LEGACY OF A 400-YEAR COLONIAL FORT, Galle, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.16
Day 12 (1 of 3).
Known as Asia’s largest remaining colonial fortress and an UNESCO World Heritage site, Galle is a popular tourist destination in southwest Sri Lanka. Galle has long been an important trading port of the island since ancient times. Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC, and Galle was likely the main port of export. Throughout history, Galle traded with the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, Arabs, Malays, and Indians. Sri Lanka’s colonial history began when the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and built a fortified city in Galle. Galle continued to serve as the main port for spices export. In 1640, the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company. After the takeover, the Dutch built the fort that we saw today with bastions and a solid granite wall. In 1796, Galle and Sri Lanka changed hands again when the island became a British Crown colony named Ceylon. The 400-year colonial rule came to an end in 1948 when independence was granted to establish Dominion of Ceylon in the Commonwealth. Then 28 years later in 1972, Sri Lanka finally became a republic. From four centuries as a colonial port of export for spices and coffee (then replaced by tea) to a tourist town based on commercialization of its colonial past, Galle’s fortune has always been tied with the outside world.
We dropped off our backpacks at the baggage storage in Galle Railway Station, then found our way into the old fortified city.
The first thing we saw inside the fortress was Galle Services Club (est. 1947) and the 1883 clock tower.
Located on the highest point in the fortress, the Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk) was built by the Dutch in 1755. It was the third Dutch Reformed church in Galle and signified the rise of the Dutch after the Portuguese.
Further down the road from the Dutch Reformed Church stands All Saints’ Church, Galle’s first Anglican Church (consecrated in 1871) and a powerful statement by the British.
The former Dutch warehouse from the 17th century has become the National Maritime Archaeology Museum.
In 1796, the British relocated the emblem of the Dutch East India Company from the outer gate to the inner, and put up the British Royal Emblem at the outer gate.
The interior of the old gate is used for motorcycle parking.
First built by the Portuguese, then renamed to Zwart Fort (Black Fort) by the Dutch. We accessed the Black Fort via a police compound. At Zwart Fort, a staff came out to show us around and told us about the history of the place.
The Old Dutch Hospital was established by the Dutch to look after the staff of the Dutch East India Company. Then the British extended the building and converted it into a barracks. After independence, the building was used as the town hall. In 2014, the building was once again converted into a shopping and dining complex.
Meeran Jumma Masjid looks more like a church than a mosque, but this Islamic prayer hall has been around for 300 years already. More than half of the population inside the fort are Moor. They are believed to be descendants of the Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka at around the 9th century.
Galle Fort is built on a rock peninsula and there are a few small beaches near the lighthouse.
The Galle Lighthouse is the oldest light station in the nation. The original was built by the British in 1848 but was destroyed by fire in 1936. The current 26.5m tall lighthouse was constructed in 1939.
Strolling or cycling aimlessly within Galle Fort is a nice way to explore the town.
In Galle Fort, Dairy King icecream has been recommended by a number of guidebooks and blogs.
Dairy King is a great place to take a short break during a visit to Galle Fort.
Many houses in Galle Fort have been converted into guesthouses, restaurants, or shops catered for tourists.
The ambience of the colonial times is the top selling point for the tourist industry in Galle.
Some old mansions are transformed into high end retail shops for fabrics, furniture, housewares, and other design items with a twist of Sri Lankan style.
Established in 1892, Al Bahajathul Ibraheemiyyah Arabic College is one of the oldest Islamic Arabic institutions in Sri Lanka.
On our way out of the fort, we passed by Sri Sudharmalaya Buddhist Temple, a Buddhist temple with a unique appearance. The temple dated back to 1889. The belfry of the building suggests that temple might be converted from an earlier church.
NINE ARCHES BRIDGE, Ella, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.13
Day 9 (2 of 4).
Also called the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arches Bridge in Demodara near Ella is the most well known colonial railway viaduct in Sri Lanka. The 300 ft long viaduct was built in 1921 by a Ceylonese builder with consultation from British engineers. Rumours said that steel was not available during construction because of the broke out of World War One. As a result, the construction was completed using only solid stone and cement. Today, the Nine Arches Bridge has become a popular tourist attraction thanks to its dramatic setting and its proximity to Ella.
We followed a sign and reached a quiet path. A cafe owner came for help and pointed us to a narrow descending path that led to the famous railway bridge.
Before finding our way down to the bridge, we stopped at a lookout for photographs. The rumbling sound from afar and the gathering of tourists near the bridge signified that a train was approaching.
A few times each day, tourists would gather by the bridge to welcome the approaching train.
At one end of the bridge, we found ourselves taking photos from a tea farm among many other tourists.
Obviously the bridge spans over the valley with nine arches.
On top of the Nine Arches Bridge, tourists take pictures from the tracks.
From the other end of the bridge, we walked uphill to reach another lookout and get a nice look of the bend of the bridge.
Everyone to and from Ella would need to walk through a railway tunnel.
Many tourists see walking through the tunnel as a unique experience and a photo opportunity.
Despite there were only a handful of trains passing through each day, we still had a slightly uncomfortable feeling while walking through the tunnel, as if a train could appear suddenly from the other end.
Beyond the tunnel, we continued to walk on the tracks for about half an hour.
Passing by a number of railway signage as we approach Ella.
At last, Ella station was in sight.
After all the track walking, we finally saw the sign that everyone, both locals and tourists, ignored, “Walk on the Railway Line is Prohibed.”
THE SANCTUARY AT TISSAWEWA, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.06
Day 2 (3 of 5).
After a brief stopover in Negombo, Anuradhapura was the real first destination of our journey. Lying on the north central plains, the historical cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy are often referred to as the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka where visitors flock to see the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites and Buddhist temples. We began with Anuradhapura, one of oldest and certainly the most important capital cities of ancient Sri Lanka spanning 1300 years from 337BC to 1017AD, and the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. We stayed in Anuradhapura for 1.5 days to check out the Buddhist stupas and archaeological sites, as well as the famous 2300-year-old sacred Bodhi Tree. Most visitors stay in the new town where the majority of hotels and restaurants are located. Only a handful of hotels and restaurants can be found in the old town along with ancient stupas, lily ponds, and archaeological sites, including the historical hotel The Sanctuary at Tissawewa, where we stayed two nights.
Opened in 1907 as the Grand Hotel Anuradhapura during the time of British governor Henry Arthur Blake, the 22-room Sanctuary at Tissawewa is one of the most well known colonial hotel in Sri Lanka. The hotel has served a number of celebrities and foreign heads of state in the past, including Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, etc. After extensive renovations in 2013, the hotel reopens its doors again. The century-old building is a great example of architectural combo of east meeting west, with large eaves and covered verandas coupled with stone arches, timber balustrades and antique furniture. For us, the most lovely feature was the 14 acres garden, where we watched peacocks and monkeys chasing around the hundred-year-old trees in early morning, and looked for flying foxes and fireflies dancing over the bushes before dusk.
Heavier than usual rainfall prior to our arrival flooded the hotel’s entrance path. Every time we walked out the hotel we would need to walk over the flooded path with our sandals.
The flooded water perhaps came from overflow of the ancient artificial reservoirs nearby.
Peacocks roamed around hotel garden every morning.
There are a number of beautiful trees in the hotel garden.
The walk through the lush-green garden was our first pleasant experience of the day.
Renovated in 2013, the 113-year hotel is a fine colonial building.
The covered passenger drop off welcomes all visitors from close and afar.
The veranda on the ground floor faces directly to the lush green garden.
Apart from peacocks, a large group of monkeys came to the garden
The upper veranda offers better view to the hotel garden.
Staying at The Sanctuary at Tissawewa offered us a comfortable sleep.
In the evening, the hotel stood quietly in the darkness of the garden.
During our stay, there were a few other rooms were occupied.
Occasionally we could see fireflies in the hotel garden.
The staff was always busy with paperwork at the receptionist counter.
During our stay at The Sanctuary at Tissawewa, we always have dinner at the hotel restaurant.
For breakfast, we could choose between Western or Sri Lankan breakfast.
Outside of the hotel compound lie a number of wetlands, including rice paddy fields.
A number of lotus ponds also lie across the street from the hotel entrance.
In one evening, we had a warm encounter with a kitten just a short walk on the main road from the hotel entrance.
DAY 1 (4/9): COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23
After the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, the East India Company’s annexation of Pegu province put Yangon into British hands. In 1885, the Third Anglo-Burmese War resulted in Britain’s complete annexation of Burma, and Rangoon (now Yangon) was named as the capital of Burma (now Yangon). From 1852 until Burma gaining independence in 1948, Rangoon saw major urban transformation under the British, with splendid colonial structures constructed all over the downtown. After independence, political and military turmoil among ethnic groups threatened the survival of the new nation, and then in 1962, a coup d’etat brought the nation into a 48-year military dictatorship until the first civilian elected president came to power in 2010. During the period of political turmoil and authoritarian rule, Yangon, together with much of Myanmar, was largely isolated from the outside world. Many colonial buildings from the British era were neglected and left for natural decay. Ironically, Yangon’s decades of lack of development led to the successful preservation of Southeast Asia’s largest concentration of colonial architecture. Recently, international investment began to pour in as the country gradually opened up. Some historical buildings had since then became redevelopment targets for foreign developers. Before heading north to visit Shwedagon Pagoda, we spent a brief time wandering around the lower downtown of Yangon to admire its awesome but fading colonial architecture.
Yangon City Hall, one the most prominent colonial building in the city, stands across the street from Sule Pagoda. Designed by Burmese architect U Tin and completed in 1940, the City Hall is a fine example of Burmese colonial architecture where local influence (in this case the multi-tiered pyatthat roof) has been incorporated into the otherwise largely Western design. The City Hall building exemplifies nationalist Burmese architecture at the twilight stage of colonial rule.
Across the street from the City Hall, the Ayeyarwady Bank occupies the former Rowe & Co. Department Store building. Completed in 1910, the Rowe & Co. Department Store was the most splendid shopping venue in Rangoon. This century-old building featured a innovative steel structural frame, electric lifts and ceiling fans over a century ago.
Across the street from the City Hall, the Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) has long been a public park at the heart of Yangon since 1868. While we were there, audience seating and a stage were set up for an upcoming event.
Also designed by Burmese architect U Tin, the Independent Monument at Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) was erected at the centre of the park in 1948 to commemorate the nation’s independence, replacing the former statue of Queen Victoria at the same location.
Flanking the east side of Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park), the former High Court is one of the most iconic buildings in Yangon. It was also one of the first in Yangon to have toilet and plumbing facilities as well as electricity. During the military rule, the Supreme Court was replaced by the socialist Council of People’s Justices controlled by the General. Today, Myanmar’s Supreme Court has been relocated to the new capital Naypyidaw.
Further south from Mahandoola Garden, at the intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Strand Road stands the baby blue and white Myanmar Economic Bank building (formerly Bank of Bengal and then Imperial Bank of India). The Imperial Bank of India was the most prominent bank in colonial Burma, serving like the central bank for the nation.
The former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department were housed in a magnificent building with three octagonal towers. These former colonial departments oversaw taxes and trade customs for British Burma, which was belonged to the Government of British India.
Today, the building is in poor condition, especially for the wings along Bank Street and Mahabandoola Garden Street. Overgrown weeds took over parts of the building facade.
The building hasn’t changed much since the Japanese bombing in 1942.
This former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department building was partially occupied by Yangon Divisional Court and Department of Pensions nowadays.
Each of the octagonal towers houses a ornate spiral staircase.
The red-brick Customs House is one of the few historical buildings still serving its original functions today.
Since 1916, the two-faced clock has been the iconic feature of the Custom House.
Further down Strand Road, we arrived at Myanmar Port Authority (former Port Trust Office). The corner tower is an iconic landmark for the city, both for today and back in 1920s, when the new building was erected to reflect Rangoon as one of the busiest port in the British Empire.
Myanmar National Airlines occupies the 1920s building of the former Bombay-Burmah Trading Corporation, whose diverse business included exporting teak wood. Right next door stood the splendid Strand Hotel, the 1901 glamorous hotel for affluent visitors in the early 20th century. In 1993, the hotel was fully renovated with a budget of USD 10 million.
The former National Bank of India building (now Myanma Agricultural Development Bank) was built in 1930. Designed by Thomas Oliphant Foster and Basil Ward, the same architects who had done the Myanmar Port Authority building, the beautiful entrance canopy and the golden entrance door remain as special features of Pansodan Road.
Written with “A Scott & Co” and “erected 1902” on the triangular pediment of today’s YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) building, this colonial architecture had witnessed the era when Rangoon had a strong trading connections with Scotland.
Wandering in Downtown Yangon offered us a chance to see a number of the city’s finest colonial buildings in just a short walk. Throughout the walk, we passed by many anonymous buildings from the British era.
We planned to visit Secretariat (Ministers’ Building), the former administrative centre of British Burma and Yangon’s most important colonial building. On our way, we passed by several more interesting historical buildings. Unfortunately the Secretariat complex was not open to the public. We could barely see it from outside the fence, and decided to move on to Shwedagon Pagoda.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR
ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
Primarily under the control of the British, the Bund area was known as Shanghai International Settlement in 1862 when the British and American settlements and a number of other nations united to form an international concession zone, while the French maintained its own concession to the south. Years before establishment of the International Settlement, foreign forces were already actively developed each of its own concession in the city, and engaged in trading and other affairs of their own interest since the end of First Opium War in 1842. For a hundred years until the Second World War, these concessions remained under foreign control. Today, large amount of the former colonial architecture remain. Not only do they become a symbol of Shanghai’s history, these western structures also offered opportunities for new businesses to come in and convert these stone and brick mansions into cool restaurants and high end shops, taping in cash from the new local wealthy class.
Rockbund is a revitalization project of a series of colonial buildings in the Bund area, including the former British Embassy. Foreign architects were invited to do the restoration and redesign. British architect David Chipperfield was assigned with 11 buildings in the Rockbund area. Most of the buildings were off limits to visits. unless we went in as customers. We could at least visit Rockbund Art Museum. A century ago, much of the International Concession was off limit to the local Chinese; today, ironically many of the restored buildings of Rockbund remained off limits to the general public. Security guards with rudeness and distasteful attitude prevent anyone to even come close to the buildings and discourage people to take photos. We had a brief stroll in the Rockbund area before arriving at Rockbund Art Museum. In the midst of exclusive and hostile atmosphere of the Rockbund, the Art Museum in contrast expressed a sense of welcome and remained truly a place for culture.
Also restored by David Chipperfield, Rockbund Art Museum was the former Royal Asiatic Society Building, an well restored Art Deco building. The museum was hosting a solo show of installation art called “Ifs, Ands, or Buts” by Heman Chong, a well-known Singaporean artist. It was delightful to walk from floor to floor to see Chong’s works. At the top level, we were greeted with a free coffee when we showed our admission tickets. We walked out to the roof terrace with good views of the area and beyond. The weather was fine. We were fortunate enough to see the blue sky and enjoy the fine weather and acceptable air quality, which are getting really difficult to come by these days in a Chinese city.
The alleyways of Rockbund were almost deserted except a few tourists and the security guards.
Many historical buildings were well restored to reveal their former glory.
Touches of local ornament with predominately Western style architecture.
Opened in 1930, the Zheng Guang Guang Xue Building was once home to China’s largest publishing company.
A touch of Christmas.
The former British embassy had become a restaurant and a banquet venue.
Rockbund Art Museum redeveloped by architect David Chipperfield.
Railing in the Rockbund Art Museum.
A piece by Heman Chong displaying artificial blossoms.
The atrium and skylight were blocked off in order to house Heman Chong’s pieces.
The curve stairs in Art Deco style.
Reaching the top floors of the building.
At the top floor, a young man was reciting poems and other writings.
In some cases, the historical buildings were stripped down excepted the outer facades.
View towards Pudong.
Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China
LUCUMA MILKSHAKE & PLAZA DE ARMAS, Cusco, Peru
Soon we were back to the Central Cusco, the historical capital of the Inca Empire and the major heartland of tourism in Peru. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage since 1983, both the splendid remnants of the Incas and the dazzling architecture of Colonial Spain captured our imagination ever since we entered the city. Five centuries ago in 1533, Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cusco and sacked the city, converting the marvelous Inca capital into a colonial city with Roman Catholic churches and convents, many of which still remain standing today. With the Sacred Valley and the lost world of Machu Picchu within close proximity to the city, at about 3,400m above sea level Cusco serves as a crucial base for all tourists to acclimatize before trekking the Inca Trail.
Back in Cusco, we decided to try out a glass of fresh juice at Mercado San Pedro. Cusco’s central market was just a short walk from Plaza de Armas. The covered market was quite large, with all kinds of produces, food products, dry goods, cafeteria, and juice stalls. From a juice vendor, we ordered a lucuma drink with milk. Lucuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru with high level of nutrients. We made one order but the woman ended up giving us three glasses because at San Pedro juice is ordered by jar, not glass. On our way out of the market we also bought a few tangerines.
After San Pedro, we returned to Ninos Hotel for a short break, then we headed over to the Australian owned Los Perros restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was only a stone throw away from the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas. We walked around the square, stopping at some of the most iconic colonial architecture in Cusco, including Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus and Cusco Cathedral and admired the historical fountain at centre and stone arcades around the plaza perimeter.
In mid afternoon, we hopped on a taxi for the hilltop Inca citadel of Saksaywaman.
On our way to Mercado San Pedro on Calle Santa Clara.
Iglesia de San Pedro just outside of Mercado San Pedro.
Fruit vendors at Mercado San Pedro selling all kinds of local fruits.
The vendor preparing our lucuma milkshake.
Tranquil back streets near Hotel Ninos.
Wooden balconies were common sights in Cusco and other Peruvian cities.
Cobble stone street in Cusco.
The Cathedral of Cusco.
Sagrada Familia Church beside the cathedral.
Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas.
Fountain at the centre of Plaza de Armas with mountains in the backdrop.
Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
Arcades were common around Plaza de Armas.
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús by Plaza de Armas.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru