Sri Lankans’ greet you with ‘Ayubowan’, a word that means much more than just ‘hello’. It means, may you have long life and be happy always. Sri Lanka’s Ayubowanis as warm and cheering as a cup of Ceylon tea. Hospitality is the highlight of Sri Lanka, an island surrounded by the India Ocean. The culture stems from the Buddhist heritage that the country owns.
The Buddha attained enlightenment around 500 B.C. in Bodh Gaya in eastern India. It is believed that Indian emperor Ashoka’s son Mahinda introduced Buddhism in neighboring Sri Lanka, now one of the few remaining Buddhist countries in SouthAsia, in the second century.
Ramayana, one of the two main Indian epics, talks about India’s interaction with Sri Lanka. And whilst Sri Lanka’s history recounts many invasions from its northern neighbours, it has been the war that escalated during the last thirty years between the Sinhala and Tamil people that has dominated everything to do with Sri Lanka. Today that war is well and truly over in the country and a new Sri Lanka is been born. Much of it is about rebuilding and renewal and presents an unprecedented opportunity to be a part of this renaissance.
Famed the world over for the tea it produces, Sri Lanka, that has changed its name quite frequently, still packages its tea around the magical tag of ‘Ceylon’ that sends tea drinkers dipping into their purses for that extra penny required to sip of that great refresher.
It is a country that serves, freshly made warm tea with warmer hospitality. The Sri Lankan hospitality is evident through the length and breadth of the country. Whether in the cities of Colombo or Kandy, the towns of Bentota or Habarana, or in the colonial remnants of NuwaraEliya and Galle,
the Sri Lankans go out of their way to make the visitor feel safe and welcome.
For most travelers, it is Colombo that beckons as it continues to be the largest city, the commercial capital and the main port of the country. It is also by far the most developed urban agglomeration in Sri Lanka, with some great shopping.
Commence a sightseeing tour of the city of Colombo. Drive through the commercial andcity centre area known as the “Fort”, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century where grandcolonial era buildings stand alongside modern office structures. See the busy markets and noisy bazaars of Pettah, the National Museum with its fine collection of lovely antiques and art of SriLanka. Drive past the Town Hall, Independence Square, the B.M.I.C.H. (International Convention Centre) and Cinnamon Gardens residential area and visit a Buddhist temple and a Hindu Kovil to experience the diversity of religion, ethnicity and customs of the people.
Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
(Address: 2 Galle Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka)
Galle Face Green stretches from the foyer of the Galle Face Hotel, all the way to the old parliament building now used as the Presidential Secretariat, hugging the western coast of Colombo along the waters of the Indian Ocean and just opposite the Taj Samudra Hotel.
The early morning hours see many elderly and elegant folks driving up to exercise their limbs, walking along the beachfront stretch from end to end. In the old days Colonial Masters and their local kin used to ride on horseback here as a form of exercise. In recent times the weekends have become a palatial carnival atmosphere with an abundance of food and delights being offered for sale here and where people swarm to sit on the grass and loosen up over the humdrum of the week that was.
English High Tea on a broad verandah with the sparkling Indian Ocean before you. This is the essence of the majestic Regency Wing of Galle Face Hotel, where English elegance and exotic setting unite. The Galle Face Hotel is one of the grandest examples of the colonial era’s great establishments. Built in 1864 it embodies all the grace, style and romance of that time.
With the opening of The Regency Wing, this grand dame elevates a Sri Lankan experience to new levels of luxury.
After a morning of exploring historic Colombo or following cocktails at sunset, choose from one of the hotel’s five restaurants. The hotel’s signature restaurant The 1864 offers a fusion of modern and Asian influences and the casual choices range from English pub to oceanfront dining. The hotel’s day spa features a couple’s retreat with herbal bath and private garden for ultimate romance. There is a museum, art gallery, designer shopping arcade and the elegance of the wood-panelled Wine Lounge. Three ballrooms and three conference rooms cater to meetings and events.
Sri Lanka is an experience to be cherished. We have started with the country’s capital city – Colombo. Keep reading this feature and we will take you through the entire island. Be it the majestic tea plantation on slopes of some of the most picturesque hill stations, the charming water-falls, exhilarating wild-life safaris or the enthralling beach experiences, Sri Lanka has it all.
Not to forget, this is the island that allows you to walk through the Horton plains to see the ‘World’s End’ too.
So, keep exploring!
-Ruchi Adlakha Bhaumik
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