A luxury holiday in Sri Lanka won’t be complete without some shopping spree. There are lots of fine and elegant products to buy around the country depending on one’s preference for souvenir items. From gems, garments to handicrafts and antiques, the country has so much to offer.
At private and government shops, the norm is you will have to pay for the prices shown on the tags for each item. Prices there fixed and non-negotiable.
If you visit antique shops, craft and small shops as well as bazaars, you have an opportunity to bargain at their prices.
One of the most sought after items in Sri Lanka are its gemstones. The country is famous for its top quality gems that are most affordable compared to those sold in the U.S. and the U.K. In fact, you can buy uncut diamonds at half the price. An important thing to remember, though, is to buy only from licensed shops and have your gems tested to be sure you’re paying the right price and you’re getting the authentic ones. The National Gem and Jewelry Authority has test centers. More »
Looking at old postcards is a wonderful way to glimpse into the history of a place. Here are a selection of some fascinating ones sent to us by a Sri Lankan friend from Galle that truly reflect the beauty and majestic qualities of old Ceylon.
Temple of Tooth Relic – Kandy
Whenever I come back from a trip to Sri Lanka, my family and friends have now come to expect something special from Barefoot – a wonderful shop of rural handweavers that make and sell the most delightful toys, home ware, clothes and art. In fact, last Christmas we gave Barefoot presents to nearly everybody – lovely hardbound notebooks and photo albums covered in a rainbow of patterns, chic hand-painted candlesticks and cushion covers, brightly colored dolls and teddies, rucksacks in the amusing shape of fish and elephants for the children (which will definitely last a lifetime) and much more- all so unique and special.
The things at Barefoot are certainly not cheap, and the reason for this is that they are all painstakingly handmade and of high quality. From the dyes used, to the weaving process, (Barefoot admonishes use of machinery), Barefoot does it all themselves and what’s interesting is that the work is not done in a factory but from a cottage industry where the people take the work home and do it in their own time. More »
The gardens at Lunuganga are a rare tropical Eden created by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most influential architect. And what started out as an abandoned rubber estate, is now one of the most unique places to stay in the country. Over a span of 50 years, Bawa lovingly made this enchanting house and it’s gardens his spiritual home, which is known today as his most personal life’s work. The intriguing estate in the coastal town of Bentota has interesting history of evolution:
Bawa never kept a systematic record of the evolution of the garden and its chronology is now hard to unravel. One fascinating diary of events is provided by a large leather-bound visitors’ book containing a plethora of photographs and sketches as well as signatures and greetings: in 1965 Ulrik Plesner reflects on the problems of the Hilton project; in 1966 Ismeth Raheem records having seen over forty species of bird during one afternoon; in 1973 Donald Friend leaves a doodle of his museum on Bali; in 1997 President Kumaratunga approves the designs of her new Official Residence; and in 1998 Prince Charles drops in for tea.
Perhaps the most memorable visit of all, however, was on 3 January 1988 when a friend called Ray Wijewardene flew down from Colombo in a microlight and, misjudging his landing, crashed into the main roof of the bungalow.
Sri Lanka is well known for its festivals, and the month of January is one of the best times to visit this country. I already shared the Galle Literary Festival with you. The excitement is actually building up exponentially as the time draws nearer and nearer. Before this festival is held, however, there is another art festival that you should know about: Kala Pola.
Dubbed as Colombo’s grandest open air art festival, Kala Pola is traditionally held on the third Sunday of January. This festival is relatively new – it started only in the early 1990s, thanks to the genius of George Keyt. This man has impacted the Sri Lankan art culture in unparalleled ways, giving birth to a foundation named after him. Keyt’s supporters founded this organization in an effort to support and promote Sri Lankan artists and their works. More on George Keyt from Art Sri Lanka: More »
One of our favourite places to eat and shop in Colombo is The Gallery Cafe. Previously the studio of Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa, the cafe most definitely carries his mark, and is easily the most stylish restaurant in the bustling capital and often crowded with the “who’s who” of the Colombo jet-setters and expat community.
Although it is located right at the heart of Colombo, the minute you enter the Gallery Cafe‘s doors, you feel as if you have entered a tropical oasis. An open air courtyard, latticed doors, tranquil ponds strewn with purple “nil manel” (Sri Lanka’s national flower), comfortable seating and fabulous art everywhere, its the perfect place to relax after a busy day exploring the city. More »
For the last two years, Geoffrey Dobbs (owner of the Sun House hotel) has organized a literary festival in Galle and it has become a huge success, with tickets sold out well in advance, hotels and villas booked choc-a-bloc and a roster of famous writers visiting that would impress any literary enthusiast.
This year’s event will be held in and around the world heritage site of Galle Fort from the 28th January to February 1st. Writers this year include Thomas Keneally, Germaine Greer, Pico Iyer, Edna O’Brien, Romesh Gunesekera, V.V. Ganeshananthan, MJ Akbar, Giles Milton, Moses Isegawa, Michael Morpurgo and many more. More »