Why Not SRI LANKA
About this blog
Had it not been for the prospect of climbing Adam's Peak, I would have easily looked past and beyond Sri Lanka in search of other more familiar and exotic vacation spots. I have heard very little about the country, and when it did make it on the world news headlines not too long ago, they were all bad news. To be caught in a cross-fire in a civil war zone or be dragged into the middle of the ocean by a tsunami isn't exactly my idea of a good time, if you know what I mean. And so it was with much trepidation that I venture into the heart of this tiny island-nation, expecting nothing, daring only to hope that I will not make it into the casualty list of a natural or man-made disaster.
Eight days seven nights later, I left the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, humbled by the beauty of its land and the hospitality of the Sri Lanka folks.
Sri Lanka is a land of remarkable diversity. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims live peacefully side by side. Religious differences are apparent on the streets. Tamil women with their golden jewellery and colourful saris walk alongside veiled Muslim women and orange-clad monks. Houses of worship stand tall and grand across the streets from one and the other. The muadzin's call for prayers can be heard above the sermon of a Buddhist priest in a nearby temple. Colourful tuk-tuks (a three-wheeler motorised van) weave urgently on narrow paved roads between busses and trucks painted with elaborate designs and motifs, constantly blaring their horns noisily as if to announce their presence at every curb and corner.
The vibrant Sri Lanka street-life blends almost magically with its colourful landscape. Hazy-blue mountain ranges dominate the skyline in the central region casting dramatic shadows over the luscious-green tea plantations that cover practically every contour of the hills. Warm sandy beaches hug its tear-drop coastal lines as far as the eyes could see. The mighty Indian Ocean surrounding the island is an attraction in its own right. Its high waves crash endlessly on the shoreline, spraying mist into the salty air. Traditional wooden catamaran dot the horizon, its flapped-out sails catching the early morning breeze, as local fishermen set out to reap the sea's bounty. On fields along the beaches, everywhere, young Sri Lankan boys are playing a game of cricket.
Despite the chaos and relative poverty, Sri Lanka is beautiful, clean and safe. The people are friendly and aren't shy to greet you with a simple hello and a warm smile as they pass you by on the streets. Many speak English, and are genuinely helpful, with the predictable exception of ultra-touristy places such as the beach areas and present-day Colombo where tuk-tuk drivers offer "best price" to the unsuspecting foreign visitor.