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During my last trip to Sri Lanka, I spent some time visiting with my friend, Dottie, Sir Arthur C Clarke’s personal secretary. I got to know Dottie during my travels to Sri Lanka decades ago and we have kept up our friendship and correspondence over the years; it was nice to reconnect in person for a few days.
Dottie is a devout Roman Catholic and wanted to visit the Catholic churches in eastern Sri Lanka, which gave me the opportunity to see places and observe religious customs I otherwise might not have. One of these places was the Cathedral of St. Mary in the small city of Batticaloa, an old church dating to 1808.
The church is simple but nicely maintained. I …
Stupas, or dagobas, are very commonly found throughout southeastern Asia. I’d never seen one with legs before my visit to Sambodhi Chaithya, located on Marine Drive adjacent to the Harbor in Colombo’s Fort district.
Sambodhi Chaithya was built in 1956 on a platform supported by two massive interlocking concrete arches. No one is sure why it was designed in this manner, but likely so that it can be seen at a distance by ships as they approach the harbor. The stupa can be entered by climbing 11 sets of stairs (barefoot — no shoes allowed in a stupa — beware of burning your feet on a hot day!), and then crossing a steel bridge as you can see from the photo …
Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka with just 7.5% of the population being Christian. Most residents are Sinhalese Buddhists (70%), with smaller numbers of Tamils (12.5%) and Muslims (10%). Historically all these people have gotten along quite well, although there have been periods of serious conflict (eg. a bloody 50 year civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamils). While there are many ancient Buddhist temples throughout Sri Lanka, it’s not common to find older Christian churches.
It’s worth looking for the entrance to St Peter’s in the Fort District of Colombo. St. Peter’s is located on Church Street beside the Grand Oriental Hotel, adjoining the city’s harbor. The area is quite secure, with barricades and fencing, because Police headquarters …
The Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH, previously the Taprobane Hotel) is a heritage property located in the Fort district of Colombo.
The building was formerly a barracks for the British Army and was converted to a hotel in 1875, with 154 rooms. Ads at the time claimed it was “the only fully European owned and fully equipped hotel in the East”; also, “the hotel is lighted throughout by electricity and all the public rooms and bedrooms are kept cool by means of electric fans”.
It was an elegant place to visit in the 19th century. It had a tropical garden, was illuminated at night by colored lights, and had its own orchestra which performed daily. The hotel underwent a thorough a refurbishment in …
As many of you known, I like to collect photos of signage during my travels. It’s a bit random to see what will strike my fancy, but I find these photos usually tell a story about the destination beyond what you’ll find at major attractions.
Sri Lanka is trying to to transition to a modern economy; we’ll see if it’s successful. I’d did notice increased numbers of more modern signs while i was there during my last trip, as commerce is becoming more westernized. These were often in both English and Sinihalese.
Here’s some of what I saw during my most recent travels on the island nation.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)
A building that’s impossible to miss when you visit the coastal area of downtown Colombo is the nation’s first Parliament building (a.k.a. the “Old Parliament Building”). Facing the Galle Face Green and the sea (and now the ever-growing Marina development complex), the building is situated on reclaimed land just south of the Fort District and World Trade Center towers. Initially the building was home to the Legislative Council of Ceylon and was witness to country’s transition from colonial state to self-rule in 1947.
Completed in 1930, this Neo-Baroque style building was home to the country’s legislature for 53 years. During the country’s prolonged Civil War, Parliament was moved to a a more secure complex in nearby Sri Jayawardenepura in 1983.
The building …
Today is Veteran’s Day in the USA and Remembrance Day in most of the Commonwealth nations. It’s a time to remember and reflect on those who paid the ultimate price to fight tyranny and preserve liberty.
During my last trip to Sri Lanka we made a 2 day stop in the east coast community of Trincomalle, a place I had not been to before because it was at the center of the Civil War. Trincomalle is a pretty town with one of the world’s greatest natural harbors. As such, it is a popular destination for diving.
I made a point of visiting the Trincomalee British War Cemetery (a.k.a. Trincomalee War Cemetery) situated on the north end of the …
One of the most popular buildings from the British Colonial era in Colombo is the Cargills department store, located in the city’s old Fort District. A century ago this store was busy providing British residents with a place they could purchase staples and luxury items from back home. The journey to Cargills often required them to make the long trek to Colombo from tea plantations and other remote destinations in Sri Lanka.
The lovely building is know for it’s red brick facade. It was originally built as the residence of the Dutch military commander of Galle, before British occupation. The building was acquired by Cargills in 1896 and underwent a remodel and refinishing, opening as a store in 1906.
Like many of …