Former BBC correspondent Michael Buerk in Sri Lanka says ‘thanks for the memories’
Michael Buerk: ‘Be optimistic. It could be Paradise Regained, after all. As Bishop Heber’s famous hymn about the place says: “every prospect pleases” and, now the war is history, you can see it all for yourself.’
Sri Lanka has many memories for former BBC correspondent and news anchor Michael Buerk, once one of the best-known faces who covered the world for UK TV.
And as he writes in The Telegraph, it was a family affair, with son Roland following in his footsteps. “Both of us saw Sri Lanka as a flawed paradise. It’s even shaped like a teardrop, beautiful, deadly and sad.”
Now he’s back with a long and detailed travel piece in which he says that “not for the first time, it occurred to me how terrible things happen in the most beautiful places, to the nicest people”.
But he concludes: “Be optimistic. It could be Paradise Regained, after all. As Bishop Heber’s famous hymn about the place says: “every prospect pleases” and, now the war is history, you can see it all for yourself.”
Jungle Beach, ‘one of the most interesting hotels I have ever stayed in’
Buerk particularly liked Jungle Beach, perched on the east coast just north of Trincomalee, “one of the most interesting hotels I have ever stayed in.
“It’s not just the luxury of the chalets, with their air-conditioning, their terraces and decks, king-size beds and state-of-the-art bathrooms and lighting systems.
“It’s not the beach, though that’s three miles long and the hotel has it all to itself. It’s not the food, exotically sourced and fastidiously prepared though it is (and the barbecued Sri Lankan lobster and jumbo prawns beside the surf under a dark velvet sky is my most memorable night of the year so far).
It’s the fact that Jungle Beach is “a first promise of change”, bringing high-end tourists to an exclusive retreat, “only five years old but already well-sprinkled with awards”.
Chena Huts, a new safari lodge near Yala National Park
He also liked Chena Huts, “a new safari lodge in the deep south, in a strip of protected jungle between Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean.
“The ‘huts’ are arguably bigger, and certainly more expensively fitted out, than a lot of even rich people’s houses, with their living rooms, giant bedrooms, bathrooms with fashionable free-standing baths, decks outside and private plunge pools”.
And in Yala, “the cuddly looking but vicious sloth bears are unique, there are elephants everywhere and, if it is danger you’re looking for, the wild buffalo are famously poker-faced and potentially lethal”.
Ulagalla, ‘one of the island’s finest new boutique hotels’
Finally, historic Anuradhapura, where he stayed nearby at “one of the island’s finest new boutique hotels, the Ulagalla, which has been created out of a local nobleman’s Dutch colonial-style house and estate.
“The 150-year-old walawwa (mansion) is where you eat (very well; Sri Lankan curries, with their characteristic use of coconut in all its forms, must be the best in the world).
“The service levels are extraordinary. They’ll create “private dining experiences” almost anywhere on the estate with your own chef and waiters in a bower at the end of a path of flares.
“From there, you can explore Anuradhapura, one of the wonders of the ancient world. For nearly 2,000 years it was the Sinhalese capital, a civilisation built around the huge man-made irrigation reservoirs.”
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