Colombo Travel Blog

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School kids all dressed in their traditional white school outfits - at the beach.

Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is thought to be the name derived by the early Portuguese settlers from either the Sinhala name, Kola-amba-thota (meaning, “Harbour with leafy mango trees”) or from Kolan-thota (meaning, “Port on the River Kelani”).  “Kolumba” is what Colombo is called in Sinhala. Whatever you want to call it, this city and all this island paradise represent my roots. 

My parents left here about 35 years ago to come to Canada for a better life for them and for me.  At that time, Ceylon as it was known, was a country on the cusp of development and foreign interest [its location in the Indian Ocean is very strategic]. At one time, it was thought that Sri Lanka would be what Singapore is today; however, Sri Lanka is not Singapore or any of the other Asian Tigers like Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Along Galle Face Green, looking towards downtown.
  Sri Lanka for past 25 years has been stuck in a brutal war that has keep this island nation caught at a crossroads between its colonial past and modern development, a country with so much potential being wasted away. 

I admit I was hesitant to come visit here because of the ongoing war.  Its been 10 years since I’ve been here last, but as luck would have it, in the months before my arrival the war ended. I won’t get into the politics of the war and who was right or wrong, I am just happy that this country of so much potential will now have a chance to get on that road to prosperity.

Most people probably do not know much about Sri Lanka, most people are unaware of the long history of the island that dates back to ancient times and its importance to ancient trade routes, the fact its actually a predominantly Buddhist nation, or that there are ruins from civilizations that date back 1000s of years that once housed both Singhalese and Tamil Kingdoms at various points in history.

Looking south down the coast
  The island has been known by many names in its long history, to the ancient world it was known as Taprobane, to Arab traders, Serendib, to various colonizers (Portuguese, Dutch, and British) Zeylan and Celyon, in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, the island was referred to as Lanka. Now, the it is known as Sri Lanka (Sanskrit meaning, “Venerable Island”). 

Culturally, ethnically and religiously Sri Lanka is a diverse nation. Mind you a diverse nation that until only recently had peacefully existed together for hundreds of years. The Singhalese represent about 74% of the population, followed by Tamils (14%), Moors/Burghers, and others such as Malays. Buddhism is represented by about 70% of the population, followed by Hinduism, Islam and with the colonizers, Catholicism was brought.

Old canon from colonial times
  I am Singhalese Buddhist.

When people think of Buddhism I’m pretty sure people don’t think of Sri Lanka, they think of Tibet, China, or even Japan. Buddhism in Sri Lanka has been around since about the 3rd century BC and represents the Theravada way, same as that practiced in Burma, Cambodia and Thailand. Theravada Buddhism is considered the old, original Buddhist path and is slightly different in comparison to Mahayana, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.  I definitely won’t go into a Buddhist history lesson, but like many of the world’s major religions, cultural rituals and other beliefs have influenced the practice of Buddhism as it spread from Nepal/Northern India east towards the Orient over the centuries.

I can go on and on about Sri Lanka, but I just wanted to give a little history of this country.  I have a little over 3 weeks here, I’m sure there will be lots of stories, lots of family and definitely lots of delicious food! :)

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School kids all dressed in their t…
School kids all dressed in their …
Along Galle Face Green, looking to…
Along Galle Face Green, looking t…
Looking south down the coast
Looking south down the coast
Old canon from colonial times
Old canon from colonial times
photo by: wanderingluster