A taste of paradise

Himalayan News Service


On the scale of a world map, Sri Lanka appears to hang like a tiny teardrop over the Indian Ocean. In reality though, this tropical isle is certainly no drop in the ocean. From north to south it has a maximum length of 435 km and at its widest point it measures 225 km, giving it a land area of 65,600 square km. At tropical beach level the thermometer soars into the mid 80 degree Fahrenheit but within four hours’ journey by road or rail, lies the breathtaking hill country where the temperature drops to 50 degree Fahrenheit. As quickly as the climate changes, so does the dramatic scenery. An equally short journey will bring you to the ruined cities of Sri Lanka’s ancient civilisation. On these journeys, one can see palm fringed beaches, a wealth of wildlife, exotic flora, plains and highlands, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. These are true beauties of Sri Lanka, a calm and serene countryside matched by an enticingly simple way of life.

Different religions and ethnic groups live side by side in total harmony in a democratic society. Sri Lanka offers endless miles of perfect golden sand fringed by swaying coconut palms. Favourite resorts are everyone’s idea of a tropical paradise. Sri Lanka inspires a beautiful lethargy. For the more energetic, there is water skiing, sailing, surfing, scuba diving and deep sea fishing. Religion and culture are totally interwoven in Sri Lanka — Buddhist temples, Hindu kovils, mosques and churches stand together in religious harmony. The sacred city of Anuradhapura, founded in the fifth century BC is venerated as the capital city of Buddhism. The sacred Bo Tree grown from a sapling of the tree, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, is the oldest living tree in documented history. In its vicinity are the remains of the Brazen Palace, the towering Ruwanweliseya Dagaba, the Seated Buddha, Temples, Palaces and Parks — all of which bear testimony to a proud and imaginative people.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful, colourful mixture of religious, cultures, races and geography —the tropical meeting place of old and new. The island has some of the finest international hotels — with prices to suit all pockets — where modern-day luxuries are matched by traditional hospitality and charm. The cuisine can be cosmopolitan or indigenous. Naturally enough fresh seafood is a specialty of the island — with lobster, crab, prawn and squid heading the extensive menus. But for a taste of traditional Sri Lanka, there is a full range of local dishes including spiced curry and rice, plus a profusion of delicious fruits — mangoes, bananas, pineapples, mangoteens, avocado, papaya and of course, ‘Ceylon Tea’ — the finest flavour in the world.

For an evening’s entertainment, there are the regular performances by traditional musicians, singers, drummers and dancers. For the sportsman, Sri Lanka provides an abundance of aquatic sports — scuba diving, surfing, angling and deep — sea fishing, as well as golf, tennis and the more conventional pastimes. Sri Lanka is veritable treasure trove of rubies, sapphires, zircons, gamets, amethysts, topaz and cat’s eyes. The street markets and craft centres also offer a wide choice of gifts and souvenirs — batiks and carved masks, jewellery and curios, silver, brass and copper ware and spices. Sri Lanka is a happy island — a land of smiling people. Everywhere there is the colour and fragrance of tropical vegetation. Whether you are bargain hunting in the Pettah (bazaar) of Colombo, marvelling at the ancient cities, sipping tea, in the hill country, soaking up the sun on some near deserted beach or strolling in the countryside, you will find that people are always friendly and outgoing. Although predominantly Sinhalese, Sri Lanka also has other ethnic groups — Tamils, Moors, Malays and descendants of the Dutch, Portuguese and British as well as a small aboriginal community of Veddahs. Over the centuries they have learnt to respect their cultural differences and are justly proud of their past. Wherever you go, you will find the traditional welcome- “Ayubowan” — may you live long.