Sri Lanka – Colombo and the South CoastBack to Story

Sri Lanka's Coast - Colombo to Tangalle

Colombo

Colombo is described by my prior reading as dirty and chaotic.  It is definitely all those things but there is a day’s worth of amazing buildings and temples to visit.  Don’t go to Colombo thinking you’ll shop up a storm.

Gangaramaya Buddhist temple is right in the middle of town.  There is a monk sitting on the steps talking to students as we enter.  You get the feeling he is there often. As is required you slip off your shoes and enter into a temple full of colour.  It’s a bit crazy and not quite as relaxing as many of the temples usually are.  In the courtyard the temple elephant tries to entertain himself.

There is a small but well used Stupa that worshippers surround.  One of the young students has immortalised a former temple elephant.  It’s a life size replica that oddly makes you take a second look (possibly because you’ve just walked past the current temple elephant).  You will probably still be shaking your head when you walk through the door into a wall of Buddha statues lined up.  It’s worth a visit just for the uniqueness as no other temple I saw looked like this.

Well worth the trek out to the suburbs is the Kelaniya Buddhist temple.  It is a large temple and attracts hordes of pilgrims who look like their temple representatives have brought them here.  The buildings are gorgeous and an odd mix.  To the left is the typical lime washed Stupa, which pilgrims are walking clockwise around.  This is so the clean hand is always closest to the temple.  In their hands is a lotus flower, which I have become so found of.

Next to it is a building that looks more colonial than Buddhist temple.  It’s a magnificent sandstone building but has unmistakable carvings including elephants and dwarves.  Enter the doors and you’ll find a reclining Buddha shrouded in something that looks like a mosquito net.  The net sheds a strangely romantic light over the statue.  Keep walking and a vision of mountains appears before you.  The painting on walls and ceilings are beautiful and you could find yourself losing some time.

Outside as you walk around the building you can light some incense and watch the pilgrims as they go over their learning.  The nice thing is that they are not praying to a god but believe in their own actions and pathways.  The teachings aim for purity of mind and thoughts.

Galle Fort and the Southern Coast

The Southern Coast of Sri Lanka is real destination for rest, relaxation and time in the sun.  While the Indian Ocean can be a little unforgiving there are many sheltered bays to paddle the days away in.  There is also a growing surfing fraternity with Sri Lanka now having an event in the world professional surfing tour. There is no doubt the coastline holds some beautiful beaches fringed with swinging palm tress.

Galle Fort is one of Sri Lanka’s principle attractions and showcases the colonial architecture in the 17th Century– specifically the Dutch who created this fort town to protect the harbour.  The fort heads the harbour and has a tsunami proof wall around it.  Well tested in the Boxing Day disaster. Galle Fort is a walled city on the peninsula and has been remarkably preserved.  Modern development has been contained to the new city on the outskirts of the city walls in the new city.

Galle Fort has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the only way the true nature of this village will be preserved.  While many of the old mansions are now run down you can peer through the ages and easily imagine this town in all its glory.  At least now as tourism picks up again during peacetime the preservation order will ensure the character of the town is maintained and the continuation of the town as a major attraction.

The fort walls become alive as the day closes and temperature drops.  Locals flock to the walls and water to socialise and dip / bath.  Touts come along offering everything from old coins to lace nightgowns. Tourists weave between them all with a slight air of clumsiness.

Fishing is obviously a major industry all along the coastline. As the sun recedes over the sea all along the coast boats are launched out for their evening work.  Many are the traditional style catamaran but with the modern addition of a motor and a fibreglass hull.  During the night if you a staying along the coast you can see their lamps burning across the water.

One of the other very noticeable things from the fort walls as you look across the walled city is the number of religions represented in this small community.  You can see the complexity and history in the skyline. Temples and churches exist for the Dutch reformist, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, and Muslims.  This reflects the attractiveness of the port to the foreign interest over the years.  This of course reads like Sri Lankan history but includes the Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, and later the English.

Travel photographs of Colombo, Galle Fort, fishing villages and coastal life. Including travel images of Colombo\'s Kelaniya Temple and the Galle Fort ramparts.

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