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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 …
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 …