Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sri Lanka - Colombo

We finished up with a couple of days in Colombo and a nice 5 star hotel.  We had intended to go south for a day, but the slow traffic caused us to change our plans and instead we had our driver take us around Colombo for the morning.

We headed out to the seaside area of Mt Lavinia.  While it was a nice residential area there was no compulsion to go anywhere near the sea, it looked rough and looked dangerous.

Then we headed off to see the new parliament buildings, designed by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, 16km from the centre of town.  The building sits on a 2 acre island in the middle of countryside.  It was designated as a high security zone and there were roadblocks and guns.  Andrew asked our driver to stop for a photo and he was decidedly nervous about that, but stopped.  Andrew took a quick drive by snap out the window and we zoomed off again. 

Colombo has a high level of military presence.  We saw numerous convoys pass us with heavily armed soldiers at the ready.  If you were really important there was an armed jeep in front pointing it’s machines guns at the front of your vehicle and another following behind with an equal number of soldiers with machine guns ready to go. They were soldiers on motor bikes with machine guns and a frequent number of check points. The long war with the Tamils still has a definite impact on normal life.

We walked down to the old fort area, heading toward the Old Clock tower.  There was plenty of directing of traffic going on and lots of people standing watching guarded cars go past.  We wandered up to the big building near the Hilton hotel and spotting a bit of slow down in proceedings Andrew made as is to cross the road.  A soldier, with a machine gun, politely waved it in his face and suggested he did not want to do that.  Turns out it was the road to the President’s place and central bank and the security was high.

We did manage to complete our walk around the fort area.  Commerce and people going about their daily lives was the key here.  Andrew had a chat to a local and got an invite to look inside – so he popped his head in.

We had a superb lunch in this peaceful and tastefully decorated restaurant (it was Geoffrey Bawa’s office some time ago), the food really was delicious with a glass of wine. Gallery Cafe  - Paradise Road  We will go back when next in Colombo.

Right around the corner was a wonderful textile store – Barefoot.  Bright fabric and lovely quality.  We did buy a few things here.  But it was the event after the store that was another highlight for Andrew.  The Sri Lankan tuktuk.  Having observed them for days from our aircon van he watching to have a blat in one.  So we zoomed back to the hotel in the little red tuktuk – wind in our hair, weaving in and out of traffic.  It was all that he hoped.

One evening we had a beer by the sea at the grand old Galle Face hotel ( recommended by two sets of friends).  

It was delightful, sun set, warm sea breeze and a butler bringing a fresh cold beer with hot roasted cashew nuts. Wonderful decadence and a very colonial feel “very Somerset Maugham”.

Sri Lanka, we loved it. Great food, nice people, a bit expensive and we have some more places to see – south and west coast. Recommend? – yes.

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