Best of the West

From October to March, the beaches on the west coast of Sri Lanka are the best. Whether you like broad strands of sand to jog along at the sea’s edge, soaring waves to surf as they splash on the shore, intimate coves for private sunbathing, or beaches lined with seafood cafés and bars, the beaches along the west coast are amazing, sunny playgrounds for visitors to Sri Lanka.

 

Being so close to the Equator, Sri Lanka’s seasons are not well defined, and there is no cool winter. The main difference in seasons is caused by the monsoons and it is from October to March (as the winds blow from east to west) that the sun shines daily, the sea is calm and along the west coast the beaches are sandy.

 

The beaches begin at the Kalpitiya peninsular, embracing the Puttalam lagoon, which is emerging as an eco-compatible resort. For fun with hectic after-beach action close to the airport, Negombo is the choice. The closest beach to Colombo is at Mount Lavinia, 12km south of the city, where locals and tourists happily mingle.

Colombo Renewal

The rejuvenation and expansion of Colombo continues at an incredible pace. Last month I wrote about the opening of the converted old Auditor General’s building by Independence Square into an ornate and upmarket shopping arcade. Now the downmarket area of Pettah opposite the Colombo Fort Railway Station is being gentrified with the conversion of a forgotten and stagnant waterway into an inspiring floating market.

 
The floating marekt adjoins Bastian Mawatha

The floating marekt adjoins Bastian Mawatha

 

The waterway is suspended between the Beira Lake and a tip of a tributary of the Kelani Ganga (river) by Bastian Mawatha (road) near the bus station, reached by walking to the right after exiting the Fort Railway station. Created by the Urban Development Authority as the first phase of a project to spruce up the entire area, the water has been treated chemically to improve its quality.

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.