Archive for December, 2010


Friday, December 31st, 2010

Sunday 2 January 2011.

New Year Greetings to all my readers around the world – from Australia to Zanzibar, from Antigua to Zimbabwe – here is a view from sunny Sri Lanka.


The buzzing of jet skis, the shrieks of kids tumbling out of rubber banana boats, and the roar of speed boats towing water skiers, was disrupted on Christmas Day by a police motor boat scooting around the Bentota lagoon with a uniformed officer in the bow sounding a loud klaxon.

A novel way to herald the traditional day of peace, but we who were lunching at the Tourist Board’s Bentota Beach Bungalow, assumed it was part of the festive noise. And then suddenly a seaplane swooped over the Bentota rail and road bridges and glided to a perfect landing in front of us.

Alas, it wasn’t Father Christmas who had ditched his sleigh and reindeer to arrive in Bentota, but the test flight of a new seaplane service from the airport. Quite why Sri Lankan Airlines should have chosen Christmas Day to antagonise all those tourists seeking serenity on the beach by several repeated test landings, I don’t know.

One wonders what seaplane landings in the lagoon will do for the natural and social environment? It certainly interfered with business as jet-skis, banana boats, and motorboat safaris had to suspend their operations.

Crab curry

Sri Lanka is justly renowned for its crab curry. One of the best I have enjoyed was at the Chaaya Blu hotel in Trincomalee where its restaurant, known simply as The Crab, offers various versions.

However, visitors don’t have to go all the way to Trincomalee because the long-established Palmyrah Restaurant at the Renuka Hotel in Galle Road, Colombo 3, specialises in Jaffna cuisine, especially the crab curry seen here.

The restaurant is also notable for its haunting paintings of northern scenery. Alas, I can’t enjoy crab as much as I would like, because my beard gets in the way.


Commenting on Newsletter 36, Kate & Tim Spencer from UK who have visited Sri Lanka often, stated: “We’re close to being, but not quite, FITs, so, if you can make any recommendations, we’d be very grateful.”

FIT is an acronym for a “free and independent traveller” or a “fully independent tourist” as opposed to a GIT who is travelling as part of a group. FITs make their own flight arrangements and explore Sri Lanka either on a whim or on an itinerary they have previously arranged for themselves. That’s where guide books are helpful; a new edition of mine is being published by Bradt in May 2011, while my book Sri Lanka Step By Step is specifically written for FITs.

While there are travel agents who are happy to stitch together a package for FITs (including airfare) the arrangements can unravel if the agent (or the guest) isn’t paying attention. So I shall try to give some Tips for Fits in subsequent newsletters so even first time visitors to Sri Lanka can confidently explore and enjoy the country.

No thanks

Usually I praise hotels for their comfort, conviviality, etc., but here is one I certainly won’t recommend. This photograph, of which the PR department for the hotel (it’s somewhere in New Zealand) seems rather proud – well they sent it to me together with a bunch of others equally alarming – reveals a potentially painful experience.

Look at those sharp edges and corners on the glass topped table, the clutter in the room, the uncomfortable desk chair ready to tip over, the ottoman at the end of the bed restricting movement around the room, the shaggy cushions on the pillows, the ghastly lighting and the bleak, plywood wall at the back of the bed.

You’d need bedroom injury insurance to stay there.

Happy Horizon

At my home in Sri Lanka, Horizon Cottage, we managed to fit in a garden party for visiting friends from the USA, France, Scotland, England, Andorra and Australia, and my Sri Lankan neighbours, between Christmas and the New Year. It was magnificently organised by the Horizon crew, seen here from left to right: Andrew, Ramesh, Tissa, Kumara and Neel.

For once I didn’t fall down – that’s because I went to bed early although the party (and the band) continued happily until 3am.

Best wishes and beat regards from us all for 2011.