Archive for March, 2018

Visiting Sri Lanka 100 times is still not enough: Prof. Manfred Domroes

Professor Manfred Domroes, a lecturer and adventurist with an immense passion for Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and exquisite tea, recently paid his 100th visit to the country. His maiden visit was in 1967: since then, he has remained loyal to the country, calling Sri Lanka as his second home.

In this interview with Daily FT, Professor Domroes shares why he loves the country and details of his 100 visits, mainly promoting the study of the geography and economy of Sri Lanka to groups of students from Germany.

Prof. Domroes said: “In 1965 I joined a research unit in Germany at the famous Heidelberg University, became a lecturer in geography, and there I had to specialise in any part of South Asia. Therefore I chose Ceylon. I chose Ceylon because I love islands, not the big country of India, and thereafter I started to get interested in tea. Those days it was the most famous product in Ceylon, and then I was able to receive a research fund from the German government.”

Having arrived in Sri Lanka for the first time, Domroes went on to carry out his research in the ‘tea country’ of the central hills. In August 1967, he was stationed with a tea landlord, a retired tea planter with whom he travelled to many tea gardens, doing interviews on the climatic conditions and other conditions of tea growing in the country.

These findings were published in a book titled ‘The Agro-Climate of Ceylon’ in 1974 and was translated into many languages. This book is used mainly by students studying agriculture at the Peradeniya University. “I love Lanka and started with tea in 1968, and thereafter I did work in other fields such as tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, fishery, gem-mining and so forth. These were fields which are all part of geography, which I love, and of course geography is a wide field in which you have various aspects to deal with. For me, the starting point was tea and the climate, and then I had many opportunities of publishing books and articles. I have written several books on tourism in Lanka, specifically six books and 50 articles.”

Having read his articles and books on the wonders of Ceylon, Domroes’ students developed a great interest on the subject. In 1974, he brought a group of German students to Sri Lanka who he said were very keen and interested in the beautiful country. German students love Sri Lanka and they love being in the country, he noted. “I love Lanka because I am never regarded as a foreigner or stranger, and people always think of me as a friend. Altogether I was here in Lanka for seven years, and I hope to be in good health for a long time to come again and again. I was here even during the critical time, which was very awful, and even then I had a good relationship with the entire country, and had friends among all ethnic groups and all religions. It is always like coming home when I arrive. Your country is an outstanding country.”

Prof. Domroes stated that the locals often don’t realise the beauty of the country, and that it is the obligation of everyone, especially young people, to ensure it stays beautiful – Lanka must remain a bright island filled with warm hearted, friendly people. He went on to say that this is a smiling country, which is a great value. People in Sri Lanka respect other foreigners and are most friendly – it is the obligation of the youth to carry Sri Lankan friendliness and hospitality on to future generations.

Prof. Domroes visited the country year by year to give lectures, teach classes at local universities and even helped the general public during the time of the tsunami. He inaugurated a Friendship Society in Germany, and went on to build a small village near Galle with ten houses, as well as a home for orphan children in Badulla. He is also a constant aid and comfort to many slum children who live in Colombo.

“In the 1970s, I went with my family to Beruwala and had a wonderful dinner buffet. When I was standing at the buffet looking around, a gentleman approached me and asked if he could help me in any way. That man then gave me his business card and I read the name Balendren. His personality was filled with friendliness and hospitality, and he was truly a wonderful man. Actually it was because of him that I got closer in contact. Walkers Tours is still how I travel to Sri Lanka up to date. I have been to all corners of the country, there are hardly any places that I haven’t been to.”

He is currently working on a book titled ‘100 times and 50 years of Sri Lanka’, and is soon set to visit the country again, with two other professors from Germany.  He hopes to visit Yala East and continue to explore the country for many years to come. Prof. Domroes has not only co-operated with but helped the country immensely with his passion to serve Sri Lanka, his second home.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/travel-tourism/Visiting-Sri-Lanka-100-times-is-still-not-enough–Prof–Manfred-Domroes/27-652057

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Mahinda to open latest hotel in Nuwara Eliya

Rathna Producers Cinnamon Exports Ltd., one of the largest cinnamon exporters in Sri Lanka, has announced the opening of an exciting new property Hotel Ashford comprising 100 rooms in the centre of Nuwara Eliya on 1 April by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/travel-tourism/Mahinda-to-open-latest-hotel-in-Nuwara-Eliya/27-652056

Lose yourself in simple pleasures at Handun Villas

Along the sun kissed southern coastline of Sri Lanka lies the perfectly preserved 120 year old Dutch manor known as Handun Villas. It is surrounded by a lush green coconut estate and enchanting garden where giant squirrels, monkeys and peacocks come to play. The soothing lull of the ocean mingles with birdsong and the rhythm of coastal village life to create a symphony that is unique to the villa.

Handun Villas is found in Talalla Bay which is two and a half hours drive from Colombo and 11 kilometres away from Matara. With beautiful aquamarine waters and secluded beaches, Talalla is one of the lesser known haunts “down south”. Its proximity to Mirissa and Hirikatiya provide visitors with access to natural reefs, water sports and whale watching tours. In addition Talalla is conveniently located close to the island’s major national parks, wildlife sanctuaries (namely Yala and Udawalawa) and various coastal heritage sites.

Travellers who seek to indulge in simple pleasures need look no further than the villa’s estate where they can relax by the pool or take part in outdoor yoga and meditation classes. Be it modernised interiors with indoor trees that grow through the open roof or outdoor bathrooms where guests can stargaze while soaking in a tub; there is a sense of oneness with nature here no matter where you look. Even rooms at the villa bear names like Kohomba, Sepalika, Sooriya, Kurundu, and Mai Mara after trees that are found in the garden.

The villa also offers a variety of activities for visitors. From island dining consisting of calamari and jumbo prawns to cooking sessions with the chef, there is much to tickle the taste buds of foodie travellers both local and foreign alike. The more adventurous individual can request cycling tours and whale watching expeditions from the staff who are always happy to help.

With a restaurant, laundry service and 24 hour security available, the villa ensures that guests are able to let go of everyday worries and completely immerse themselves in rest and relaxation. Perhaps one of the most welcome facility at the villa is its luxury spa where guests can indulge in a little pampering while taking in breathtaking views of the garden.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/travel-tourism/Lose-yourself-in-simple-pleasures-at-Handun-Villas/27-652055

Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara recognised by Fit Reisen for quality

Aitken Spence Hotels’ wellness resort, Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara, was recently commended for their excellence in quality and standards by Fit Reisen Germany, a leading provider of health and wellness travel, with the Quality Certificate in the category of ‘Ayurveda and yoga’. This is the fourth consecutive year the resort has received this recognition.

The certification, which highlights the property as one of the highest-quality and best-rated hotels, further confirms Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara’s position as the ultimate in spiritual, physical and mental harmony, through customised healing rituals following the ancient traditions of Ayurveda.

The certification is awarded after a careful assessment process, where Fit Reisen’s experts only accept and select partner hotels with strong service and quality orientation, and a clear focus on spa and health. Customer reviews also play a vital role in this process.

The evaluation takes note of the state and cleanliness of the hotel, service staff, hotel room and atmosphere; taste, variety and balance of food and; health factors such as quality of treatment, pool, spa, treatment rooms, leisure activities and nature and surroundings.

An Ayurvedic treatment destination, the 64-roomed property is located in Beruwala and caters to the niche segment of wellness-seekers. Uplifting treatments by professional Ayurvedic specialists, extraordinary cuisine, and outstanding hospitality, is what guests checking-in at Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara receive. Formerly known as The Neptune Hotel, Beruwala, the property underwent a complete refurbishment and commenced its journey as a wellness resort in late 2011. The resort also acts as a responsible tourism institution, uplifting indigenous arts & crafts of Sri Lanka, and takes to the world a message on authentic healing through organic produce and holistic well-being.

With partners in over 50 countries, Fit Reisen has for over 40 years offered guests from around the world high quality travel, focused on health and wellbeing holidays.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/travel-tourism/Heritance-Ayurveda-Maha-Gedara-recognised-by-Fit-Reisen-for-quality/27-652054

Big boost for Sri Lanka

Earlier this week, Australia’s Channel Nine devoted its ‘Travel Guides’ slot to telecast a well-structured, neatly produced programme on Sri Lanka. Two fairly mature couples and three youngsters (in two groups) formed the band of commentators.

They had a mission – travel to interesting places using public transport, mingle with people, observe customs and traditions, taste different forms of cuisine, and discuss their experiences. The camera crew captured the places and activities in the most interesting and authentic way.

Their journey begins from the Fort Railway Station. It’s early morning. Rushing through the large crowd in Platform 1 are the seven Australians to get on to the train bound for Nuwara Eliya. “It was hot, crowded, smelling, dirty, great,” is how one of the seasoned travellers in the group summed up the initial experience.

The three youngsters are on their own. One of them, Teng starts talking about “travelling in a part of India”. Another youngster corrects him. They were enjoying the train ride standing near the compartment’s door and admiring the scenery on the way. “Don’t be scared to quickly poke your head out of the doors to take in the view, but just be extra careful,” one of them later said.

All are happy to try the “Sri Lankan goodies” ranging from mango to ‘vadei with fried prawns’ when the train stops at the stations on the way. They don’t have much time for the transactions. The station master blows the whistle. The youngsters run to their compartment. “We had just 21 seconds,” one says.

Approaching the tea growing area, a female says: “Look – see the green tea.” Another chips in. “All teas are green.”

“One of the things that was amazing was the tea plantations in the mountains. The rich green colour of the tea plants nestled amongst the mountains was visually stunning,” one comments after the trip.

After the seven-hour journey, as they get to the Nuwara Eliya Grand Hotel they are fascinated by the old architecture. Soon they enjoy the “classy” ‘High Tea’ served in the garden. Later they do a stroll in the park, which they describe as “really pretty and well maintained”.

Being tea drinkers and fascinated by the vast areas under tea they visit a tea estate and join the others to pluck tea leaves.

The hotel staff is keen to play soft ball cricket. The visitors oblige.

Monkeys and elephants

From the cool climes they move to the dry region. Though Dambulla they reach Heritance Kandalama Hotel, “one of the top eco-friendly hotels in the world”, and are warmly received. The more senior couple is offered the Royal Suite and they are highly elated. All admire the greenery right round and are greeted by the monkeys hovering around as they walked into their rooms.

Gazing out of the windows they observe the mountains in harmony with natural environment.

Just as much as they wanted to see tea gardens, in their list is elephants. They see enough and more during the elephant safari at the Minneriya National Park where they get close to them in the open vehicles they are driven around by the park staff.

During the trip the youngsters are bold enough to try ‘kiribath’ and hoppers with ‘katta sambol’ though warned about the chillies used. They use their fingers to eat ‘in keeping with tradition’. “One hundred per cent Sri Lankan find. Lovely!”

A visit to Sigiriya is tiring – yet no one gives up. Everyone goes right to the top. “Amazing. Beautiful” is their verdict.

Among the more amusing happenings are two visits – one to a fortune-teller (not one but two) and the other to a snake-charmer. Translators interpret what the fortune-tellers are supposed to have said.

Though uneasy at the start, they quickly get used to the snake whom they even allow the charmer to put round their necks!

There are at least two ‘never to be forgotten’ rides. One is the tuk-tuk ride and the other the double-bullock cart ride. “Tuk-tuks at high speeds and windy roads definitely are a thing in Sri Lanka, so just go with it. We thought we were going to die but we made it!” is their comment. They get a good jolt in the cart ride, particularly because the trip is on a gravel road.

What they felt

The three-week holiday trip is cut down to a near-one hour program. Interesting to watch – beautifully photographed and genuine dialogue.

Here are some of the final comments:

“Sri Lanka may not be everybody’s cup of tea.”

“Really cool people.”

“Sri Lanka is a great place for a holiday.”

“Sri Lanka better than I expected.”

“Best tea in the world”

“All good, except the monkeys”

“Everything cheap”

“The country is a bag of tricks”

“We love Sri Lanka. We’ll come back.”

Source : http://www.ft.lk/ft-lite/Big-boost-for-Sri-Lanka/6-651925

Tourism stakeholders back Govt. ad campaign

  • Minister agrees to run TV promotions on CCTV, NDTV, Al-Jazeera, represented in key markets 
  • While no structured  assessment done yet on loss of bookings, industry says it could run into millions of dollars
  • Calls for global advertising campaign to be expedited
  • No new Chairman for SLTPB; Minister, Min. Secy. and MD ‘holding  the fort’

By Charumini de Silva

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) this week announced that it was gearing up for a $ 650,000 CNN advertising campaign to woo travellers from all over the world in a bid to revive the country’s tarnished image as well as to try its level best to reach the 2.5 million tourist arrival target Sri Lanka has been missing out on for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Harith Perera said if the procurement guidelines were met and deliverables were established, they were in full support of the CNN initiative.

Ukwatte also said that the industry stakeholders categorically requested Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga to also have advertising campaigns on international television channels such as CCTV, NDTV and Al-Jazeera, which are telecasted in key markets such as China, India and the Middle Eastern countries where the tourism traffic was most affected.

“The Minister has agreed to our request. We hope that the advertising campaigns in other channels will also be in a position to kick-off next month as well,” he added.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/front-page/Tourism-stakeholders-back-Govt–ad-campaign-to-counter-Kandy-impact/44-651966

Treasures of Trincomalee

By Aysha Maryam Cassim

Located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee is a classic port city steeped in history which became famous for its deep-water natural harbour and many other notable attractions on land and underwater.

How did Trincomalee get its name?

The historical chronicles of Mahavansa indicate that the Port of Trincomalee has been a popular destination during the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods.

During the ancient times, the port was identified as Gokarna, Gokanna Thitha, Gonaka Grama, Tirikonamalai, Thrimandalaa and Gonagammapattana. The present-day name Trincomalee is derived from the anglicized version of the Tamil word Tirukonamalai (‘Lord of the Sacred Hill’); a hill situated at the end of a natural land formation that resembles an arc.

The Harbour

Trincomalee’s Harbour is a natural deep-water harbour, which is renowned for its size and security unparalleled to any other in the Indian Ocean. The harbour was found to be an extraordinarily deep canyon rich in abundant fish resources and large marine fauna such as whales and dolphins.

The Harbour is flanked by high cliffs on the seaside which also protects the port from the monsoon winds. The sheltered water of the Harbour is capable of accommodating a large number of vessels in all weathers.

The available water and land area in Trincomalee Port are about 10 times as much as the Port of Colombo which offer water depths suitable for movement and berthing of small, medium-sized and large deep drafted cargo ships, oil tankers and super-tankers.

Trincomalee’s Port formerly used to be a British Naval Base, and later was taken over by the Sri Lankan Government in 1956 to be developed as a commercial port. When the civil war prevailed in the Trincomalee area, the maritime operations in the port were severely affected.

At present, SLPA (Sri Lanka Ports Authority) is in the process of redeveloping Trincomalee as a metropolis growth centre to cater to bulk cargo and port-related industrial activities such as heavy industries, tourism and agriculture, etc.

Along with princes, princesses and fleets of invaders, great seafarers like Marco Polo, Ptolemy and merchants from China and East Asia entered the island through the Port of Trincomalee. Its strategic importance also attracted the great European powers from the 16th-19th century.

The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the English vied for Trincomalee’s much-treasured natural Harbour located on the left bank of the Mahaweli River estuary. Trincomalee Harbour was also of immense interest to the British during World War II. The port city served as the main base and shore headquarters of Eastern Fleet, British Royal Navy during World War II.

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick in Trincomalee is a fort built by Portuguese in 1624. Located inside the naval dockyard, this famous gateway overlooks the sea and highlands of Trincomalee.

Fort Frederick was built encompassing the summit of Swami Rock, from the debris of an ancient Hindu temple that was destroyed by the Portuguese general Constantine De Saa in 1724 A.D.

Local rulers like King Senarath and King Rajasinghe II had historically attempted to free the Trincomalee Port and surrounding areas from the Portuguese. The Fortress was captured by a Dutch fleet under Admiral Westerwald in 1639 and later by the British in 1795.

The artillery and Cannon and the colonial buildings in the enclave around the Fort can be explored on foot watching deer grazing under trees. It’s a beautiful walk that you should not miss.

Hindu and Buddhist connections

Excavations conducted within the fort premises and under the shore had led to the discovery of sculptures of archaeological interest which reveal the Hindu Buddhist connections in bygone times.

The Vayu Purana refers to a Siva temple on Trikuta hill on the eastern coast of Lanka in the 3rd century. A Tamil rock inscription belonging to the 16th c. A.D. is found at the main entrance to the fort, indicating the destruction of a Hindu temple by the Portuguese.

King Mahasen (275-303 A.D.) is said to have demolished the Jaina monastery that existed on the Swami Rock and built a Buddhist temple with a preaching hall.

Koneswaram Temple.

Perched on top of Swami Rock overlooking the Dutch Bay of Trincomalee and the port town, Koneswaram remains as one of the most important surviving and influential temples of the classical Dravidian architectural period of the early 17th century. It is visited and venerated by hundreds of devotees around the world.

Koneswaram temple is built as one of the fixed Pancha Ishwarams (abodes of Shiva) to honour the supreme God of Hinduism. The temple was historically known as the Thirukonamamalai Konesar Kovil, the Temple of the Thousand Pillars.

The coast of Nilaveli

The rock seabed along the east coast supports extensive reef habitats. Around the coastline of Trincomalee, larger boulder type reefs of crystalline rocks can be found along the coast in Nilaveli, Pigeon Island, Coral island, Dutch Bay, Back Bay, Coral Cove and Foul Point to Batticaloa.

These areas are famed for snorkelling and diving, being home to hundreds of exotic marine species and the most breathtaking coral reefs.

The British War Cemetery

The British War Cemetery in Trincomalee is meticulously maintained by a gardener with a family tradition. Located on the Trincomalee-Nilaveli main road, this cemetery houses the graves and memories of those were laid to rest in many faraway lands during WWII. The headstones are respectfully looked after with their own shrubs and flower plants.

Museums in Trincomalee

The Orr’s Hill Open Air Army Museum is situated inside the 22nd Division Army Camp. It has a collection of Infantry weapons, armoured vehicles, artillery guns and a resource person-manned audio-visual room.

One can get a glimpse of colonial and recent military history by visiting this museum, situated atop the popular ‘Orr’s Hill’ overlooking the picturesque and soothing Trincomalee Harbour. A tour guide will escort you through the museum while explaining the significance of every exhibit.

The Maritime and Naval History Museum in Trincomalee gives the visitor an interactive educational experience on the commencement and evolution of naval craft and tools and techniques used in maritime technology and communications, maritime warfare as well as commerce, tourism, maritime cultures, traditions and environments.

Kanniya hot water wells

Kanniya hot water springs have a history dating back to Ramayana period.  According to the legend, Ravana, the king of Lanka, wanted to perform the last rites of his mother. It is believed that when he pierced the soil with his arrow seven times, seven springs appeared.

There are seven hot springs within varied temperatures which are now converted to bathing wells. The water from the wells supposedly have therapeutic healing powers that can cure many ailments.

Arisi Malai Beach

Arisi Malai is a beach that lies about 50 km north of Trincomalee in the town of Pulmudai. To reach the beach you will have to wade across a river estuary, pass a military checkpoint and park your vehicle. Then follow the forestry path that leads to the beach.

The beach is best known for its rice-like sand. Arisi Malai – which literary means Rice Hill in Tamil – has an important historical and archaeological value.

It is believed that two traders named Tapassu and Bhalluka carrying a lock of Lord Buddha’s hair had entered the country through the Arisimale port and enshrined the sacred relic of Lord Buddha in Girigaduseya stupa in Tiriyaya.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/ft-lite/Treasures-of-Trincomalee/6-651921