Trip Report for Sri Lanka

Aug 12th, 2009, 09:35 AM
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Trip Report for Sri Lanka

I visited Sri Lanka for two and a half weeks in September/October, 2008, and for just six days in July, 2009. [For those of you who read my earlier post, I erred on the day Aug. 8.] I used the Lonely Planet guide for the first trip and the brand new Bradt guide for the second. Bradt is better, although an awful lot of it is geared to train travellers. In Colombo, I have stayed multiple nights in three hotels: Galle Face, Mt. Lavinia, and Cinnamon Grand. I prefer Mt. Lavinia (setting on the water, swimming pool, good food served on outside terraces), but Galle Face is nice, too. Cinnamon Grand is a huge, impersonal city hotel but it has good restaurants, a beautiful pool, a lively social scene, and celebrities (SL soccer stars, etc.) walking through the lobby. Bring $$ for all.

For ten days last October, with my driver, I went to Dambulla, Anuradhapura, and Kandy to see the principal Buddhist historical sites. We drove farther into the hill country around Nuwara Eliya, Ella, and on past Uda Walawe National Park to the coastal city of Hambantota, and worked our way west along the coast back to Colombo. My sole purpose for going to SL in July was to attend a wedding (at the Cinnamon Grand), so I made only a two night excursion to Nuwara Eliya to visit the tea estates again.

Sri Lanka is definitely the destination for anyone interested in Buddhism, but, in my opinion, go somewhere else, if you want a good beach. The fort and old area of Galle are fascinating, the hill country with tea estates is beautiful, and Sri Lanka, overall, is like a Garden of Eden, but subtracting from these national assets are run down, moldy buildings, poor insfrastructure, crowds of pedestrians jostling for space, jammed highways and streets, and a festering problem of inequality among classes and ethnic groups.

Just a short mention of other hotels. Two I can recommend are Geoffrey Bawa's Kandalama Hotel at Dambulla and the Tea Factory Hotel at Nuwara Eliya. Each is so unique that you will be amazed.

I am happy to write, in conclusion, that the national mood in Sri Lanka is entirely different now than it was last October. With the defeat of the Tamil Tiger insurgency, citizens feel as though they have a new beginning and they are optimistic. People with whom I talked smiled when they told me that the IMF has so much confidence in Sri Lanka that it has just given them more money than they asked for (they got $2.6 billion). It is a good time to go to Sri Lanka. The north is opening and I'm told that the beautiful beaches are up there. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Aug 12th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Thank you for this brief report. I am especially interested to hear how the mood differs from your previous trip. I was there in 2008, and we were unable to go to Anuradhapura because of fighting in the area.

The only hotel you mentioned where we also stayed was the Kandalama - truly an amazing place!
Kathie is offline  
Aug 12th, 2009, 12:35 PM
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When I was in Sri Lanka in the fall, 2008, everyone was dispirited by the failure of the internationally-sponsored peace talks to bring an end to the civil war, by the presence of armed soldiers and checkpoints in practically every block of cities and towns, by sporatic bombings in markets and urban areas (a big bomb went off in downtown Colombo when I was there), and by the human and financial toll of the war that had dragged on for at least twenty years. There didn't seem to be any end in sight. A compromise seemed impossible, too, and, indeed, is was, for the SL army went into the lair of the Tigers this spring and wiped out the leadership. As one World Bank official told me in July, at the end most Sri Lankans didn't feel like celebrating. "Celebrate what?", he said, "that you've gone in, killed a lot of people, and created hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who don't want to return to their villages because of the bombs around them?" Yet, now, that feeling is being replaced by the sense that military action was inevitable, that it was for the best, and that we're going to rebuild the nation. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Aug 13th, 2009, 05:23 PM
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The uplifted mood is good news indeed. Thanks for the report.
Femi is offline  
Aug 14th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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Nice report, and you are right the North does have some amazing beaches, Trinco particularly! Thanks for sharing!
abi_maha is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Thanks for sharing your good trip report. I love reading reports.
lrchunky is offline  

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