Driving in from the Bandaranaike airport I was mesmerised by how spotless and emerald the place was. I was enchanted during the 48 hours I spent discovering the city’s charms. Colombo cloaks Sri Lanka’s teeming range of romantic history in contemporary style as one delightful package.
What do you get if you overlook the Galle Face promenade boasting matchless views of the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake and the Colombo city skyline with an extravagant hotel that’s recently brought along a fresh level of romance to this flourishing metropolitan city, and with the most elite address in the capital? And throw in a high-end shopping mall, a sun terrace with a swimming pool, a spa, six restaurants, and all this enclosed by glorious colonial buildings, acting as touching reminders of Sri Lanka’s charming history. The answer is the Shangri-La Colombo, the epitome of uber luxury on an island rising with five-star hotels.
After a smooth check-in, freshening up and a leisurely breakfast of egg hoppers, Pol sambal and fresh coconut water at Table Central, head to the Dutch Hospital. As implies the title, this used to be Sri Lanka’s principal hospital through the Dutch profession and has served abundant drives over the years counting a police station in the 1980s. Today, it’s not only an appealing architecture but is swarming with restaurants and shops, if you are considering to unwind away from the beach.
Lunching at ‘Ministry of Crab’ by celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa (also on Asia’s 50 Best list) had to be the place to have my key meal in the city as it’s sheltered in the courtyard of the Dutch hospital. Sri Lankan cuisine is categorised by its range; as a centre, Seafood on offer here is proposed to be shared and consequently, is very much helpful with family-style service.
I head to the Colombo Museum. Set inside high prosperous trees in Campbell Park on the northern edge of Colombo’s Cinnamon Gardens district, it is an inspiring colonial building with an old-world Italianate charm. I find here skeletons aged around 3000BC, ornaments from the British, Portuguese and Dutch rule, ancient treasures like archaic palm leaf manuscripts and porcelain, an outstanding assortment of demon masks to name a few.
I then take the tuk-tuk down to the Esplanade distinct by a walkway lined with palm trees, little cafés and eateries. I decide on chilling by the sea and watching the world go by. Around the corner from Galle Face is a tranquil nibbling ground for Colombo’s café society, which kind of looks like Las Vegas. So, needless to add, I find a little café and hang out there listening to music, before calling.
The next morning, while still being lost in my thoughts about Esplanade, a little walk brings me to ethereal Beira Lake. I walk by the stretch of this rather attractive lake and don’t seem to care that the land is dusty below my feet, the Gangaramaya Temple stands magnificently out there.
View overlooking Beira Temple |
Next on my list is Dipaduttaramaya, which is the oldest Buddhist temple built in 1806. It also boasts of murals painted by Buddhist monks in 1890. Later, I move on to the oldest Dutch church, Wolvendaal Church, which is still in use, whose floor tiles, made from tombstones previously in the Dutch church in the Fort, were brought here in 1813.
Those on a shopping holiday will be unquestionably excited with the wealth of bargains Colombo offers—a reason that makes me want to get out in the sun only for splurging. I would highly recommend bringing home Ceylon tea, trademarked clothes (they are delightfully low-priced out there) and grand jewellery.
I shop at Colombo’s coolest design and local store, Pendi, and Cotton Collections entices me for fashionable cotton clothes at affordable rates. Since I have missed my lunch, I go back to the hotel for an afternoon tea — an iconic meal abounding with delicate cakes and sandwiches served on china cake stands and complemented by a choice of teas.
The sea is wild, yet calming; a few nightwalkers along the trail give me a sense of relief beside the intimidating waters. As I walk back to the hotel, the capital restaurant and lounge at the Shangri-La holds my attention instantly and indicates me to stop by before I head up to my room — stress seems to be on its way out as I find myself attracted to the soothing saxophone music.
Colombo is as spectacular as Bali, but not so visitor-infested, and it’s as wild as Thailand, but yet much more polished.
• Do remember that the Colombo Museum is shut on Fridays.
• Try flying a kite at the Galle Face Green Promenade, it’s an incredible experience.
• Do not miss the street food especially the coffee, Ceylon tea, hoppers and Kottu.
• Buy a local sim card from the airport. Buses don’t stop, so just hop on when they get slower.
• RT-PCR within 72 hours of travel to and fro.
•Fill self-declaration on Air Suvidha on the way back.
•A vaccine certificate is mandatory; both Covaxin and Covishield are allowed.
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