Colombo isn’t the most highly rated city in Asia; some travellers bypass it completely. But the steamy weather and the ocean outlook give the capital of Sri Lanka a kind of soporific charm. Don’t get too relaxed, though – there’s plenty to see and do. Here, David Hubbins checks out some of the highlights of things to do in Colombo.
Visiting temples can be a repetitious experience: remove shoes, wander cautiously inside, stare with faux reverence at the main statue for five minutes (forgetting, briefly, the religion being worshipped), shyly take a few photographs, leave. At the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, I listened to the chanting of hundreds of Sunday School children dressed in white, was given a free, impromptu tour of the relic chamber, and was quizzed about Singapore by a friendly gardener.
Fort & Pettah
I’ll admit it. I only wandered through the Fort area to find the café where Duran Duran filmed parts of their hit single “Hungry Like The Wolf” in 1982. It was closed. But the architecture here makes it well worth a stroll in any case. Nearby Pettah is a bustling retail area, where colourful mosques and striking churches jostle with the noisy sales pitch of a million vendors.
A few dusty corners and some empty galleries suggest that this museum has lost a bit of its gloss; still, the collection of bronzes and other statues is eye-catching; I liked the old flags, too. If history bores you to sobs, the stately white building (1877) and the massive banyan tree in the grounds are impressive enough on their own.
Galle face green
To say that beachside parks don’t come nicer than the Galle Face Green would be a bare-faced lie. But this Padang-style strip of grass has oodles of atmosphere in the late afternoon, with locals flying kites and playing cricket; plus, the Chequerboard bar at the Galle Face Hotel is a justly famous place for a tipple.
Spend an afternoon on the private beach of the Mount Lavinia Hotel (S$9 for non hotel-guests). Getting there is fun, with a twenty-minute, ten-cent train ride from the old station at Fort. The railway line literally hugs the dunes the whole way there, and you can hang out the open doors and feel the sea breeze.
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