Bad photo. Can’t take any closer
Colombo is a unique city in that war has preserved its downtown in a bit of a time warp. It is as if the clock on the Ports Authority Building stopped in the 1940s. The Grand Oriental Hotel still waits for passengers en route to Singapore or the Middle East. But no one comes. Only containers shuffle on and off the boats. Nobody stops for a drink or a meal, the rooms are musty and largely unoccupied. You can step onto the downtown street and be in a ghost town, preserved edifices, waiting for a future that never came. This will change, in time. We can stop hiding from the bombs in the suburbs. Right now the Harbour Room is a nice place to have a drink. The food is nothing special, but the view is the best in Colombo.
As a practical matter, the Grand Oriental Hotel Harbour Room is on York Street (I think that’s the name). You can see it on this Google Map. At the very end, just before the Ports Authority. There is really one road that goes past the Hilton and then turns right at the World Trade Center. Follow that to the end and you’re there. The GOH is at the end, on your left, marked by vertical lettering. The Harbour Room is on the fourth floor. If you need to call them the number is +94(0)11 2320320.
The girl went to the bathroom and I leaned over to ask a lone tourist fellow how he was doing. He sounded German. He was staying there and he said it was nice, but he certainly wasn’t blown away. The word he used to describe the rooms was ‘musty’. The place is certainly, neglected, almost deserted. I was surprised they had guests at all, but there were a few. He said his room was about $60. That’s rather expensive for Colombo and I think you could get better rooms. I wouldn’t recommend staying there until they refurbish.
It is, however, a great place for a drink or a party. The view is absolutely amazing. The Port is a high security zone and I have never seen it. You can see the edges from the Flag And Whistle (Kotahena-ish), but I never thought I’d see the whole thing without some military hook-up. I didn’t realize one could just visit this hotel. The entire port is laid out and perfectly centered. You can see the container ships on the left, the cranes moving containers around like legos. In the middle is the old Ports Authority Building and rows of warehouses behind. To the right is the Jetliner military cruise ship and a few Dvoras. All were used in the war, but now just maintained. It’s a lovely scene.
You can just sit there and have Rs. 300 arracks or the same-priced beer. There’s average cuttlefish, french fries, whatever. The food is nothing to write home about and you need to throw a harpoon to find a waiter, but that’s besides the point. It is an amazing view, seeing modernity from, essentially, the past. It feels like the city abandoned this one hotel while commerce goes on inside. Really a lovely view.