News ≫ Sri Lanka through the eyes of a travel blogger

Sri Lanka through the eyes of a travel blogger

Jun 20, 2016
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By Raj Moorthy

TRAVELLING WITH VISITING BLOGGERS – There is always something unique a country can offer its tourists, a totally new experience, it may be either food, culture, people, places, beaches, festivals and many more. The reason for a tourist to visit another country is to enjoy and experience what is not available in their home country. While tourism is picking up in Sri Lanka with many foreign investments and development around tourist hotspots in the country, travel agents and hoteliers need to understand the fact that tourists are here to get that distinctive experience. It’s not all about super luxury bus rides and city tours, not western food nor the full course meal, not interacting with the upper classes and knowing their family background, not cruise ship tours and disco parties.

It’s what is already available in the country and the countryside combined with a taste of the culture, rituals, law and behaviour. Tourists love the experience of a Sri Lankan ‘tuk-tuk’ ride through villages and small by-lanes, the food shops that prepares Sri Lankan hoppers and string hoppers, village men and women and their overly joyous kids playing on the streets, a catamaran ride that takes hours to reach the opposite end, fish massage therapy and many more interesting fun activities. Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts together with the Professional Travel Bloggers Association and many other sponsors organised the ‘Cinnamon Travel Bloggers Conference Asia 2016’ for the second time in Sri Lanka last week.

Out of 700 applications from around the world, 30 finalists were shortlisted while 30 other hosted bloggers were invited for a 5-day tour in Sri Lanka before the conference and the Awards Night. Four itineraries were prepared and the 60 bloggers were split into four groups, enabling them to experience every part of the country. The Business Times was a part of the Southern tour last week from 2 – 6 June to witness the experience of the Travel Bloggers from different corners of the world. Spending five days at some of the most attractive tourist destinations in the South of Sri Lanka together with 11 Travel Bloggers, the Business Times learnt that there are many areas that the tourism industry in Sri Lanka can improve and focus a lot on.

Food is the first thing that comes to the mind of a traveller whenever you ask them what is the most they love about Sri Lanka. ‘Lovely’, ‘delicious’, ‘outstanding’, ‘yummy’, ‘extraordinary’ are the words a foreigner would use to express how Sri Lankan food tastes .There are many other things, places and activities that can surprise a foreigner with an open mouth saying ‘wow’. Kande Viharaya Temple was the first place to visit as the tour began from Colombo straight to Beruwala. The bloggers were mesmerised to see the huge statue of Lord Buddha, the paintings and sculptures inside the statue and underground. The history of how the temple became famous since 1886 was depicted clearly through the paintings and carvings on the temple walls.

The bloggers took live updates of images and videos while witnessing some of the ancient monuments and the postures of Lord Buddha at the temple. It was an ‘awww’ moment for the bloggers when we arrived at the Turtle Conservation and Research Centre in Kosgoda also known as the Turtle Hatchery which was started in 1978. Turtles that come to the sea shore to lay 100 to 200 eggs in one go, are brought to this centre and kept for a week to protect the eggs from other species eating them. There were albino and part albino turtles at the hatchery while disabled turtles were also protected and looked after in separate tanks. Once the turtle comes out of its shell in 48 to 62 days they are kept in a tank for some time and released back to the sea.

The bloggers were amazed when the hatchery keeper said that some of the released turtles have come back to lay eggs to the shore while adding that every year 100,000 turtles are released into the sea from the hatchery. The next day was tiring for the bloggers since half the day was on a Catamaran in the Dodanduwa Kalapuwa Lake in the hot burning sun. On the Catamaran we went around the ‘Hermitage Island’ which is a famous Buddhist forest monastery in the middle of the lake. By the side of the lake was the Cinnamon Peeling Centre where cinnamon trees are cut and made use for various purposes like cooking and preparing oilments. The factory caretaker explained to the bloggers how cinnamon is produced by scraping the outer layer of the tree, the inner layer and keeping them to dry to obtain cinnamon.

On the same Catamaran we went for a foot massage therapy by fish on the opposite direction of the Dodanduwa Lake itself. The bloggers enjoyed the massage and were tickled by the movement of the fish around their foot. Some of them said that they have tried the same kind of foot massage in some other country. Later in the afternoon we came to the Galle Fort and visited the Galle Fort Hotel, Galle Light House and the Dutch Reformed Church which saw the bloggers take pictures and videos of the old monuments of Sri Lanka. The next interesting and most awaited visit the bloggers were eagerly looking forward to during the whole tour was the safari to the Yala National Park which took at least half a day to travel from Hikkaduwa to Cinnamon Wild Yala Hotel the previous night.

Everyone was excited to watch the leopards and the bears in Yala, but unfortunately not a single leopard or bear showed its movement or presence. There were elephants, monkeys, peacocks, deer, buffalos, wild boars and many other varieties of birds’ species which the bloggers decided to take an ‘elfie’ (a selfie with an elephant) at the end of the safari. Later in the evening we visited the Kataragama Temple with a tray of fruits for offering. Many devotees were visiting the temple both Buddhists and Hindus to worship their God with so much faith and belief.

Bloggers were interested and involved with the traditions, culture, simple life style of the people and most importantly the food which kept them craving for more Sri Lankan cooked food.

At the awards night which was held soon after the Travel Bloggers Conference was over, Pacific Asia Travel Association, Director for International Partnerships, Halona Padiachy who was also on the South tour told the Business Times, “People are so friendly in Sri Lanka and I loved the food so much I want to come back again.” Emma Galloway from New Zealand who won the bronze medal for ‘Best Food Blog’ at the awards also told the Business Times, “I will come back to Sri Lanka next year. I want to learn how to cook some of the Sri Lankan menus and take those recipes into my food blog ‘My Darling Lemon Thyme’.”

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