Galle Face Green, Colombo
One of the major things to do in Colombo mentioned in my guidebook and on any travel website you care to go on is a visit to Galle Face Green, so I did. Now it is great to have a green space in the middle of any major city, and doubly so if it is beside the ocean but I really don't see what all the fuss is about nor why it is so popular. Certainly it is a pleasant enough place and even on a midweek afternoon there were a fair number of people about but it didn't seem all that special to me. I believe it gets much busier at the weekend and presumably all the vendor stalls will be open then which they weren't when I visited.
Naturally, I took a few photos, paused to watch a few hardy souls having a paddle but decided that was not the thing for me. Far too close to the centre of a major city for that kind of thing although it was a hot day and it may have been refreshing on the feet. So what is Galle Face Green all about and why is it so revered by Sri Lankans that even the railway which runs arrow straight along the coast all the way to Matara even deviates to avoid it?
It all started in 1859 when the British Governor of Ceylon, as it then was, laid out an open space called Colpitty Racecourse. It was much larger than the current Green as I doubt a decent thoroughbred could even get up to speed here now. As the name suggests it was a horse racing course and not only that but it also boasted a golf course so it must have indeed been sizeable. Despite having been considerably downsized, it seems to retain a special place in Colombo life and long may it remain so. Have a look at the images and decide what you think yourself but no visit to Colombo would be complete without at least one stroll along the promenade here, it is free after all.
If the Galle Road is the main artery of Colombo, then the Galle Face is its heart. Galle Face Green is the social centre of Colombo - walk around at sunset and watch kids flying kites, athletes in training, cricket matches, young couples cuddling up under umbrellas, families on a day out, and all kinds of food stalls along the seafront. There's a small beach for swimming, playing football and so on.
At the southern end is Colombo's most famous hotel - The Galle Face, well worth sampling the colonial atmosphere of a drink on the verandah overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Green is more brown dust than green grass (although parts have been re-laid last year) but it's quite attractive at dusk. There are occasionally large pop concerts held here, which makes it even busier and livelier than normal.
If you want to experience the lives of normal Sri Lankans and don't have any local friends here then early evening Galle Face is the best place to start.
After dark, it used to have a small problem with drunken groups and could be a bit intimidating and sometimes dangerous. But now new laws prevent the consumption of alcohol on the Galle Face, making it much more of a family occasion. The only problem for a tourist is likely to be the numerous con-men and touts who swarm to a foreigner. It's a shame to say, as you can meet some genuine people (this is a very social place after all), but chances are nearly all lone men who approach you are after your money, despite what they might say.
Absolutely wonderful to get sea spray in your face and hear the crashing waves.
Experience the simple pleasures of kite flying and swimming and see for yourself the weekend hangouts of locals.
One word of warning if you're a single female traveller: Don't loiter around there after dark - you'll get your fair share of attention from local men.
You may also get to see some pelicans or comorants!
A colonial hotel with a laid back feel.
At the time we were there, some of the rooms were undergoing renovation. There are sea facing rooms.
Relax while you sip a drink at the veranda or in the bar. Look at and hear the Indian Ocean, and enjoy the sunset. Soothes your frayed mind after the mad rush on the streets of Colombo.
Galle Face Green is a lovely stretch of land almost half a kilometre long by the side of the sea. It is located in the heart of the city in front of the old Parliament building with some of the best hotels lined on one side. It is used by all for a lovely walk and is the biggest open space in Colombo. It is a romantic place to be in especially as you watch the orange orb of the sun disappear beneath the ocean in the evening. Red Bull X fighters, a motorcycle stunt show, is held annually in Galle Face Green, their last show being on July 30, 2011 and before that on November 6, 2010. During the days of the British, horse racing was popular at Galle Face Green as were fashionable ladies promenading around. The area was developed in 1859 by Sir Henry George Ward, the-then Governor of Ceylon.