Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green - an esplanade from the colonials days

The famous beach facing open space between the old Colonial Ceylon Parliament building now used as the Presidential Secretariat Building and the elegant colonial Colombo Galle Face Hotel is known as Galle Face was previously a marsh. The British Governor of Colonial Ceylon, Sir Henry Ward, authorised the land to be turned into a green usable open space in 1856. He wanted to introduce some of the pleasures he and his staff enjoyed back in Britain, designing was undertaken under his leadership by the British in 1859 and the green was primarily used as a sea front promenade which was constructed to enable the wealthy to exercise their horses and take in the sea air while playing polo and golf clad in long Victorian styled attire.

Now it is a truly Sri Lankan playground. At the weekend and especially at dusk, the green is filled with kite fliers, picnic eaters, day-trippers and lovers. Galle Face Green gives the foreigner a glimpse of the private and family side of Sri Lankan life. The open green space of Galle Face is about 1/2 km long. Depending on what time of the year it is the green space can seem more brown and dusty caused by the lack of rain. It is the biggest open public space in the congested capital city. It is busy every day of the week but it is very popular at the weekends when more office workers can come out with their families to enjoy the outdoors. It is also a favourite venue for courting couple on a date. They can walk hand in hand along the promenade or try to find a bit of privacy on the beach to kiss.

There are many brightly coloured food stalls along the promenade. Cold drinks, ice cream and cut up fruit vendors are very numerous. Look out for a Galle Face Green speciality, the prawn Wades known as Isso Wade. There are many different types of take away curries available to buy. To keep costs down many family groups bring their own food and set up picnics on the grass. Because of the constant breeze coming in from the Indian Ocean kite flying is a popular sport. If you are on holiday with children, buy a cheap kite from one of the many stalls and see how high you can fly your kite.


The Port City

The Port City or the Colombo Port City is a man-made island (Reclaimed land) located adjacent to the Galle Face Green, Colombo which is currently under the development by CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd. (CPCC). Land reclamation is a process of creating a new land raising the elevation of a water-bed or a low-lying land. The Palm Jumeirah of Dubai is a well-known and classic example for one such successful development.

Even though we call it “Port City” in short, the entity’s lawful name is “The Port City Colombo Development Project (PCCDP)”.

It is a project by The CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd. with an initial investment as gigantic as USD 1.4 billion which planned in reclaiming 269Ha of land. It is planned to be utilised as a “Specialized Economic Zone” which are widely used in most developed and developing economies as an investment promotion tool.


Galle Buck Lighthouse

The Colombo Fort Galle Buck (rocky bay) Lighthouse has a ceremonial role to play in modern Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Navy has positioned a Naval gun battery at the base of the light house. It is here that gun salutes are fired. One independence day a 25 gun salute is fired. That is on 4th February each year. There is a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean from the gun platform.

The walls of the Colombo fort that faced the coast were first built by the Portuguese and then fortified by the Dutch were pulled down in 1870 by the British who ruled the waves and perceived military threat during the 19th Century. Modern Victorian warship cannons would soon demolish any stone built walls so they were really redundant. They were considered a hindrance to development. The whole emphasis was on trade

When the old Kahn Lighthouse became unfit for its purpose due to its beam being obstructed by new tall buildings this new light house was built on Galboka Point opposite the Sri Lankan Naval Headquarters on the Chaithya Road in Colombo Fort.

It was opened by the first prime minister of the newly independent country of Sri Lanka in 1952. The Architect designed the lighthouse to stand on a 12 meter high concrete base which has four lion statues at its base. It soon became distinctive a city landmark. The seaward side of the light house tower is painted in a black and white chequered pattern. The light house is 29 meters high. Its light flashes three times every ten seconds.


Sambodhi Chaithya Temple

Just past the Galle Face at the end of the road known as Marine drive (leading to the harbor), is an amazing site. On top of a huge yellow arch is a giant dazzling white Buddhist bell shaped Dagoba known as the Sambodhi Chaithya temple. It was built this high near to Colombo Port so that it could be seen and act as a landmark to all ocean going ships.

There is a slight similarity to the NASA rocket launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. There is a tall tower to the north of the structure for that contains the stairs. At the top there is a gantry. If you are feeling fit you can climb up the many steps by the side of the yellow arch to gain access to the viewing platform. It is a long way up and in the heat and humidity of Colombo it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Go slowly and drink water. If you do not like heights forget even attempting the ascent. If the open stairs don’t make you feel queasy then the gantry will finish you off. Next to the temple is the Colombo Maritime Museum which is housed in what used to be the old Dutch Prison. That is also worth a visit.

Getting to the Sambodhi Chaithya temple and Dagoba is not that easy. It is best to go all the way down to the roundabout outside the neo-classical Presidents Secretariat building (the old Ceylon colonial Parliament building) on Lotus Road by the sea front and head north up the Chaithya Road as far as you can go. Hire a Tuktuk and take a slow walk back enjoying the sights after you have been to the Sambodhi Dagoba and temple.

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