To be honest, Colombo is not the most exciting city for a tourist (unless you have a local showing you around), and most travelers agree as they usually only stay in the city after landing or before flying out. Negombo (a beach closer to the airport) or Mount Lavinia (a beach right outside of the city center) is often an alternative choice.
Since I decided to stay in Colombo instead of heading to Negombo, I figured it would be in my best interest to explore the city and not just be a beach bum. Although I’ve heard from every other traveler that there is not much to see or do in Colombo, Gangaramaya Temple was on my list. Known as one of the most important Buddhist temples in the city, it was filled with beautiful statues of Buddha and many locals paying their respects. I also wanted to check out Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex, a heritage building that dates back to the Dutch colonial era. Inside the courtyard are a few restaurants and boutiques, which seemed like a great place for dinner and drinks, but a bit anti-climatic since I was alone and it was not dinner time.
After few hours of exploring on my own, a friend picked me up and I got to experience Colombo from a Sri Lankan’s perspective. We checked out a few of the local spots, met up with a couple of his friends, and then met a couple more over drinks in Mount Lavinia. Mount Lavinia is a quick drive from the city center and seemed to have a great vibe, which is why tourists love it. For good drinks, live music, and a beach venue that is steps away from the sea, Shore by O is a great spot!
Independence Memorial Hall was also worth a visit. Brightly lit even late at night, the monument was filled with tons of foreigners taking photos, myself included. The history of Sri Lanka was visually depicted on bronze plaques in sequential order, which lined the upper walls of the square. It was built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, from the British rule. The formal ceremony took place on a special podium at Independence Square where the monument is located.
Previously colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and then ruled by the British, Sri Lanka’s history didn’t end there but with a 25 year long civil war, which only ended 5 years ago. I have been wanting to visit this country for ages, but avoided it because of the travel advisories against it. If Sri Lanka isn’t on your radar, it really should be! It’s filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, temples, tea plantations, mountains, national parks, beaches, surf, yoga, safaris, nightlife, shopping, dining, and best of all, wonderful people. There is something for everyone!
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” -Aristotle