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Colombo Travel Guide

Sri Lanka's capital up to recent times, Colombo, is a fascinating city, not only for a comfortable blend of east and west but also a cozy mixture of the past and present. It is till Colombo City the commercial center of the country. Situated 34 km. from Katunayake International Airport, Colombo has been a flourishing seaport for centuries; from the time when ancient seafarers from Cathay, Persia, and Morocco traded in pearls, precious stones, elephants and peacocks, cinnamon and other spices. Today the bustle of the harbour mingles with the activity of its busy commercial, banking and shopping areas.

The original trading settlers - the Portuguese, Dutch and the British have all left in their wake churches and monuments, names and religions, costumes and food ... and smatterings of their languages which have been absorbed into the speech of the Sri Lankans. Colombo, with a population of half a million is divided into fifteen zones. The three main zones are the Pettah - the bustling bazaar area; the Fort-so called as it was a military garrison during the Portuguese and Dutch occupation (16th to 18th century), the Cinnamon Gardens-now fashionably known as Colombo7, with its spacious mansions and better residential areas.

Buddhist Temples: The Vajiraramaya at Bambalapitlya, Gotami Vihara at Borella, Dipaduftaramaya at Kotahena, C,angaramaya Bhlkku Training Centre and Sima Malaka at 61, Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo 2, Meftaramaya at Lauries Road, Colombo 4.

Hindu Temples: At Kochchikade, Kotahena, Pettah, and Bambalapitiya, Sri Siva Subramaniam Swami Kovil, Gintupitiya - walking distance from Sea Street, Colombo 11 (Pettah).

Mosques: Davatagaha Mosque, C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha, Afar Jumma Mosque in the Pettah.

Christian Churches: St. Peter's Church, Fort, St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena, St. Andrew's Scots Church, Colombo 3, Methodist Church, Colombo 3.

Parliament Building: The beautiful new Parliament building modelled on traditional lines is situated at Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte the administrative capital of the country, 10 km. from Colombo

Fort: Gramodaya Folk Arts centre, Sri Jayawardenepura - Kotte:

A 26-acre complex functions as a network of traditional craft shops that produces brass and silverware, pottery, jewelry, natural silk, lace, leatherwork, reed and basket ware, and coir goods. The centre has a handicraft shop, herbal health drink kiosk, a tropical fish aquarium.

Old Parliament Building: Built by the British, still stands in its supreme glory, facing the Indian Ocean. It now houses the Presidential Secretariat.

Parks: The Vihara Mahadevi Park named in honor of the mother of one of Srilanka's greatest Kings is noted for its collection of beautiful flowering trees, a lovely spectacle in March, April and early May. Open daily until 2100 hrs.

The Art Gallery at Dr Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7, caters largely to the conservative taste in painting. The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7, displays contemporary paintings, Kalagaraya, the permanent art gallery of the Alliance Francaise de Colombo, can be found at 54 Ward Place, Colombo 7, and displays a representative collection of contemporary art. The Sapumal Foundation Gallery 32/4, Bames Place, Colombo 7 open on Thursday Fridays a Saturdays between 1000 hrs 1300 hrs. displays and sells, Sri Lankan paintings from 1920 onwards.

Museums: National Museums Colombo, National Museum of Natural History, The Dutch Period Museum, National Museum (Ratnapura), The Folk Museum (Anuradhapura), The National Maritime Museum(Galle), Weera Puran Appu Museum, Bandaranaike Museum, Archaeological Museum.

Colombo Planetarium: Entrance through Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. English shows on the last Saturday of the month at 1400 hrs. Special shows in English can be arranged for parties of 75 or more. For further information please contact Planetarium, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. Tel: 586499.

National Zoological Gardens: Situated 11 km. from the Fort, the Zoo has a fine collection of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish from all over the world. The aquarium is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life.