By Malayna Dawn, Compere and Communications Consultant to Colombo Fashion Week since 2008
If you’re coming to Sri Lanka to be part of Colombo Fashion Week, you’ll want to make sure your entire trip is one of style and beauty. Luckily, that won’t be too difficult to do in the vibrant, diverse city of Colombo! Let me tell you about some of the best places to be and sights to see.
The host hotel is The Hilton Colombo Hotel once again, overlooking the Indian Ocean and Beira Lake. While you may be tempted not to leave the hotel grounds, I say you must. Within walking distance you can use the hotel’s direct access to the World Trade Center and then wander out the front entrance of either building to be introduced to the FORT District where modern day business takes place amidst old world architecture.
photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Millers.jpg
Before tasting the modern shops of Colombo, you might want to take a morning three-wheeler ride ‘round the clock tower to visit the nearby PETTAH.
Here you'll go back in time to when narrow roads filled with hand-cart traffic were enough to keep the tiny shops busy with the hustle and bustle of enterprise.
Dutch names and buildings are juxtaposed with candy striped mosques and colorful Hindu kovils. It’s not just a shopping trip…it’s an adventure!
You’ll probably want air-conditioned comfort in the afternoon, so tell the tuk-tuk driver to take you to these…
Stylish Shopping Musts:
THE DUTCH HOSPITAL - Facing the World Trade Center just next to the Hilton, is the newly renovated former Dutch Hospital. The beautiful old buildings are alive again with shopping, food and nightlife! You'll find that many of our CFW sponsors and partners are represented here, too.
ODEL – Near Town Hall, it’s a lovely and lively place for fashion, fun gifts and food. Their departments include a bookshop (my novel is available there!), home décor, jewelry, and makeup and perfume, and now you can even get a massage at Footrub before heading to their outdoor food court. They also feature a section with locally-made items to take the feel of Sri Lanka with you wherever you go.
PARADISE ROAD has locations all around Colombo (and the island), each with it’s own distinct feel.
- PARADISE ROAD PROMENADE, near Town Hall is in a large, lovely, converted colonial house and offers a great selection of stylish souvenirs and gifts, as well as home décor. You’ll want to linger and explore every corner.
- PARADISE ROAD STUDIO on Alfred House Gardens, off of Duplication Road - is a place where I’ve often thought of hiding until all the employees to go home, so I could live there for the night. Beautiful music and luxury surround you as you search for just the right addition to your home.
- PARADISE ROAD GALLERIES - Just around the corner from Studio, you’ll find the Gallery and Gallery Café. This complex was once the office of internationally renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, and is therefore a work of art in itself, with a variety of artists whose work adorns the space. Combined with beautifully delicious food, drinks and decadent desserts, you will want to keep coming back for more sensory delights.
- BAREFOOT – where colorful handloom cloth is the main attraction. The fact that their products promote the work of local craftspeople makes them even more fabulous as souvenirs and fashion statements. Spend some time perusing books, works of art, and then sit a while at their outdoor café.
- CRESCAT BOULEVARD – is a shopping mall located next to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel on the Galle Road where three levels of shops, services and restaurants are all in one upscale location. Books, videos, music, perfume, jewelry, accessories, shoes, clothing, massages, and food. What more could you want?
Dutch Hospital - Harpo's, The Ministry of Crab and the Brewery by O can be found here, as well as a restaurant from Sri Lankan Airlines catering!
Paradise Road - To leave Colombo without eating at either of Paradise Road’s restaurant locations would be a crime. Their delectable fare features fusion food and a twist on Sri Lankan favorites. The atmosphere adds to the feast of the senses, topped of by the best desserts on the island, bar none. Both offer a bit of Sri Lankan history too, so be sure to ask, and indulge your mind as well as your senses.
- The Gallery Café - With its eclectic musical selections and artwork you might forget you’ve just entered a café, restaurant and bar. In fact, it was rated one of Asia’s Top 10 Lounge Bars in 2007. So it shouldn’t be surprising that you are joining the ranks of Sting, Kenzo, and Donna Karan, among many others, as you walk through the gates to be immersed in tantalizing beauty for all of your senses.
- Tintagel - is a unique private hotel, and like King Arthur’s castle in Cornwall for which it is named, it instantly offers a royal welcome. It even offers a connection to some of Sri Lanka’s most illustrious names-- the Bandaranaike family—who made it their home, are best known for having produced three of the country's leaders. Now this home-turned-private-hotel can be yours for the span of a meal…or for several days. No matter how much time you spend there, you can be certain you’ll leave feeling thoroughly enchanted.
The Mango Tree - Where Flower Road and Dharmapala Mawatha meet is a hidden oasis of delectable Indian cuisine. Be adventurous and try everything. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll leave feeling full…and satisfied!
Raja Bojun - For authentic Sri Lankan food with an unobstructed view of the sea while in air-conditioned comfort, Raja Bojun on the Galle Road is the place. Decorated in local style with coconut monkeys peering at you from palm trees and thatched roofs covering the buffet, you can enjoy the best of the traditional and the modern. Don’t forget to pat the pachyderm on the way out!
Cricket Club Café - When you’re in the mood for something more Westernized, or a beer and some tasty pub food, Cricket Club Café is the place. Decorated with cricket memorabilia from around the world with matches playing perpetually on the TV screens, its menu also pays homage to the sport’s best known and loved players. But even if you know nothing about Cricket, (like me) the colonial atmosphere and food are worth the visit.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf - Yes, the international chain is here in Sri Lanka! This is one of the nicest I've seen--lion head fountains and coi ponds direct you to the entrance, where you order your beverage of choice. Snacks and meals are also available to be enjoyed out on the patio, in the main room, or in a big comfy leather chair or couch upstairs.
A Stylish Spa Treamtent …or quick massage:
Angsana Spa - Next to Cinnamon Grand Hotel and Crescat Shopping Center you’ll find a day spa to wash away the stresses of sightseeing, shopping and the demands of fashion.
Waters Edge Spa - to enjoy a sense of space, take a drive out to where the new Parliament Building sits in the middle of a lake and then to The Waters Edge resort. Their spa overlooks the golf-course-turned-garden and offers a lovely atmosphere and wonderful treatments.
Footrub - With locations all around Colombo, where some of the most tired of feet are to be found, (Crescat, Odel, the Airport) take a few minutes to re-fluff those flattened soles and perhaps also rejuvenate your soul. Despite the name, they also offer head, neck, shoulder and back massages, and Scholl products to make your next steps more comfortable.
Sights to See:
Gangaramaya Temple in the Beira Lake offers several statues of Buddha to surround this lovely building that sits on the lake. The main temple is across the street, where sometimes you can visit an elephant.
Galle Face Hotel and Galle Face Green – The Galle Face Hotel was established in 1864 and right on the rocks that line the coast. In front of the grand entrance stretches a long open grassy area called the Galle Face Green. It’s a popular place for a promenade.
At the opposite end of this stretch you can see the Old Parliament Building looking over a series of antique cannons pointing out to sea.The backdrop of this old yellowing parchment of a building is the World Trade Center... which brings us full circle and reminds us of the mix of old world and new to be found throughout Colombo.
Malayna Dawn is an author and freelance writer who is a product of the Sri Lankan diaspora. Raised in Los Angeles and now living in Sri Lanka, she makes connections between pop culture and world culture, entertainment and religion, and ecology and education, and brings that perspective to everything she writes. She holds a degree in Communications and brings her years of experience in all aspects of the entertainment industry to Colombo Fashion Week, as well as to her latest venture, Spiral Whirled Travels.
Her novel, Echoes Across Time , is available in bookstores all across Sri Lanka, and worldwide from Amazon.com and many other major online retailers.