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Colombo - The Pearl of Sri Lanka

Colombo, as the commercial and legislative capital and largest city of Sri Lanka, is also the gateway to this island nation for most travellers. Also known as ‘the Garden City of the East’, Colombo is emerging as the must-see place in Sri Lanka. There is much more to this city than just the old architecture or beaches. Colombo became capital when Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was ceded to the British Empire in 1815. It is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city and you can find places associated with Buddhists, Hindus, Christians as well as Muslims.

Famous landmarks in Colombo include Galle Face Green, Mount Lavinia Beach, Gangaramaya Temple and Viharamahadevi Park (also known as Victoria Park).

SIGHTSEEING

NATIONAL MUSEUM An interesting building with an amazing collection. Here you can see artefacts from various archaeological sites across Sri Lanka. It is the largest museum in the country. The museum also contains the country's national regalia, including the throne and crown of the Kandyan Monarch, the private collections of H.C.P. Bell, and Henry Arthur Blake’s collection of Palm-Leaf Manuscripts.

VIHARAMAHADEVI PARK Located next to the National Museum, this is the oldest and largest park in Colombo. It features a huge statue of Buddha and a series of water fountains.

T-LOUNGE A beautiful lounge with an overwhelming choice of teas. Close your eyes and it might feel like a little bit like home before you step out once more out onto the bustling streets of Colombo. With a very chic reputation and excellent presentation, this is a great place to chill out and enjoy the atmosphere.

PETTAH MARKETS Colombo’s multi-ethnic Pettah district is a chaotic and crowded place that provides a unique insight into the cultural diversity of the city. From floating markets to rooftop bars and religious buildings, it offers a truly authentic insight into the lifestyle of the local population, which now includes people from all over the world.
WARNING - Be sure to compare prices and be prepared to haggle before you decide on making a purchase.

OLD GALLE BUCK LIGHTHOUSE Built in 1954 and is surrounded by a series of rocky canyons, you can climb up to the top of the tower for a majestic ocean view. One of the best places in the city to watch the sunset from.

KELANIYA RAJA MAHA VIHARA - BUDDHIST TEMPLE Many believe that Buddha made a third and final visit to Sri Lanka after gaining enlightenment. This temple is famous for its statue of the reclining Gautama Buddha and a painting by the native artist Solias Mendis. A very calm, quiet and meditative place to get away from the rest of the world

INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL HALL built to commemorate Sri Lanka's independence from the British Empire in 1948, the hall contains some impressive sculptures, including a statue of Don Stephen Senanayke, the "Father of the Nation".

SHOPPING

ODEL Based at No. 5 Alexander Pl, Colombo, Odel is a high profile department store which stocks both international and local brands. It is always crowded with locals as well as tourists and is the most popular shopping centre in the city.

BAREFOOT Designer Barbara Sansoni’s shop is popular for its hand-woven textiles, which are made into cushions, bedspreads and other household items. Based in an old villa at 704 Galle Rd, Colombo.

LAKSALA This is a government run chain of arts and crafts and souvenir shops.

ARPICO A supermarket, where you can buy imported food items, sunscreen, travel gadgets and much more. It also has a nice café where you can enjoy a refreshing drink during your shopping trip. It is based at Hyde Park Corner, Colombo.

VIJITHA YAPA BOOKSHOP With branches on Crescat Boulevard and Unity Plaza, Vijitha Yapa stocks a good collection of local and foreign novels as well as guidebooks to Sri Lanka.

CULTURE

Sri Lankan culture is a mixture of traditional and modern elements and is known for its regional diversity. It has been heavily influenced by Indian Buddhism, but the modern history of Sri Lanka also bears the marks left by Dutch, Portuguese and British colonisation. Sri Lanka has become internationally associated with Cricket, indigenous medicine practice, tea and tourism.

CUISINE

As you might expect of an island nation, seafood plays an important role in Sri Lankan cuisine, which has been shaped by many factors, historical and cultural.

The central feature of Sri Lankan cuisine is boiled or steamed rice served with fish curry and lentils.

KOTTU A spicy stir-fry bread/chapati with vegetables. It is a bit like the Sri Lankan equivalent of a hamburger.

CHICKEN CURRY/ KUKUL MAS CURRY A common household dish in Sri Lanka, for which there are many variations, depending on region and personal taste.

HOPPERS/APPAM/INDI APPAM The Sri Lankan version of pancakes are called hoppers. They can be either sweet or savory, but the most common type are egg hoppers, where an egg is cracked into a bowl-shaped pancake.

KIRIBATH WITH LUNU MIRIS Often served on special occasions such as the Sinhalese New Year, this is a special type of rice cooked in thick coconut milk. Wood Apple - no discussion about Sri Lankan food would be complete without mentioning wood apple. Walking through a Sri Lankan market, your nose will spot it long before your eyes do.

DANCE

There are 3 main styles of Sri Lankan classical dance:

KANDYAN DANCES These encompass various dance forms native to Kandy, but today they have spread to other areas as well and are now regarded as the National Dance Form of Sri Lanka. The dance imitates the movements of animals.

LOW COUNTRY DANCES These are ritualistic dances performed to appease evil spirits believed to be responsible for sickness.

SABARAGAMUWA DANCES Mainly, performed in Ratanpura, the dances are mainly concerned with the worship of the god Saman, much revered by the local population.

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