Colombo’s Bouqinistes

Paris may be famous for its bouquinistes, stalls selling second hand and antiquarian books lining the banks of the River Seine, but Colombo also has them. They don’t line the banks of the Beira Lake and tourists seldom find them but they are invaluable for the traveller. These wayside booksellers are to be found opposite the traffic island where D R Wijewardana Road meets T B Jayah Road, within walking distance from Maradana Railway Station.


They are extremely useful for travellers because they not only stock old books and guides about Sri Lanka and many other countries but have thousands of books that can be bought or even borrowed.

Colombo’s bouquinistes

Colombo’s bouquinistes


The street of bookstalls began in the 1950s when a young man from Matara, invalided out of the Royal Navy, took to collecting books from British planters who were abandoning their bungalows, and offering them for sale on the streets of Colombo. He soon realised he needed a permanent base for his collection of books, and that’s when he arrived at Maradana, later setting up in D R Wijewardana Mawatha. His original shop is no longer there but his nephew, Sarath Thewarahennadi, also from Matara, is – and he runs Sarath Books. There are now seven second-hand bookstalls on the same corner.

November dawns on Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Posted by Nerone Fernando on November 01 th, 2010 in Guest Contributors

By- Beckie Johnson

[Beckie Johnson, our guest contributor, owns Taragala Place, on Kalamatiya bird sanctuary]

The seasonal rains have been late coming this year at Kalametiya bird sanctuary Click Here , so the lagoon has not swelled and filled up as in previous years. However, I wait with baited breath. As soon as the waters begin to flow in and the waterholes begin to fill the birds will get a whiff of it on the wind and come forth.

I can hear the change from early in the morning. I’m used to waking up to the call of the peacocks from our roof or from the big ‘Palu’ tree in front of our house, but the day the rains begin to make a difference is something else.

The squawking of the Egrets vying for the small fry that will have ventured out into new waters from their dark shady pools in amongst the trees. The ‘did-he-do-it’ cries of the Red-wattled Lapwings as they try to stake their territory in the expanding wetlands. The whistling of the Lesser Whistling-ducks as they flock in together to test out the new visitors.

As soon as I open the front door to these noises I’m greeted by the glorious view of the busy, busy Spoonbills rapidly scanning the pools of water for food and if I’m really lucky the regal Painted Stork will be looming over the other bird life and dipping in for tasty morsels.

As the waters settle down and the initial excitement is over it’s time to enjoy throughout the day the swooping of the Bee Eaters, the hovering of the Pied Kingfishers and their cousins, the White-Throated Kingfisher and the Stork-billed Kingfisher. The beautiful White Bellied Fish Eagle might deign to swoop over the waters and of course the Brahminy Kites will always be present.

Wilst I wait for the rains to come I’ll just have to be content with our resident peacock, Freddie Feathers trying to impress the ladies (Peahens). Then there’s the on-going competition for the abundant juicy berries of the ‘Muliththan’ tree between the Red-Vented Bulbuls, Brown-Headed Barbets, Parrots, Mynas and Koels. As dusk approaches I’m happy to just get a glance at the discreet India Pitta out for an early evening peck. Then Freddie Feathers hops up into the ‘Palu’ tree to roost. If the rains are approaching he might call out during the night, otherwise it’ll be his 5am call heralding the dawn and the start of another day.