International Writers Magazine: Sri Lanka:
the Sri Lankan way!
Marianne de Nazareth
pretty airhostess bows saying Ayubowan in her delightful
green sari covered with printed peacock feathers, as you climb aboard
the Air Lanka plane for Colombo. This is the traditional Sri
Lankan welcome, made with folded hands. I was glad I chose the Sri
Lankan as the inflight service is good, but the ground staff in
Heathrow need a bit of education on politeness. They have men in
suits strutting around the check-in area ostensibly to help passengers,
but who are terribly rude instead, incase a hapless passenger is
even one kg over the stipulated limit of 20 kgs. I was a student
going home, so I really bore the rough end of the stick. However
after reluctantly thrashing my course books and two pairs of jeans
I was able to bring down the weight and get onto a really full flight.
The traumatic experience remains.
It was super flying
into the spanking new airport in Colombo, with gleaming Imperial White
granite floors and light as air luggage trolleys. Yes, the sight of
soldiers everywhere armed with automatics frightens, but the beauty
of the country wiped it away in a flash. The city is cocooned with lush
greenery, and it was a great feeling to be greeted with warmth and humidity,
after the cold and rainy months I spent in Swansea in the UK.
All along the 45 km stretch of road leading from the airport to the
city were hawkers selling orange coloured king coconuts
called thambili. They are cultivated for their coconut water
and I particularly loved the delicately flavoured thin layer of meat
inside them. Selling for just 20 Sri Lankan rupees (approx. 10p) they
are a better option to drinking bottled water. Scarlet coloured Rambutans
were also out on sale and they are very like the litchie with a large
seed in the centre of the flesh.
My childhood friends Sarath and Vinita Piyaratna made us feel at home
immediately. Sri Lankans are known to be large hearted, generous hosts.
Their maid cooked us traditional food for both lunch and dinner so we
got the right taste of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. The cuisine is
unique, like its culture and the dishes ranged from the mild and subtly
flavoured to the spicy and hot ones, which we enjoyed throughly! Sambols,
Rotis, Uppama and string hoppers, with curried chicken and Thilapia
fish. The food is similar to our Indian food and yet quite different
in the use of spices. Rice and curry is the staple diet in most house
holds with a range of pickles and sweets to go with it.
Colombo boasts of a rich heritage of buildings erected with successive
Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial masters. Rather strange to see
the massive white Colombo City town hall building in the Cinnamon Gardens,
which is typically British and just a couple of furlongs away is the
Jami Ul Alfar mosque in the Pettah area which is reminiscent of buildings
I saw in Amsterdam with its two toned exterior.
Driving down the Galle Face Green we saw the palatial Taj Samudra and
the Holiday Inn but nothing can match the aura of the colonial Galle
Face Hotel built in 1864 which is built at the southern end of the green.
Its very reasonably priced, inspite of being such a fancy hotel the
GOH as it is popularly known, has an excellent kitchen and well organized
of Galle Face Green is Slave Island. This is where the Dutch imprisoned
the slaves they caught and flooged and branded them if they tried
to escape. Apparently the Beira lake which we went to see completely
surrounded Slave Island and it was filled with crocodiles to discourage
the slaves from trying to escape. To one side of the lake is the
Seema Malaka Buddhist temple with a small reclining gold plated
Buddha infront. Apparently the temple was designed by Sri Lankas
famous 20th century architect Geoffery Bawa.
Image: Independence Hall
and hungry, we decided to get ourselves something to eat so trooped
into a little restaurant opposite the Viharamahadevi Park. Originally
known as the Victoria park, it was renamed after a Sri Lankan queen
rather than a British one after Independence. In the restaurant
we were expected to sit at a table, while the waiter brought a tray
full of various snacks and placed it before us. We made our selection
from fish croquettes, fish crumb fried pan rolls, vadas and bondas
(fried snacks) by picking up what we preferred to eat and then he
whisked the rest away. Fruit juices in colourful tetra packs or
coffee and tea could be ordered to wash down the snacks.
Image: The Coconut seller
Sri Lanka without visiting two large department stores named Odele and
House of Fashion. Sri Lanka is known to be the base where all the designer
fashion houses of the west outsource the sewing of their garments. A
huge surplus of garment rejects are on sale, for a fraction of the price
we would have paid, in any of the up market stores in the west. Naturally,
our suitcases were filled to overflowing with choice labels which we
happily brought home to India. Semi precious gems too can be found at
bargain rates, especially the myriad hued sapphires or delicately coloured
coral. Just buy the stones to carry home, if you would rather have your
jeweler set it, to a design of your choice.
So, if you are looking for an inexpensive yet enjoyable holiday, choose
Colombo in Sri Lanka. Your money will go a long way on the island, which
even we as Indians found a plus point. Yes, there are soldiers with
guns all over the city, but no one interferes with foreigners and you
are sure to enjoy your stay.
© Marianne de Nazareth July 2008
mde.nazareth at gmail.com
Marianne de Nazareth
Just a 20 minute drive out of Secunderabad, in South India,
the Alankrita resort on the Shameerpet Road is a haven for Indian antique
lovers and connoisseurs of Indian Cuisine
Marianne de Nazareth
What strikes a visitor to this twin city of Hyderabad and
Secunderabad is its sense of history
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.