Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sri Lanka 060905i: The Dinner

Tonight I have dinner at the famed Galle Face Hotel (est. 1864). And along the way I spot 'Malay Street'. Just a normal busy but leafy thoroughfare of a hodge-podge of shops, and the ever-present armed military folks. Posted by Picasa

One of the grand dining halls at the hotel. Above the din, the Three (Sinhalese) Caballeros are trying to croon. You should hear their rendition of 'Hotel California'! Posted by Picasa

At the hotel driveway, the imposing Colombo World Trade Centre's twin towers (East Tower to the right) look impressive across the Galle Face Green (constructed by the British 1859 as a parade cum execution ground - two-in-one). Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905h: The Beach Walk

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?).Posted by Picasa

Tail end of the monsoon season now, but the strong Indian Ocean breeze still whips the sea water. Head to the horizon, and your next stop would be the east coast of Africa, 3,500km away. Posted by Picasa

One of the numerous food stalls lining the Galle Face Esplanade, almost 1km in length. Buffeted by strong winds from the Indian Ocean round-the-clock. Posted by Picasa

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! Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905g: Gangarama's Dagoba

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. Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905f: More Buddhas

Precious ancient wooden Buddha, a gift from Japan. Posted by Picasa

A closet full of precious religious items. In the cone-shaped glass container (bottom-left), I spot sand-like bone fragments of Buddha (or so the priest tells me). Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905e: The Buddhas

Rank-and-file of the Buddhas. Posted by Picasa

More Buddhas. Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905d: Gangarama's Transports

In the compound of Gangarama, one gets to see this classic beauty. Probably used by the temple's top guns. Posted by Picasa

An MPV, no doubt. Very reliable too.Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905c: Gangarama Temple

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.

Inside the main hall (view 1) - Lord Buddha. Posted by Picasa

Inside the main hall (view 2). Posted by Picasa

Inside the main hall (view 3). Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905b: The Tuk-tuks

After breakfast, I take a ride in a three-wheeler (also known as 'tuk-tuk') for my first destination in Colombo. Posted by Picasa

I find the tuk-tuks here better looking than the ones in India. But foreigners pay twice what locals pay for a ride! A very popular mode of transport in Colombo, a city of 2.3 mil people.Posted by Picasa

Pretty tuk-tuks all in a row. Posted by Picasa

Wa-hey... in Colombo, ppl can more or less trust the zebra crossing. Can't say the same for KL. Policemen (and armed soldiers) are all over the place - in just 2 days, I saw 3 cases of summons being issued on the spot. Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 060905a: The Choppers

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. Posted by Picasa

Close-up. Posted by Picasa

A soldier armed with a machine-gun in a streetside bunker. Common sight in Colombo, no thanks to the internal conflicts this wonderful country is undergoing now. What a pity. Posted by Picasa

Sri Lanka 050905b: The Hotel

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. Posted by Picasa