Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stunning Srilanka: COLOMBO

Colombo Skyline from Galle Face Green

Colombo is the international gateway to the island of Sri Lanka, and so almost all visitors arrive by air. Luxury cruise ships berth here briefly, and at this time there is a ferry operating here from South India.

Major airlines that touchdown in Colombo include Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways, among others. Flights to Colombo are available from Europe, the Far East, and South Asia.

Whichever route you take, you will arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake, which is the only international airport in the country. The airport is located approximately 32km to the city center.

We took Mihin Lanka from Mumbai to Colombo. The journey started from the airplane itself with those Sri Lankan ladies as very caring and courteous air hostesses. That surely makes you very happy. The journey lasted for close to 2 hours and 30 minutes from Mumbai. Once landed and done with visa and all, we first exchanged our dollars to Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Then we hired a taxi to the main city which came to Rs. 3000/- LKR including express-highway flyover. Now the main drama starts. The city is changing so drastically, including the names of lanes that its very difficult to locate the exact address until you ask some hundred people. And every-time they say a different route. But we booked ourselves a home-stay via air-bnb, so may be that was causing the issue. But finally we reached our first home-stay in the upmarket Cambridge terrace.

We stayed for three days in Colombo city. It was very welcoming to see a city close to India in such 'perfect' condition. Well mannered people. Excellent infrastructure. Planned roads. Great traffic sense. It was truly love at first sight although the weather was hot.

Whenever a trip to colombo is mentioned, the standard response is “you MUST make time to visit Paradise Road”. This lovely little cluster of peace located within the hustle and bustle of central Colombo has a retail outlet, gallery shop and restaurant, all housed within the former offices of world renowned Sri Lankan architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa (Geoffrey Bawa Trust No: 11,33rd Lane, Off Bagatelle Road, Colombo 03.

And after a spot of shopping there is no better treat than coffee and cake at The Gallery CafĂ© on Alfred house road….heaven! And before you head there do take a peek at Bare Foot Cafe store, gallery and its cafeteria which is in the same neighborhood. Truly beautiful.

On a sunday we took the Tuk-Tuk to Colombo Fort which is the old city to say so. Here we have the Dutch Hospital opposite the WTC. We enjoyed walking around the Dutch Hospital area, but were sad to notice that it was much smaller than we had anticipated. This consists of just a few shops, a handful of restaurants, and not much else. We were not impressed with the amount to do, but the Dutch Hospital area is certainly worth a visit as it has a very charming old world look. Do not plan to spend the whole day shopping here as we only saw about 3-4 stores open. It had great restaurants and nice shops such as a LUV SL store that sells nice tourist items that are similar in style to what they might sell at Colaba causeway in Mumbai. This is near the World Trade Centers and very close to Galle Face Green which is very clean and good to have an evening stroll.

Colombo is also your gateway to Sri Lanka. So, spend a day or two, and enjoy the blend of East and West.

Things to do:
  1. Visit National Museum
  2. Shop at Paradise Road (not the name of a street/road but of a store)
  3. Buy sarongs from Barefoot Cafe.
  4. Escape to tea heaven at t-Lounge in old town
  5. Dine at Park Street Mews on Park Street
  6. Buy souvenirs from Odel LUV SL store
  7. Go for a sundowner at Galle Sea Face Hotel
  8. Take an evening stroll at Galle Face Green
  9. Explore Pettah market on a sunday
  10. Visit Saskia Art Gallery to catch their current art show

Life size banner of a bridal store

Pigeon on the roof of Dutch Hospital

Heladiv Tea Club at Dutch Hospital

Mosque at Dutch Town

Barefoot Cafe

Porcelain at Paradise Road store

Aesthetics inside a Colombo house

Quirky door at Paradise Road store

A tastefully done-up house in Colombo

Pelican on a  light pole at Galle Face Green

Mosque reflection in the World Trade Centre Towers

A hotel in old town

World Trade Centre

View outside Odel LUV SL at the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct 

The longest chandelier in the world at a museum in old town

Various types and flavours of tea at t-Lounge by Dilmah

Cargills, the oldest supermarket in old town

Pantry at Milk and Honey Cafe at Barnes Place

A devotee offering flowers at Gangaramaya Temple

Buddha statue under a banyan tree at Gangaramaya Temple

School kids marvelling the array of Buddha statues lining the Gangaramaya Temple

Sunset as seen from Gangaramaya Temple

A sculpture at Paradise Road store

A heritage structure built in 1910

Town Hall

Buddha statue outside the National Museum 

The National Museum

Interiors of a restaurant called The Commons

Colombo Parliament Building

Insides of t-Lounge by Dilmah

Reclining Buddha against the Colombo sunset

Paradise Road store

The towering WTC peeping out from behind Cargills

Old-styhle architecture being re-used in new constructions

Our first train journey was from Colombo to Nanu Oya with Expo Rails. Amazing 5 hours of journey passing through the tea estates, hills, rivers, waterfalls and some 30 odd tunnels, is a memory I am going to cherish forever. The Train leaves by 0945am from Colombo Fort and drops you at Nanu Oya by 0430pm. Nanu Oya is the closest station to get down to do a 45 minutes taxi ride to the british town, Nuwara Eliya.

Next: Nuwara Eliya.

1 comment:

  1. Srilanka tour packages is available now & sri lanka is very beautiful country which is situated in east coast of South India, but culture & persons seem so dissimilar from its neighbor.