Colombo, Sri Lanka
Contrasts of Colombo
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Approximately 3½ Hours
Like many capital cities in developing countries, Colombo is changing rapidly. Almost overnight, skyscrapers arose from where old buildings once stood; yet, in some parts of the city, the old-world charm of yesteryear is still readily apparent.
Traveling by coach, you'll see the 100-year-old clock tower and several British-built colonial buildings. Other places of interest are the Pettah Bazaar, Hindu and Buddhist temples, residential areas that accommodate the stately homes of the affluent, and the Colombo Museum, where you'll have 45 minutes to explore the exhibits.
Continue with your panoramic drive. Amazingly, the Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall was an outright gift to Sri Lanka from the people of China. Your guide will point out the Old Parliament, the University of Colombo, the Royal College -- possibly the largest school in Asia with 7,500 students -- and Independence Square.
Step inside the Gangarama Temple to discover an unusually elaborate collection of kitsch artifacts -- a complete contrast to the normally austere atmosphere of Buddhist temples.
Modest attire is required; knees, shoulders and midriffs must be covered (women). Shorts are not allowed. Shoes must be removed before you enter the temple(s). Bring along a pair of thick socks to protect your feet from the hot pavement. Only small bags are permitted within the temple.