It was nearly a chore coming back to the city. We enjoyed the beach and countryside so much we had to brace ourselves for the humidity, traffic, heat, crowds, noise and chaos to be found in the metropolis. Colombo is no exception. The city is a mixed bag of modernity amidst remnants of colonial rule. Upon arrival, I felt disoriented but not disheartened. Colombo is very clean despite the “clutter”, and culturally rich. The temples and Buddha statues compete with highrise buildings for attention. The old and the new, stand side by side. There is an eclectic variety of foreign and local elements present in the many parks, lakes, monuments, districts, structures around the city.

. Independence Memorial Hall

A young republic, yet it is the oldest democracy in Asia. Two rival political clans represent the 2 biggest political parties in the country. In 1960, the world had its very first elected woman head of government. Sri Lankans are very proud of their first woman Prime Minister, serving twice, Sirimavo Bandaranaike from 1960-65 and 1970-77. She was the widow of Ceylon’s 4th Prime Minister. Among South Asian nations, Maldives and Sri Lanka rank highest in terms of Per Capita Income and Human Development Index. As visitors to this island nation, we see it in their infrastructure projects and high literacy rate. The road network is impressive, young Sri Lankans get free university education and heritage sites are well-maintained. Beat that!

A Government Hospital

The attractions being far apart, we only managed to get off our bus to visit the Independence Memorial Hall and one temple. The Hall is in Independence Square, built to commemorate independence from British rule in 1948. A statue of its first Prime Minister — deemed Father of the Nation — stands at the head of the monument. Our motley group of travelers found it apt to have our picture taken here. If the Hall looks familiar to you, you may remember it being used as a pitstop in the popular “Amazing Race” series. Well, it wasn’t a race for us. But it was amazing!

👣👫👬👣

Gangaramaya Temple

While it was difficult adjusting to the city noise, we found refuge in 3 places. One is the temple. The 2nd is our hotel’s roofdeck bar. And the 3rd our last lunch in this island nation.

Gangaramaya Temple is both a Buddhist temple and education center. There are traces of Sinhalese, Chinese, Thai and Indian elements in the architecture of this most-visited temple in the capital. This was the last time we’d shed our shoes to enter a place of worship. A piece of Buddha’s hair is enshrined inside. Many locals were there to worship. Oddly, we also found donations in the form of dining furniture and vintage cars.

The old Victorian Cargills Department Store

If there are hostels, there must be a lot of backpackers

Being our last day, we were on the last few bars of our energy meters. Having found this refuge, we took comfort in the peace and quiet provided by this temple. We wished we were able to visit the Red Mosque as well but the guide said our bus cannot negotiate the narrow alley leading to it. And we weren’t really up for walking in the city heat.

Entrance to Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

2nd refuge: The roofdeck bar of Jetwing Colombo Seven with a panoramic view of the city is exactly what we needed upon reaching the last leg of our journey. There was a lap pool on the deck but who’d like to go swimming? Cocktails seem to be a better idea. Best time? Sunset, of course. There were other hotel guests and locals with us, but we seemed to be the only ones agog over the sunset. Well, we’re tourists 🙄

Photo Credit: Rick C

Photo Credit: Annabelle C

On our way to the airport to fly out of Sri Lanka, we decided on having lunch in 4-month old Shangrila Hotel’s Table One. Our last refuge. Located in Galle Face, the hotel has a commanding view of the Indian Ocean. Table One’s buffet spread offerred everything we wanted for a last decent meal in Sri Lanka. Crabs, prawns, lamb, curries, cuttlefish, squid, steaks, hoppers, noodles, dimsum, salads, soups, and an assortment of sri lankan desserts. I had a few pieces wrapped to eat on the plane as I wasn’t hopeful about the inflight meals. I brought them all the way back to Manila instead. And that coconut cookie with cashew nut was my morning upper! Swell 🤤