Bangladesh Slideshow

04 July, 2008

The Colombo Chronicles

Let me ask you something. When you’re on a work-related trip, do you feel a little guilty for wanting to sightsee? I know I do. But it's amazing how quickly I manage to get over the guilt.

Fortunately, I had arrived in Sri Lanka on a Sunday and had the whole day at my disposal, plus a half-day on the last day of the visit. And everyday, as soon as the meetings were over for the day, I would leave the hotel and hop on a tuk-tuk for a view of the sights. However, it rained sporadically and light conditions varied, so not all my photos turned out good.

It was very interesting to watch an amalgam of Buddhist, Hindu, Tamil, Christian and Muslim traditions and cultures in Sri Lanka. Hinduism and Buddhism flourished peacefully side by side in the country, as did Islam and Christianity. Indeed, I found temples, churches and mosques in close proximity, often sharing a boundary wall! Also, when I paid a visit to one temple, nobody bothered me. No offers of help to show me around, no asking for donations, it was the most serene environment ever.

The Ganga Rama Temple in Colombo is 115 years old and houses a vast collection of Buddhist art and scripture. It has the most exquisite wood and stone carvings and paintings.
(I had to lie down on the wooden floor to take these last two photographs.Sigh, the things I do for blogging!)

A walk along the sea at Galle Face is a must for every visitor to Colombo, and we duly paid a visit one day to watch the sunset. The view is fantastic, wouldn't you agree? There were also snack shops, and I opted for green mango (ooh, my mouth is watering at the mere mention of it!).

In Colombo we stayed at the Cinnamon Grand, on Galle Road, and while it was a good hotel, once inside, one could have been inside any five-star hotel in any city in the world. The view from my room was fantastic, the service was as expected, the food was great, but it lacked charm. My personal preference always is for the local flavor. Put me in a family-run B&B anyday.

But the bed at the Cinnamon was one of the best I've ever slept in, and they had a pillow menu!!!

Sri Lanka also boasts mouthwatering cuisine, and I managed to sample some dishes both at the Cinnamon and outside. Everything tasted great, but unfortunately, as I cannot eat spicy food, my enjoyment of it was somewhat diminished by my watering eyes and the copious amounts of water I had to drink between each bite.

The restaurant Raja Bojun was highly recommended, and it was very conveniently located just across the road from the Cinnamon. A friend of a friend very kindly took me there. The decor and cuisine were both ethnic, there was a horse drawn cart (minus the horse), the mandatory ebony elephant, and the buffet was served in clay pots. Despite being severly handicapped with regard to spicy food, I pigged out. What I loved most was a fried egg served in a bowl-shaped dosa, the batter of which was made with rice flour and coconut milk. I definitely have to try making it at home. Why I loved it? Because it was non-spicy, of course!

And everytime I ventured out, I had a drink of the king cocunut. The water was so very sweet, but unfortunately they contained a lot of water and I could never finish one.

I also discovered a 100 percent authentic, Bangladeshi-owned and operated Bangladeshi restaurant. The Shonar Bangla is in the food court of Crescat Blvd Shopping Centre, which is right next door to the Cinnamon - very convenient! On my last evening in Colombo I had a very nice lamb biriyani there. My Bangladeshi colleagues also enjoyed a good home-cooked meal - including fish curry!

Colombo's bright colors and the cheerful spirit of the people are somewhat marred by the army check-posts every few hundred yards and numerous autometic-weapon toting army personnel on every street corner. Being stopped by them anywhere/anytime is a part of life. And even I, I suppose for my subcontinental features, was stopped twice. The civil war is taking it's toll on everyday life. I wished the Sri Lankan people a quick end to the strife and peaceful lives.



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