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Stop At: Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple, 61 Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo Sri Lanka
Gangaramaya temple isn't just a temple - it's about 150 years old and most of its space is cluttered with museum artifacts and old junk like wrist watches.
First set up by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumanagala, it's gotten some flack for trying to be both a Buddhist temple and a tourist attraction, but we think (if you're not particularly looking for a typical temple to visit) that it's got a very quirky charm of its own.
The entire place is so random and haphazard (we loved it for this though), it's like a million different worlds collided here. There's stuff from Germany, China, Australia and from Sri Lanka of course, some of it is intricate stone or marble work, while others look cheap and breakable. The space is basically a massive collection of stuff related to Buddhist and Hindu mythology. But then you also get some super random trinkets that are amusing because you wonder what on earth they're doing here.
Duration: 1 hour
Stop At: Independence Square, Independence Avenue, Colombo 7 Sri Lanka
Independence Memorial Hall (also Independence Commemoration Hall) is a national monument in Sri Lanka built for commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule with the restoration of full governing responsibility to a Ceylonese-elected legislature on February 4, 1948. It is located in Independence Square (formerly Torrington Square) in the Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo. It also houses the Independence Memorial Museum.
The monument was built at the location where the formal ceremony marking the start of self-rule, with the opening of the first parliament by the HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester occurred at a special podium February 4, 1948.
Located at the head of the monument is the statue of the first prime minister of the country Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake "The Father of the Nation". Most of the annual National Independence Day celebrations have been held here. Apart from a monument it served as the ceremonial assembly hall for the Senate of Ceylon and the House of Representatives of Ceylon until the parliament was moved to the new parliament complex. Currently it is the venue for religious events and annual national day celebrations.
Duration: 1 hour
Stop At: Colombo National Museum, Albert Crescent, Colombo Sri Lanka
National Museum of Colombo, also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum is one of two museums in Colombo. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. It is maintained by the Department of National Museum of the central government. The museum holds contains a collections of much importance to Sri Lanka such as the regalia of the country, including the throne and crown of the Kandyan monarchs as well as many other exhibits telling the story of ancient Sri Lanka
The Colombo Museum, as it was called at the beginning, was established on 1 January 1877. Its founder was Sir William Henry Gregory the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the time. The Royal Asiatic Society (CB) was instrumental in bringing to the notice of Gregory on his appointment as governor in 1872 the need for a public Museum with much difficulty the approval of the legislative council was obtained within a year. The Architect of the Public Works Department, James G. Smither (1833–1910) was able to prepare the plans for new structure on Italian Architectural style. The construction was completed in 1876 and the museum commenced it functions in the following year.
The construction of the museum was carried out by Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar (1829–1925, aka Wapchi Marikar, who was descended from the Sheiq Fareed family who arrived in Ceylon in 1060), paternal grandfather of Sir Razik Fareed. Wapchi Marikar was the builder of the General Post Office in Colombo, Colombo Customs, Old Town Hall in Pettah, Galle Face Hotel, Victoria Arcade, Finlay Moir building, the Clock Tower, Batternburg Battery and many other buildings that are still standing today (2011). The Old Town Hall in Pettah, which is now a busy market, was built on a contract for the sum of 689 Sterling Pounds.
In January 1877, the completed building of the Colombo Museum was declared open by Governor Gregory, in the presence of a large crowd, amongst which there were many Muslims present. At the end of the ceremony, the governor asked Wapchi Marikar what honour he wished to have for his dedication. He asked the same question of the carpenter S.M. Perera who was responsible for the woodwork of the museum, who requested and was awarded a local rank. Marikar requested that the museum be closed on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath; this request was granted and maintained, although the museum later much opened on all days except public holidays
When the throne of the last Kandyan King was to be exhibited at the museum, the then prime minister, Mr. D.S. Senanayake, obtained the consent of Sir Razik Fareed, Wapchi Marikar’s grandson, to keep the museum open on the intervening Fridays only.
Sculpture of the Buddha located at the entrance of the museum.
Heiyantuduwa Raja (elephant) Skeleton at
National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka
During the period between 1877 and 1999, the authorities of the museum took various steps to display the cultural and natural heritage of the country for this purpose. Several other wings were added from time to time under the direction of Dr. Arthur Willey and Dr. Joseph Pearson new structures were built during the period of Dr. P.E.P. Deraniyagala, Dr. P.H.D.H. de Silva and Sirinimal Lakdusinghe. One of the natural history museum, and yet another consists of the auditorium. These buildings would facilitate the extension of the library ethnological and Anthropological studies, etc.
Duration: 2 hours
Stop At: Pettah, Colombo Sri Lanka
Pettah is Colombo's biggest, most functional market space. It's loud, crowded and infinitely full of interesting and useful things - it's one of those places you either love or you hate (it was the former for us)
At first glance, the place seems chaotic and bordering on mad, what with the streets being packed inch to inch by trishaws, hawkers and wooden wagons. But if you know Pettah and know what to get where, you can walk away with some very cool stuff at ridiculous prices. Also with the right attitude you can make friends with some very interesting people here.
We've tried to put together a guide to Pettah here. We obviously haven't covered every single thing about the place - there are continually new businesses popping up and little old shops in corners that are yet to be discovered. But we've tried to give you an overview of Pettah streets to help you navigate through the busy market block.
Congestion: Pettah is extremely congested during the day. You can avoid the crowd if you get there before 10AM but then the middle of the day is when you'll meet all the street hawkers and their cool random-ass stuff (dancing toy lobsters, swimming toy squirrels, kites, bubble blowers).
Traffic: Try to always stay on the little bit of 5-inch pavement next to the shops, because there are always trucks, wagons and trishaws trying to impossibly maneuver themselves on the roads. No point bringing a vehicle here, get here by foot.
Parking: If you do have to get to Pettah by car, you can go around the Khan Clocktower and park near there.
Man's market: Though there are a lot of women shopping for saris and stuff here, it's mostly a man's domain. The hawkers and most of the shop keepers are men, and so are the street vendors and the workers carrying loads to their trucks. It's generally very safe if you're a girl wandering through, but just prepare yourself for being stared at as though you're a sparkly unicorn with two heads.
Make a list: If you're here to shop and not just sight-see, then make sure you have a list and a rough idea of where to get these things (our guide will help). Because there's just so much going on here, you could get confused and distracted.
Learn some Tamil: Or take someone with you who knows Tamil, although Sinhala works too (though they warm up to you if you're a Tamil speaker since that's the first language of a lot of the shop keepers in Pettah). You need this to bargain - if you bargain right, you can get what you want at any price you have in mind.
Old buildings: If you pay close attention, particularly at the Clocktower roundabout, Bodhiraja Mawatha and 4th Cross Street, you'll find some beautiful ancient architecture from the Dutch period amidst the hustle and bustle.
Fruit vendors at junctions: You'll find refreshing thambili, oranges, durian, watermelon and grapes at many of the junctions between streets, if you want something to energize you after all the walking. Also look out for Bombay Sweet houses for tasty Faluda (the best is on 1st Cross Street).
Where to get what
Leather: Front Street, Main Street
Clothes, Shoes, Bags: Front Street, Main Street, 2nd Cross Street
Electronics: 1st Cross Street, Prince Street
Party stuff: China Street
Toys: Prince Street
Stationery: Maliban Street, 2nd Cross Street
Vegetables, Fruits: 5th Cross Street Market
Duration: 3 hours