Colombo Renewed
In colonial days Colombo was regarded as the Garden City of Asia, a reputation it appeared to have lost until the Commonwealth Summit in November 2013 made it necessary for the authorities to clean up the city. Walls around public parks were torn down (with no adverse effects) and revealed once again what a well-laid-out city with wide boulevards and lots of greenery Colombo really is.

 

State-owned colonial buildings, like the old Dutch Hospital and the Grandstand at the former racecourse, were transformed into pleasant, spacious shopping and restaurant complexes. The latest public buildings to receive a makeover are what was once the Auditor General’s building and before that “Jawatta Lunatic Asylum”. A spacious concourse with leaping fountains, ornamental ponds packed with dazzling fish and a statue of a resting pride of lions, has been created to link with the formerly abandoned Western Provincial Council Building.

 
The Western Provincial Council building restored to glory

The Western Provincial Council building restored to glory

 

These buildings are both near Independence Square, in a green part of the city within walking distance of the National Museum. Their bureaucratic colonial architecture has been adapted to accommodate upmarket, brand name shops and even a boutique cinema complex. The transformation complements the other restoration work taking place in the city providing a welcome balance to the high rise hotels and apartment blocks that are shooting up and changing the city’s skyline.

 

Fruit with Attitude
This is the month for curious fruit in Sri Lanka, exotic delicacies found only in the tropics. It’s the season for durian, mangosteen and rambutan, a trio of odd looking fruit with attitude, apparently to deter people from eating them.

 
Durian on display

Durian on display

 

Durian is as famous for its off-putting pong as for its ambrosial custard-like taste. It’s to be found on sale by roadsides, especially on the road to Kandy, where a vendor skilled in durian dealing, will crack open the hard prickly green shell and prize out the flesh-coddled seeds for the brave to devour. Wash your hands afterwards to avoid the smell trailing you all the way home.

From the moment you enter the wooden gates, the gentle breeze and the wide open green spaces just wash you over with a sense of peace and calm that cannot be brushed aside. This feeling would continue even through the welcome by the gracious and smiling hosts and the refreshing drink of thambili and it continues to…well, let’s say I was just happily sailing in a sea of calm!

Palpatha

Palpatha

When we decided to take a break and get out of Colombo and all its noise, we didn’t imagine the serenity of Palpatha, speckled with the many calls of the rich bird life in the area would be such a big change. But clearly, we thought wrong. The silence was overwhelming and yet welcome. The spacious lounge area at this retreat was easy on the eye with little coloured cushions that simply beckoned me to come lie down and relax…perhaps even fall asleep.