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.

Ref: http://factoidz.com/galle-sri-lanka-a-visit-can-bring-you-back-in-time/

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.”

Ref: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/6432809-srilankan-airlines-and-hotel-win-international-recognition

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.

Ref: http://travelblog.dailymail.co.uk/2010/08/sri-lanka-the-surprise-package-why-asias-forgotten-destination-is-an-explorers-paradise-now-the-civi.html

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.

Ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10892057

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