Living in Sri LankaIyna Bort Caruso
Sri Lanka is in a growth spurt.
Asia’s oldest democracy is undertaking major infrastructure projects, improving connectivity and reshaping the skylines of its major cities. Tourism is skyrocketing. Once an important port on the ancient Silk Road trade route owing to its strategic location off the coast of India, the teardrop island nation is once again focused on becoming a key player on the modern-day maritime route from Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
The former British Crown colony once known as Ceylon gained independence in 1948 and changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972 when it became a republic. Today the per capita incomes of its 21 million residents rank among the highest in South Asia.
Sri Lanka is steeped in an ancient culture heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. While the official languages are Sinhalese and Tamil, English is widely spoken.
It’s a country that packs a lot into a relatively small space including eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than a dozen national parks, virgin rainforests and lush tea gardens. Trekkers navigating through sacred mountains are rewarded with sightings of exotic birds, rare orchids and temple ruins. The waters beckon divers with coral gardens and old shipwrecks while beaches offer up a variety of experiences for sunbathers, snorkelers and surfers.
High-end real estate in and around the capital city of Colombo is being fueled by growing international demand. Additional projects targeting the luxury segment are in the pipeline. Galle, about two hours’ drive from Colombo on the southwestern coast, is a popular vacation home spot for overseas investors. Originally built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century and then fortified by the Dutch, some Dutch-era buildings of this historic city still survive.
Buddhism, Indian, East Asian and Western influences are all seen in Sri Lankan architecture. Starting in the 1960s, a movement called Tropical Modernism took hold here, a variation of the clean, minimalist lines of the International Style but adapted to the hot climate. Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa was the force behind the movement. In addition to private residences, Bawa’s portfolio included universities, religious buildings and the Sri Lankan Parliament.