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Sri Lanka's capital Colombo may for many be simply the port of entry to the country, but this pleasant and fairly laid back city has a lot to offer the casual visitor, such as myself. There are just under a million people living in Colombo, but it never felt nearly as frenetic as nearby India or the south east Asian nations. Sri Lanka itself is gaining tourist trail popularity, following the end of the civil war in 2009.

I spent a full day in Colombo at the end of my trip to Sri Lanka, with the evening in the Galle Face Hotel before heading to the airport for a late night flight. The city centre is compact and easy enough to walk around, although even in November the heat got to me and I had to stop in at local department store ODEL to buy a new shirt.

May the Fort be with you

Colombo Fort Station was my point of arrival by train from Kandy, whereupon I was greeted by the golden statue of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott.

Trains in Sri Lanka may not be quick, but they certainly are old, with this example having been built in West Germany.

West German train in Sri Lanka

Colombo tuk tuks

Like much of south and south-east Asia, tuk-tuks ply the streets for a quick and cheap way to get around town.

I was amused by this statue of a buried person struggling to answer the phone.

Who's on the phone?

Colombo World Trade Center

Colombo has its own World Trade Center, like many other cities including New York and Dubai. A shiny contrast to the surrounding buildings.

Cargills Department Store is an old Sri Lankan institution, this is their iconic main building in the centre of old Colombo.

Cargills department store

Inside Cargills

Inside Cargills very little has changed since the company was founded in the 19th century, whilst certainly authentic I felt it could have done with a bit more energy to avoid feeling quite so "Soviet".

Plantation House, another of Colombo's old colonial icons.

Plantation House

Rickshaw statue

The rickshaw days in Colombo have long since passed.

Sri Lanka still has a way to go with clearing itself up after the civil war and associated slump. Whilst the Grand Oriental Hotel is operating, large parts of it remain derelict.

Grand Oriental Hotel

Cannon on the sea front

Down on the Indian Ocean coast, locals take a stroll past the historic defences.

Sri Lanka's grand old parliament building faces out over the sea, although these days it has another government function.

Old Sri Lanka Parliament

Taj Hotel, Colombo

The sea front is bordered by Galle Face Green, the place to see and be seen in Colombo. In the background is the Taj Hotel.

Colombo's classic hotel is the Galle Face Hotel at the south end of the green, although these days somewhat overshadowed by its taller neighbours.

Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face Green

A view back up Galle Face Green with the World Trade Centre twin towers and the old parliament building on the left.

Hindu temple not far from Galle Face Green.

Hindu temple

Beira Lake and Seema Malakaya temple

Beira Lake is Colombo's central water feature, this is the Malakaya Temple which I think looks rather Japanese.

Although it has a wealth of historic buildings, Colombo is pushing ahead with ambitious projects such as the new theatre shown here.

Colombo's new theatre

Colombo Town Hall

Colombo's town hall is now housed in this very Capitol-esque building. Having never been to Washington D.C., I have to say this reminds me of the city halls in Buenos Aires and Havana.

Opposite the town hall is a large statue of Buddha, surrounded by fountains.

Buddha statue

Galle Face Hotel lobby

Back to the Galle Face Hotel for an evening dinner and a few beers, the doorman didn't seem to mind being part of the scene.

I was surprised to find a statue of Yuri Gagarin grinning cheekily at me in the Galle Face Hotel lobby. Perhaps he's as revered in Sri Lanka as he is in Russia?

Yuri Gagarin statue

Colonial opulence

I really enjoyed the colonial elegance of the Galle Face Hotel, and spent a very pleasant evening here reading.

Shortly after taking this picture of the Galle Face Hotel by night, the rain really came on hard, but Sri Lanka being what it is, within half an hour or so it was dry again. Good night!

Galle Face Hotel by night

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2013