Colombo – Catching up with Cultural Highlights, Colonial Architecture and Café Lattes

After having spent many consecutive months on tiny Maldivian islands it was time again for a short break – on a bigger island! I chose to go to Sri Lanka mainly for the purpose of renewing my passport but since I hadn’t visited the country for about 4.5 years (my brother Henrik and I were in Sri Lanka last just a few weeks before the tsunami shattered the region), I was looking forward to spending some more time in the cool high-altitude tea plantations, in rainforests teeming with wildlife and amongst the welcoming locals. I have arranged to be here for one week, from Sunday to Sunday, and hope that the good times continue in the same fashion as they had started yesterday and today.

After a perfectly-timed flight by seaplane from Soneva Fushi to Male’ and a short connecting flight from Male’ to Colombo, I found myself stretching on the hotel bed for a minute and immediately receiving a welcoming phone call from my friend Dilhani. She is a Colombo-native and had worked in my Maldivian resort for a number of years before moving to Australia, marrying Adam (another Soneva Fushi colleague) and getting pregnant with their child. They are now back in Colombo, which is great for me, as I can enjoy their wonderful company and get to see things I would otherwise miss. Such as the huge Buddhist celebration that took place in the city centre last night right after my arrival! “Duruthu Perahera”, a colourful and cheerful parade of hundreds of dressed-up, acrobatic and musical religious followers (and dozens of elephants!), apparently takes place once a year before a full moon public holiday and attracts hundreds of visitors. This year I was one of them and, together with Dilhani, her mum, Adam and their friends, sat on the roadside and admired the different groups that were passing by with whistles, whips, fire wheels and drums. In between all these human bodies and loud sounds there were beautifully dressed elephants that belonged to different temples in the country. One of them transported a highly meaningful temple item and was only raised for the purpose of carrying this statue once a year; it was only allowed to tread on a white lane of cloth, never directly touching the road! I wondered how all these elephants could stay so calm, slowly trotting down the main street, but then saw the chains between their legs and the sharp hooks the elephant keepers carried… This whole parade went on for quite a few hours and only finished around 10 p.m.!

Today I focussed on getting my temporary passport sorted out and visited the German embassy in the morning. If all goes well, I will be able to receive the updated version within two days, which means that I can then leave Colombo and travel around the more attractive Sri Lankan interior. Dilhani was again a saviour when she helped me with money changers and phone cards – a public holiday, as it is today, means that almost everything is closed, the streets are rather empty and life almost stands still. After a nice South Asian lunch with Dilhani and her mum I strolled through the very picturesque and historic Galle Face Hotel and treated myself to three (!) café lattes and a piece of cheesecake while reading a book in a very comfortable corner of the hotel’s Tea Lounge. I may spoil myself tomorrow again and attend the official High Tea ceremony in the afternoon! It is certainly a great experience being in such cultured and sophisticated surroundings again after so many months of “deprived” island life!

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