The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #204


A reader writes:

I am certain someone else will win and get closer, but I just saw something familiar and wanted to at least get the city right with Oakland, CA. I see the San Francisco Ferry in the background, so I have to at least be within 5 miles of the window, right?

Give or take 9,023 miles. Another US guess:

I’m pretty sure that this week’s entry is the Port of Galveston, Texas. The combination of the cruise-ship, cranes, pick up trucks in the foreground and urban/spanish roofs lead me there.

Western Europe?

Reminds me of pictures from my mother’s cruise several years ago of the Hanseatic League ports. Hamburg looks about right, but it has blue tower cranes instead of red.

Or North Africa?

In all the years I’ve been following the contest, I’ve only known two locations correctly and never guessed because I questioned myself. I’m going with my gut – for a third time: Casablanca, Morocco. Something about it looks very familiar, although don’t even ask me where in the city the picture was taken from – I’m clueless.

Another runs through several clues:

The architecture, to me, looks so much like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, and the presence of the single sikh (?) temple in the middle wouldn’t necessarily sway that belief. However, the architecture of the white building near the water with domed corners throws me for a loop. I can understand one such example in a pic of this scope in Europe, but two in such close proximity seemed unlikely. And the deciduous trees in the foreground suggest it could not be the Middle East. I’ve not been there, so maybe they’re as plentiful as sand.

Then I think I have the temples wrong to begin with, and they’re actually Russian Orthodox. Ugh. And I searched for busy ports of course, but then realized I was assuming the port kept going for miles outside the pic. But it could be a small port. Ugh 2x.

Bottom line is I had a choice: (1) look through G-Earth for days scrolling through pics of all of Europe, Russia, and northern Middle East searching, or (2) succumb to the beckon of the 78 degree day outside.

Samsun, Turkey.

If any readers feel like they need a VFYWC support group, give this guy a call:

Lately, my guesses have fallen into two categories: (1) the guesses I have not e-mailed in to you because I was sure they were wrong, but which turned out to be correct (Bangkok; Orlando); and (2) the guesses I have e-mailed to you because I was sure they were right, but which turned out to be the most popular incorrect guess (Gibraltar; Oman). So this week I’m entering a guess I’m sure is wrong: Vancouver, Canada. Let’s see if I’m right.

Another gets closer:

Port Louis, Mauritius. I’m not sure why I thought immediately of a port city in Africa. Somewhere with a sizable Muslim population, because I do see a small masjid in the picture. It doesn’t look particularly prosperous, but there is a large cruise ship in the bay. The gantries at the port are loading or offloading a ship piled high with containers, and I rather suspect these are being imported as opposed to exported. First time participating in this contest, I really hope I’m at least somewhere in the right latitude …

Almost. Another gets on the right continent:

Penang, Malaysia. Probably wrong, but I least I guessed this week.

The following reader nails the right city and country, and he also points out the coincidental significance of today’s date:

This appears to be a northwesterly view of the Buddha Jayanthi Stupa in Colombo, Sri Lanka, also known as the Harbour Stupa, probably taken from one of the high rises along Lotus Road – 10th floor? My guess would be near the intersection of Lotus Road and York Street.

My guess for choosing this view to run this week is because Tuesday 13 May is Vesak Day in the Buddhist world, a day on which we celebrate the Buddha’s birth, awakening and passing into Nibbāna/Nirvana. This also marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year 2558. The stupa’s construction began in 1956, the year marking the 2500th year of Buddhism.

Here are this week’s guesses as an OpenHeatMap (zoom in by double-clicking an area of interest, or drag your cursor up and down the slide):

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Shown another way, a whopping 86.4% of contestants guessed correctly this week:


Another Colombo guesser:

First time participant here. The photo seems to be taken from a high vantage point somewhere on York Street. Maybe the Hilton?

Indeed it is. A regular player takes everything in:

What did we have to go on, here? A large port, but not a megaport. A reasonably prosperous-looking city. A cruise ship. In the foreground, a mosque? That prominent white building? It looks like a Buddhist temple. Eventually, looking for “Buddhist temple port” we discover that this is a picture of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Buddhist temple is the Sambodhi Chaithya Dagoba, known as a stupa. The temple straddles Chaithya Road and was built as a landmark for ships. The photo was taken from the north side of the Hilton Colombo. Here is a view from the port looking toward the hotel – notice the Sambodhi Chaithya Dagoba in the foreground:

sri lanka2

As to which window the photo was taken from … as always, I’ll guess. 18th floor, northwest corner.

Another uses TripAdvisor to help narrow down his guess:

One TripAdvisor contributor, who provided a view from his window, stayed on the same side of the hotel although on a slightly higher floor, and a good bit further east, so our view is from the west wing. Another Tripadvisor user’s photo from his 7th floor room, while not the same view, provides a similar angle over the trees and buildings, but I think your submitter was a bit higher. Hence, my guess of the 9th floor, far west room, looking north.

Another, like many others, focused on the cranes:

Really fun one this week. Immediately thought Denmark, but then realized it’s a little too run down. Next thought was Indonesia, but no ports checked out at first glance. I Googled “Indonesia port crane” looking for the red and white stripes, and by luck, a picture of that big pier in the middle appeared, with the white dome at left in the contest photo off to the right:


The cranes themselves are from Indonesia, but the picture is in Sri Lanka, which was my next guess as Indonesia wasn’t working out. You can see the contest building in the back center of this photo, just to the left of the cranes: The Colombo Hilton hotel.

A rookie correct guesser:

I am so excited, this is my first VFYW entry ever, despite many weekends spent pouring over Google Earth and ending up with nothing. This is also the first contest that my husband has IMG_0181helped with, which I am sure contributed to my success. He has worked with shipping containers for a long time and is my expert consultant on port cities.

The area has changed a lot in a few years – here is a picture from 2010 from the same hotel (although I am thinking this shot is from the east side of the hotel, and the VFYW is from the west side or center because the Panoramio picture does not show the Colombo City Hotel).

Attached is my attempt to explain: the black lines are the center and outer edges of the picture, with buildings labeled.

Another adds some historical context to the city:

At first glance, this image shows the diversity of South Asia.  A Buddhist temple, a mosque, an Islamic cultural center, colonial era buildings, commerce, and western culture (there’s TGI Fridays in the foreground) all mix together.

Yet the image is also about a rising China. Colombo’s significance as a port city took off under the Portuguese in the early 16th century and continued to be an important trading center through Dutch, British, and independent rule. Today, it is China’s turn to influence trade here. It has invested in a string of ports around the rim of the Indian ocean, including at Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong, Lamu in Kenya, and Kyaukpyu in Burma. The contest picture shows Colombo’s South Container Terminal on the left hand side that China invested $500 million to build.  And Colombo may soon be eclipsed by China’s reported $1 billion investment to build a new port on Sri Lanka’s south coast at Hambantota.

A former winner offers a tip for guessing windows:

Boy, you weren’t kidding when you said this week’s contest would be an easy one. Never before have I identified the correct city so quickly!


A note on methodology: As you can see, I have chosen a window in the middle. Why? Because proximity counts, and being in the middle gives me the highest probability of being close to the actual window in a case like this where I just have to guess. I’m always surprised when people choose windows on the edges, thereby minimizing their chance of being closest. Choosing the middle window this way won me contest #199 :) Thanks for another fun contest!

Many readers seemed to have had a great time this week:

Just about the easiest one so far. It was the candy-striped container cranes in that busy port that gave the game away in just a moment or two spent consulting Google image search: Colombo, Sri Lanka. We’re in the district called Fort, looking north from a low floor in the Hilton Colombo.


Out of frame to the left might have been seen the twin towers of Sri Lanka’s own World Trade Center; in the background, that intriguing white bell of a temple would have appeared even more intriguing if our photographer’s room had been on a higher floor: it’s the Sambodhi Chaithya, Sambhodi_Chaithya_multia Buddhist temple built high over Chaithya Road, straddling it on arches that are unhinted at in this photo. Between the temple and the Hilton is the small dome of Fort Jumma Mosque. In the foreground to the left, the yellow building lit by all that early morning sun is the Colombo City Hotel, and next door to it, Ta Da! that’s a TGI Fridays in the two-story yellow building with the red-and-white awning … my god they’re everywhere.

A reader who’s been to Colombo:

This picture was taken near the Pettah marketplace. The water is the Indian Ocean to the west of the city. The roadway in the middle of the picture goes past a colorful old department store and ends at the Grand Oriental Hotel. The Galle Face Green, a huge park along the shore, is just off the left edge of the picture:

100_0668 Galle Face Green

I’ve been waiting for a long time to see if a picture from Sri Lanka would appear as the view from a reader’s window.

We actually featured Sri Lankan window views before – here, here and here. Another reader:

I’ve been lucky to visit Sri Lanka several times lately – I’m just winding up a three-year assignment in Bangalore, and Colombo is just over an hour’s flight away. It’s a beautiful and very chilled out place to visit, from the jungles, tea-covered mountains and temples inland to the beaches and historical colonial forts on the south coast. Colombo’s fun too, although last time we were there it was Sri Lankan New Year so no alcohol was available anywhere. We struggled through those three days, only to get back to Bangalore where no alcohol was available for another two days due to the Indian elections. In retrospect it was probably good for us.

A real-life contest got this reader a little sauced before playing this week:

Short entry this week as I took to the gin after my son’s little league team (which I coach) lost in extra innings in the playoffs. Father of the year. This week you’re all up in Columbo, Sri Lanka. Specifically at a Hilton on the Fuck That I Already Got My Book floor. Some weeks you just win by being awesome at Google, and I image searched candy-stripe shipping cranes against terms like Middle East and mosque and eventually, pow! Some dude’s travel blog.

Get your shirts ready already, Father’s Day is coming soon.

We are aiming to release merch by then. Last week’s victor swaggers in:

As reigning champ I probably field five queries a day about blurry auto-rickshaws. “Is it black and scarlet?” I’ve learned to interrupt, generally before the second “tuk” of “tuk tuk”. “Cause you know that means Sri Lanka, yeah?”

Guys we are, obviously, looking North-North-West from the Hilton hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Guests at the Hilton can dine at any of a not-too-shabby nine (9) specialty restaurants, including the (Asian-themed?) Emperor’s Wok, then belt out some oldies in the Stella Karaoke lounge and repair tired-but-happy to their air-conditioned suite from which, if it’s Room 1714 – and I believe that is the case here – they can look out at what my research informs me is a body of water, some red cranes, and a weird white dome.

No, the only challenge here was getting a shot of the hotel’s rarely photographed north side, but thanks to my friends (and future sponsors??) at, I finally found one:


I shall see you again next week.

Wrong on the room and floor number though. Incredibly, even with more than 90 correct guesses this week, only one player got the right floor of the Hilton. Less incredible? It was Chini:

Last week’s view took ’til Monday night to track down; this one took fewer than ten minutes. So it was a weekend off. This week’s view comes from Colombo, Sri Lanka and looks north by northwest along a heading of 340.75 degrees. The picture was taken from a room on the 13th floor of the Colombo Hilton, at approximately 6:27 a.m. (local time) on the morning of April 7th, 2014:


Per the view’s submitter, the actual room number was 1322. Here is a collage of many of this week’s guesses:


Our winner this week is a longtime player with the best overall guessing record among the several readers who guessed either the 12th or 14th floor:

Wow… you sure un-dropped the hammer on this one. Googling “stupa port” for images returned four images of a guy wearing a yellow shirt selling something followed by this image [to the right]. Bingo!

This week’s view is of the Fort Colombo District and port of Fort Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was stupataken from the Hilton Colombo hotel, a tall rectangular blight on the otherwise stately Colombo skyline (otherwise, I’m sure the hotel is lovely). It was taken from the north side of the building, near the western end, and a bit more than halfway up. I’ll take a stab at a guess of the 12th floor.

(Archive: Text|Gallery)