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The Tanks of Anuradhapura

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Without the presence of its three artificial lakes near the city center, Anuradhapura would never have flourished. Tissa Wewa, Nuwara Wewa and Basawakkulama ensured that the people would always have rice and fresh water, even during the long months between monsoons. At the time of their construction, over two millennia ago, they were among the world’s greatest feats of engineering, and continue to amaze today.

Bathing-Anuradhapura

The Kingdom of Anuradhapura was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of its day, and the creation of three enormous tanks was a singular accomplishment. The reservoirs were designed to capture the rains of the monsoon and then slowly distribute the water among the kingdom’s farms, using a complicated and highly advanced irrigation system.

Today, the city draws its water from larger tanks further afield. But the three city lakes remain an integral part of Anuradhapura’s landscape. Locals swim here and wash their clothes. They provide a perfect place for amorous couples to take evening strolls and smooch under trees. When we were walking along the Tissa Wewa, Sri Lankan kids prodded us to swim with them. Along the raised banks of Nuwara Wewa, we had an incredible view of the city’s stupas, sticking out above the forest. At Basawakkulama, we walked out west, where the lake slowly turns into rice fields, and watched the city change color with the sunset.

Other tanks, smaller and larger, are found throughout the lowlands of Sri Lanka. They’re some of the oldest existing examples of man’s ability to mold the earth to suit his needs.

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March 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm Comment (1)

Galle Face Green

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Laid out in 1857 by the British governor Sir Henry Ward, Galle Face Green is a park separating the hectic life of Colombo and the Indian Ocean. The green is the city’s largest open space and a popular spot during sunset, when hundreds of Sri Lankans come to fly kites, play cricket and eat ice cream.

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We walked along the green one evening, just as the sun was tucking itself behind the clouds over the ocean. One of the great things about Sri Lanka’s being so close to the equator is that the sun rises and sets around the same time all year round. So regardless of when you’re visiting Colombo, make sure to head to Galle Face Green at around 6:30pm. If you get lucky, you’ll enjoy a spectacular sunset and marvel as the city turns a strange, deep shade of crimson.

At the end of the green is the historic Galle Face Hotel, a beautiful lodging which retains much of its colonial charm. The hotel’s best feature is its veranda, with chairs and tables facing out to sea. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the city’s most popular spots for an evening drink. We sat down and, after sending the waiter to fetch a couple Three Coins lagers, felt as though we’d fallen back through time. So this is how the British lords of colonial Ceylon lived. Not bad. The breeze coming off the ocean was wonderful, the beers cold and delicious, the view unbeatable, the service spectacular, and the other patrons well-dressed and in pleasant moods. I doubt there’s a better way to cap off a busy day in Colombo.

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February 11, 2012 at 6:13 am Comments (4)
The Tanks of Anuradhapura Without the presence of its three artificial lakes near the city center, Anuradhapura would never have flourished. Tissa Wewa, Nuwara Wewa and Basawakkulama ensured that the people would always have rice and fresh water, even during the long months between monsoons. At the time of their construction, over two millennia ago, they were among the world's greatest feats of engineering, and continue to amaze today.
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