Matara photo by Piaser.
Thameera calls Matara the most beautiful city in Sri Lanka. It’s certainly up there. I was there last week and this somehow surprised me, but I suppose it shouldn’t. Matara has good southern beach, the most beautiful mosque in Sri Lanka, interesting bridges, and uniformly attractive houses. It’s an attractive place.
Colombo has beautiful spots, but punctuated and at times dominated by concrete latapata, hideous cladding and glass over latapata concrete, and commercial monstrosities. Many buildings are made to live in or work in and that’s it, there’s no connection to the past or thought of the future.
In Matara, by contrast, there are a lot of old buildings lovingly restored or respectably crumbling. Even the new constructions (the suspension bridges) aspire to be memorable rather than functional. The Matara Guest House is restored, but probably the best government guest house I’ve ever seen, and there some quite decent ones (Anuradhapura for example). What struck me the most was the average houses. They were big, and almost all – new or old – stuck to the basic architectural motif of pillars, verandah, house.
Many Sri Lankan houses have lost the verandah, or any unifying traits, but most Matarese buildings have kept it. They’re quite nice. There’s something about a verandah and pillars, I dunno. Like the Parthenon.
Matara is a great city, straight shot to Galle on one side and Tangalle/Yala on the other. With the new Southern Expressway (see a video in two minutes) it’s about an hour and a half from Maharagama, I’d say about 2-3 hours from Colombo proper. The place developed pretty well under the design sense of then Minister Mangala Samaraweera and it more than anyone will benefit from the port and other dev in Hambantota. It’s an interesting place. It’s not the most beautiful place in Sri Lanka (I have a thing for Ella) but as far as cities go, yeah, I think Matara and Kandy are it for me.