Colombo, Sri Lanka

                                                                     Clock Tower

March 24, 2012

Sri Lanka is the island that was until 1972 known as Ceylon, famous for its production and exporting of tea and cinnamon.  Real cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka.  The island is located off the southeast tip of the Indian subcontinent.  It was an important stop along the ancient Silk Road, and has also long been an important center of Buddhism.  The country also has one of the longest documented histories in the world.  The Sri Lankan government and Tamil insurgents were in conflict starting 1985.  The two sides finally decided on a federal solution to their differences in 2010.  The state of war pretty much did in tourism, but since 2010 the country is doing well, with a very quickly growing economy, and they are now back into the tourism business.

The ship docked at the port of Colombo.  We were welcomed by a group of drummers and dancers on the pier, as we headed off on our tours.  The tour we chose was called ‘Contrast of Colombo’.  We boarded our air conditioned bus and headed into the city.  The city is full of contrasts of the old and new.  The clock tower shown above is 100 years old.

Our first stop was at the Colombo Museum, which chronicles the 125,000 year-old history of Sri Lanka.  They have some interesting exhibits, but the artifacts are rather sparse, because most of the good specimens are in the British Museum in London.  The day was quite warm and the museum is not air conditioned, so some folks were not real happy with the visit.

On our way to visit Independence Square, we passed by the Nelum Pokuna Theatre complex, which is built to look like a lotus flower.  At first glance it appeared that it might be a soccer stadium.  Independence Memorial Hall is an open-air pavilion, a national monument that was built to commemorate independence from British rule and the establishment of the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948.

Following this we went to the Galle Face Hotel, where we were served refreshments.  The mango punch was wonderful.  We also had a couple of small sandwiches and two small desserts which were quite nice.                                                                   

We also walked around outside a bit before returning to the bus.  Our final stop was at the Gangaramaya Temple, which is apparently Buddhist, but which also had some statues of Hindu gods, such as the one of Durga.  In the courtyard the temple also has a stupa (burial urn).  The temple has quite a collection of things that seem to bear no relation to the temple, such as  an old car and many other older found objects.

There was also an elephant with its trainer in the courtyard, clearly as an attraction for tourists.  The elephant was eating palm fronds, and from the way it was handling them, appeared to be angry.

On our way back to the harbor, we drove past the convention center, which was a gift from the Chinese, and the old parliament building.

Our tour was not as good as many we have taken, but it was pretty good if you keep in mind that Sri Lanka has been back into the tourism business for only a couple of years.  The part of the island that we saw is quite nice, and there are apparently many other places to see and things to do, should we ever get back there.

As a special treat we had a talent show put on by children from the girls’ orphanage of Columbo.  Those girls put a lot of work into the show.  It was a program of song and dance, and the girls were very charming.  

They had obviously worked very hard to put this presentation together.  At the end of the show our Cruise Director Bruce presented the head of the orphanage with a check which included money raised by the passengers plus a matching amount from Holland America Line.

There are lots of other pictures in the photo album, including more from the talent show.

                                                                 Orphanage Talent Show

© Susan L. Stone 2015