14 Aug 2013

Colombo Highlights

The Sinhalese city of Colombo is the capital of the island country, Sri Lanka. It is the largest city of the country and is an industrial, cultural and commercial center. It lies adjacent to the Jayawardenapura Kotte suburb, the parliamentary capital of Sri Lanka. The culture and cuisine of Colombo spread far beyond its borders. Its multi faceted interests make it an attractive tourist destination, conveniently accessible by air. 
Beira  Lake in Colombo (Photo Courtesy:ceylonroots.com)
Beira  Lake in Colombo (Photo Courtesy:flickr)
In the heart of the city lies the Beira Lake, which was pivotal to the country’s defense in the colonial period. It still remains one of the most popular tourists spots in the city as one can see and visit the Seema Malakaya Temple and the Gallery Island from here. The most beautiful festival of the city is known as Vesak and celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. The city is covered with lanterns and a dancing array of lights and activities. The celebration brings together the different groups of people within the city, who represent larger cultural domains. 

The city of Colombo, much like the rest of Sri Lanka, contains a mixture of ethnicities and traditions. Around 41% of the population is Sinhalese and the remaining are made up of Sri Lankan Tamils, Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils, Malays, Chettys and a number of other communities. Sinhala and Tamil remain the official languages. The city’s culture is deeply influenced by languages from India, Maldives, Malaysia and Portugal making making it a contemporary hub of people and cultures.  

Vesak Festival, Colombo (Photo Courtesy: shellcoastresort.com/maj/)
Buddhist Monks during Vesak Festivals  (Photo Courtesy: onthegotours)
The diverse population gives rise to an equally diverse range of delicacies. Sri Lankan cuisine is sought after by thousands of people all over the world. The staple diet of the people is considered to be rice with tangy curries. Some other popular dishes are string hoppers, kiribath, lamprais and koththu roti. Every Sri Lankan household cooks food that has striking resemblance to the diet of Kerala, probably because of the geographical or agricultural proximity. The food is infused with a variety of spices and the food itself tantalizes the taste buds. Sea food consisting of prawns, crabs, lobsters etc. is a primary component of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Pickles, chutneys and ‘sambols’ are the aromatic side dishes served with lunch and dinner.

The city has abundant restaurants that cater to authentic Sri Lankan taste as well as multi cuisines. Heritance Kandalama is an award winning restaurant that serves mouth watering dishes cooked by expert chefs. The Tisawewa Grand Rest House makes some of the spiciest coconut sambols savoured by the people of the city. The Ceylon Hotels Corporation Rest Houses are renowned for the traditional rice and curry dishes. Agra, Navratna and Mango Tree are brilliant restaurants that serve exclusive Indian delights as well as local food. After food drinks such as thambli are served to cleanse the bowels and act as a substitute to buttermilk. Ceylon Tea is one of the specialities of Sri Lanka and is widely available in Colombo. 

Heritance Kandalama, Award Wining Hotel in Colombo (Photo Courtesy: travel.aol)
Ceylon Hotels Corporation Rest Houses, Colombo (Photo Courtesy:ceylonhotelscorporation)
Colombo has a tropical monsoon climate and receives heavy rainfall from May to August. October to February has much lesser precipitation. The rest of the year is relatively warm and sunny.

Colombo flights are frequent and are the primary mode of transport from Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchirapalli and other Indian cities. International flights from Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore etc. also find their destination in Colombo.