One thing that always strikes me when I land in Colombo is the tight security. It’s understandable given the political climate. The hospitality of the locals more than makes up for it; it seems to come naturally to them!
Colombo is the business hub and main seaport of Sri Lanka. It has an attractive blend of old and new architecture. It has the lazy charm of a bygone era combined with the exuberance of a modern city.
The Hilton Colombo is conveniently located and offers excellent service. The enticing view of the Galle Face Green and the sea is another major factor that draws me there. The Galle Face Green is a promenade on the sea face stretching for one-and-a-half kilometres and is one of the positive relics from the British era. It was initially used for horse racing when it was laid out in 1859 and now is the largest open space in Colombo and a popular picnic spot. I also recommend The Galle Face Hotel, a heritage hotel built during the British era. It is a favoured luxury resort for tourists.
Sri Lanka is a treat for seafood lovers. I vote for the mouth-watering fried calamari with tamarind sauce at the Lagoon in Cinnamon Grand Hotel. You also get amazing chilly crab at the Beach Wadiya.
Colombo has a good network of rail and bus services. These are often crowded but you get to meet different people and get a taste of the country’s cultural diaspora.
If you are the adventurous sort, you could use the local rickshaw (called tri-shaw). They are omnipresent and generally convenient; but the fares need to be negotiated before-hand to avoid being taken for a ride.
Most hotels have agreeable business centres with rooms that are convenient for meetings. For business lunches, one of the recommended places is The Verandah at the Galle Face Hotel.
There is plenty of nightlife, and many casinos. There are also clubs that offer gamblers roulette, baccarat, poker, blackjack, as well as complimentary food and drinks. The Amuseum at the Galle Face Hotel and the R&B club guarantees a night of fun and excitement.
The narrow cobbled streets of Pettah, lined with shops and street stalls, are a shopper’s paradise. Gemstones, especially blue sapphires, are one of the specialties of Sri Lanka. You can find household goods on Keyzer Street; Prince Street is famous for glass and mirrors. Colombo is also a great place to buy tea if you are a tea-lover. One of my memorable purchases is a wooden elephant studded with precious stones, which attracts rave reviews from guests when they visit my home.
Naresh Wadhwa is President and Country Manager, Cisco - India and SAARC
(As told to Abhishek Raghunath)