Sunday, September 11, 2005
Having had enough of the Buddha for the day, I head to the sea for a refreshing walk along the Galle Face Esplanade, built by the Brits 1859. At the southern end, stands the venerable Galle Face Hotel, founded in 1864, and frequented by many famous people over the years (incl. James Bond and Yuri Gagarin?).
Looking north, those are the 33-storey twin towers of Colombo World Trade Centre, surrounded by 5-star hotels and major financial institutions. That area swarms with armed police and military men, and also with conmen masquerading as fund-raisers or tourist guides, or off-duty hotel cooks!
A stupa is always an integral part of a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, where it's called the dagoba. It is shaped after the leaf of the sacred bodhi tree, and is supposed to represent the Buddha's body, his speech and his mind, on the way to Enlightenment.
One of the most famous and beautiful Buddhist temples in Colombo, next to Lake Beira. This temple raised enough money to build more than 1,400 homes for people displaced in the 2004 tsunami in southern Sri Lanka. It has an excellent collection of ancient Buddhist paraphernalia, and bone fragments of Lord Buddha.
A new day and two military choppers landed on the cricket ground across the road from the hotel. And suddenly the area is swarming with armed men. I hear some top airforce brass is having a big do downstairs. Btw, that's the Indian Ocean in the background, very choppy and rough.
After passing through friendly immigration guys in a new terminal, we hop onto a hotel car and make our way to downtown Colombo in the dusk. Ninety minutes later (and 35km, no thanks to bad traffic) we are at the TransAsia Hotel, and first things first - cool iced Ceylon tea and fresh coconut water.