This post finds me in Colombo – the capital city of Sri Lanka (well, actually that was four weeks ago. I’m now on a sofa in Wiltshire, UK, but it’s better to write like its current).
The first thing that struck me on reaching the city was its relative order and cleanliness in comparison with India. Traffic rules are followed most of the time and seeing large piles of rubbish by the side of the road is a real rarity.
I had not planned to stay in Colombo for more than 36 hours, so I immediately set about touristing (Johnism) with great fervour. I decided to start with culture and work my way towards cuisine. First stop: Gangaramaya Temple. One of the largest temples in Colombo, Gangaramaya is atypical of Buddhist places of worship. It is more like a Buddhist museum with a temple attached. Off the main courtyard were rooms piled high with artefacts, ancient manuscripts, statues, swords; you name it, it was probably there!
The end result was one of peaceful disorder, which was really quite charming.
As the temple was close to the Viharamahadevi Park – one of the largest and prettiest in the city – I then took a stroll and was delighted to find a number of trees that reminded me of the BBC prank for April Fools where they describe “spaghetti trees”. I’m still unsure of the exact name of this tree and whether on not the hanging threads are part of the tree or a creeper/vine so, if anyone would care to enlighten me, please go ahead!
Now, were it not for the big, golden Buddha sitting in front of it, you could be excused for thinking the Whitehouse had had enough of Mr. Trump and had taken a vacation, however, this is in fact the Colombo City Town Hall and is gloriously Trump-free.
My final cultural visit if the day was to the temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil (the least tweeted-about temple on Earth, I’d imagine – your 140 characters are almost done after the name!)
A kindly tuc-tuc driver dropped me off here and left seconds before I realised it was closed. Still, the exterior was magnificent.
I had reached culture saturation point. I had a recommendation for sundowners at the Galle Face Hotel, a quite splendid 5-star, heritage hotel right by the water’s edge in central Colombo, so thither did I wander; I had an appointment with my good friend, Gin, and his significant other, Tonic.
As you can see, the backdrop for my tipple was unforgettable and, when I thought it couldn’t get much better, a piper appeared to accompany the ceremony to lower the flag on the water’s edge. Now, don’t get me wrong, normally bagpipes sound like air escaping from a faulty bouncy castle inflation motor, however, this guy was pretty decent. Take a look for yourselves:
I had a quiet evening (code for “I went to play blackjack in the casino but lost money so am not going to talk about it) and then put foot to pavement once more the next morning.
I’ll skip straight to lunch. If you find yourself in Colombo and wanting some more upmarket fodder, try the Gallery Cafe by Paradise Road – your stomach will thank me for it.
Not wanting to overdo things on a full stomach, I took an Uber to the Fort area (main administrative centre of Colombo) and literally just followed my nose, enjoying the architecture and occasionally jumping on a photo opportunity.
That evening, I had arranged to meet up with Rohith, a friend of my friend in Chennai. As a Colombo resident he was able to suggest a bar with a view – we met on the roof of the Cinnamon Red Hotel – and I got a much greater feel for the city layout than I had at ground level.
Rohith and I then set the world to rights over a delicious plateful of traditional Sri Lankan food at Upali’s before calling it a night.
Verdict: I really enjoyed Colombo. 2-3 days stay is about right, I think. Don’t miss the sundowners!