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>  Indian Ocean/ Middle East  >  Sri Lanka  >  Colombo

Colombo

olombo, the island's largest city, is noisy, frenetic - and just a little crazy. Thankfully, the breakdowns, snarled traffic and power cuts are received with a shrug and a smile. While the city holds less obvious interest than many other parts of the island, it's still colourful and worth a look.

To the north of the centre is the Fort district, the country's business centre. South is Galle Face Green, a seafront expanse of occasional green graced by cricket games and trysting lovers. Cinammon Gardens, further south, is the most fashionable neighbourhood, with mansions and tree-lined streets.

Sri Lanka's blend of ethnicities has often produced friction and tragedy, but it makes for an interesting culture.

Traditional art and architecture is predominantly Buddhist, and the country is dotted with stupas and sculptures of the Serene One. Traditional dance is all about agility and symbolism. Food is often fiery hot, with hoppers (pancakes) to wrap it all up, and the tea is as marvellous as you would expect.

Woodcarving, weaving, pottery and metalwork are all highly developed crafts, and Sri Lanka is especially renowned for its gems. Ambalangoda is the best place to see Sri Lankan masks; Ratnapura is the centre of Sri Lanka's gem trade.

Stupas sprinkle the countryside. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have the most impressive archaelogical legacy, but Kandy is the most thriving cultural centre today. Colonial remnants include Dutch forts, canals and churches and British residences, clubs and courthouses. Galle is the finest colonial city on the island.

Rice and curry - often fiery hot - dominate meal times and usually include small side dishes of vegetables, meat and fish. Indian curries such as vegetarian thali, delicately flavoured biriyani and kool, a boiled, fried and dried-in-the-sun vegetable combo, are also available. Hoppers are a unique Sri Lankan snack, similar to a pancake, served with egg or honey and yoghurt. Coastal towns have excellent fish and most travellers are happy to live on the delicious local tuna. There's plenty of tropical fruits to choose from, the tea is terrific and the beer acceptable.

 

 
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