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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 …
I’ve previously shared a post about one of my favorite hotels, namely Colombo’s Galle Face Hotel. Today I’d like to highlight two areas hotel guests can explore which were new to the hotel since I’d last stayed here. These were added during the hotels recent upgrades and renovations.
The hotel now has a very fine Library. A multi-room quiet place with very comfortable arm chairs and sofas, I spent some time here looking around and taking in the framed historic documents, illustrations and maps, and coffee-table books. I love libraries and had never been to one so sumptuous and inviting in a hotel before.
It was in the library that I discovered where the bust of Sir Arthur C. …
One of the most beautiful temples in Colombo — even all of Sri Lanka — is Seema Malaka. It’s a Buddhist temple situated on calm and peaceful Beira Lake, not far from Gangaramaya Temple. Seema Malaka was designed to be a place for meditation and rest, rather than worship. It’s a quiet spot from which to retreat from the hustle and bustle of Colombo.
The temple you see today is a replacement for one constructed in the late 19th century which sank into the lake in the 1970s. In 1976, famed Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa (the father of “tropical modernism” style), was hired to redesign and construct the temple. Bawa’s design was said to be influenced …
I love to explore markets and walked a few miles to see this one — the Pettah Market in Colombo. Situated in an older portion of the city, the market extends over several blocks in the Pettah neighborhood and caters to local residents, not tourists. In fact, I think mine was the only white face in the market. The market was lively, filled with colorful produce and interesting smells, and full of conversation and bartering — as any good market should be.
The fresh produce was beautiful, featuring what was in season, notably pineapples, wood apples, papayas, watermelon and lots of different types of bananas. A huge assortment of vegetables were piled on the ground or on low tables and a …
One of the required stops when touring Colombo is this rather impressive building, situated in Independence Square within the trendy Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood. The monument commemorates Sri Lanka gaining its independence from Great Britain on February 4, 1948. The location is the precise site where Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, opened Sri Lanka’s first parliament, in so doing ending almost five centuries of colonial rule (the last 140 years under Britain).
The building, while mostly made of concrete instead of quarried rock, is styled after the ancient structures in Sri Lanka, The main feature of the monument, the assembly (audience) hall, was modeled after the royal court of the King of Kandy, the last kingdom in the island nation to fall to …
Sri Lanka is a country of many traditions and faiths, but most of its residents are Sinhalese Buddhists. As such, exploring the Buddhist temples of the country offers a gateway to understanding the culture and traditions of most of its people. Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo and one of the city’s more interesting sites.
This Buddhist temple is encompassed by several buildings and is situated in the heart of Colombo, not far from Beira Lake. It includes a Vihara (temple), a Bodhi tree, an Image house, and an assembly hall for monks. The complex also has an eclectic museum, library, residential hall and an educational hall. The beautiful Simamalaka Shrine is nearby and a satellite …
I’ve taken more time to relax and watch the entirety of a sunset over the Indian Ocean than anywhere else; the majority of these were at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. And I’m not alone. Usually 50 — at times upwards of a hundred — guests are there alongside me enjoying it as well.
During my visit to Colombo this year I discovered the hotel had added a new twist to the sunset ritual. A Sri Lankan bag-piper playing a dirge, together with one of the hotel employees, solemnly and slowly march out to the edge of the sea at dusk. The uniformed man methodically lowers and folds the flag as the sad tune from the pipes mixes with …
I’ve stayed at many hotels in my life, across a broad range of countries and classes of service. Generally I’m a ‘Courtyard by Marriott’ kind of guy — reliable, clean standardized rooms. But the Galle Face is special and a night or two stay here should be on your itinerary when you’re visiting the capital of Sri Lanka.
I was first advised to stay at the Galle Face hotel by my friend, Wayne Houser, who connected me with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. I recall Wayne telling me all those years ago that it was a great hotel and was one of the only places you could get Arthur to leave the comfort of his home and join you for lunch or …