The Indian Ocean slammed the banks of Colombo’s Galle Face Beach with unrelenting abandon, the wind carrying it with brute force, spraying us with a fine salty mist. Standing on the elevated brick promenade, we watched the frothing waters, the locals seemingly oblivious to its never ending wrath, walking along the edge of the concrete shoreline as if it was a sunny Sunday morning at the park.
|ONE OF THE NUMEROUS CLOCK TOWERS IN COLOMBO|
It was our first time in Sri Lanka. And after being picked up at the airport by our tour car from JNW Lanka Tours and driving for almost an hour through its highways, zigging and zagging into the city, dodging numerous trishaws (tuktuks) along the way, we finally arrived in Colombo, the country’s capital city.
|REGAL GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS IN COLOMBO|
We’re gonna be spending our first day here, going off to the countryside early the next day and coming back for a last hurrah in the city after a few weeks to fly off to the Maldives. Unlike most of our city tours, where we just mostly walk and take public transportation—if available and cheap—we decided to rent a tour car which would take us to key spots within Colombo.
|TRAIN TRACKS ALONG THE INDIAN OCEAN|
INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL HALL
ADDRESS: NO.7, INDEPENDENCE AVENUE, COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: NONE • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.904351, 79.867429
Before dropping by our lodging, Clock Inn Colombo, we paid a quick visit to Sri Lanka’s Independence Memorial Hall. The sun was at its zenith as we alighted from our car and experienced the city’s heat firsthand. Indeed, Colombo welcomed us quite warmly—too warmly, in fact, lol.
The memorial hall, an open building filled with columns set with intricate bas reliefs, was built to commemorate the country’s independence from the British rule in 1948. It was designed similar to the Kingdom of Kandy’s Magul Maduwa, or celebration hall, it being the last native kingdom on the country to kneel before the Brits.
The building, elevated a few meters from the ground, is surrounded on all sides by a legion of resting stone lions. On its northwestern side, a four-sided pylon with a statue of Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake, Sri Lanka’s Father of the Nation, stands in a dignified manner. The structures are set on the Cinnamon Gardens, a sprawling landscaped park where the Independence Memorial Museum is also located. We would’ve sauntered along the gardens itself if not for the intense heat of the sun. Back to car!
|COLOMBO’S INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL HALL|
|INTERESTING COLUMN DETAILS|
|THE OPEN AIRED HALL, A RESPITE FROM THE SUN|
COLOMBO TOWN HALL
ADDRESS: F.R. SENANAYAKE MAWATHA ROAD, COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: NONE • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.915660, 79.863624
A few minutes drive later, our car stopped in front of a well-tended lawn with a stately white building. Colombo’s Town Hall, built in 1928, is where the mayor of the city and its municipal council hold its offices. There really isn’t much to see here, except for its grand neoclassical facade, which was said to be heavily borrowed from Washington D.C.’s Capitol Building.
There is another grassy oasis right on our back, the Viharamahadevi Park, with its golden Buddha statues and water fountains, but again, we just wanted to drop our bags at our hotel and have a nice lunch first, so we begged off walking along its tree-lined avenues.
I’m not sure if visitors are allowed to enter Colombo’s Town Hall, but since it is a public building, I guess they do allow tourists up to a certain point inside.
|COLOMBO’S TOWN HALL RESEMBLES THE UNITED STATES’ CAPITOL BUILDING|
ADDRESS: NO. 228, SECOND CROSS ST., COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: NONE • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.938359, 79.852089
We saw this mosque, its red and white exterior, rising out of the jumble of Colombo’s rooftops on our way to our hotel. It wasn’t until our last day in Sri Lanka that we were able to visit it, although we could’ve asked our driver to make a turn and visit it right there and then.
The Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque, more popularly known as simply the Red Mosque, is located at Pettah, the city’s commercial district. One side faces, Main Street, but its real face can be found on the narrower Second Cross Street.
The mosque, said to be founded in 1908 for South Indian merchants, has that distinct Indo-Saracenic red and white brick finish with towering minarets and pomegranate-shaped domes, making it, easily, as one of the most iconic landmarks within Colombo.
|THE RED MOSQUE FACADE ALONG MAIN STREET|
|VERY UNIQUE RED AND WHITE ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE|
VICTORIA MEMORIAL BUILDING
ADDRESS: WARD PL ROAD, COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: NONE • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.917533, 79.865193
Finally, after a refreshing nap in our hotel, we were finally ready for another round of Colombo tour. We started at around four in the afternoon, dropping by a shopping mall to buy and register a sim card for our Internet needs (we didn’t know about Flytpack, back then). We headed to the Victoria Memorial Building right after, which was a just across the road, near the Lipton’s Circus roundabout, which incidentaly was named after the famous tea company that brought Sri Lanka’s tea to the world.
We saw this edifice when we entered Colombo a few hours ago. It’s striking red and yellow brick facade, complete with arched openings and striking domed corners whetting our appetite for Sri Lanka’s architecture.
It is said that the Victoria Memorial Building is built in 1906, a tribute to Queen Victoria of Britain’s diamond Jubilee, but an inscription on its finial says otherwise, with 1903 boldly inscribed. From the outside, the structure looks abandoned, but I later learned that it is still in use as part of the Colombo National Hospital.
|THE VICTORIA MEMORIAL HALL BUILDING, NOW PART OF THE COLOMBO NATIONAL HOSPITAL|
DEWATAGAHA MOSQUE & SHRINE
ADDRESS: C.W.W. KANNANGARA MAWATHA ROAD, COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: NONE • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.916295, 79.864629
And just a few steps away from the flamboyant hospital is a mosque. In stark contrast to the former’s red and yellow facade, the Dewatagaha Jumma Masjid & Shrine stands all in white. The temple, shining beautifully with the late afternoon’s light striking its white minarets, were filled with flock of pigeons whom pilgrims and worshippers feed at the center of the building. We waited across the street, letting a stream of trishaws and bus pass, admiring the masjid’s architecture from afar before getting a closer look.
The Dewataga Mosque, one of the most popular in Colombo, is estimated to be about more than two hundred years old. Besides being a place for worship, it is also a shrine for Shaikh Usman Waliyullah, a venerated 19th century Arab saint who was sent by the Prophet Muhamad to Sri Lanka.
|THE DEWATAGAHA MOSQUE, AS SEEN FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDEWALK|
|DOMES AND TOWERS FLOCKED BY PIGEONS|
ADDRESS: 61 SRI JINARATHANA ROAD, COLOMBO • ENTRANCE FEE: LKR100.00 • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 6.916532, 79.856513
Just before the sun finally retired, we alighted at the gates of the Gangaramaya Temple. The Buddhist temple complex apparently has an entrance fee for tourist visitors. We debated whether we really wanted to enter and decided against it, contented in photographing its exterior instead. A kind monk, I think, saw us, and ultimately led us inside, free of charge. Sthuthi, dear brother!
The Gangaramaya temple comprise of several buildings for a variety of activities, I saw a space for praying, a sort of museum where hundreds, if not thousands, of Buddha images are displayed, an open space where a preserved real-life elephant stands, a graceful white pagoda, and an open courtyard where layers upon layers of Buddha figures sit while small bell stupas similar to those I saw in Borobudur are set below.
The complex is an interesting mix of Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Sri Lankan, and even Chinese, influences. Quite a place to end our Colombo day tour.
|THE MULTICULTURAL GANGARAMAYA TEMPLE|
|A WHITE STUPA RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COMPLEX|
|IMAGES OF BUDDHA AND BELL SCULPTURES REMINISCENT OF BOROBUDUR|
~ JNW LANKA TOURS HOSTED OUR AIRPORT TRANSFER AND COLOMBO DAY TOUR. VIEWS & OPINIONS ALL MINE.
Colombo Day Tour via
JNW Lanka Tours
Address: JNW Building, 67 Maligakanda Road,
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Contact Number: (0094) 777-39683
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