Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka Travel’ Category

Ceylon Chamber expands wing to Thailand strengthening trade, investment and tourism opportunities

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce with a view to build a dependable, pragmatic, and advantageous relationship and to establish friendly and cordial relations between Sri Lanka and Thailand, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Thai Chamber of Commerce on 12 July, at the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade. Signing of the MOU was initiated by Ambassador for Thailand in Sri Lanka Chulamanee Chartsuwan as a result of a discussion held during her visit to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in June 2017.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce is the representative body of the industrial and commercial entities of Thailand established with an objective of increasing the flow of trade through creating business opportunities and improving the business climate for the private sector. “We have similar objectives and we enter into an alliance with Thai Chamber in order to promote the private sector business entities to become reciprocal partners and to extend all support cooperation and assistance to each other for the overall benefit of both countries,” said Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rajendra Theagarajah.

Kalin Sarasin, Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce/Board of Trade of Thailand and signed the MOU in the presence of Ambassador for Thailand in Sri Lanka Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Thailand Kshenuka Senewiratne and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Dhara Wijayatilake. The scope of the MOU would be to disseminate trade and investment related information to enhance bilateral trade and business, initiate/promote joint ventures, partnerships and other business linkages, provide technical expertise, arrange business promotion missions between the two countries, formulate proposals to accelerate bilateral relations, and convene business forums and business matchmaking sessions.

Balance of trade with Thailand is in favour of Thailand. Exports from Sri Lanka to Thailand amounts to $ 53 million during 2017 compared to $ 34 million in 2016. Imports from Thailand amounts to $ 519 million in 2017 compared to $ 492 million in 2016.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, have already signed 127 Memoranda of Understanding to expand and further strengthen strong relationships with overseas trade promotion organisations for the benefit of business community in Sri Lanka.

Source :–investment-and-tourism-opportunities/34-659254


Villa Vajrapani opens in Hantana Mountain

A Luxury hotel, Villa Vajrapani was opened end June at the Hantana Mountain Range, Pedadeniya last month.

Build on a nine-acre land at the base of the Hantana Valley, the luxury hotel offers seven room providing accommodation for 20 guests. Villa Vajrapani has three swimming pools: one infinity pool, one kid’s pool, and the biggest draw, a natural spring water pool constructed from local, sustainable materials.

Owned and operated by Susunta Yaddhige and Tilaka Sena based in Australia they have invested Rs. 100 million for the project. The hotel has six rooms, with two king-sized and four with queen-sized beds and each room can accommodate an extra bed.

The villa was designed with special attention to the surrounding environment and regional ecology, also has two large roof top balconies in the fifth floor.

“Already, Villa Vajrapani uses solar panels to power its hot water system and soon more panels will be added to power its electricity. Villa Vajrapani strives towards eventual carbon neutrality,” said its Manager, M. Sudhamika.

Guests also have the opportunity of interacting with a local naturalist, who offers guidance on the area’s diverse flora and fauna, including bird watching and a tour of the villa’s spice garden.

Great care has being made for landscaping and the management will invest on a long nature trail.

The villa’s guests have the opportunity to explore Uplands Tea Factory, established in 1912 and they also arrange numerous hiking and mountain biking trails. The Villa also arranges yoga and meditation classes as well.

Villa Vajrapani offers fine dining with indoor and rooftop seating, with foods that are locally sourced and prepared by Chef Jagath Kotte, who has worked in luxury hotels in Sri Lanka and the Middle East.

Designed by local architect, Lalith Hewage the floors of Villa Vajrapani are made from Nadun wood popular in the 18th century and all its furniture are made of teak according to Dutch style.

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US$ 300m world class beach park from Kollupitiya to Dehiwela

The Sri Lankan government is to invest more than US$300 million (Rs.47.8 billion) to reclaim land for a new beachfront from Kollupitiya to Dehiwela, in capital Colombo, the local Sunday Times said in a report on Sunday.

The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the project, Megapolis and Western Province Development Ministry Secretary Nihal Rupasinghe said.

Under the ambitious project, some 85 hectares of beach land will be reclaimed through landfill.

An artist’s impression of the project
According to the ministry secretary, the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) has been given six months to prepare a feasibility report before the project is started. An Environment Impact Assessment ( EIA) study also is underway. The Coast Conservation Department and the Finance Ministry’s National Planning Department have granted approval for the project.

The beach will be developed as a Public Private Partnership ( PPP) with an estimated investment for the reclamation work alone costing more than US$ 300 million.

“This artificial beach will complement the port city project. This will create a world class beach with numerous leisure activities and is expected to attract thousands of visitors,” Project Director D.E.C.Jayakody said.

According to Rear Admiral Jayakody, the landfill will begin at Kollupitiya with the beach being extended some 80 metres towards the sea. The width will be increased to around 200 metres when it reaches Dehiwela.

He said there would be special breakwater systems so that throughout the year the water levels could be controlled and the sea made safe for visitors, particularly sea bathers.

Read Admiral Jayakody said that of the 85 hectares to be developed, around 20 hectares would be for commercial development by the company selected for this project.

“We plan to go for a lease agreement of 30- 40 years. The developer company can build both commercial and residential buildings on the land allocated to it,” he said.

Among the envisaged attractions for the artificial beach are a worldclass aquarium, a sea plane operation unit, water sports and wreck diving to see shipwrecks around the coast. A safe sea bathing area will be demarcated for the visitors.

“The entire area will be able to accommodate up to 50,000 people at any time and will include a park for 3,000 vehicles,” he added.

Once the feasibility study is completed, international bids will be called by January next year to develop the artificial beach. “We hope to have the landfill completed within one and half years,” the Rear Admiral said.

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Festival time at Kataragama

By D.C. Ranatunga

Denagena giyoth kataragama – Nodena giyoth ataramaga

The saying that if one knows the right track he will end up at Kataragama – otherwise he will get stranded, has been in our vocabulary from the time we were children. Now as oldies we keep repeating it, not about going to Kataragama but as a common saying when one is not quite sure of the place he wants to go to.

Kataragama is mentioned obviously because it was a tedious journey in the old days. There was no road to approach the place in the deep-south. People had to walk through the jungles to reach Kataragama – well-known as a religious place visited by pilgrims of many faiths, particularly Hindus and Buddhists.

Kataragama was referred to by Sir Ponnamblam Arunachalam as “a lonely hamlet on the south-east coast of Ceylon in the heart of a forest haunted by bears, elephants and more deadly malaria”.  An article by him appearing in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1924 states that the Ceylon Government thought of Kataragama especially twice a year when arrangements had to be made for pilgrims, and precautions taken against epidemics. Hardly anyone goes there except in connection with the pilgrimage, he writes.

A hundred years earlier, Dr. John Davy, the Army surgeon and physician to Governor Sir Robert and Lady Brownrigg (1817-19), wrote about his trip to Kataragama when, due to the condition of the roads, he was “obliged to send back my horse, the greater part of the journey was performed on foot, or in a chair tied to two poles and carried on men’s shoulders”.

Discussing the significance of Kataragama, Sir Ponnambalam says it was held in high esteem in the third century before Christ, and is one of the 16 places said to have been sanctified by Gautama Buddha. He refers to a bo-sapling from the Sacred Bo-tree from Buddha Gaya being given to the nobles of Kajara-gama, as Kataragama was then called, and is still seen in the dewale premises.

Kiri Vehera in close proximity to the dewale dates back to the reign of King Mahanaga, ruler of Mahgama (present day Tissamaharama).Most  Buddhists worship Kiri Vehera prior to proceeding to the dewale.

Buddhists also have great faith in the God of Kataragama.

Sir Ponnambalam describes what Kataragama means to the Hindus thus: “Kataragama is sacred to the God Karttikeya, from whom it was called ‘Karttikeya Grama’ (City of Karttikeya), shortened to ‘Kajara-gama’ and then to ‘Kataragama’.

The Tamils who are the chief worshippers of the shrine, have given the name a Tamil form, ‘Kathirkamam’, a city of divine glory and love, as if from ‘kathir’, glory of light, and ‘kamam’, love (Skt.’kama’), or town or district (from Skt. ‘grama’).

By Sinhalese and Tamils alike the God Karttikeya is called ‘Kandaswami’; by the Sinhalese, also ‘Kanda Kumara’ (“Kanda’ being the Tamil form of Sanskrit ‘Skanda’ and ‘Kumara’ meaning youth), and by the Tamils ‘Kumara Swami’, “the youthful god”. More often the Tamils call him by the pure Tamil name ‘Murukan’, “the tender child”. He is represented in legend, statutory and painting as a beautiful child or youth”.

In ‘An Account of the Interior of Ceylon and of its Inhabitants with Travels in that Island’ (published in 1821), Dr. Davy  states: “Kataragam (his spelling) has been a place of considerable celebrity, on account of dewale, which attracted pilgrims not only from every part of Ceylon, but even from remote parts of the continent of India. Aware of its reputation – approaching it through desert country, by a wide sandy road that seems to have been kept bare by the footsteps of its votaries – the expectation is raised in one’s mind, of finding an edifice in magnitude and style somewhat commensurate with its fame; instead of which, everything the eye rests on only serves to give the idea of poverty and decay.”

Kataragama had been an isolated village consisting of a number of small huts mainly occupied by “a detachment of Malays, stationed under the command of a native officer”.

Davy discusses at length the separate dewales in the compound and what can be seen inside the main dewale. “The Kataragam dewale consists of two apartments, of which the outer one only is accessible. Its walls are ornamented with figures of different gods, and with historical paintings executed in the usual style. Its ceiling is mystically painted cloth, and the door of the inner apartment is hid by a similar cloth. On the left of the door there is a small foot-path and basin, in which the officiating priest washes his feet and hands before he enters the sanctium,” he writes.

My last visit to Kataragama would have been over two decades ago and I remember what I saw was not different from what Davy has written. We waited among the crowd with the ‘pooja vattiya’ – offerings of fruits – which was collected by one of the assistants and taken in. Meanwhile, the bells rang nonstop until the ceremony was over.

We did not see what went on inside but waited until the ‘pooja vattiya’ with a few fruits was returned. It was not necessarily what we had given but it did not really matter since the fruits were more or less the same. The devotees tasted the fruits that were returned. They also collected the oil from the ‘pol thel pahan’ which were lit up, into small bottles to be taken back home.

Davy’s observation of the god of Kataragama is that he is not loved, but feared and says that his worship is conducted on that principle. He does not indicate how he came to that conclusion.

“The situation of his temple, and the time fixed for attending it, in the hot, dry, and unwholesome months of June, July and August, were craftily chosen. A merit was made of the hazard and difficulty of the journey through a wilderness, deserted by man, and infested with wild animals, and the fever which prevails at the season was referred to the god, and supposed to be inflicted by him on those who had the misfortune to incur his displeasure,” he writes.

These observations do not apply today. The area is thickly populated, rest-houses and guest houses are aplenty for visitors to reside, business is thriving, roads are well maintained, the journey is just a few hours from any part of the country, and there is no fear of malaria. The pious nature of the visit is, however, maintained and the number of pilgrims keep increasing. Irrespective of festival time, Kataragama draws crowds throughout the year.

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Sustainable tourism and Sri Lankan elephants promoted in Canberra

Environmentalist, wildlife enthusiast and expert on Sri Lankan elephants, Srilal Miththapala gave a talk on ‘Sri Lanka Wildlife and Sustainable Tourism with a special focus on elephants’ at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Canberra on 10 July.

The audience consisting travel writers, tourism industry representatives, wildlife and elephant enthusiasts enjoyed the informative and insightful presentation with video clips of elephants in Sri Lanka.

This is the second talk given by Srilal Miththapala at the High Commission and the third in the series of tourism promotional events hosted by the High Commission to provide the tourism industry, travel writers and wildlife experts in Canberra, an opportunity to see a glimpse of what Sri Lanka has to offer in terms of wildlife and sustainable tourism.

After a brief overview of Sri Lanka’s topography and tourism factors, Miththapala focussed on the Sri Lankan elephant which is fast becoming an icon for Sri Lanka tourism. He described the cultural and religious importance of this special animal in Sri Lanka as well as its demographics, behaviour and social life: he also entertained the audience with stories of personal encounters with these gentle giants revered in the Island nation, along with images and videos.

High Commissioner Somasundaram Skandakumar in introducing the speaker highlighted his vast experience in the hospitality industry and in developing sustainable tourism practices in Sri Lanka. The audience was able to interact with the speaker at the end while savouring Sri Lankan tea and delicacies.


Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Theatre to kick-start ‘cultural promenade’ for upcoming tourist season

Sri Lanka’s first ever dedicated performing arts theatre for cultural entertainment for tourists, gears up to kick-start an exquisite musical and dance celebration of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage commencing from 1 August.

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka reached an all-time high of 2.1 million visitors in 2017 according to the latest data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. Evidently, the majority of tourists visit Sri Lanka for pleasure and the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Events) market contributes to less that 0.8% of the arrivals as per 2016 Annual statistical report of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. This has provided an opportunity to enhance a niche experience segment related to the MICE market in Sri Lanka focused on closing the gap of limited entertainment activities in Colombo and urban areas to occupy the leisure time of MICE-related visitors in turn boosting tourism in this segment.

Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Theatre, inaugurated earlier this year, is well placed to create a memorable experience to the tourists rooted in social and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka ensuring a meaningful visitor experience. Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Theatre provides a platform for local artistes to perform and portray Sri Lanka’s rich culture, history and traditions to foreign visitors. The quality of facilities with over 525 well-appointed seats with air conditioning and interior elegance coupled with the charm and scenic beauty of the historic Diyawanna Oya, the Waters’ Edge recreational complex, restaurants and adjacent shopping attractions, Sri Dharanee Performance Theatre will help create a tourism enclave in close proximity to Colombo providing added touristic value.

A vibrant line up of cultural entertainment will commence from 1 August with one-hour shows every evening from starting from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday showcasing high quality performances of traditional and authentic Sri Lankan dance forms. In addition, the Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Theatre will conduct shows on a scheduled basis to accommodate other MICE tourism requirements including attractive options of food and beverages.

Supporting the Government’s vision to add value to the tourism portfolio of our country, Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Theatre, Sri Lanka’s first ever dedicated performance arts centre for tourists, managed by Green Leaves Entertainment Ltd. is a milestone private public joint venture projecting required traditional Sri Lankan entertainment.

Source :–cultural-promenade–for-upcoming-tourist-season/10405-658948

Direct Nepal-SL flight ‘hopeful’ in the near future

Nepal will re look at launching direct flights to Colombo once again said the Ambassador of Nepal, Professor Bishwambher Pyakurya.

Speaking to Daily News Business at the Sri Lanka-Nepal Friendship and Business Council networking event under the title, “Foreign Investment Opportunities in Nepal,” in Colombo he said that this matter is discussed once again.

“The air link between Colombo and Kathmandu had previously been tried by Himalayan Airlines but was discontinued after flights reached only 40% capacity.”

Whether or not a direct flight between Kathmandu and Colombo would be established in the near future were also the most pertinent questions of the evening.

Many at the event and senior officials from the tourism industry in Nepal and Sri Lanka made the point that both countries could capitalize on their tourist seasons, which flow into one another.

A direct flight between Kathmandu and Colombo may be more viable with a stopover in an Indian destination to increase capacity a participant said.

The evening also focused on strengthening economic ties between Sri Lanka and Nepal through infrastructure, energy, and tourism.

The four-member panel at the event included President of the Sri Lanka Nepal Council Jagath Savanadasa, Professor of Economics at the University of Colombo Dr. Sirimal Abeyratne, and President of SL’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ruwan Edirisinghe.

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