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Friday, 5 July 2013






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Colombo's cultural HOT HOUSE!

It has never been a more exciting time to be in Colombo with previously closed roads now open and having lots of exciting new things to buy, see and experience. So off I went one afternoon armed with an umbrella to stop myself being engulfed by the monsoon rains or worse still being burnt to a crisp by the severe tropical sun to discover a new exciting walk and some great new places to eat.

Marine Drive is all about enjoying the sea breeze, the sunset and varieties of piping hot savouries. The best time for this is in the late afternoon (about 4), when the heat of the day starts to ease off and the city comes to life with street hawkers biking along with exciting spicy short eats freshly made that afternoon. Start out from the end of Station Road in Bambalapitiya and make your way south, down Marine Drive. It's impossible to get lost on this walk as its just one straight line following the sea. The road runs along the old British built rail tracks and the coast, parallel to Galle Road, where you can see bright red and blue trains jam packed with the daily commute.

Trains, fishermen, couples

When walking, stick to the right side of the road, it's safer as you can see the traffic coming towards you. On the way you will see passing trains, traditional fishermen and young couples cuddling up under an umbrella. Along the way you will enjoy haggling with street vendors selling corn on the cob or delicious mangoes or pineapples with a dash of salt, pepper and chilli powder (optional but well worth it as it will cool you down on the hottest days). Do grab one for a quick munch.

Look out for the orange coloured Indian Oven - an Indian street food cart. The location of the cart usually varies between Shrubbery Gardens and Frankfurt Place (both in Colombo 4). Hard to find...well not to worry as the easiest thing would be to call the owner - Pavan on 0777-285286 and find out the day's location plan. It's worth it!

Just after you pass the over 100 year old Holy Family Convent on the left, one of the island's oldest girls' schools, you'll come across the Nimal Road Jumma Masjid, which has a rather striking contemporary architectural design, definitely worth the stop and to capture on camera. By this time the sun would have started its descent into the horizon and the sky turns into shades of orange, red or sometimes even pink like the islands most important gemstone, the King sapphire. Keep walking along and pop into the Global Towers bar on the left of Alexander Place. You won't miss it. By the time you're done, the stars will be shining and the streetlights will be on to guide you on your way.

Jaffna Yaal

As you keep walking south towards the Wellawatte train station's walkover turn left to Station Road. Keep going up the road till six buildings before the traffic lights (on the Galle Road intersection), and on the right you will find the Jaffna style Yaal restaurant at 46/1, Station Road, Wellawatta. Step in for some authentic Jaffna vegetarian food served on a banana leaf and wash it down with some sweet tea for a couple of hundred rupees, it's great value and delicious. It is also a great spot to meet the locals and learn about the new cool spots to check out, the latest Indian sweet shop to open, the best place to buy a sparkly Bollywood sari and the nuts and bolts of the latest films being shown on the big screen. Everything in this area is larger than life and that includes the drinks, which are every colour of the rainbow.

Cultural Treasure trove

People who haven't explored Colombo properly will tell you that there really isn't much to see except walls with layers of decaying posters, historical sites ruined by high rise buildings, streets clogged with traffic, a hand full of five star hotels and a few shopping malls. They are wrong! The city is a historical and cultural treasure trove, it's vast and punctuated with exciting different things that you can only see if you don't mind catching the tourist bus. After Marine Drive there are numerous other exciting spots to walk and the good ol' British red double decker open top bus turned into a sightseeing vehicle is probably the best way to discover them. The guides on these are incredibly knowledgeable and will truly bring the city to life in the most magical way.

The Colombo City Tour run by Ebert Silva Holidays (Pvt) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority have excellent historic guides. The bus currently runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the picturesque Galle Face Green. Tickets are available at leading hotels, Sri Lanka Tourism and Ebert Silva Holidays, for a complete list of hotels and pick up points, visit their website - www.colombocitytour.com.

Architecture of ages

Taking you right round the city with an exciting commentary in English to entertain and educate you, the tour helps explore the temples, the kovils, the colonial buildings, the museum's prehistoric findings and the city's other prime attractions without the hassle of driving yourself through heavy traffic or spending a fortune on taxis.

From the contemporary design of Sri Ponnambalwaneswar Kovil in Kotahena to the British built Fort Railway Station to the Bawa designed Seema Malakaya in Slave Island and Parliament building in Sri Jayawardenepura you will discover numerous exciting spots to walk and discover Colombo's hidden history. However, it is Marine Drive you will remember with its spectacular views, quirky street sellers and karaoke spots like Global Towers.

All Aboard - Colombo City Tour Hotline: 0777-599963 or for more information contact Sri Lanka Tourism 071 48880570 or 077 2544 117


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