The Multi-Cultural Chaos of Colombo

Although the official capital of Sri Lanka is the nearby satellite city of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, Colombo is definitely the island’s top dog. Boasting by far the largest concentration of people, industry and commerce, Colombo is a noisy, dirty, and vibrantly alive city; an ethnic melting pot both invigorating and exhausting.

Chaos of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Thanks to its natural harbor, Colombo has been an area of trade ever since ships first sailed the Indian Ocean, but didn’t become a city of any importance until the arrival of the Portuguese. But it’s made up for lost time. With a current metro population of over five million, Colombo is a vast urban sprawl which stretches for miles up and down the coast. The words “Sri Lanka” usually conjure serene images of tea plantations, rain forests and pristine nature, so landing in Colombo is a startling wake-up call to the busy modern life of the island.

European church Colombo Sri Lanka

We immediately fell into the rhythm of the city. Not difficult, since Colombo is fun. There’s the insane bazaar of the Pettah, the strangely militarized Fort District, the gorgeous temples around Beira Lake and Slave Island, tuk-tuks clamoring for business every two meters, historic hotels, excellent restaurants and a buoyant urban vibe which owes a lot to the city’s fantastic mixing of cultures.

On our first full day in Colombo, we visited a Hindu Temple, a Mosque, a Christian church, and a Buddhist temple. We got into conversations with practitioners of all these various faiths. Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim… it didn’t matter: everyone was eager to talk with us, to find out where we’re from and what we’re doing. And they were especially interested to learn our impressions their country. A fail-proof way to elicit a huge Sri Lankan grin, is to gush about how wonderful Sri Lanka is. They’re very proud of their country… and their hectic capital city.

Buddhist monk on mobile phone
Colombo Sri Lanka bell tower
Red and white mosque in Colombo Sri Lanka
Mosque architecture Colombo Sri Lanka
Reading the Koran in Colombo Sri Lanka
Muslims in Sri Lanka
Main Street Colombo, Sri Lanka
European architecture Colombo Sri Lanka
Young Sri Lankan men
Domes of a church in Sri Lanka
Hindi elephant man
Hindi temple entrance in Colombo Sri Lanka
Hindi temple architecture
Modern and old Colombo Sri Lanka

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Aren

    Take the 150 bus from near the Seema malakaya ( Gangarama temple) where the bus turns around and go all the way to the end – you will cut across Colombo and arrive at Kelaniya – the BC city of Sri Lanka which features in a historic Tsunami. With the historic and much worshiped temple on the banks of the River.

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