Sri Lanka: Colombo

Colombo is the largest city on the island and the business and commercial center of the country. It was named by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. Some say the name came from Sinhalese name ‘Kolon Thota’ or ‘Kola-amba-thota’, which are translated port on the river Kelani or harbor with leafy mango trees, respectively. I think the Portuguese named it after Christopher Colombus, given the general disposition of European colonizers at the time.

There had been a city on the site for at least a thousand years by the time the Portuguese decided it needed a name and human habitation in the area for at least 60,000 years, maybe much longer. There are human fossils over 60,000 years old. The city now is about 3.5 million, the commercial, shipping, and business capital of the country.  There are a couple nice museums, which we had brief glimpses of, and an impressive new performance venue, which we saw from the outside. Overall, Colombo is undoubtedly worth more time than we were able to give it.

There is a strong Buddhist influence with many temples and at least one significant mosque. It is called the Red Mosque, for reasons that would be obvious if I hadn’t failed to get photos on three different occasions. I don’t feel compelled to explain why I didn’t get any.


This is an example of the Buddhist influence, which is a significant landmark.

The row of vehicles on the left are tuk tuks, which are three-wheeled motor scooters that are used for everything from two-person taxis to delivery vans to construction trucks. They are everywhere, seemed to have their own traffic laws, and are lower in the pecking order than buses. Tuk tuks are relegated to the shoulders, with other motor scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, stray dogs, and occasional water buffalo if something bigger wants the regular lane. The ones shown here are in remarkably good condition; not all are.

There were no pedestrian crossing signals that we ever found but we did find if you are crossing in a yellow-striped area, drivers will grudgingly let you cross but won’t deviate from their chosen speed and course any more than absolutely necessary.

This is another photo I can’t explain.


I should also mention we saw a Sri Lankan Cultural Dance Show done by the Rivega Dance Study. There was a lot in common with the other dancers we have seen in Bali and Malaysia but to my novice eye, there were also Middle Eastern influences. The costumes were spectacular and, compared to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and any western ballroom dance competition, extraordinarily modest. The dances were way too fast to capture with my phone and no flash.

We found Colombo interesting but it ranks behind almost anything in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, and of course Singapore in terms of would we come back.

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