Sri Lanka: Warm vibes and breathtaking beauty
Ever wonder what one can do to take their mind off the daily stress of life? Say you live in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and the mother of all stressful cities in the world. It’s polluted, congested and the people are very urban (which means there isn’t necessarily the simplicity or friendliness one can experience in rural Bangladesh). That sure sounds like a lot to handle, especially if you top it off with the traffic, which is one of the worst in South Asia. If I were you, I’d need breaks. And frequent ones too.
Sure I can go to Hawaii for three days, go to America, have fun with relatives and come back after a week or two. But for me that isn’t enough. When I visit a place I want to connect with locals, understand the country and the society. Try their food. I might not be Drew Binsky but I have travelling in my blood and it’s one of the few things that gives me pleasure. Over the course of the last year I have travelled to four different nations, some where I’ve been to before and some where I’ve never been to. Here I’d like to highlight Sri Lanka.
Nowadays there is a lot of cricket rivalry between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka which has led to many Bangladeshis knowing Sri Lanka because of cricket. But what many don’t know is Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful, diverse and welcoming countries on earth despite being smaller than Bangladesh. It has places that are cold all through the year, places that are hot, places that have the bluest of waters and places of ancient history. But perhaps the only two similarities I found in Sri Lanka all throughout is the warmness of the people and how clean the country was. Colombo and Male are two of the cleanest cities I’ve been to.
Male is an island but Colombo is a proper city with massive skyscrapers and malls, and even an old walled city. But it’s still the cleanest South Asian city I’ve been to. Sri Lanka is a literal paradise and probably the most beautiful country in South Asia. But it doesn’t end just there. The Sri Lankans are extremely educated, everybody speaks English. So it is very easy to communicate.
I first came to Sri Lanka in 2018, a month after the Nidahas trophy, a cricket tournament which led to a lot of social media fights between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I expected them to be cold towards me because of my nationality. But it didn’t matter to me as I was going to explore the country. But what I discovered was the exact opposite. The people were warmer and kinder than any other place I’ve been to.
Our two tour guides Thusitha and Sanath were the finest of people. They weren’t living a luxurious life but they had learnt the art of hospitality. And just in case you were thinking, it wasn’t fake that they had dealt with a lot of tourists and were merely providing a service, like we see in Thailand. No, they were genuinely good people. They didn’t treat us as mere customers. Their presence was one of the biggest reasons why I went back to Sri Lanka. A classic example why Sri Lanka has such a good reputation globally. They believe each one of them is an ambassador to their country, and that gives tourists like me a great experience and a desire to go back.
The city I enjoyed most in Sri Lanka this time around was Nuwara Eliya. If one thinks of Sri Lanka they think of tropical beaches and beautiful the blue Ocean. While Sri Lanka has all that, they also have something called Little England, along with Little Ireland and Little Scotland. These are areas will tall mountains, rolling hills and cool climate. In fact when it was around 32 degrees in Dhaka, it was 17 degrees in Eliya! You would feel like you’re walking the streets of Glasgow, but it’s actually a testament to the diversity of Sri Lanka.
Despite being a small country Sri Lanka is abundant in natural beauty and it was clearly visible in Galle. The water in Galle was not much different to that of Maldives. I’ve heard Trincomalee has bluer water but Galle’s ocean did not disappoint. The biggest attraction of Galle is the Dutch fortress, adjacent to which is the Galle Cricket Stadium. We stayed inside the fort complex, at the Serena Galle Fort hotel. While the hotel was so-so, the scenery and beauty stole the show, although I don’t recommend swimming in Galle because of all the coral reefs!
Sri Lanka’s rise from the ashes supports the age old saying, "if there is a will, there is a way!"
Our last stop was Colombo. Colombo was a proper city but it didn’t feel like one. No cars honking, no excessive traffic and a peaceful environment, the complete opposite of Dhaka. It didn’t feel hectic. I went from one end of the city to the other to meet a Sri Lankan friend of mine and it took me just about 25 minutes. While Colombo is a much much smaller city than Dhaka, it was still easier to get around. Colombo has all the modern skyscrapers like Dhaka, but they were more organised and attractive. The ocean-side skyline gave me Mumbai or Doha vibes, except it didn’t have the scorching Qatar heat or the Mumbai pollution.
The Sri Lankan trip definitely gave me some much needed relaxation and pleasure that was required to face the grim realities that I needed to face back in Dhaka. It also made me wonder how Sri Lanka, a country that was fighting a war a little longer than a decade ago, could turn around so quickly. One might think Sri Lanka is lucky because they are blessed with natural resources, beauty and a low population, but they didn’t have it easy.
They had to battle a massive tsunami that caused a lot of destruction, which made it difficult for them to repair as their economy is much smaller than Bangladesh. But they had the right people to take them out of their crisis and they had a population that was determined to rise from the rubble and for once prove how charming their country is. Sri Lanka’s rise from the ashes supports the age old saying, "if there is a will, there is a way!"
* Srijon Shaikat is a student of IUB