Galle Face Green, the largest open space in Colombo city is a 5 ha, half a kilometer promenade first laid out in 1859. It lies parallel to the Indian Ocean and extends in a strip towards the central business district of Colombo and has one of the oldest hotels in South Asia at one end and the Continental Hotel at the other end. The principal charm of the place is that it is not overshadowed by any high rises or other obstacles, giving the impression of a vast open space with clean air and of course unfettered views of the Indian Ocean.
The Green has gone through several changes since 1859, serving as a race course and golf course and the story goes on. It even served as a landing strip for a British fighter plane during World War II when its pilot decided to drop in for a drink at the Colombo Club in front of the Green. As of old, the Galle Face Green is still used for diverse activities ranging from musical shows, Independence Day parades, political rallies, kite flying, family outings, cricket matches and is a haunt of vendors, merry makers, exercise fanatics and day trippers who come to dip their toes in the sea. It is during the weekends that Galle Face Green really comes to life with vehicles vying for parking space and all those wanting to indulge in their favorite past times decide to come here.
In a bygone time, people came to Galle Face Green to stare at the ships waiting to dock in Colombo harbor. Some lit up in the night and dreamt of faraway places. While there are no long lines of ships any more, the efficiency of the harbor having improved, people still come to see the spectacular sunsets, sit under the stars on clear nights or to simply relax after a long day at work in a well-lit safe environment.
Galle Face Green has undergone changes as at various times efforts have been made to improve it. However it is still a struggle to maintain the ‘green” aspect of it. The original Galle Face Green was spread out over a much larger area. The road running parallel to it has claimed some of that area. However, the importance of Galle Face Green to the well being of Colombo city dwellers remains undiminished.
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