A Brief Look At “Beautified” Colombo


(Three Months In Sri Lanka – Week 7)

Who Cares?

The other day I had dinner with a well to do Colombo businessman at the Royal Colombo Golf Club. “I am a member of all the clubs in the City” he boasted as we sipped Rockland gin and tucked in to Black Pork. “Colombo has been beautified. They have made it a great garden city to rival any in Asia” he continued. “Forget what they say in the  West about human rights  and IDP camps in the North and stop moaning about poison in the food. I don’t give a shit about these things anyway. Go enjoy Colombo” he told me. This, surprisingly, is not an isolated view here.

Colombo By Day

Next day I drove in to the City. It looked cleaner than ever and many public buildings have had a facelift. The high walls that surrounded them have been demolished, showing off their neat,  flower filled front gardens. An army of casual labourers are busy keeping the city tidy. Roads are wide and paved and mid-morning traffic, as always is chaotic. I drove along tree shaded Bullers Road in to the fashionable Cinnamon Gardens area and stopped at the Independence Memorial – a replica of the Audience Hall of the kings of Kandy, built to commemorate independence from Britain on 4 February 1948. It is a magnificent monument on a high platform with intricate carvings and a museum in the basement. A bride in a white Kandyan dress was having a photo shoot while the bored groom stood watching. Two young lovers sat under a shady tree. She was sitting on his lap, smiling shyly and he was whispering in her ear. I walked past the new fountains and along the tree-shaded path to the newly renovated racecourse.

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Colombo Racecourse

The Colombo Racecourse was built by the British Raj for horse racing in 1893. During the Second World War it functioned as an airfield and the base for RAF Squadrons 11 and 258 and 882 Naval Air Squadron. It went in to a period of declined when the government of Sri Lanka imposed a gambling and betting ban in the late 1950s. In 2012, the magnificent Grand Stand and the Turf Club buildings were renovated and the grounds were redeveloped into Sri Lanka’s first international grade Rugby Union grounds.

Painted gleaming white and immaculately maintained, the Grand Stand looks majestic. The Turf Club buildings now house restaurants and upmarket shops. KFC & McDonalds announced their presence with large bill boards.

I left my car in the small car park and wandered through the arcades. A Chinese chef was playing with his mobile phone seated under a sign that read “Chinese Fine Dining Restaurant – Smart Casual Dress Code”. Two smartly dressed Chinese women sat smoking in a courtyard. An elderly woman in a white sari sat on bench wiping sweat from her wrinkled face. The high end shops looked inviting but there were no shoppers and the staff looked bored. There was nothing I wanted to buy and there was no place I could have a snack and a cup of tea. It was very hot and I was peckish.

Three wine shops stood close to each other at Liberty Plaza, a few miles away. One had date expired Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Cloudy Bay at ridiculously inflated prices. Another had bottles of wine flat on the shelves making it impossible to read the labels. The shops were empty and I couldn’t find a bottle I would care to drink.

I had enough of the Garden City for one morning. On the way home, I stopped at a little bakery to buy two fish buns for my lunch.

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Related Articles:

  1. Royal Colombo Golf Club
     Established in 1880, it is the oldest such club in Sri Lanka. Soon it will be acquired by the next door City Cemetery to make more room for the dead.
  2. Dry Gin & Lemon – Rockland
  3. Pork Black Curry : Sri Lanka Recipes : Malini’s Kitchen – InfoLanka
  4. Cinnamon Gardens – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  5. Kingdom of Kandy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

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