Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Most Romantic Hotel In Sri Lanka Is Taprobane Island, And Should Be In Your Top 10 Destinations

The most romantic hotel in Sri Lanka is undoubtedly Taprobane Island, and you must take the opportunity to stay there for a few days during your vacation in Sri Lanka. Taprobane is an amazing place, and incredibly romantic, not the least of its charms is that you can only get to it by wading through the sea. The 2.5 acre island has 5 en-suite bedrooms with good size living areas, balconies, verandah, lovely tropical gardens, and of course an infinity pool.
There is a staff of five who only exist to pander to your every whim. It is of course hardly an hotel, more a fully staffed villa, and in my book absolutely perfect for a honeymoon stopover, whilst enjoying Sri Lanka. Taprobane is really a throw back to a long lost colonial era, and you could easily be in the 1930?s with the huge walk around verandahs, the colonial style furnishings. What I liked best was the fact that you could ask the staff for almost anything in the way of food, particularly seafood, and they would wade ashore and get it for you ? nothing it seemed was too much trouble. You can feel less than secure in the tropics, even although the Sri Lankans still hold the English in very high esteem, but the presence of a security guard should allay any fears. There really is nothing to do, but of course this is perfect as a top honeymoon destination. You can simply swim, read, paint, eat, swim, read, paint, eat, drink????? The main drawback is the journey from Colombo airport, of over 100km. This doesn?t seem much, but the roads are crowded, and it could take as much as five hours, which is a long time after a fourteen hour flight. My advice would be to overnight nearer Colombo, or visit Taprobane in the middle of your honeymoon in Sri Lanka.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sri Lanka: Wild at heart

Sri Lanka teems with exotic wildlife, from big cats to the shy slender loris – and with the country welcoming tourists once more, now is the time to visit

By Mike Unwin

The eyes have it. At least they do when it comes to spotting small nocturnal mammals in dark treetops. And the two eyes that suddenly materialise in our torch beam stop us in our tracks: twin points of disembodied light fixed in the blackness, like candles in a cave. We crane up through the foliage for a better view. Then just as suddenly – as though switched off at the wall – they disappear, leaving our beam to play aimlessly over a bare branch.

"Quick!" urges my guide, Nilantha, pointing with unerring certainty to the right. "That tree there." And sure enough, we're soon on to those eyes again – this time for long enough to clock their owner. Bingo! It's a slender loris. This diminutive, bizarre-looking primate is found nowhere on the planet but Sri Lanka. Binoculars reveal saucer eyes and skinny limbs as, looking like some arboreal ET, it scrambles away through the branches.

It is one of those wildlife eureka moments: one second you're trudging along fruitlessly, your mind set on dinner; the next, you're eyeballing something straight out of an Attenborough documentary. Granted, a slender loris is hardly big game. Nonetheless, there's a thrilling sense of secrecy to the sighting and I'm delighted my last night has produced something so special. Walking back, the orchestra of frogs and crickets seems to shift up a gear and the fireflies twinkle that much more vigorously.

Rewind a week or so and I'm watching and waiting for another unseen animal. This time the setting is a dusty 4x4 in the midday heat of Yala National Park, far to the south-east, and the animal is rather larger than a loris. The alarm whistles of spotted deer have given the game away and now, as agitated monkeys join the chorus, there's a tension in the air that can only mean a predator at large. We don't wait long. Out on to the sandy road pads the spotted feline form we'd been hoping for. "It's a young male," says my guide, Chitral Jayatilake, leopard photographer extraordinaire. "I recognise this chap; his mother must be around somewhere."

The leopard pauses, fixing us with a amber-eyed glare and twitching the curled tip of his long tail, then slinks into the thorn thickets. Freewheeling gently forward, we watch the dappled shoulders seesaw through the long grass to the foot of a tamarind tree. The cat peers around again then in one fluid bound is up aloft, draping himself over a branch as he settles down in the shade of the canopy.

Wildlife sightings don't come more impressive than a close encounter with a leopard. And leopard encounters, it seems, don't come any easier than at Yala where, with no larger predators for competition, this notoriously elusive cat has grown unusually bold. My four days in Sri Lanka's premier national park produce five excellent sightings: a success rate that competes with anywhere in Africa.

But Yala is not only about leopards, despite the one-track agenda of many visitors. Wildlife here is prolific. At ancient man-made reservoirs, known as tanks, we watch water buffalo wallow in the shallows, while shy sambar deer tiptoe down to drink and wild boar root beneath the fringing trees.

On a quiet loop road, large tracks lead us around a corner to a party of elephants. The beasts crash away into the bush, trumpeting their displeasure and shepherding a young calf to safety, its fuzzy contours just visible between the legs of its elders. The birds are impressive, too. Some seem strangely familiar: the peacocks that strut around the clearings and the junglefowl that dash through the thickets are perhaps too reminiscent of their domesticated descendants to earn the admiration they deserve. But others, such as the huge-conked Malabar pied hornbills that lurch overhead and the little green bee-eaters that hunt hawk dragonflies beside the road, are captivating.

On our final day, bouncing back to make the park exit before sunset, we jam on the brakes as a shaggy black mop ambles into a roadside clearing. It's a sloth bear, lured out by the scent of fruiting palu trees on the evening breeze. The animal raises a long pale muzzle to sniff myopically in our direction before shuffling back the way it came.

Back at the lodge that evening, as another 4x4 swings into camp and disgorges its cargo of khaki-clad visitors, I find myself mystified that Yala is so little known. But Chitral reminds me that this jewel of a park – like most of Sri Lanka – has had more than its fair share of troubles.

First there was the tsunami. Yala sits beside the Indian Ocean, and both staff and guests at the reserve were among the thousands who lost their lives on the morning of 26 December 2004. Our driver, Ajith, describes how he had turned inland on impulse to follow up a rumoured leopard sighting and missed by minutes the fate that befell four tourists at a beachfront picnic site. He shows us the memorial that now commemorates this tragedy, but even now he will not set foot on the beach. "Perhaps one day," he says. "Not yet."

And then there was the war. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan government finally brought a bitter end to the civil conflict that had beset the island for more than 30 years. In its later stages, the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) had established camps inside Yala, prompting the authorities to close all but one sector of the park, in effect bringing tourism to a standstill.

Today, controversy rages over the brutal resolution of the conflict, and thousands of people in the north remain displaced. Yet there is an overwhelming sense that the island is again opening up. And the good news for the visitor seeking wildlife is that neither war nor tsunami seem to have had any lasting impact on the natural environment. Indeed, while Yala is Sri Lanka's top safari drawcard, Chitral tells me how other long-neglected national parks, such as Wilpattu in the north-west, are teeming with wildlife and ripe for exploration.

No visitor to Sri Lanka can ignore the island's rich cultural heritage. And so from Yala we head northwest towards Kandy, the sacred Buddhist city that was the last of Sri Lanka's ancient Sinhalese capitals before the British took over in 1815. On the map it looks a shortish journey. On the road, however, we spend the best part of a day toiling up from the paddyfield patchwork quilt of the south-west, via the hairpins and waterfalls of the escarpment, on to the central plateau, with its topiaried tea estates and colonial hill stations.

At each stop along our route nature and culture are pleasingly intertwined. Thus the great granite Buddhas at Buduruwagala are set off by a crested serpent eagle that circles above them, while woolly furred bear monkeys – a mountain race of the endemic purple-faced leaf monkey – cavort around the treetops of Hakgala Botanical Gardens, where quinine was developed.

This same alluring blend continues the next day as we head east from Kandy to explore the ruins of Anuradhapura, built in 400BC as the first of Sri Lanka's ancient capitals. Despite the sheer scale of this site – one enormous stupa comprises 90 million bricks – the experience is overwhelmingly relaxing. Barbets call metronomically from the fig trees that shade our wanderings and grey langur monkeys strut around temple walls like delinquents on a school trip. In one rocky outcrop we enter a cave to find an orange-robed monk meditating on a rush mat, as though the last 2,000 years had never happened.

More World Heritage Sites follow, including the monumental rock fortress of Sigiriya and the overgrown ruins of Polonnaruwa, the island's second ancient capital. And as I brush up on my Buddhist mythology and marvel at the technology of ancient reservoir sluices, so my wildlife count ticks over: golden jackals trotting across the road; a roost of flying foxes; a two-metre-long monitor lizard.

The theme continues back at the delightful Chaaya Village hotel in Habarana, my base for exploring Sri Lanka's "cultural triangle". Here I discover giant squirrels and brown fish owls in the lakeside trees, and watch a mongoose scamper across the restaurant terrace as I tuck into yet another fabulous curry.

A short drive from Habarana is Minneriya National Park, notable for "The Gathering" – a seasonal congregation of elephants that is perhaps the largest in Asia. Numbers peak at more than 300 in July and August when the lake is at its lowest. At the time of my visit they were more widely dispersed, but we still find good numbers browsing the tall grasses of a nearby "ecopark" and even meet one impressive tusker sauntering down the main road as we return to the lodge after dark. Sri Lanka's jumbos, it seems, know no boundaries.

The challenge this presents to farmers is vividly brought home the next morning on a guided nature walk through the community around Habarana. Rickety wooden watchtowers among the paddyfields overlook the tangled forest edge, from where crop-raiding elephants emerge soon after dark. I ask one watchman, via the translation of my guide, TK, how he deters the raiders.

"I shout as loud as I can," he explains, and nods towards his assistant – a ferocious-looking dog chained to a coconut palm. But I'm guessing that the job might be a little trickier than he is letting on.

Marauding pachyderms notwithstanding, one could easily become dewy-eyed about this place. The homesteads, while basic, seem well-provided, the fields are fertile and well-irrigated, and nature runs riot in a manner that would surely be deemed unproductive by most Western farmers. We stroll between homesteads, watching chillies being harvested and sipping fresh coconut milk. Meanwhile, TK keeps up his nature guide's vigilance, spotting an emerald vine snake camouflaged among the foliage, a crocodile slipway at the water's edge, VC and an exquisite sunbird nest – fashioned from spider webs and lichen – in which we can just see the protruding bill of the sitting female.

We return across a reservoir by dugout canoe, kingfishers flashing past the bow, and then transfer to a bullock cart for the final stretch. Lying back on the boards I close my eyes and listen to the creak of wood and leather and the soft commands of the driver, as we rumble over the ruts and puddles left by last night's elephants. Our morning has hardly been a big-game safari. But for sheer immersion in nature – and a culture with which it seems seamlessly integrated – it has been every bit as satisfying as chasing leopards around Yala.

Sri Lanka's final wildlife secret is a big one – literally. Recent years have revealed a large and hitherto unknown population of blue whales off the southern coast. In peak season, from November to April, the port of Mirissa records sightings on more than 90 per cent of boat trips: a success rate that compares with any on the planet.

My arrival in Sri Lanka has coincided with the start of the monsoon, which means the southern seas are too rough to risk a tourist. With the war over, however, a new whale-watching front is opening up in the north-eastern port of Trincomalee, where weather patterns are different and the whales often venture close inshore.

Chitral's mind-blowing photographs are too hard to resist: we decide to take the road north and give it a shot. Soldiers wave us through military checkpoints with a smile. And "Trinco", when we arrive, seems to be thriving: my swanky hotel, the Chaaya Blue, opened just days earlier.

Unfortunately the whales play hard to get. After a morning fruitlessly combing the horizon for spouts and tail flukes, we admit defeat. A shake of the head from passing Tamil fishermen confirms that there've seen none this week.

Fair enough: if I'd wanted my whales served on a plate I should have turned up in the south a month earlier. All the more reason to return to Sri Lanka, I reflect, as our boat turns for home. And besides, where's the fun in wildlife if it just follows the itinerary?

As if on cue, three sleek backs break the water across our bows. "Spinner dolphins!" shouts Nilantha. "Look to the left." I turn to see the water churning for 100 metres or more as a flotilla of these exuberant cetaceans bear down on us.

There's nothing like a dolphin or two for raising the spirits – let alone 200 of them – and their beaky grins seem like a fitting final image with which to leave Sri Lanka. But I still have one more night left. "Now Nilantha," I say, "about that slender loris..."

Travel essentials: Sri Lanka

* Mike Unwin was a guest of World Big Cat Safaris (01273 691 642; and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (0845 880 6333; A similar tailor-made 14-night trip from World Big Cat Safaris costs from £1,950 (per person based on two sharing), including internal transfers, half-board accommodation, game drives in Yala National Park, a whale-watching expedition and a variety of cultural and historic excursions. International flights to Colombo are not included.

Getting there

* The only non-stop flights from the UK are on SriLankan (020-8538 2001; from Heathrow to Colombo. Connecting flights are widely available on Gulf-based airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air and Qatar fly via their respective hubs.

Staying there

* Chaaya Village, Habarana (00 94 6 6227 0047); Chaaya Blue, Trincomalee (00 94 2 6222 2307). For more information on both, see


Monday, 18 October 2010

Sri Lanka prepares for rebirth of tourism industry

Post-war Sri Lanka is preparing for a rapid growth in tourism numbers over the coming five years as the local industry gets back on its feet - and international visitors once again have faith in the security situation in the island nation.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association this week predicted around 500,000 tourists would have headed to Sri Lanka by the end of this year while the Sri Lankan government has announced plans to welcome 2.5 million visitors a year and add a further 25,000 hotel rooms nation wide by 2016.

"With an end to its civil war, Sri Lanka has now entered a period of relative peace and political stability and international visitors are responding with strong demand. Actual arrivals are well above the forecast for 2010 as at August,'' PATA said on its website this week.

The official site of the Sri Lanka Tourism is currently heralding the fact that The New York Times listed the country as number one in the "31 places to visit in 2010" ( while National Geograhpic this year rated the destination as the second best island to visit in the world, behind Cuba.

And this week Sri Lanka's Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa said the country was expecting new highs for its tourism industry.

He said he hoped also the expat Sri Lankans the world over would help spread the good news.

"This is an opportunity for expatriate Sri Lankans holding other citizenships, living overseas, to visit the island and bring along their friends from those countries. They will appreciate that they can visit the country without any fear for their safety and I invite them all to enjoy what Sri Lanka can offer,'' he told the Colombo Page internet news service.

The country is currently upgrading its famous wildlife parks and zoos while building new hotels and recreation facilities, according to Rajapaksa.

As well as more than 100 kilometers of coastline, rainforest and wildlife parks, Sri Lanka currently has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, some of which were off-limits during its civil war, which lasted from 1983 until May last year.

Visitors to Sri Lanka in 2009 (by region):

Western Europe 170,123
South Asia 126,205
North East Asia 31,439
Eastern Europe 26,310
Australasia 26,068
North America 24,948
Middle East 23,741
South East Asia 16,890
Others 2,166
Total: 447,890

Sri Lanka Tourism (


The New York Times' "31 places to visit in 2010" (


Friday, 3 September 2010

Sri Lanka, a terrific spot for wildlife, cuisine and culture

Sri Lanka is once again a terrific spot for those in search of some sub-continental wildlife, cuisine and a welcoming culture with the end to 25 years of conflict and the devastating tsunami, states CNN Go in a report published yesterday (1 Sep).

The writer Carmen Jenner explains that Sri Lanka is now ‘experiencing a resurgence’, and adds ‘nowhere is this more visible than in its capital Colombo and on the road to Galle’.

The airport is a duty-free haven for white goods and demonstrates Sri Lanka’s industrious side, a strength that propels them forward and beyond their hardships, she explains.

The CNN Go writer advises travelers not to be too conscious of looks in the humidity and tells them to ‘throw out that mirror and flop down on a beach instead; Unawatuna Beach in Galle is always a popular choice’.

The writer explains the ancient history of Sri Lanka and outlines several historical locations that tourists could visit.

Sunset over Sri Lanka's Unawatuna Beach

‘Trek to the Cultural Triangle spanning from Kandy (116 kilometers north east from Colombo) to Polonnaruwa (140 kilometers northeast of Kandy) to Anuradhapura (100 kilometers northwest of Polonnaruwa).

There is a round ticket that can be purchased at the town museums or entrances of these sites or at the Colombo Cultural Triangle Office (11 Independence Ave, Colombo, tel. 011 267 9921) or the Cultural Triangle Office in Kandy (Palace St, tel. 222 2661). The World Heritage City and the hill-top capital of the Central Province is Kandy and hosts the Tooth Relic of the Buddha in the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the holiest shrine in the Buddhist world.


Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura reveals Sri Lanka’s former glory with its massive dagobas (domes), the sacred Bo Tree (the world’s oldest recorded surviving tree) and architecture dating back to the third century B.C.’

‘The grand medieval capital of Polonnaruwa showcases the well-preserved ruins of palaces, imposing Buddha sculptures, monastic complexes, and a massive artificial lake called the Sea of Parakama. Sixty-seven kilometers east of Polonnaruwa is the sacred complex of Sigirya, an enormous rock that rises 200 meters with palace ruins on the top and luscious gardens at its foot. Heading 116 kilometers south of Colombo is the fort town of Galle, famous for its Dutch-colonial buildings, artisans, and its tres chic reputation. Unscathed by the tsunami and with continued foreign investment, the fort houses some of the country’s most prized real estate’.

Carmen Jenner also explains the rich flora and fauna in Sri Lanka.

‘Those seeking an interlude with Mother Nature’s creatures have a plethora of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries hosting the illusive leopard. However, there are regular sightings of elephants, monkeys, squirrels and butterflies throughout any journey on the island, and on occasion hedgehogs can be seen walking on leads by their owners. ‘On the road from Colombo to Kandy is the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, which is a breeding ground and orphanage for wild elephants, and plays host to the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.

• Yala National Park, Monaragala, Kataragama
• Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project, Galle Rd (beachside) just north of Kosgoda, tel: 091 226 4567
• Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Rambukkana Rd, Kegalle

Elephants keeping cool at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Read more: From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival |

Elephants keeping cool at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

The writes also says that ‘foodies’ from all over the world are ‘clambering to learn how to reproduce the curries in their own kitchens’ as ‘this land of tea bushes offers a cuisine so fresh and tasty’.

‘Cooking schools demonstrate the difference between Indian and Sri Lankan curries, which have a larger spice base and use subtler cooking methods’.

Carmen explains that the best way to enjoy Sri Lankan dishes is to do away with the utensils and eat it by hand.

‘As quoted by chef Peter Kuruvita of Flying Fish fame in Sydney, “To eat Sri Lankan food with utensils is like making love through a straw.” Learning how to eat with only your right hand is a practiced craft but once mastered, you won't want to go back’, the writer says and lists a range of restaurants and cooking classes that tourists could go to.

The capital Colombo is ‘brimming with culture’, she adds and explains how the city of Colombo can be experienced.

‘Offering plentiful dining options, it’s mandatory to have high tea or a cocktail at sunset at the Galle Face Hotel. Across the road, the Galle Face Green heaves at dusk over the weekends as kites frolic in the breeze. Shopping zealots will notice the mall culture hasn’t caught on -- yet. Department stores, galleries, and gem shops are bountiful and the adventurous shopper will lose themselves in the Pettah Bazaar.’

There are trains between Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura and Galle and the planned domestic flight schedule and new highways will reduce some traffic congestion and traveling times, as well as opening up areas that haven’t been available to tourists until very recently, like Jaffna, Trincomalee, and their surrounds, the CNN Go writer states.

Sri Lanka can be visited year round and the monsoon season hits the south from June to October and from December to April in the north. Regardless of the time of year, the weather is hot and steamy, the sun is harsh and never go anywhere without water and sunscreen, the writer advises.

With architects opting for tropical modernism, air conditioners battle with the humidity in rooms that are at one with nature. Those flush with cash will flock to boutique hotels while those on a leaner budget should opt for guest houses, which also usually serve authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, the writer adds.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Galle, Sri Lanka: A Visit Can Bring You Back In Time

The Famous Fort of Galle, pronounced as “gawl”, is not what you would expect if you will first get to look at the charmless commercial district of the area. However, upon your entry into the Fort’s gates, it would be as if you are transported back in time, particularly the Dutch colonial period.

The reason for this is simple. The Dutch built this 36 hectare fort in 1663. This port makes up a very big part of Galle, Sri Lanka. At that time, even Paul Theroux, who is known to be very hard to please, only have great things to say about Galle. Indeed, Galle’s Fort has inside it a number of culture as well as structures dating back over hundreds of years.

A visit in Galle will truly be an unforgettable one. Even a simple walk on its streets will make you appreciate the great architecture of structures as well as get a breathtaking view of the ocean and the nearby towns. Galle’s Fort was even recognized by no less than UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Aside from being a perfect place to visit however is the allure of Galle for being a community of working locals. You will find in Galle numerous courts, export companies, administrative offices and other types of offices. Given this energy vibrating all around, the income from tourism becomes unnecessary.

Yet, more visitors are now enticed to give Galle a visit especially with the fast development and increase of hotels and boutiques that makes it more conducive to entertaining visitors. Many locals are even selling properties, such as vintage buildings, to foreigners for possible investors who will bring their business in the city. This is despite the devastation it experienced as a result of the tsunami that was brought about by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

In fact, after the tsunami, Galle immediately went back to its feet and even came up with the world renowned Galle International Stadium which became a cricket ground. Likewise, it is now on the path of making itself a Green City that will not only allow the conservation of its rich inheritance but also make Galle a great tourist destination.

There is no doubt about it, Galle, Sri Lanka is a place you should not miss seeing if you want to enjoy every minute of your travel. Those who give it a visit prefers to stay within the Fort. For a better schedule and package, plan your trip ahead and have an online travel consultant help you will everything necessary before your trip.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hambantota Port will become a reality on 15th August 2010

The Water Influx ceremony of the world's first international harbour completely built inland will be inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at 9.00 a.m. on Sunday, (15th August). Hambantota had been a well known sea port in the ancient history of Sri Lanka as the name "Hambana" itself being the name of sailing vessels that had been used in the ancient times that frequented many Asian ports. Even the activities of Hambantota as a sea port are mentioned in the R.L.Bohier's book on Sri Lanka written in the Second Century. Hambantota is situated at closest point to the main shipping route that connects East and West. 200 to 300 ships ply this area daily, and now they call at Singapore and Dubai Ports.

The idea of building a modern port in Hambantota was first mooted by the late Parliamentarian Mr. D.A.Rajapaksa, the father of President Rajapaksa. But it did not materialize. Later the idea came up time to time, raised in Parliament by many Mps. It remained a suggestion but never saw the light of the day due to many reasons. The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrema says that a foreign company which was hired to carry out a feasibility study reported saying the location, Hambantota was not suitable to build a harbor and this brought the whole project to halt. However, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister then, was not impressed by the pessimistic attitude of the report and was determined to overcome the negative reaction and proceed with it.

Upon becoming President in November 2005, China was chosen to fund the project. Dr. Bandu says that Sri Lanka made an open request for funding and China was the first to respond. The port was built on a 2000 hectares of land and 450 families lived in the area were relocated with payment of adequate compensation.

The Hambantota Port is being constructed by the Chinese companies China Harbour Engineering Company and Sinohydro Corporation. The total cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $360 million. 85% of the funding is provided by the Chinese Government and the remaining 15% by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

The mouth of the natural harbour at Hambantota has a 22m depth. When completed, the port will have a 1.5 km long breakwater, with a minimum basin depth of 17m. The turning circle will be 600m. A dam will also be built to prevent flooding in nearby areas, and a seawall made of interlocking concrete blocks will protect the port from high seas.

A $550 million tax-free port zone is being set up outside the port, with local and international companies expressing interest in setting up shipbuilding, ship-repair and warehousing facilities in the zone. The Port is expected to provide 13,000 direct and indirect employments to over 100,000 people

The first phase of the Port will consist of two 600m general purpose berths, a 310m bunkering berth and a 120m small craft berth. It will also contain a bunkering facility and tank farm which will include 8 tanks for marine fuel, 3 tanks containing aviation fuel and 3 for Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). A 15 floor administrative complex is also under construction as part of the project.

The port will also have facilities to handle port related large scale industries such as handling and bagging of cement and fertilizer in addition to storage of fuel and LP Gas thereby providing opportunity for a third LP Gas operator to open up business that would create competitiveness in the gas market. The oil tank farm will have 14 tanks of which 8 tanks will be for storage of fuel for bunkering facilities for vessels, 3 tanks for storage of aero fuel and the other 3 tanks for storage of LP Gas.

The total project will be completed in 4 stages and the first stage operations will commence in November this year, one year ahead of schedule. During the first stage the port will handle 3 ships a day, and after completion of the total project, the Port will be able to handle 33 ships at a time.

Monday, 16 August 2010

SriLankan Airlines and Hotel Win International Recognition

SriLankan Airlines has bagged the top award at the Changi Airline Awards 2010 for the highest growth in passenger traffic in South Asia last year.

The event is organized to recognize “the contribution of airlines to Singapore’s air hub status” and to celebrate the partnership between Changi Airport and the airlines. According to a statement on its website, both the airport’s passenger traffic and freight during the first five months of 2010 has increased by approximately 17 percent.

Earlier this month, SriLankan Airlines was also recognized as the Best Airline Operator for South Asia for the fifth consecutive year at the annual Kuala Lumpur International Airport Awards in Malaysia held to honor contributions to the country’s travel and tourism industry.

In an award of another kind, the Unusual Hotels of the World (UHOTW) website chose Sri Lanka’s KumbukRiver eco-lodge in Buttala in south-eastern Sri Lanka as a unique experience for visitors. Situated on the banks of a river adjoining the Yala wildlife sanctuary, the eco-resort is famous for its 40-foot high structure in the shape of an elephant.

“The beautiful surroundings, the river and the unique facilities of the lodge invite visitors to privacy to become at one with nature,” UHOTW said. “Some may leave wondering if they really need electricity again. Such is the beauty and setting of this idyllic eco hideout.”


Saturday, 14 August 2010

Mattala Airport project takes off

The project at a glance


* To play a vital and supportive role in the development activity in the Hambantota region and capture market share of the regional traffic growth.

* To promote the Air-Sea-Transshipment Hub operation in conjunction with the Hambantota Harbour

* To be a key component in the development efforts of the Eastern and Southern coasts

* To be an alternate airport to BIA, offering tremendous fuel and weight savings to airlines, resulting an increased passenger and cargo volume throughout the country

* To facilitate the establishment of a gateway for economic and investment infusion into Sri Lanka.


* Estimated project cost - US$ 210,000,000 (US Dollars two hundred and ten million)

* Extent of land - 2000 hectares. Initial construction would cover an extent of 800 hectares

*Aerodrome design - The aerodrome will be designed to meet the international specifications

*Runway length - Is proposed as 3500 metres and the width is proposed as 75 metres where new A380 could land.

* Taxiways - Recommended to have a 60 metres long taxiway from the runway centre line to the edge of the apron.

* Apron - 10 parking positions will be provided initially, the pavement of the parking apron - 80

* Airfield capacity - Annual service volume of this aerodrome at short and medium/long-term planning horizons will be 30,000 and 600,000 movements respectively

Terminal and related buildings - Size of which is proposed to be 10,000 square metres to accommodate 800 peak hours and 100 domestic passengers

Friday, 13 August 2010

Sri Lanka the surprise package: Why Asia's forgotten destination is an explorers' paradise now the civil war is over

It may not have set off a loud ping of the radar – stories about how Country X is now deemed safe to visit get less attention than shouty headlines about how Country Y is now considered a dangerous hellhole to be avoided by all – but last week’s announcement that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has lifted the last of its no-go restrictions on travel in Sri Lanka is a small but definite reason to be cheerful.

The basic figures of Sri Lanka’s existence make fine reading: A ‘teardrop island’ (as the description usually runs) of 25,000 square miles, coated in tropical foliage and dotted with lively cities, sat in the Indian Ocean 20 miles to the south of India.

But there is a more damning statistic that Sri Lanka is now seeking to put behind it – the (nigh-on) three decades of civil war that have seen the country written off by many as a risky choice in tourism terms. Here is a tropical isle that, between 1983 and May of last year, was the scene of hostilities that robbed an estimated 100,000 people of life, and cost the country a great deal in terms of its stability, economy and reputation.

Even now, 15 months after the final shots were fired, numerous issues remain in need of address. The losing side in the struggle, the Liberation Tigers Of Tamil Eelam (commonly known as the Tamil Tigers), is condemned as a terrorist group in 32 countries (including the United States, the UK and the rest of the European Union), but accusations of war crimes and unethical tactics have also been levelled at the Sri Lankan government, in the wake of a conflict that has sullied all who took up arms.

Civil wars, with the ghastly spectre of brother attacking brother, tend to be the bitterest of fights and the cause of the deepest, angriest scars (as Spain’s continued reticence over who did what to whom between 1936 and 1939 shows), and the official investigation into 26 years of pain, which began this month, has much work to do.

And yet, while the FCO is still guarded in its stance on Sri Lanka, underlining that there remains ‘a general threat from terrorism’, particularly in the north of the country (where the Tamil Tigers had hoped to establish an independent state), the comment that ‘we no longer advise against all travel to Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya’ is a reason for cautious optimism for anyone keen to experience what is one of the world’s more intriguing – but less visited – areas. A corner has surely been turned.

Of course, Sri Lanka is not an entirely unmeasured quantity. With the civil war mainly confined to the north and north-east during its third decade, the beaches of the south and west coasts have – lately, at least – proved happy turf for sun-seeking tourists.

But the interior – a place that hovered a little too close to the flying bullets and rolling tanks for many tourists’ tastes – retains a definite mystique, and a sense of being unexplored. Take a look of the photo at the top of this piece. This is Sigiriya, a 370-metre volcanic bluff that, in many ways, is the Ayers Rock of South East Asia. It certainly bears comparison – a giant boulder that rears above the largely flat terrain around it, and is regarded with reverence by the local population. In fact, if it existed in a country better publicised than Sri Lanka, it would surely be as famous as Uluru, a global wonder whose sheer flanks and 2000-year back-story as fortress, palace and monastery would be the centrepiece of many a round-the-world tour. But as it is, it lies hidden in the shadows – metaphorically at least, because there is little shadow to be had once you reach the bare summit and find yourself completely at the sun’s mercy.

I took the photo of Sigiriya just before twelve on a sweltering day that was crammed with personal discoveries. Two hours later, I drove into Polonnaruwa, the onetime 12th century capital of the island, but now an enclave of ruins that might match Pompeii as an echo of past times if anyone actually knew about it. But instead, I walked through its dust and decay – through tumbledown temples where statues idle away eternity (see above), and past thick stone tablets on which forgotten wisdom is carved in florid writing – in relative isolation, sharing this ghost of a lost era with little more than the occasional backpacker and one party of visibly bored school children (school children always look bored on school trips. This doesn't make what they are seeing any less impressive). And this was before I encountered Polonnaruwa’s twin glories – two Buddha statues, one seated (see below), the other reclining, head on pillow – that can only inspire awe in the observer, whatever your religious affiliation (or lack of it).

There were other grand moments – Nuwara Eliya, a high-altitude outpost that, with its race track, golf course and faded department stores, still has the ambience of a British hill station – which is exactly what it was in the 19th century, when it provided gin-drinking colonials with summer refuge from the heat on the plains; the tea plantations that swirl down and around the town for miles (where women in bright saris pluck leaves with admirable concentration) – a reminder that, for all the hints of Blighty above, this is definitely Asia; the manic, busy city of Kandy, which revolves around the Temple Of The Tooth – a holy shrine said to contain a relic of the Buddha.

Throughout this, I encountered few indicators that I was anywhere near a combat zone. My visit was in March of last year, when the war’s bloody endgame was being played out in the north. But in the centre of the island, little stirred. Sure, there were the occasional road ‘blocks’, where surly men in uniform stared vaguely at passing cars, taking more interest in their cigarettes than anything happening around them. And the security checks at Colombo airport were fairly robust. But that was it. No smoke above the treeline, no explosions in the distance, no obvious sign that anything was amiss – and certainly no reason not to consider Sri Lanka a valid travel destination.

My journey ended in Negombo, a resort on the west coast that, while ranking as a fairly unimaginative strip of hotels and restaurants, nevertheless boasts a lovely beach and a set of bars ideal for watching the sun plunge into the Laccadive Sea. One of these watering holes offered a sheltered garden where I spent an hour watching the horizon turn pink and orange with a cool beer in hand – but, my wife aside, without the presence of a single other paying guest. When I asked the cheerful bar owner if this was usual, he shrugged, and said, quietly: ‘Well, people think there is a war here.’

Sri Lanka is no longer a country at war. And while the problems that tore it apart for 26 years have hardly vanished, it is a place well worthy of tourist interest – especially now the FCO’s reassessment has marked a small step towards mainstream appreciation.


Saturday, 7 August 2010

UK lifts Sri Lanka travel advice restrictions

A security assessment carried out by the British High Commission in Sri Lanka has concluded that the whole country is now safe for travellers.

It is the first time in about 30 years that travel restriction advice has been completely lifted.

The British government had previously warned against travelling to northern areas, principally because of the danger of unexploded mines.

The Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year.

The rebels were fighting for a separate state for the island's Tamil minority from their heartlands in the north and east of the country.

Their use of suicide bombers, in particular, meant that many countries officially designated them a proscribed organisation.

It also meant that tourists were put off from travelling to the country, which is renowned for having some of the best beaches in South Asia.

The Sri Lankan government has welcomed the lifting of the travel restriction advice.

Caution remains
"This latest change means we no longer advise against travel to any part of Sri Lanka," a High Commission statement said.

"But Britons wishing to travel to the north should be aware that there remains a risk from mines and unexploded ordinance and that they need to obtain permission from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence before they travel."

The Foreign Office in London is a little more cautious in its advice to travellers.

It says that a "general threat from terrorism" remains, despite the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

"The government maintains its state of emergency, under which it has extensive anti-terrorism powers, and increased security measures, including checkpoints and a highly visible military presence, remain throughout the country.

"Isolated attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate," it says.


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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Abu Dhabi's Etisalat to invest $163 million in S.Lanka

Abu Dhabi's Etisalat on Tuesday said it was investing 163 million dollars to expand its telecoms network in Sri Lanka's war-hit north and upgrade broadband services in urban areas.
Etisalat, also known as Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, acquired Sri Lanka's pioneering mobile operator Tigo last year for 207 million dollars as it saw growth opportunities in the South Asian country.
"We are investing 18.5 billion rupees (163 million dollars) to expand base stations with special emphasis on the north and east," Etisalat's Sri Lanka Chief Executive, Dumind Ratnayake told reporters.
The island's war-torn north and east have emerged as a lucrative hunting ground for business opportunities, after government forces crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels and ended 37 years of ethnic bloodshed last May.
Ratnayake said the network expansion would add 480 new base stations, taking the total to 1,580. Etisalat currently has nearly three million Sri Lankan customers, he said.
Besides Etisalat, the island's 15-million-user mobile market is mainly shared between Malaysia's Dialog Axiata, Mobitel Lanka, Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa and India's Bharti Airtel.
Sri Lanka telecom watchdog last week fixed a floor price of two Sri Lankan rupees (0.2 US cents) per minute for outgoing calls on mobile networks, after two years of stiff competition plunged the industry into massive losses.
The regulator said mobile phone operators reported a combined loss of 23 billion rupees (200 million dollars) in 2009, for the first time since cellular phones were introduced to Sri Lanka in 1989.


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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

LSE sales boosted by Sri Lankan deal

London Stock Exchange posted a small increase in first-quarter revenue on Wednesday, after its acquisition of a Sri Lankan technology company last October offset a drop in fees from UK share trading.

The number came as the LSE launched a new post-trade market data service, offering real-time post-trade market data from both the London Stock Exchange and Borsa Italiana cash markets.
The move comes as there is pressure on exchanges and trading platforms to streamline the way they show and sell market data at a time of fragmented markets across Europe. Earlier this month the Federation of European Securities Exchanges, of which the LSE is not a member, pledged to separate the provision of pre- and post-trade data “at a reasonable cost” by year-end.

The LSE said it was planning on the assumption that market conditions would remain mixed after trading activity was low key in April and June but strong amid volatility in May.

The exchange – which faces fresh competition from NYSE Euronext’s decision to set up a UK-based platform to attract international company listings – said sales in the April to June period were £158.2m, 1 per cent higher than the same period in 2009.

Turnover from its UK cash equities business was down 14 per cent year on year at £24.4m, partly reflecting a reduction in charges. Sales from its broader capital markets business were down 6 per cent at £74.2m.

However, sales from the LSE’s technology services division almost doubled year on year to £12.7m. The increase was driven by the acquisition of Sri Lanka’s Millennium IT, as part of an overhaul of its trading technology.

Xavier Rolet, LSE chief executive, said good progress was being made in preparation for this autumn’s roll-out of Millennium’s trading system.

He said he was encouraged by the growth in trading on Turquoise, a platform in which the LSE took a majority stake through a deal announced last December.

The LSE said Turqouise’s UK market share had risen from 4.3 per cent in April to an average of 5.4 per cent in June.

Shares in the LSE gained 1.4 per cent to 613p in early morning trading on Wednesday.


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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sri Lanka’s golden beaches a major tourist attraction

For the real sun seeker, the ultimate holiday destination this summer is the island paradise of Sri Lanka. An increasing number of tourists from the Middle East region are travelling to Sri Lanka in search of an exotic location with plenty of sun and clean, unspoilt & uncrowded beaches.

Destination Sri Lanka reported a major influx of Arab travellers as Middle East Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka surged 50 per cent in January, 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and announced by the Middle East office of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board (SLTPB).

For the sun-sea-and-sand enthusiast, Sri Lanka offers unbeatable value. Due to its location along the equatorial zone it has a tropical climate which varies with the regions and the seasons. Summer temperatures range between 24 to 26 degrees Celsius and sunny, blue skies are virtually guaranteed. The island nation offers several public beaches as well as five-star beach hotels and resorts.

“A full range of water sports can be enjoyed in Sri Lanka, including swimming, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, water-skiing and deep sea fishing. Equipment for all sports can be hired and professional instruction is available throughout the coastal areas,” said Heba Al Ghais Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of SLTPB based in Dubai.

Divers in Sri Lanka are treated to some of the most spectacular reefs in the world as also large schools of a variety of colourful fish. The islands coastlines have dozens of famous ship wrecks dating back centuries and also coral reefs, under sea caves & rock formations all around the island.

When even the most avid sun-bather needs a break from the beach, Sri Lanka offers a variety of options to unwind. Comfortable tours of the city are also possible with air-conditioned coaches and multi-lingual guides introducing you to the island’s unique culture.

All of the above attractions are combined with the highest standards of luxury and comfort and service with a smile. There are more than five thousand rooms available in graded establishments along the southern coast offering a wide range of options for high spenders as well as budget travellers.

A visit to Sri Lanka would hardly be complete without sampling the wild natural beauty of the country including the scenic waterfalls, spice and tea plantations, bird and wildlife reserves, tropical jungle excursions and the luxurious yet eco-friendly accommodation.


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Thursday, 10 June 2010

2012 World Twenty20 will be held in Sri Lanka

Sixteen teams to contest 2012 World T20 qualifiers

The ICC development committee has expanded the global qualification system for the World Twenty20, to give the Associate and Affiliate members of the governing body a chance to feature in the tournament. The qualification tournament, which was contested by eight teams in February 2010, is set to feature 16 sides when it is held in early 2012 ahead of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, later that year.

The expanded field will comprise ten qualifiers from regional Twenty20 tournaments in addition to six countries that currently enjoy ODI/Twenty20 status. The exact details of the regional qualification network are yet to be announced.

The committee has also pledged $2 million towards development of major cricket facilities in leading and targeted associates and affiliates, in partnership with members and third-parties. The members eligible to apply will include each of the top six-ranked Associates/Affiliates, China, USA and a Member nominated by each of the Africa, East Asia-Pacific and Europe regions together with any Associate or Affiliate scheduled to host certain ICC events.

"These are two extremely exciting, strategic and encouraging developments for the future of our great sport," ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said after the meeting in Jakarta. "They represent a clear sign of our ongoing commitment to growing the game beyond its traditional boundaries and ensuring that each of our members has the opportunity to develop and become the best they can be.

"Cricket has never been stronger. We now have three viable formats of the game at international level - something no other sport can boast - and cricket continues to grow in popularity in almost every corner of the globe. These initiatives are steps along the path towards continued sustainable growth," Lorgat said.

While in Jakarta, the development committee received a presentation from Cricket Indonesia and attended the national Under-17 championships. In addition, Lorgat met with representatives from the Indonesian government and the national Olympic committee.

"Indonesia is an outstanding example of an Affiliate Member on an upward move. It is the fastest growing member in terms of participation numbers and I believe this is due to excellent staff, volunteers, strategies, plans and partnerships that are in place," Lorgat said.

The number of ICC members, currently 104, may continue to grow as Seychelles' application for Affiliate Membership was forwarded to the ICC Annual Conference 2010 for consideration. The committee has allocated the staging of three World Cricket League events to Hong Kong/China (Division 3 in January 2011), the United Arab Emirates (Division 2 in April 2011) and Botswana (Division 7 in March/April 2011).

The qualifier for the women's World Cup,which will determine the four teams to join England, New Zealand, Australia and India at the 2013 World Cup in India, will be staged in Bangladesh in November 2011. West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Japan will compete in the tournament, in addition to one qualifying team from the Americas and two teams each from Africa and Europe. This event will double as the women's qualifying tournament for the ICC World Twenty20 to be staged in Sri Lanka in 2012. The allocations are all subject to the finalisation of logistical and budgetary arrangements in coming weeks and months.

The committee confirmed the groupings for the eight-team WCL Division Eight event from November 6 to 12, 2010, in Kuwait.

Group A: Bhutan, Kuwait, Suriname and Vanuatu.

Group B: Bahamas, Gibraltar, Zambia and the next highest European qualifier (to come from the regional division two event, which runs from July 13 to 19 2010).


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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Anupam Kher to open acting school in Sri Lanka

Veteran actor Anupam Kher today said that the Sri Lankan government has requested him to open a branch of his acting school, 'An Actor Prepares' in the country.
The 55 year-old-actor, who was felicitated with the CNBC-IIFA global leadership award for his contribution to the field of art by President Mahinda Rajpaksha here at the IIFA Global Business Forum admitted, "he is in talks with the authorities on the modalities."
The acting school in it's fifth year now, has an alumni list that include stars like Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Kunal Kapoor and Deepika Padukone.
It has branches in Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and UK.
Kher also interacted with the Sri Lankan film students during a workshop.
He said the meeting with young minds was fruitful and there was no dearth of talent in the country.


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International Indian Film Academy Awards 2010 - Sri Lanka

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Amitabh Bachchan IIFA 2010 - Sri Lanka

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Monday, 17 May 2010

Expat Life in Sri Lanka, Colombo

I recently visited the wonderful island of Sri Lanka, and found a country full of surprises.

Sri Lanka is situated just south of India, in the Indian Ocean. Once known as the Dominium of Ceylon and often referred to as the tea country, tea plantations abundantly thrive across the island, with spice gardens, banana and coconut palms growing randomly to create a jungle of natural resources.

People, animals and transport seem to co-exist side by side with no animosity towards each other. Dogs wonder aimlessly across or bask in the sun at the side of roads, cows and goats roam around everywhere, even on the beaches (which I found rather amusing) and people are everywhere, whether walking, cycling, using a tuc-tuc, motorbike with 5 astride, in a taxi, bus, car or truck, each takes up a space of the not too wide road. But co-exist they do, there is no anger at being stuck behind a truck, merely a short hooting of the horn to say I am here and would like to pass, politeness abounds and the expression and sounds are all of friendliness, within a country that sorely needs help at redeveloping itself since the tsunami. People are poor and yet happiness is everywhere?. Not just for the child on the hip or the person at their side, but for expats and tourists as well.

Tourists fluctuate towards the resorts and some chance the areas slightly outside of these areas, to experience a quieter less harassed holiday. Small pockets of expats can be found, dotted all over the country. When you bump into these people and chat about life on the island, there is not much to complain about. Yes, sometimes the water gets turned off or the electricity, yes the internet is not as fast as they would like it to be. Isn?t that how most people feel in developed countries anyway: The faster it gets the faster we want it. In this little piece of paradise, expats are not too concerned that it takes a little longer to do things here, the people are prepared to wait, not too hasty to move forward too quickly. There was a lot of talk and concern about the elections and safety within the country and there are still road blockades and police / army personnel with guns wandering around keeping peace if necessary. However, with 70% of the population being Buddhists, the lifestyle is peaceful and life simplistic.

From an expat perspective, I could not fault the lifestyle. As said above, yes there are definite things missing, things are slower, it takes a good 4 ? 6 hours to get from Colombo to Galle and similarly to anywhere about 200km?s apart. I cannot say that the roads are particularly in good condition, but in the 10 days that I visited, I did not see one accident. Hardships could include the lack of being able to get from one part of the island to another quickly, the lack of fast internet connection, perhaps the human waste / refuse, which allows for the influx of flies, the dirt which is left to lie around and lastly the lack of funds to rebuild the country to what it was before the Tsunami.

Having said that, I have to look at all the good things that you find there, the beauty of the natural resources, how the nationals and expats are trying to rebuild the country, the beaches, game parks and mountains. This is truly a beautiful part of the world.

Expat Cost of living summary

The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee LKR
The Exchange rate as at 15 January 2010 was $1 = 114.217 Rupees

I am going to break the Cost of living down according to some of the Xpatualtor basket items :

Alcohol and Tobacco : Alcohol at Bar, Beer, Cigarettes, Locally Produced Spirit, Whiskey, Wine
Cigarettes (20s)- $3.14 – $9
Domestic Beer(500ml)- $2.50
Imported Beer (330ml)- $5.80
Wine at a bar- $6 a glass
Wine at a shop- $15 (750ml bottle)
Hotels tend to increase the prices of alcohol as it is the one way that they can make a profit. There are many small hotels and restaurants which create a competitive edge to where you can stay.

Clothing : Business Suits, Casual Clothing, Children?s Clothing and footwear, Coats and hats, Evening Wear, Shoe Repairs, Underwear
Casual Long Sleeved Shirt (Men)- $12
Casual Long Sleeved Trousers (Men)- $20
Shorts (Men)- $11
T-Shirt (Men)- $6
Casual Blouse (Women)- $7
Casual Skirt (Women)- $12
Children?s Jeans (Boys)- $5
Children?s Jeans (Girls)- $3.50
Children?s Shirt(Boys)- $5
Children?s Shirt(Girls)- $4
Clothes are extremely cheap, in Colombo a person can get most of the name branded clothing at fairly reasonable prices in Factory shops.

Communication : Home Telephone Rental and Call Charges, Internet Connection and service provider fees, Mobile / Cellular Phone Contract and Calls
Monthly phone rental- $4.36
Phone call rate- $0.05 for a local call
Internet line connection fee- $104 (buy all equipment with installation)
Internet service provider fee- $17 (1 geg free thereafter)
Monthly mobile contract fee- $2.18 (for the year)
Mobile / cellular call rate- 90% of phones are prepaid,
Mobile Phone 100 Minutes Call- $38
- $0.012 – $0.05 sms peak times
Due to so many of the nationals working overseas to send money home, the communication costs are extremely low and there are often special deals or no cost is involved in the actual call.

Education : Cr?che / Pre-School Fees, High School / College Fees, Primary School Fees, Tertiary Study Fees
Annual Creche fee- $4.36 per month
Annual Primary school fee- $260 – $436 per month
Annual High School fee- $260 – $436 per month
Annual 1st Year Tertiary / University fee – $260 – $436 per month dependent on which private school they go to)
Private schooling is the most expensive on the island for expat children to attend, however the rates in comparison to other countries are reasonable. Expats that I came across spoke highly of the education system in the country and were happy with the private education that their children were receiving.

Furniture and Appliances : DVD Player, Fridge Freezer, Iron, Kettle, Toaster, microwave, Light Bulbs, Television, Vacuum Cleaner, Washing Machine
DVD Player- $87
Fridge / Freezer- $489 (LG / Whirlpool ? 4 year guarantee)
Iron- $12 cheap – $35 top of the range
Kettle- $20 cheap – $37 top of the range
Microwave- $191
TV 21 inch- $244 (2 year guarantee)
Washing Machine LG- $570
Discounts can be negotiated with stores on all items

Groceries bought in a grocery store : Baby Consumables, Baked Goods, Baking, Canned Foods, Cheese, Cleaning Products, Dairy, Fresh Fruits, Fresh Vegetables, Fruit Juices, Frozen, Meat, Oil & Vinegars, Pet Food, Pre-Prepared Meals, Sauces, Seafood, Snacks, Soft Drinks, Spices & Herbs
Powdered baby formula (400g)- $7
Plain biscuits (100g)- $0.20
Loaf white bread (200g) – $0.70
Cake Flour (1kg)- $2.80
Baked Beans (415g)- $1.92
Tuna (185g)- $2.75
Cheese : Cheddar (250g)- $6.63
Crisps : Pringles (139g)- $2.50
Autowash clothing powder (750g)- $1.57
Dishwash liquid (500g)- $0.87
Clothing Softener (2l)- $5.40
Breakfast Cereal (250g)- $2.45
Butter (227g)- $2.18
Milk (1l)- $1.40
Eggs (12)- $1.80
Orange Juice (1l)- $2.80
Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1kg)- $6.20
Cooking oil (1l)- $3.22
Olive oil (500ml)- $8.28
Can of coke (355ml)- $1.00
Local Fizzy Soft Drink (1l)- $1.30
Local Natural Mineral Water (5l)- $1.08
Tea Bags (200g)- $1.85
Instant Coffee (100g)- $6.75
Local Ground Coffee (200g)- $3.66
Salt (400g) – $0.26
Pepper (400g) – $0.35
Prices were obtained from local grocery stores, there are no big department stores to shop in.

Healthcare : General Practitioner Consultation rates, Hospital Private Ward Daily, Rate, Non-Prescription Medicine, Private Medical Insurance / Medical Aid Contributions
GP Private rate visit with meds- $3.50
Hospital Private ward rates- $28 per day
Dentistry ? Tooth extraction- $4.35
Most expats use Bupa or the Sri Lankan Equivalent

Household : House / Flat Mortgage, House / Flat Rental, Household Electricity Consumption, Household Gas / Fuel Consumption, Household Water Consumption, Local Property Rates / Taxes / Levies
Rent 2 bed Apartment City Centre- $700
Rent 2 bed Apartment outside of City Centre- $600
Electricity, Gas, Water, Garbage per – $80 – $90 per month for an average
household, this is expensive when taking household
air conditioning into account
Gas / Fuel ? 12 ? kg bottle- $14
Local property Rates- 8 ? 10% of value of property
Expats cannot buy a property directly, this has to be done via a Lawyer who owns the property. Mortgage for locals is 4/5%. This is where most expats find the costs creep in, running the air conditioners is extremely expensive as well as the cost of water.

Miscellaneous : Domestic Help, Dry Cleaning, Linen, Office Supplies, Newspapers and Magazines, Postage Stamps
Domestic Rates ? full time per person – $80 average
1 Black inkjet printer cartridge- $14
1 Color inkjet printer cartridge- $21
500 sheets printer paper- $5.23
Local Daily Newspaper- $0.17
International Daily Newspaper- $0.45
International Magazine- $20
International Airmail Stamps- $0.22
Domestic Stamps – $0.12
Domestic help is cheap and most employees either live on the property or close by. Office supplies are reasonable, with CD?s and DVD?s freely available on the street where most locals buy them.

Personal Care : Cosmetics, Haircare, Moisturiser / Sun Block, Nappies, Pain Relief Tablets, Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, Soap / Shampoo / Conditioner
Body lotion (400ml) Vaseline Intensive car- $4.53
Toilet paper 1 ply per roll- $0.50
Toothpaste (200g)- $1.92
Shampoo (200ml) – $2.40
Some of the items that can be purchased can be expensive, like creams, sunblocks and cosmetic creams. Name brand products are the most expensive.

Recreation and Culture : Books, Camera Film, Cinema Ticket, DVD and CD?s, Sports goods, Theatre Ticket
Books paper back- $10
Cinema ticket- $0.50
DVD / CD Imported- $2
Cricket ticket- $0.50 to $8
Theatre Ticket ? only in Colombo- $30
Hard cover books are expensive in the country, but paper back books are of a similar cost to the US and UK. Cinema tickets are cheap due to the availability of cheap DVD replicas which can be bought on street corners. International cricket tickets are also kept cheap for the local population.

Restaurants / Meals out / Hotels : Business Dinner, Dinner at Restaurant (non fast food), Hotel Rates, Take Away Drinks & Snacks (fast Food)
Business Dinner excl Alcohol- $22 per person
Dinner / lunch at local restaurant- $8 per person
Mc Donalds Big Mac- $4.10
Hotel Rates 3*- $8 – $50 pppn
Hotel Rates 4*- $80 – $120 pppn
Hotel Rates 5*- $140 pppn upwards
Take away – Can of coke x 1- $0.70
Medium pizza- $3.50
Hamburger- $2.00
Coffee ? pot x 3 cups- $1.40
As in most countries how much you pay for a meal is dependent on where you go, the local restaurants have great local meals, as well as international flavours, we found a fabulous vegetarian restaurant in Galle, well worth a visit and all prices were fairly cheap. Some restaurants do take advantage of the tourist population and serve sub standard meals. However, most restaurants were good with their portions and meal plans.

Transport : Hire Purchase / Lease of Vehicle, Petrol / Diesel, Public Transport, Service Maintenance, Tyres, Vehicle Insurance, Vehicle Purchase
Hire / Lease car ? Sedan Toyota Corolla- $37.14 per day for 1 week
Hire / Lease car ? Toyota RAV4- $46.71 per day for 1 week
Petrol unleaded per litre- $1.23
Diesel per litre- $0.64
Bus Ticket (one way)- $1.00
Taxi Ride ? per km- $0.50
Tuc Tuc ? 10 km ride- $6.00
Train Ticket 2nd class- $1.57
If you are visiting I would suggest you use the local taxis and tuc-tucs, driving can be a head-ache and unpleasant experience if you are not used to the local norms. However, speeds do not go over 80km on the bigger roads and overall a safe place to drive.

The above details are some of the items that form the basis of cost of living indexes for basket groups, these costs are then used with their indexes and exchange rates to calculate the cost of living in different locations.
Steven is Chief Instigator at a website that provides cost of living index information and calculates what you need to earn to compensate for cost of living, hardship, and exchange rate differences.


Monday, 26 April 2010

Sri Lanka’s tourism economy enjoys unprecedented boom

Sri Lanka’s tourism economy has recovered so quickly from last year’s civil war that the island is expected to shortly run out of hotel capacity as it experiences an unprecedented boom.

Tourism arrives have risen for 10 consecutive months and were up 50 per cent in March, compared to the same period last ye

Indian tourists took the top slot with 8,607 visiting Sri Lanka, with tourists from the United Kingdom (8,559) and Germany (5,305) following. With the increase in operations of the low cost carrier, Air Asia, arrivals from Malaysia to saw a healthy increase.

Dilip Mudadeniya, Director General Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, said that this healthy trend would continue in the future too. “This positive sentiment is due to peace and the removal of travel advisories and we expect this healthy trend to continue,” he said.

But according to Ajit Gunawardene, chief executive of John Keells, Sri Lanka’s largest hotel group, if the tourism economy continues to grow at such rates there will be an occupancy shortage within two years.

Sri Lanka’s tourist infrastructure can handle up to 800,000 visitors a year, comfortably meeting expected demand this year of 500,000.

However within the next two years, visitors arrivals are expected to double and then double again two years later to 2 million. He suggests that unless the country embarks on a hotel construction boom it will fail to meet demand.

“This gives you an indication of the type of momentum we want to maintain,” Mr Gunawardene said.

He said John Keells had begun renovating hotels and building more to meet the tourism boom.

It is currently upgrading its large hotel in Colombo, overhauling one in Trincomalee in the war-torn east and building tourist accommodation in the south.

John Keells also has a firm eye on the planned expansion of Colombo’s port, which is strategically placed on shipping lanes between Europe, the Middle East and China.

The group is expected to bid with its partner Denmark’s Maersk for an additional terminal, which would make Colombo the largest port in south Asia.

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Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Lures Investments After Defeat of Rebels

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula, a former stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the country’s north, is attracting investments by Indian companies in construction and agriculture after the defeat of the separatists, an industry official said.

As many as 10 Indian companies have this month expressed interest to set up factories for food processing, plastics and glass recycling, garments and ready-mix concrete, Kanagasabai Poornachandran, president of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a telephone interview today from his office in Jaffna city.

The end of the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka has encouraged Indian Oil Corp. and Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s biggest state-run refiner and largest mobile-phone operator respectively, to expand in the island nation. Sri Lanka could benefit from its proximity to India just as Hong Kong profits from being a trade hub to China, HSBC Private Bank said after the war ended in May last year.

“We have great expectations for investments now that we are a peaceful land,” Poornachandran said. He did not reveal the names of Indian companies investing in Jaffna or the size of their investments.

Indian Investments

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ended the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s struggle for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in May last year, is counting on Indian companies to take the lead in investing in Sri Lanka as he tries to improve people’s livelihood.

Sri Lanka lies 31 kilometers (19 miles) south east of India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy after China.

The LTTE held the Elephant Pass, a causeway connecting Jaffna peninsula to the Sri Lankan mainland, since 2000. The group also controlled the A-9 highway, linking Jaffna to the south, forcing the government to supply weapons and food to soldiers and civilians in the Jaffna city by air and sea.

The army captured the pass and road in early 2009 as it pushed the Tamil Tigers toward the northeastern coast before finally eliminating them.

Sri Lanka’s $41 billion economy may grow 6.5 percent in 2010, the fastest pace in three years, led by construction, higher farm output and tourism, the central bank estimates.

Poornachandran said government programs to rebuild transport networks and provide concessionary loans to promote exports has spurred cultivation and fishing around Jaffna and encouraged investments.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bernard Cribbins's heaven on earth: Sri Lanka

Bernard Cribbins loves Sri Lanka for its superb weather, great food and welcoming people.
My wife and I had a marvellous holiday in Sri Lanka. A friend had raved about it; we went – and had the time of our lives.

Our pal suggested we base ourselves at a guesthouse near Mount Levinia, near Colombo, which was very comfortable, but if you have deep pockets, the somewhat swankier Mount Lavinia Hotel (0094 11 271 1711; – home to the colonial-style Governor's restaurant – might be to your liking.
One of the first things we did was to visit Polonnaruwa, where you'll find the Gal Vihara, which has a shrine to the four images of the Buddha, carved into the face of a granite rock.
We also travelled to Yala National Park, at the southern end of the island, which was quite an experience. We saw a leopard walk across the road in front of our jeep and then we turned a corner to see the large backside of an elephant walking away from us 20 yards ahead.
My wife and I were holding our breath as the driver followed him slowly at a short distance. And then suddenly this bloody great thing whipped around as quick as a cat and charged, coming to a stop 10 feet in front of us. It frightened the life out of us and the animal's eyes seemed to say: "You don't follow me – you go the other way!" Then he turned around and went off.
Afterwards our driver said to us with a smile: "If you want, I can get him to do it again."
My wife replied gently but firmly: "Thanks, but no thanks."
The country's wildlife is extraordinary, and we also saw peacocks and other jungle birds with the most extraordinary colouring.
I also loved the Sri Lankan food – all that fragrant curry, none of which was too hot. I'd recommend the curried seer fish. The fruit was amazing, too.
We spent a month on the island and it's probably the best holiday I've ever had: the weather was superb, the food great and the people so welcoming. A word of warning, though. One night there was a great electrical storm – which I watched from outdoors. When I got back inside, I discovered I'd been unlucky enough to be bitten 83 times (I counted), so take some mosquito repellent!

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Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sri Lanka becoming tourist hotspot

The island destination of Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly popular as a tourism destination, it has been revealed.
According to new figures, 52,000 people visited the nation last month, representing a year-on-year rise of 53.7 per cent.

The country''s tourism board suggested that part of its popularity could be down to the fact that it features a wealth of attractions in an area no larger than Ireland.
Sri Lanka Tourism marketing manager for the UK and Ireland Nabeel Shariff explained that visitors who head inland away from the famous beaches are likely to find several different worlds.
He recommended that those heading to the north of the island visit the ancient capital cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, which both "provide a step back into ancient times".
Meanwhile, Lion Rock should be top of a list of visitors'' priorities, as the "mystical story of Sigirya leaves one in awe of ancient engineering", Mr Shariff said.

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Plenty to see while teaching English in Sri Lanka

When enjoying time outside of the classroom, those teaching English in Sri Lanka may want to pay a visit to the Yala national park, which is home to some wonderful wildlife, it has been claimed.

Nabeel Shariff, UK and Ireland marketing manager for Sri Lanka Tourism, states that visitors will see wonderful creatures – such as leopards – along with examples of the country’s history by going out and exploring.

A visit to the Temple of the Tooth and the plantations of the hill country are a must, he says, adding that there are many remnants of British colonialism which provide a unique feeling of nostalgia.

After this, those teaching English in Sri Lanka should explore more before heading back home, Mr Nabeel states.

"Detour via Yala national park, home to the highest density of leopards in the world and journey back to the capital along the south coast road, passing Galle and its Dutch fortification," he says.

According to Lonely Planet, a visit to Dambulla is a must, with the area home to a selection of cave temples.


Friday, 26 March 2010

Sri Lanka to host IIFA Awards in July

The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards will be held this year at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo from July 2 to July 4.

The country’s Minister for Tourism, Achala Jagoda, revealed that several countries had competed to host the event, but Sri Lanka finally got the nod. Mr. Jagoda described it as an international achievement, and added that several events such as an Indian business meeting, would be held on the event’s sidelines.

The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards are presented annually by the International Indian Film Academy to honour both artistic and technical excellence of professionals in Bollywood. Instituted in 2000, the ceremony is held in different countries around the world every year.

The first ceremony was held in London at The Millennium Dome. From then on the awards were held at locations around the world signifying the international purpose of Hindi cinema. It has been held in South Africa (twice), Malaysia, Singapore, The Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, England, Thailand and Macau.

While Sri Lanka will host the event in 2010, the 2011 event is expected to be held in Toronto.


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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sri Lanka: Senior moments on a yoga retreat


Invited to Ulpotha, a yoga retreat in the Sri Lankan jungle, Drusilla Beyfus at first balked, believing her age ruled her out. In fact, it made her hungry to see more of the island.

My journey to the heart of the jungle in Sri Lanka could scarcely have come about but for a lifelong friendship. I was invited to stay at the ayurveda yoga retreat at Ulpotha by my friend's son, Giles Scott, an entrepreneur and one of the founders, and her daughter, Suzi Scott, who plays host at the camp. The idea was for me to see what they were up to in the wilds. There was a closer connection. Their mother had imbued her offspring with her own love of nature and the natural world. Ulpotha reflected that spirit.

Many would have jumped at the invitation, but at the outset I was chicken. The jungle in the north-west province was a long way from home and, besides, I believed that at my somewhat advanced age the moment had passed for adventure holidays. But wouldn't it be something of a betrayal of my friend not to accept? I knew she wanted me to go. So it was I found myself as part of a group, many of whom had travelled halfway across the globe to be taught by a chosen yoga practitioner or to experience the clinic's Buddhist-influenced philosophy of setting aside worldly cares. For me, it was to be a voyage of discovery and the gateway to a further exploration of the island.
One had to adjust, no doubt about that, and this went well beyond the change of climate from wintry London to tropical sun. Put away that mobile or first scale a nearby rock to find reception. Accept that the jungle is not for those who throw a hissy fit at the sight of a creepy-crawly in their tooth mug or who fear the odd mosquito bite. Take to cold showers as the norm. After sunset, grasp your battery torch as the entire camp is lit by the soft glow of oil lamps and lanterns (on the one hand, this encouraged people to linger and chat; on the other, it put a damper on such unreconstructed activities as late-night reading). Be respectful of Buddhist observances – the majority religion in the land – and remember indoors to walk barefoot and dress decorously.
After a while, one grew accustomed to sights and experiences that showed how far you had come. At dawn, lying in my mosquito-netted bedroom with one wall open to a veranda and the skies, I would thrill to the jungle cries – quite a change from BBC radio's dear Farming Today. I swam the silky temperate waters of the lake in the grounds, watching monkeys jump the trees. One lost the sense of unlikelihood of finding beneath a giant bamboo, for instance, a decked-out wattle-and-daub hut, which effectively gave mud a good name. These open-sided palm-leaf-thatched huts tucked away in the woodlands are where the guests stay.
Yogis and non yogis met for lunch and supper at the ambalama, Sinhalese for 'meeting place'. We dined Roman-style, curled up or stretched out on a long, cushioned couch that extended round the room. Dishes based on local produce – vegetables, fruits, seeds, beans, pulses – are prepared using traditional Sri Lankan methods. I'm partial to a bit of carnivorous protein, but I fell for some of the house specialities: red heritage rice, a special strain grown in the local paddyfields that had been in danger of neglect; the curries; a dessert of buffalo curd mixed with grated coconut and palm treacle. A supply of herbal teas and freshly prepared fruit juices somehow made the absence of wine irrelevant. How can I write this? Because it was true.
For me, a typical day was to rise early when the sunlight was gentle and pad down to the breakfast hut for a newly baked pancake wrapped round a sweet banana. Next I embarked on one of my ayurveda therapies, as recommended by the house medic based on a consultation with him (ayurveda is an ancient holistic medical system from the Indian subcontinent). A young female therapist doused my body in herbal oils, massaged me before pouring my oily self into a massive bath with waters steeped in herbs. Another treatment led to my being steamed in a sauna for 20 minutes.
Come the hour for yoga practice on the programme, I was encouraged to give it a go by our practitioner, Jean Hall, known for the 'Ashtanga inspired Vinyasa Flow' school of yoga (can't wait, as a novice, to drop this reference into my traveller's tales). Surprise! I found the elementary poses I could just about manage really satisfying and my intention is to take it further.
As the style of the hospitality is house party, it goes without saying that your fellow guests make a difference. During my stay the party included both Scotts; Giles's wife, Anthe, and their one-year-old daughter, Zindzi; Viren Perera, an investment banker from Colombo and one of the founders of the retreat, who brought family and friends; my sister Angela Darnborough, who accompanied me throughout our journey; an artist, a gallerist, media types, photographers, and many devout yogis and their teachers to whom the clinic is a place of pilgrimage.
The stay was an exposure to what might be called more responsible tourism. Ulpotha is run on a non-profit basis partly in order to fund a free ayurveda clinic for the villagers – many of whom are employed to work on the property. Funding comes from donations and fees paid by the guests (an average of £620 per week all in on a shared accommodation basis, excluding the ayurveda therapies, which start at £200 a week). This economic set-up enhances the atmosphere at the retreat undoubtedly – a no-tipping rule applies, and padlocks and guards on duty are nowhere to be seen.
Nothing if not Sri Lankan in culture, Ulpotha made me hungry to see other sides of the island and embark on the next stage of our itinerary.
The scale of the country is kind to travellers in that one can get an impression of the lie of the land in a relatively short visit. From this point on, we were accompanied by a Sri Lankan driver guide, Thilak, who put up with our somewhat esoteric queries and had an objective view of the history of the island and second sight for a rare butterfly, animal or bird. We covered about 1,000 miles in all by car.

Blithely ignoring the bone-shaking roads that network the country, we headed further into the area known as the Cultural Triangle that contains some of the textbook historic treasures. Sigiriya, the fifth-century fortress of granite that rises 600ft and rewards those who brave the dizzy-making ascent (count me out) with glorious views, frescoes and, at the top, a royal palace and water gardens. Onwards to the rock temple of Dambulla, which dates from the first century bc. A sequence of adjacent caves contains something close to a visual history of the Buddha. The first held a monumental statue carved out of the rock of the dying Buddha in a recumbent pose. Whatever one's religious attitudes, its emotional power hit home.
En route now to Kandy to witness a ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth, said to be one of the most sacred of Buddhist temples. As one who normally exists in a largely secular world, it was a revelation to be caught up in a Cup Final-like crush of worshippers of all sorts and conditions, paying their respects to the icon and bringing offerings such as lotus flowers. I spotted a retinue of rarely seen Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns in the melee. Security has raised its head and I was frisked at the entrance (by a female).
In contrast, the Royal Botanical Gardens, a short drive from the city, proved an oasis of tranquillity. Founded by a Brit in the mid-19th century, it is above all a tree-fest. Vast flowering canopies stun you with a profusion of colour and blossom. Avenues of giant palm trees are a reminder of their operatic life cycles. Umbrella trees the size of a villa grow trunk-like roots, forming a railing round the tree. Must not omit the spice trees: smell cinnamon, clove, nutmeg in a crushed leaf.
I usually love a ruin so we visited Polonnaruwa, the island's capital in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was a salutary outing. Once-splendid temples and palaces stand only for the leftovers of power and glory. Roofless columns reach for the sky, and monkeys and birds have colonised much of the terrain. One cheerful note was a carved frieze on the base of a decayed temple, depicting numerous playful dwarfs, symbols of wealth and health.
Time to board the observation compartment of a train to take us to Hatton in the foothills of the tea plantations. At Hatton we were picked up by our driver guide, Thilak, who had brought our bags, and began the long ascent through the tea trail country to our penultimate destination, Norwood Bungalow, a restored colonial outpost 4,000ft up.
Scenery fanciers have long put this landscape into a starred category. The tea bushes, planted laterally, curve round the hillsides in row upon row, the plantations seeming to stretch to beyond the beyond. In the distance, a mighty range of mountains puts the man-made tea business into perspective. A human element is supplied by the well-known image of colourfully garbed female tea pickers standing in the bushes. From now on a cuppa will be a reminder that their full story doesn't appear on the pack.
The deep comforts at Norwood were further evidence of the irony that under-developed countries produce the goods as far as forward-looking, creative ideas on high-end hotels are concerned. An eco approach was characteristic of the Vil Uyana at Rangirigama, our base for the Cultural Triangle outings. A group of independent villas built on man-made paddyfields was linked by narrow timber bridges and connected to the pool, the bar and the restaurants. Such is the architecture that the thatched constructions appear to disappear into the surrounding woodlands. Buggies take you around the grounds and to and from the main building. Wildlife flourishes and the site is a bird sanctuary.
At my pad, a combo of bedroom and living-room contained in the arrangements a huge tiled bath, a shower, a private dipping pool and a private veranda. Unlike Western hotels in the same category, the space is generous and roomy. What it is not, as a rule, is well lit when the sun goes down. The national electricity supply is dicey.
We did not have one bad meal during our trip, helped no doubt by the fact that Sri Lanka has trained up or imported a race of professional cooks and chefs. The cuisine at the restaurants where we dined is probably best described as fusion, but to me that doesn't symbolise the vigorous taste and spicy fresh ingredients of the dishes we enjoyed. Meat and poultry, on the other hand, were not a strong suit.
From the hill country, we took a five-hour drive back to Colombo, the last lap of our trip. We stayed overnight before taking the flight to Heathrow at a newly opened boutique hotel, Wallawwa, set in a formerly private garden and of a style you don't usually find close to the airport.
Reviewing my negative initial reactions, it is only realistic to point out that the heat, bugs, walking and climbing are factors to be reckoned with. Also, for anyone to whom travel is an open book, the venture needs advanced planning. Although there must be latter-day Hester Stanhopes among us, and notwithstanding the friendliness of the majority of the populace, I wouldn't say the island was the best place for a woman unfamiliar with the territory to go it alone.
My journey was full of wonders. But I'm under no illusion that my cosseted Sri Lanka was representative of the way things go for most travellers.
I had a partial view, but honesty compels me to state I wouldn't have had it otherwise.
The Ultimate Travel Company (020-7386 4646; can arrange a journey following the writer’s trail from £3,635. A fully inclusive week on retreat at Ulpotha is followed by four days at Sigiriya, staying at Vil Uyana. Next, an overnight stop at the Kandy House, two nights at the classic Tea Trails and finally a night at Wallawwa. The price also includes flights from Heathrow, private car with driver, guided sightseeing and most meals
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Lunugana, Bentota

The home of the late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most renowned architect, has been transformed into an intimate four-room hotel (plus two-room cottage). Bawa spent 40 years turning this abandoned west coast rubber estate into an exquisite plantation house on a promontory surrounded by a jungle-fringed lake with Italianate gardens, pavilions and pools. Doubles from US$232 (
The Kandy House

Gunnepana It may have only opened in 2005 but this nine-room property feels gloriously vintage, partly because it was built as a family home in 1804 and partly because it merges original antiques with understated, contemporary interior design.
And it’s only a 20-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Kandy. Doubles from US$130 (00 94 814 921 394;
Rainforest Edge, Waddagala
An eco-lodge in a beautiful mountaintop location in southern Sri Lanka, Rainforest Edge is ideal for those looking for a rustic, back-to-nature experience and easy access to the Sinharaja Rainforest. There is lots to do in the surrounding countryside from kayaking and Jeep safaris to botanical walks and mountain biking. Doubles from US$212 (00 94 11 5 339 202;

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