A new guide to Colombo has been published ‘The Colombo City Guide’ by Sri Serendipity Publishing, the first comprehensive city guide to Colombo, was launched last Monday at the Bay Leaf Restaurant.
The Colombo City Guide is not just an average directory of numbers and collage of photographs, labelled a guide. It comprises of a team with both local flavour and international experts, young, old, single, married, unfaithful, the guide takes you through the smallest of streets, into the hearts of the people who colour Colombo with their lives. It is not just the buildings or the people that make up this city; it’s the smells, the colours, the sounds, the heritage, the history, the synergy of its inhabitants breathing together, one heart beating, proof of life after the years of terror attacks and being shrouded by the clouds of bad international publicity.
The team of writers has walked through the capillaries of this beating heart, brushing their hands along the warm V of the sun baked streets from Pettah to Slave Island to Mount Lavinia. Their noses have swum the fragrances and odours of the weekend ‘Polas’ to the Bombay Sweet Mahals to the salty beaches. The guide tells a story made.
The publisher Juliet Coombe along with her project partner Lasantha David unveiled the replica of the book cover at the Bay Leaf after a three hour city tour on an Ebert Silva open top ‘double decker’ .
‘Certain areas within, the city are vastly unknown, even to its own habitants.” Brainchild and Publisher, Juliet Coombe, opens up Colombo to the world and shows even the locals, things they didn’t know were hidden among the buildings, roads and people of this now booming city. During the war, people coming into the country always avoided Colombo, the country’s commercial capital, on their way to other picturesque parts of the country, overlooking the heritage and over 300 years of history. Explaining where the inspiration came from, Juliet says “Well Colombo was always going to open up after the war, with new businesses coming up and new global interest in the country on the increase.”
She feels that the city was always overlooked by tourists, either because it wasn’t safe or because they didn’t think there was anything interesting about it. Many parts of the city that were considered high-security zones due to the government institutions or people located in the area, were under lockdown and neither the general public nor tourists weren’t allowed to visit them. This was the case for the 30 years of war that the country had to endure. But now with the conflict ended and restrictions lifted, Juliet thinks the time is right to rediscover Colombo, discover its forgotten memoria and secrets.
The guide adds exciting new places to existing categories like the coffee houses. It’s not just an address and a number, the guide gives you a taste of the coffee and experience even before you go to the place. One of the newly discovered places is Coco Veranda, a Sri Lankan business that is challenging the better known and longer established international coffee shop franchises. The writers wrap a story around the coffee shop through the eyes of the people who run it. In our drive to discover we walked the streets of Pettah, through the Friday prayer crowds, dodged speeding transporters who aren’t looking where they are going, eaten out of unheard of shops in the hope that they may have something worth writing about.
The book has a section dedicated to helping young couples with finding the perfect spot for a good date. In the Top 5 dates section, the writers actually went out and researched with people from various generations and social levels.
Set to be distributed in over 40 countries worldwide and being the first comprehensive city guidebook, the Colombo Guide is sure to permanently nail Colombo on all tour guides and travel plans for Sri Lanka in the years to come.
And as co-writer Lasantha David said ‘Colombo is worth the journey; every street, every person, every story.’