Colombo Galle Face Green beach front

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. The sand coloured hotel to the left is the Ceylon Inter-Continental Hotel.

Galle Face beach front

Colombo Galle Face beach front open space looking towards the hotel

Every evening families gather to play, eat, paddle in the sea and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean. The crowds attract food stalls and toy kite sellers. It is a delightful location to mingle with local people and end a days sight seeing in Colombo. Galle is pronounced GAUL as in the old Celtic name for France. It is the name of the ancient Portuguese port in the south of Sri Lanka.

The area now known as Galle Face Green 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.

A sea front promenade was constructed to enable the wealthy to exercise their horses and take in the sea air, The Colpitty Horse Racing Course was built. It covered a larger area than that taken up by the 5 hectare Galle Face Green today.

Galle Face beach front

Colombo Galle Face beach front open space food stalls and green grass

In the middle was a golf course. Like many other British Sports like cricket, polo, football, hockey and rugby, golf gained popularity in Sri Lanka first when it was played on Galle Face Green. Gentlemen would play in long trousers, cotton shirts with collars buttoned up to the neck sporting a club or regimental tie under a jacket. A sun hat was a must. They must have got very hot. Later this dress code was relaxed to prevent players collapsing with heat stroke.

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.

Galle Face beach front

Colombo Galle Face beach front open space evening promenade walk

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.

What I found strange was the amount of people on the beach paddling in the water fully clothed. Many of the Muslim girls where up to their chest wearing full black burqas. That is understandable for religious grounds but not for the others. Like in Italy people put on their best clothes to go for a promenade along the Indian ocean seafront. They like to see and be seen by others. There are some exquisite saris on show. Having explored this delightful open space end your evening with cocktails at the Galle Face Hotel sunset patio and watch the sun slide into the Indian Ocean. A Gin and Tonic and Lion Beer helps pass the time. Get there early to reserve a good seat.

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