A leading writer on the world’s most-read newspaper website, the UK’S Mail Online, James Delingpole waxes lyrical about his recent family visit to Sri Lanka, where they enjoyed “the best curries of our lives”.

Of course, it wasn’t just the food. He was visiting Jaffna, a deliberate decision to get off the southern tourist beaten track. Here, the people “are so gentle, warm and welcoming—much more so than in India, I found, and with a more playful sense of humour”.

He reports: “For the first time in years you are now safe to visit hitherto-closed places such as Jaffna, with its candy-coloured Hindu temples and battle-scarred fort, built in the early 17th century by the Portuguese; the deep-water port of Trincomalee with its spectacular diving and whale watching; and the gorgeous beaches stretching south along the largely undeveloped east coast.”

But back to the food, which made an indelible impression on the family, this time at Uga Bay beach resort, “which really does have the best chef on the island”.

Glorious beach feast

“If you want to sample Sri Lankan cuisine in all its glories—breadfruit curries, fat banana shrimps, traditional breakfasts of ‘string hoppers’ (like rice vermicelli), daal, coconut sambal and fish or chicken curry—this is the place.

“I recommend the evening beach feast, where they carve you a table from the sand, and serve you barbecued lobster, crab, and more prawns by candlelight under the stars.”

Another highlight was Ulagalla, “a tranquil lakeside resort on a 58-acre estate in the middle of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle—within easy reach of sights such as the temple complex at Anuradhapura…”

And getting around was fun, too: “We all loved the half-day’s train journey from the Central Province to Jaffna; the festival at the Hindu village where the bare-chested men all proudly displayed the mutant bulge on the back of their necks caused by years of devoted bearing of stupendously heavy religious floats; and the visit to our local guide Patthi’s home.”

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