Asia.
Then the Lionel Wendt is an institution in itself the stomping ground of the artistic men and women plays, musical shows, photo and art exhibitions are frequently held, where a foreigner could buy an art drawn by our Sri Lankan well recognised artist to a price affordable by them which will be a memento when they return home.
The Royal Colombo Golf Cluba 18 hole court, where one could observe the natural beauty whilst at play. They have to cross over whilst playing the railway tracks, which is also quite interesting and to be alert.
The Independence Squareis another national monument built to commemorate gaining independence. Now there is an open cricket ground and simultaneously you find residents of Colombo jogging. The present Government has developed and beautified this area with fountains and floral beds and well maintained roads. It is really a spot one should take photographs and take back memories.
To be really proud of our culture, spirituality and hospitality one should visit Colombo in the month of May, which falls Vesak – Lord Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Death is celebrated in a very high spiritual manner. One would see the whole of Sri Lanka, specially the Colombo City illuminated with bulbs, lanterns and floating lanterns in the Beria Lake and up on the trees streams of bulbs and pandals. This would depict
a fairy land when the Full Moon Shines up in the skies. Like wise it is in December, the month of Christmas back illumination and decorated roadway islands and santas running in their red kits every where surrounded by children.
The Month of February is the Nawam Pageant, which is some what equal to Dalada Kandy Pageant around the Beira Lake and one could visualize independence Day celebrations if they arrive in a charter plane where the foreigners are given special seats to watch the parade.
Now the present trend and the vogue is spending the free time near the New Parliament built in Sri Jayawardhenapura surrounded by the Diyawanna Oya. The boarder is well maintained for the visitors to enjoy the cool blowing and gaze at the glittery waters in the evenings. This is a quite a beautiful place which one should spend few hours whilst watching rare birds, mostly in the morning hours.
Remember, you visitors bear in mind before enjoying the scenic beauty and historical cultures in the other Districts in the Island please try to cover first Colombo, which no other capital city you find with so many interesting places in the Capital city itself.
By: Malathi Perera