Tangerine trees and marmalade skies? Technicolour Sri Lanka charms a romantic Irish scribe


It was enough to bring out the poet in Irish travel writer John Masterson when he arrived in Sri Lanka, “a technicolour country that brings into sharp focus the pluses and minuses of progress”.

In “a land that is still different in a world becoming more uniform”, he found what he was looking for, where love and laughter abound and “a week doesn’t even scratch the surface”.

Waxing lyrical in the Irish Independent, he writes that “in 1805, the British Governor, nicknamed King Tom, fell in love with Lavinia, a local dancer whom he could not marry. He built a tunnel from his house, now the Mount Lavinia Hotel, where they met in secret”.

He visited Lovers’ Leap at Nuwara Eliya, also known as ‘Little England’, where “a local royal fell in love with a girl below his class. Unable to marry, they ended it all here.”

But all was not doom and gloom. “Lovers’ Leap was only one of the many heights I scaled on this magical sub-tropical island, once called Ceylon, off the south-east tip of India,” home to 20-million people, 70 percent of them Buddhist.

Meanwhile, “Sri Lanka is a hikers’ paradise. I enjoyed another trek on Pitawala with a great view of the Knuckles mountain range. Near the top, we met a couple on their pre-wedding photo shoot.” Requited love, which makes a change.

And oh, the food! “Over the week I ate and drank fabulously—squid, seer fish, pineapple, watermelon juice, red banana, fruit salad ice cream, water lily root curry, jaffna prawns curry, smoked marlin, mango everything, and manioc crisps in the car.”

And best of all, “I didn’t see any Porsches, Beamers, or thousand-euro handbags. I did see a lot of young adults glued to their phones but the infection had yet to reach schoolchildren.”

Finally, he says, “we often say we will go back to a place and usually don’t. This time I will. A week doesn’t even scratch the surface. There is 1,342km of coastline and I spent five minutes on the beach”. Maybe next time.

Read more here.

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