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Sri Lanka revisited

Author: Brian W Fisher (More Trip Reviews by Brian W Fisher)
Date of Trip: March 2013

Sri Lanka (post war)

Having toured Sri Lanka many times over the past two decades, I thought that to return now that the war between the government forces and the 'Tamil Tigers' had ended, would be a good idea.

Choosing three distinct regions to visit would give me the best overall impression of the present situation (tourist wise) and how they and the local population viewed it.

Every ethnic (non-Tamil) Sri Lankan I spoke with, held strong beliefs that their government had acted correctly and that the charges of genocide cited by the UN and other World bodies, were wrong. They became quite incensed when the subject of the Channel Four documentary film was mentioned, protesting to 'yours truly' that it was all faked by the British cameramen, sound recordists and journalists.

Many opposite views were expressed by tourists of certain nationalities, opining that the film must have some merit but the war was over and would be best forgotten.

Immediately following the end of that conflict (and when Tourist numbers dropped sharply) the Sri Lankan authorities, together with a number of 'developers', made high value assets available for the acquisition of land vacated by the indigenous Tamil population. Hotels and amenities have sprung up and a concerted effort is being made to encourage tourists to return.

The official number of tourists into Sri Lanka during 2012 showed a marked increase over the previous two years. However, those numbers need to be scrutinised carefully as the same figure quoted for 'Tourists' is identical to the total number of passengers arriving at Colombo airport, irrespective of nationality or purpose...quite a weird comparison?

On then to the subject of the regions and the hotels within them at which I'd elected to stay.

First, I based myself north of Negombo at the north western coastal area of Marawila and made various excursions from that village.

To sample what the growing number of All Inclusive Hotels had to offer and measure the standards, I'd chosen Club Palm Bay as probably being typical.

This is a large, sprawling resort covering many acres and is set in a landscape dotted with lagoons. All accommodation is single storey bungalows. Being fully air-conditioned, spacious and boasting excellent bathroom and bedroom storage facilities, no fault could be found as to their suitability.

Meals, as expected, were all 'buffet style' and taken in the hotel's only restaurant – a large, open sided building overlooking the swimming pool. With so many nationalities of guests, the food on offer was varied to suit and was plentiful. The quality also lived up to expectations. Waiters and overseers performed their tasks with slick professionalism, ensuring tables were quickly prepared and drink orders were produced with a minimum of waiting. The only 'grumbles' I overheard and witnessed, were from guests being 'ousted' from their place in the buffet queue by those who'd gained the title of 'Sri Lanka's Cyrillic Invaders'. It was indeed unpleasant to observe such bad manners but on speaking with 'The Management' I learned that the hotel and many like it, were increasingly reliant upon bookings from that part of the world, as the traditional and oft-returning guests from the UK and Europe had taken their custom elsewhere. As for actual statistical factual ratios, I have no knowledge.

There was no doubting that the centre of attraction was the large swimming pool and its very pleasant garden surroundings. Every sun-bed was occupied by early morning (at least by books, towels, newspapers or some article of clothing). However, not the usual Germanic suspects this time...I'll let you guess which nationality had superseded them. Overlooking that specific, the pool was great and squeaky clean.

Evening entertainment varied from traditional Sri Lankan dance shows to fire eaters. All were enthusiastically received and applauded.

Other facilities offered by the hotel were tennis, mini-golf, an Ayurvedic centre, snooker and other indoor games.

Although being sited on the beach, most hotel guests shied away from it. I wasn't surprised, as the sand is streaked with 'black whatever' littered with rubbish and not in the least inviting. The steepness of the shoreline would make the average bather, very wary of stepping in the breakers.

There were some incidents within the hotel and its gardens during the hours of darkness due no doubt to the consumption of copious amounts of free alcohol (mostly Vodka). The security personnel were certainly stretched on occasions.

Some 154 Kilometres (95 miles) north east of Marawila is the famous Sigiriya Rock. This region is popular because of its cultural heritage and the nearby attractions of Dambulla, Kandalama and two wildlife reserves containing many families and herds of wild elephants.

On any 'normal' road, a car averaging say 60 kilometres an hour, should take 2.5 hours to make the journey, but Sri Lanka's roads are anything but 'normal'. It took my experienced driver over 4 hours to make the trip and how the car's suspension coped without complete failure, I'll never understand.

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