The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA -

Singapore Air­lines flies to Changi from ma­jor Aus­tralian cities with daily con­nect­ing flights to Colombo; sin­ga­pore­ Na­tional car­rier Sri­Lankan starts di­rect flights be­tween Mel­bourne and Colombo on October 29. More: sri­ Street is Sri Lanka’s gold ex­change; and at 47 China Street you’ll find Colombo’s best masala chai and a tooth­some ar­ray of Indian halwa and jag­gery sweets at the friendly Chen­nai Cafe. Around the cor­ner, Ho­tel Bankshall, at 57 Bankshall Street, does a de­li­cious quail curry served at room tem­per­a­ture and rid­dled with bones. Like Pet­tah it­self, it’s not for the faint­hearted.

W WALK AND TALK: Colombo lo­cal Mark Forbes is a Dutch Burgher with an in­fec­tious pas­sion for h his city’s heritage and his­to­ries. Forbes leads three-hour walks pep­pered with en­ter­tain­ing com­men­tary rich in lo­cal knowl­edge and folk­lore and ex­pert tips on tak­ing pho­tos. A lead­ing ar­chi­tec­tural pho­tog­ra­pher him­self, Forbes’s work has given him a unique fa­mil­iar­ity with, and en­tree to, the city’s great­est land­marks, many of which have only been opened to the public since 2015 when wartime block­ades were lifted. High­lights in­clude Cargills Depart­ment Store (ru­moured to shortly be­come a Raf­fles ho­tel), the 1914 AMP Tower and the thread­bare op­u­lence of the Grand Ori­en­tal Ho­tel, where walk­ing groups gather for G&Ts and panora­mas over the in­dus­trial port. Colombo City Walks also runs reg­u­lar food and “dodgy bars’’ tours. More: colom­boc­i­ty­

A ART OF DIN­ING: Lunch with the smart set, and the tourists, at Par­adise Road The Gallery Cafe, a serene court­yard oa­sis and art gallery housed in the for­mer of­fices of ac­claimed Sri Lankan ar­chi­tect Ge­of­frey Bawa. The in­door-out­door din­ing area is set in a brick-walled gar­den crusted with ferns and moss and shaded by a spread­ing aca­cia. It’s all very taste­fully done, from the cashier’s cage sal­vaged from an old post of­fice to the tiny home­wares store; owner Shanth Fer­nando made his name as Colombo’s in­te­rior de­sign guru. The con­ti­c­urry menu runs to quail egg salad, fish head soup, coq au vin and pad thai, plus two pages of desserts, in­clud­ing an epic ar­ray of daily-baked cakes. Liquor is strongly en­cour­aged; the menu opens with a Bi­ble quote: “Drink no longer wa­ter, but use a lit­tle wine for thy stom­ach’s sake and thine of­ten in­fir­mi­ties” (1 Ti­mothy 5:23). Try the frozen chilli mar­garita. More: par­adis­

T TOP TA­BLE: Among Kaema Su­tra’s var­i­ous claims to fame are that it serves the only soft­shell crab curry on Earth and the world’s largest hop­pers. Hype aside, what’s cer­tain is that celebrity chef Dhar­shan Mu­nidasa’s latest din­ing con­cept, housed in the for­mer Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s building at In­de­pen­dence Square Ar­cade, is a smart way to get ac­quainted with lo­cal cui­sine. The am­bi­tious menu veers from pop­u­lar — bento boxes of hot chilli wings — to del­i­ca­cies such as banana leaf bar­ra­mundi and spicy grilled prawns. The stand­out dish is a smoky, dense, al­most meaty black curry of po­los, young jack­fruit chunks that pack more umami than a slow-cooked roast. Mu­nidasa also owns Ni­hon­bashi and Min­istry of Crab, Sri Lanka’s only two en­tries cur­rently on the Asia’s 50 Best Restau­rants list. More: kae­ma­su­

S SAY A LIT­TLE PRAYER: It’s said there are more than a mil­lion tuk tuks splut­ter­ing around the i island of Sri Lanka. These de­mon three-wheeler auto-rick­shaws are an en­vi­ron­men­tal men­ace but so in­te­gral to the coun­try’s so­cial fab­ric that hir­ing one is a com­pul­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. Wit­ness­ing a ninja driver weave his way through choked traf­fic, seek­ing ad­van­tage in the tini­est open­ings and us­ing his sixth sense to find short cuts and un­clogged ar­te­ri­als for the swiftest route be­tween A and B, is one of the coun­try’s un­sung nat­u­ral won­ders. Al­ways in­sist on me­tered rides, to save any un­pleas­ant­ness at jour­ney’s end.

FAIR FARE: Mooching along Galle Face Green in the late af­ter­noon is a time­worn rit­ual trea­sured b by lo­cals and tourists alike. This ocean­front park­land was used as a race­track and golf course dur­ing Bri­tish rule but en­dures to­day as an im­promptu fair­ground where kite fly­ers, tryst­ing lovers, as­pir­ing Test crick­eters and bom­bai mut­tai (fairy floss) ven­dors gather each evening. Ad­ven­tur­ous eaters can sam­ple street food sta­ples such as isso vade, spiced len­til cakes with prawns, and kottu, curry left­overs and roti fash­ioned into Sin­hale­ses­tyle bub­ble and squeak. More: sri­

EVENING EN­HANCER: Don’t be late for sun­set cock­tails on the Che­quer­board lawn ter­race at Galle Face Ho­tel or you’ll miss the nightly fla­glow­er­ing rit­ual where a kilted bag­piper ser­e­nades the end of the day. Pimm’s Cups and G&Ts are de rigueur but there’s a solid ar­gu­ment to be made, too, for the nec­tar­like pomegranate Ne­groni. The colo­nial ho­tel is look­ing spruce af­ter a 2015 makeover that re­freshed all 158 gue­strooms and lent re­newed sparkle to the mar­ble and chan­de­liers. More: galle­face­ho­ GRAND DREAMS: Sri Lanka’s tourism boom is ush­er­ing in some big-name ho­tel open­ings, in­clud­ing the 500-room Shangri-La and the 350room ITC Colombo One, both sched­uled to open on Galle Face by late this year. But those who pre­fer ro­mance to novelty should con­sider Ma­ni­umpa­thy (pic­tured), an an­ces­tral home in dress-cir­cle Colombo 7, the cap­i­tal’s leafy em­bassy quar­ter, which opened as an eight­suite ho­tel early last year. Set be­hind high walls on Kynsey Road, once known as Sri Lanka’s Har­ley Street, first­floor gue­strooms have broad ve­ran­das and views of trop­i­cal green­ery while ground-floor suites open onto court­yard gar­dens and pool­side pa­tios. But­lers serve break­fast at mar­ble-topped ta­bles on the ve­randa with daily news­pa­pers, curd and trea­cle, and quite pos­si­bly the island’s best bread bas­ket. More: ma­ni­umpa­

Ken­dall Hill was a guest of In­dia Un­bound and Re­mark­able East • in­di­aun­ • re­mark­

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