Sri Lanka, Vietnam in move to boost tourism - LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE

Sri Lanka, Vietnam in move to boost tourism - LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE: Foreign investment is flooding into the sector. Sri Lanka's Jetwing group also had a joint venture there.

By 2015 Vietnam expected to have 390,000 rooms and 900,000 rooms by 2010, Thanh said.

Last year Vietnam, which is part of the ASEAN visa free travel area, welcomed 6.0 million tourists. Up to May 2012 Vietnam has received 2.9 million tourists. By 2020 the country was expecting to receive 20 million tourists.

"Tourists can go to Vietnam anytime of the year," Thanh said. "In the South, it is the same as Sri Lanka we have wet and dry seasons. But the north has four seasons; if tourists from Sri Lanka want to enjoy cool weather they can go in the winter."

"We have already brought Vietnam official delegations to Sri Lanka," said Quach Thi My Hoa from Hanoi Toserco, a state-run firm started in 1988.

"Our main outbound markets are Europe, North East Asia, Korea and Japan.

"But after we came here we are very interested in the Sri Lankan market because the attractions and hotels are very good. The food here is also compatible for the Vietnamese people."

Huyn Cong Han, from SaigonTourist Travel Services said Ha Long Bay, a karst mountain formation emerging from the sea was among the most popular destinations, where tourists could spend the night on a junk and visit a cave.

Jetwing Seashells renamed "Jetwing Sea" at the edge of the Indian Ocean

Jetwing Seashells, one of the oldest properties of the Jetwing Hotels in Negombo, has gone through a major upgrade programme to transform the cosy beach property, into a contemporary designer resort called ‘Jetwing Sea’ within a period of just six months.

The brand new ‘Jetwing Sea’ was launched yesterday (15 January) in Negombo in the backdrop of a ceremonial function, attended by both the local and foreign travel trade. The new configuration boasts eighty three rooms including two suites tucked away on the topmost floor, offering you an uninterrupted view of the ocean.

The result of a substantial investment in excess of US$ 5m, this venture is collaboration between Jetwing Hotels and Zinc Journeys which is a part of the extensive Chaudhary Group based in Nepal.

Sri Pada, Fascinating but Dangerous Journey to Mountain Top with Chains before steps were made

article_imageWay back in the 1940s an imaginative Education Department had prescribed John Still’s poetic masterpiece "Jungle Tide"[1930] as a text for the S.S.C. exam. It was there that I first read of the climbing chains of Sri Pada.

"Inscriptions I found ….engraved upon links of the mighty chains that hung from the precipices and once were the only way to climb them; but none of all of them dated earlier than the kings of the Polonnaruwa dynasty of about the twelfth century A.D.I was told a tale of these chains. They hang over cliffs exposed to the full fury of the monsoon gales. Their links are formed like stirrups,and the pilgrims used, until steps were cut less than half a century ago [1880?]to climb them as a kind of swaying rope ladder. A whole family of Sinhalese villagers once set out on pilgrimage, children and their parents and their grandparents too; and when they came to the precipices and were all hanging on the long chain like a living rosary, a violent storm sprang up suddenly and the chain was swung fiercely from side to side. But they still hung on,though they dared not move in either direction, up or down . Then came a tremendous gust like the breath of an angry god, and the chain was swung so far to one side that it hung no longer over the pilgrims’ path, but clear above a frightful fall into a valley far below. And there, buffeted by the

storm, unable to climb or descend, the people hung while their strength endured, and then fell off, one by one, as fruits fall from a tree. First the old and the very young, the women, and last of all the men, while the folk of their village who had been waiting for their own turn to climb upon the chain, and who had watched the whole tragedy while they cowered against the face of the angry mountain, saw in the end the strongest of them all, the last of his race, leave hold and go spinning down to the tree-tops far below."

John Still’s starkly simple, yet dramatic , description of this human tragedy yet haunts my imagination as it did my adolescent self many decades ago imagining the despairing

wails of these doomed pilgrims as they hurtled to the chasms below.

 The Mahavansa  

The very earliest account of the origin of these chains is found in that great historical chronicle – the Mahavansa:

"In the same reign [Parakramabahu II 1225-1269]the Minister named Devapathiraja, at the behest of the King, improved the road leading to the Sacred Mountain by constructing bridges across a number of streams, built rest-houses along the road, installed the image of the God [Saman] on the terrace of the summit which was enclosed by a wall, installed iron chains on iron posts to make the ascent easy.

Alexander the Greek

However, a strange Persian legend invests these chains with greater antiquity than is generally accepted by scholars. It credits Alexander the Great [4th century B.C] ascending Sri Pada, and forging these chains. This is an achievement of which, interestingly, no contemporary record exists – and also throws a spanner into the Conqueror’s generally accepted chronology.

Ashreef, a Persian writer of the 15th century, in his poem of praise to Alexander Zaffer Namah Sehanderi, spoke of these chains. In an episode the Conqueror and his companion Bolinus (Apollonius?) devise means whereby they may ascend the mountain of Serendib "fixing thereto chains with rings and rivets made of iron and brass, the remains of which exist even at this day, so that travelers, are enabled to climb the mountain…"

Marco Polo the Venetian 

The incredible Venetian Marco Polo, envoy of the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan,

who voyaged to Sri Lanka in the 13th century also refers to these wondrous chains.

"In this island there is a very high mountain, so rocky and precipitous that the ascent to the top is impracticable except by the assistance of iron chains employed for that purpose."

Ibn Batuta the Moroccan

In the 14th century Ibn Batuta ,the great traveler from Morocco, did climb the Holy Mountain and also wrote of its climbing chains.

 "The mountain of Serendib is one of the highest in the world….The ancients have cut something like steps, upon which one may ascend, and have fixed in iron pins, to which to which chains are appended, and upon these those who ascend take hold . Of these chains there are ten in number, the last of which is termed ‘the chain of witness’ because when one has arrived at this and looks down, the frightful notion seizes him that he will fall"

Lieut. Malcolm of the 1st Ceylon Regiment

 No foreign traveler seems to have ascended the Peak for the next five hundred years – though Buddhist pilgrims piously trudged up its forbidding heights to pay homage to the Sacred Footprint as they had done for countless centuries. The great kingdoms of Rajarata had fallen to Indian invasions and disease. Lesser kingdoms – Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka and Kandy - jostled for supremacy . The armed incursions and dynastic intrigues that characterized these Dark Ages ,however, never dimmed the flame of piety that drew an unending stream of Buddhist devotees to ascend the Holy Mountain and pay homage to the Sacred Footprint. The Portuguese and Dutch invaders who occupied the Maritime Provinces for three hundred years never dared venture into the Peak

Wilderness, devoid of strategic importance and guarded by fierce Veddahs loyal to the King of Kandy.

This last foothold of a two thousand year kingdom fell at last in March1815 to "perfidious Albion", not in battle but due to the treachery of venal nobles. Nine months later , on 26 December 1815, Lieut.Malcolm of the 1st Ceylon Regiment became the first Englishman to climb "Adam’s Peak". He describes his ascent with military brevity:

"The pilgrims in advance of our party were seen climbing up the precipice by the assistance of the iron chains which are fixed to the rock for that purpose."

Captain Anderson "Wanderer in Ceylon"

Shortly after Lieut.Malcolm’s pioneering climb, Captain Anderson followed in his footsteps and wrote of this journey, and his hair-raising experience on the climbing chains, in his memoir "Wanderer in Ceylon":

"[the pilgrims] at one spot take a slightly different but awfully perilous route, up a broad iron ladder close by, neither straight on, nor at an angle in front of, but at a [slope] falling to the right, sideways from the rock; the slightest slip from which will hurl the pilgrim to destruction in the abyss below. And up this ladder one of our party actually made the ascent. I did not see him being in the rear, too busy on my own account to pay much attention to the proceedings of others; but when I saw the ladder, its [leaning] to one side made me shudder, and I gladly turned to the chains.When about half way up the final flight down came a company of returning pilgrims. To proceed onwards was impossible, and to recede I dare not; so clutching firmly to the chains with both hands, with the toes of one foot hitched on to a step, and those of the other pressing against the bare vertical rock, I swung aside until all had passed and then swarmed up with an alacrity which made me wonder at myself."

Major Forbes Climbs the Peak

British officers, in retirement, were heirs to a tradition of writing their memoirs. Major Forbes was an exemplar of this tradition. In his "Eleven Years in Ceylon" he describes his climb up ‘Adam’s Peak’ in 1827:

"Pursuing our way, the path was steep, and two or three chains afforded assistance, which, although useful might have been dispensed with, until we came suddenly to a point where it was necessary to turn to the left on the brink of a tremendous precipice. My feelings at this place may have been sublime, of which it has been asserted terror is on great source; they were not pleasant ; but, repressing them, and firmly grasping the chains; a few minutes brought me to the summit"

Major Skinner’s Blind Spot

The indefatigable road builder Major Thomas Skinner did a scientific survey of ‘Adam’s

Peak’ in 1838 as he writes in his "Fifty Years in Ceylon". His account is so bare of detail, that one may wonder whether he ever went up the mountain but for a vivid sketch of viewing the shadow of the Peak;

"One morning as the sun was rising, the shadow of the mountain was thrown across the whole land and sea to the horizon, and for a few minutes the apex was doubled, and so

clearly marked that the little shed over the impression of the Buddha’s Foot was clearly distinct in the shadow."

The gallant Major then goes on to speak of his prowess in racing to the summit:

"One very active headman begged me to give him an opportunity of racing me up the cone of Adam’s Peak, which is a steep bit of ascent. We started and he went off at a great pace, and was out of sight in a few minutes; but half or three-quarters of a mile was enough to blow him. I passed him and was on the summit forty minutes before him."

What is extraordinary in Skinner’s account is the total absence of any description of pilgrims, railings or iron chains ! He might as well have run up a bare mountain.

That is all he has to say !

Sir James Emerson Tennent :Scholar, Civil Servant

The Victorian era was a period of great scientific inquiry, discovery and exploration.

This was the age of Charles Darwin, Richard Burton, Alexander Cunningham [who rediscovered Buddha Gaya] and George Turner[translator of the Mahavansa] Unlike the Portuguese bent on conquest and conversion, and the Dutch bent on trade, many later British civil servants took a great interest in studying all they could about Ceylon in a systematic and scientific manner . It was in this period that the intellectually

brilliant civil servant Sir James Tennent was posted to Ceylon and soon began work on his magnum opus "Ceylon: An Account of the Island – Physical, Historical and Topographical" published in 1850. Its comprehensiveness, enriched by personal observation is truly amazing.

Tennent climbed the Peak himself and writes this account:

"On approaching the highest altitude vegetation suddenly ceases and, at last, on reaching the base of the tremendous cone which forms the pinnacle of the peak, further progress is effected by the aid of chains securely riveted in the living rock." He describes and sketches the structure sheltering the Sacred Footprint:

" a pagoda like canopy, supported on slender columns, and open on all sides to the wind." Sadly, there is no drawing of the climbing chains.

William Skeen: Photographer

A few decades after Tennent , photography rapidly displaced drawing as a medium of art and illustration. William Skeen , in Colombo, was the perfect exemplar. He traveled widely across Ceylon ,with his cumbersome apparatus, photographing everything of interest – scenery, people, festivals, temples and ruins. His wonderful photographs are collectors’ items today and often reproduced. Skeen climbed the Holy Mountain and his book "Adam’s Peak" [1870] gives a detailed and vivid description of the Peak and his ascent. He records, interestingly, that there were more than one set of chains. He writes:

"…when the perpendicular ascent is encountered…[it] is only to be surmounted by means of by the help of several massy iron chains, which are strongly fastened at top, let down the precipice, and again secured below. These chains are donations to the Temple, and the name of the donor is engraved on one of the links made solid for that purpose. The height of the precipice is about 200 feet, and many holes are worn in the face of the rock by the feet of the numerous pilgrims who have ascended it with the assistance of the chains….

" ..the first of the chains , which from this point [Sita Gangula] are slung at intervals to assist the pilgrims in the most difficult parts of the journey. From the length of this chain made from strong half-inch iron, with links a span long, we imagined it might have originally been slung on the site of the hundred steps. Very likely before those steps were cut, since after their formation, the necessity for such aid would, to a great extent, be done away with…..

"…we at once came to the Maha-giri-dam[or dan]-kapala –"the great-rock-chain-pass"- a ledge with a scant foot-hold and a jutting (rock?), then a small bare sloping slab, and then the chains and a ladder, which more than all else effect and test the pilgrim’s nerves. This constitutes the final ascent and is divided into five portions; the sloping slab just mentioned, a set of chains to assist one up a well-nigh perpendicular flight of sixty steps cut in the living rock; another sloping rock, with here and there a few built-up stones; a fight of forty in-cut steps still steeper than the last a third slab rock immediately outside the wall that encloses the Sri Pada. On either side of the steps several sets of chains, each from six to eight fathoms long and formed of various large oblong and triangular

fashioned links clustering down flat against the nearly (perpendicular?) cliffs; and by their aid, and on the topmost flight, the additional assistance of a chain on stanchions…"

Henry W. Cave: Author

In 1908 Henry W.Cave wrote his amazingly comprehensive "The Book of Ceylon" subtitled ‘A Guide to its Railway System and an Account of its Varied Attractions for the Visitor and Tourist’. He traveled the length and breadth of the Island, met officials and people of all sorts and illustrated it with a fine collection of his photographs.

He vividly describes his ascent of the Peak from the Ratnapura pilgrim route:

"The most appalling obstacle is reached when the traveler, having climbed to the summit of a precipice, is met by a cliff whose crest literally overhangs the spot on which he stands. To scale this wall of rock with its projecting cornice without artificial aids would be utterly impossible.An iron ladder, however has been affixed to the perpendicular wall, and at the top the defiant projection has to be overcome by means of links let into the rock and by the aid of chains attached to the sloping slabs of granite which crown the cliff.The stoutest heart cannot but experience moments of anxiety as this point is reached, and the feet leave the firm ladder to be inserted in the rusty ill-shaped links. There is nothing between us and the yawning abyss save the links, which grate and sway as, with every nerve o’erstrained, we find ourselves over the next thirty yards of bare and sloping rock. So great is the peril, that the slightest hesitation or the merest glance to right or left might unsteady the nerves and end in a fatal catastrophe…….

"How they [the chains] are fixed is a mystery impossible of solution…The summit is reached by climbing an almost perpendicular precipice by the aid of a chain called the "chain of creed on each link of which the weary pilgrims utter dome expression of

devotion as they attain to the miniature plateau where their longing hearts are satisfied before the Sri-pada or sacred footprint."

John Still of "Jungle Tide"

John Still who wrote the wonderfully evocative ‘Jungle Tide’[1930], from which I have quoted the opening paragraph of this article, was an amazing man. He started life in the Crown Colony of Ceylon as a tea planter and went on to a fruitful career in archaeology and. later, in many other positions in government. He fought in the World War 1914-1918 and was a Turkish prisoner-of-war. He climbed SriPada many times from the early 1900s.His chapter ‘A Holy Mountain’ is, perhaps, the best in the book and movingly describes the pious discipline of the humble pilgrims and the ancients in whose footsteps they climbed:

"There was no policeman there, and no one in authority at all, so far as I could have learnt; but the place was holy ground, and the tolerance of the pilgrims seemed a thing that might have been studied by Western ecclesiastics with honour and amazement,

perhaps even in shame."

Bhikku Shravasti Dhammika: Modern Pilgrim

The Ausralian Bhikku Shravasti Dhammika briefly describes the chains in his superb pilgrim’s guide to Sri Lanka’s Buddhist sites in his "Sacred Island"[2008]:

"Go to the stairs leading down to Ratnapura and descend for about 30 meters. You will notice that soon the stairs become very steep. Everywhere else the handrails are helpful, but here they are absolutely necessary. On the right you will notice large chains riveted into the rock. In the thousand or so years that the Ratnapura path was the only way up the mountain, these chains assisted the final ascent and they are mentioned in most ancient accounts."

Bhikku Dhammika ws kind enough to give me more details in a personal communication:

"Last time I was at SriPada the chains were definitely there. A ‘sample’ was actually wired to a railing on the very top. Then hammered into the steepest and rockiest part of the Ratnapura track, not far from the top (30 or 40 ft) were rivets holding chains. They were quite unusual in that the links were flat (rather than round) and elongated (About a foot long) with the smith’s hammer marks clearly visible, and they were very rusty.Rust marks on the rock suggested that they (or perhaps earlier ones) had been there for a long time. I noticed other rivets and holes in the rocks where other rivets must have once been. I imagine they are not mentioned much by later writers is because after the Hatton path became the main path to the top the Ratnapura path (and its chains) were rarely used."

Unseen, Unhonoured….

The greatest mystery about these chains is not their origin [see Mahavansa] but the total

lack of any visual record of the chains themselves and their donatory inscriptions . Not one of the British climbers ever bothered to sketch them or copy their ancient inscriptions. Nor has any cameraman, from Skeen[1870] to Nihal Fernando[2008] ever photographed them.

Thus, this millenium old unique achievement of Sinhala engineering and craftsmanship

is doomed to sink into obscurity ‘unseen, unhonoured and unsung’ –

unless, of course, a young scholar-pilgrim of today will be inspired by this paper to use his miniature camera to record these wonderful chains for posterity and" the serene joy and emotion of the pious" as their makers and donors intended.

Keerimalai natural Springs can cure.

Keerimalai” natural springs is known for its water and rituals. The water with mineral contents has curative value. Hindus believe the water here has miraculous powers to cure many diseases. According to many legends, the sage “Nagula Muni” was born with mongoose face and meditated in a cave in “Keerimalai”. He bathed in “Keerimalai” springs and his mongoose face turned into a human face. "Keerimalai" was known as Thiruthambaleswaram.
featuring pictures from Keerimalai ~ Manickavasagar Thiruvasagam ~ Rendered by Ilaiyaraaja ~ "Masatra Sothi" ~
“Keerimalai” is 50 feet above the main sea level, and situated West of Palaly. The fresh water comes from an underground fresh water spring. Hindus flock in large numbers on “Aadi Amaavaasai” day which falls during the Tamil month of “Aadi”, to carry out rituals for their forefathers and take a divine dip in the natural springs. These rituals are usually carried out by men. “Keerimalai” is famous for “Aadi Amaavaasai” and continues to be the foremost place.

Visit Sri Lanka 2011 -Target 700 000 visitors

Sri Lanka Tourism is set to achieve the target of 700,000 tourists in 2011 with the launch of Visit Sri Lanka Year.
Sri Lanka Tourism launched Visit Sri Lanka 2011 with 12 theme events spread across the year. Twelve themes will be promoted during each month of 2011, symbolising the 12 letters in the “Wonder of Asia”. These 12 themes include beaches, sports and adventure, MICE, people & culture, religious tourism, weddings & honeymoons, body & mind wellness, heritage, nature & wildlife, community & education, culinary and shopping & entertainment. 
Sri Lanka Tourism’s aim with the campaign is also to the get the involvement and the support of the domestic market and to develop these products by the end of the year.   With the help of the locals, the idea is to create a safe and beautiful environment for the visiting tourist.
Sri Lanka was earlier known as a beach destination. However with the events planned for year 2011 and the products created surrounding the events and themes, the intention is to highlight the various products that could cater to different market segments the world over. 
However Tourist trade got a news shock as Immigration Authorities re-announced their plans to scrap on-arrival Visa facilit for foreigners at the Airport. Though the move is due to security implications, It can hamper the Tourist trade and instead it would be better to implement a Immigrants registration and tracking system like in Singapore where overstaying tourists could be traced and caught. Being an Island Sri Lanka should find the implementation far easier.

Where will the Whales come? Trinco or Mirissa

In my previous article, I discussed the two strategies, resident and migratory adopted by individual whales. The notion that Blue Whales for whale watching were present all year found favour with some at the start of 2010. Some people, especially those in tourism in particular wanted to believe in this. With the opening of the east coast, they thought that this opened up Blue Whale watching in Sri Lanka all year round.

In August 2010 speaking with a British wildlife tour leader who was about to bring a Blue Whale watching trip to Trincomalee in August, I reminded him of the Anderson hypothesis that most of the Blue Whales should almost all be in the Arabian Sea by then. I also drew his attention to something else Dr. Anderson had pointed out. Although it is the season in Trincomalee during this time, the south-west monsoon with its powerful offshore winds creates rough conditions the further out to sea one travels, on the East coast as well. However, where the wind meets the water first, on the Eastern shoreline, it is relatively calm.

In April 2010, the eco-tourism teams of John Keells followed by Jetwing were amongst the first to go out to sea for several sailings. I was on a game drive in Yala with Chitral Jayathilake of John Keells (with Dr. Anderson due to arrive in the park for a leopard safari) when Nilantha Kodituwakku, one of his naturalists phoned in to say he had photographed Blue Whales.

Sri Lanka's 'Highway of Death' Becomes Tourist Hot Spot

Elephantpass, a narrow causeway linking the northern Jaffna Peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka, was the site of many bloody battles during the island's quarter-century civil war. Now it's the site of nation's most famous bulldozer. Covered in iron meshing and armour plating, the mean-looking machine sits on a pedestal, a testament to the over 25 years of conflict that ended in May 2009, and the nearly 80,000 lives lost along the way.

The bulldozer was used by the Tamil Tigers in July 1991 in an attempt to breach the defenses of a Sri Lankan army garrison stationed at Elephantpass. They would have succeeded if it weren't for the actions of government soldier Gamini Kularatne, who lobbed a grenade into its belly, stopping it in its tracks and dying in the act. The war ended 18 years after Kularatne's heroics, when the Tamil Tigers were destroyed by government forces. Since then, the bulldozer has become the most popular stopover point on the A9 highway, a road that runs through the northern Vanni region that was under Tiger control for over a decade until the war's end. Opposite the bulldozer, four more vehicles once used by the Tigers lie close to where they were abandoned in battle, sunlight streaking into the darkened interiors through bullet holes.

Belgium tourists re-inventing Sri Lanka

Belgian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have increased by 108.2 % in the first 11 months of 2010 over that of the previous year, compared to a Western European average of 50.5% and an overall increase of 45.7% in the corresponding period.
The increase in tourist arrivals from Belgium in the month of November 2010 alone, over that of November 2009, was a staggering 290.5%. This month Belgium also relaxed its travel advisory deleting a reference in its September 2010 travel advisory which stated "given the security situation, all travelling to north and east of Sri Lanka not recommended".
The impact of these developments were amply demonstrated from the attention Sri Lanka received at the 2010 Brussels Travel Expo (BT Expo) which was held in Brussels this month. BT Expo, the largest business to business tourism promotional event in the Belgium calendar was attended by more than 250 exhibitors.

Good opportunity for Home-Stay Accommodation Providers in Sri Lanka as Hotel Rooms Fully Booked

With the sudden increase of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, all the conventional Hotels been fully booked for the Season and beyond, the rates have also increased accordingly. Many backpackers and low spending travelers will not be able to find  suitable and affordable accommodation. Many small tour agencies are also effected as Big-timers, and hotel groups have booked entire Hotels.

The walk-in Tourists will find it very difficult to find a room. Many Star-Class Hotel projects are already on the way, yet they will take at least 2-3 years for them to be functional. Till then capacity will be the same and tourist arrivals will increase steadily. This will be an excellent opportunity for the small places and Home-stay providers to develop their business.

An IT firm called CITEC has come with a novel project to network all the home-stay accommodation providers  together   on the internet where searching them and looking at their details including Booking data will be quite easy for deserving travelers. This project will launched shortly and all Home-stay providers could be listed with the site for Free or at a very minimal fee, a spokesman for the Company claimed.

More details cold be obtained at


Buckingham place comes to Hambantota

While Hambantota Harbour, the new airport, plus a whole host of development initiatives progress rapidly, investors are keenly aware of associated benefits they will bring to the Hambantota District and Sri Lanka as a whole. High-end ‘designer’ tourism is yet another sector experiencing high investor confidence and with it, unparalleled growth. 

British born entrepreneur Nick Buckingham clearly demonstrates his belief in Sri Lanka and Hambantota with his greatest commitment so far, Buckingham Place.

At this refreshingly new boutique resort at Rekawa near Tangalle, modern standards of comfort coupled with discreet service blend naturally with the tropical southern coastline and natures’ paradise.

10 Kalpitiya Islets to be leased for Tourism

Sri Lanka Tourist Board has initiated measures to lease 10 islands in Kalpitiya area in the island's northwestern coast in a bid to encourage new projects to develop tourism in the country.

Sources reveal that 11 parties have sent in applications to take on lease of the 10 islands in Kalpitiya.

The Chairman of the Tourist Board Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told media that 11 applications have been received by the closing of the December 3rd to submit proposals.
The applications have been forwarded to the cabinet for its recommendations, said Dr. Godahewa adding that he expected cabinet approval for the lease of the islands by January.
Government sources say the islands are to be leased for periods of 30 to 50 years.
The Ministry expects to develop 14 islands in Kalpitiya area under the Kalpitiya Integrated Tourism Resort Project (KITRAP).

Kalpitiya, the stretch of land planked between the sea on one side and the lagoon on the other side, and the nearby islets in the Puttalam District will be developed under the KITRP as a major tourist destination similar to Bali in Indonesia, according to tourism officials.

An American traveller finds Sexual Lives of Sri Lankans

The Sexual Lives of Sri Lankans - Features - World Hum: "We cannot be out after six or a devil will enter our body,” Sarasi told me as we hurried to finish our rice and curry. It was almost dark and Sarasi’s secluded boarding house was a 30-minute bus ride from town. It would take me at least that long to walk back to my guesthouse, but I wasn’t too worried about being accosted by demons on the way.
“Is it only girls who can’t go out after six?” I asked Sarasi, a 19-year-old college student I’d met while walking around Kandy Lake in central Sri Lanka. She’d asked me if she could practice her English with me; we spent most of the next week together. “Boys are allowed to stay out as late as they want?”

“Oh, yes. Boys have no problem.”

“That’s not fair.”

“No, is not fair,” Sarasi said slowly, washing her rice-covered hands in the bowl of water on the table. “But I think is not good if girls are outside at night. Because if boys see us, they try to grab us.” "

“That’s awful,” I said, letting the ball of curry I was about to eat fall out of my hand. I struggled to couch my objections in simple language. “In the U.S., I go out dancing until two in the morning. Sometimes I dance with boys or kiss boys. But only if I want to.”

Sarasi tilted her head and let her jaw fall open, pressing her tongue against the back of her crooked upper teeth for a moment before she spoke. “But I think is normal to be raped in your country.”

“No, no, no,” I said, shaking my head vigorously.

As I walked Sarasi to the bus, I protested that rape is never “normal,” and that keeping women locked at home is no way to combat sexual violence. It was only later that I remembered the oft-cited Department of Justice statistic that one in four American women experiences rape or attempted rape during college. While I’m lucky to be in the alarmingly small majority, I’ve certainly had sex that was harmful to myself and others because of alcohol, loneliness, or a reckless combination of the two. Like many of my female friends, I’ve also had sex when I didn’t want to to get a persistent guy to stop pestering me. Although I found it stifling to imagine being deprived of erotic intimacy outside of marriage—not to mention a fun night out once in a while—the comparatively extreme sexual freedom of the U.S. is hardly without its problems.

I was distracted by these thoughts on my walk home from dinner with Sarasi, hardly noticing the fruit bats swooping in and out of lush rain trees. Our conversation had unmoored my beliefs about sexuality. During my first few weeks backpacking around Sri Lanka, I’d felt uncomplicated rage at the general pattern of male/female dynamics, where girls’ virginity is tested before marriage and couples rarely do more than hold hands before their wedding day. Yet widows are widely seen as “easy” because of their vulnerability (few men would marry a “used” woman), and white women are taunted with jeers like, “Do you like the f**king?” Several times, men on the street grabbed my waist or put their arm around my shoulder. As soon as I yelled at them to go away, they recoiled in alarm, as if they couldn’t believe a white girl would be offended by an uninvited caress from a stranger.

Soon after leaving Kandy to travel around the hill country, I had an interesting conversation with a guesthouse owner named Sampath, a smiley bachelor with the sinewy body required to carry tourists’ packs on backcountry treks. While I was reading in his garden one afternoon, a group of red-faced men in sarongs gathered nearby and belted out raucous renditions of folk songs. It was Sampath and his friends chewing betel leaf and passing around a bottle of arrack, Sri Lanka’s dangerously smooth coconut liquor. As Sampath served me tea the next morning, he said, “I wanted to invite you to join us yesterday, but I know my friends try to hug you and kiss you. Is gross. Men here, they see a white girl, they think bad things.” He scrunched up his nose. This was the first time I’d heard a Sri Lankan man openly address sexuality in a way that was not a come-on. Eager to carry the discussion further, I told him about the time I got so mad at a man who wouldn’t stop following me that I yelled, “Just because I’m white does not mean I want sex!”

Sampath laughed. Then he explained—self-evidently enough—that men see movies in which white girls show off their bodies and seem to revel in promiscuity. But he also gave a more surprising reason for men’s unabashed sexual aggression toward white girls: “Many women come here for sex.” It was not rare, he said, for older white women staying at his guesthouse to brazenly proposition him. I had indeed noticed two or three middle-aged women traveling with (and paying the way for) younger Sri Lankan men. And Sampath said he also had a couple of friends who were devoted—and successful—seducers of younger tourists.

On a packed bus later that day, I thought of other, smaller cultural transgressions I’d witnessed: white girls wearing tank tops or skirts that came above their knees, white girls drinking beer with Sri Lankan guys. Gripping the metal seatback with both hands to keep from banging into the man standing next to me, I silently cursed American culture—and some tourists in particular—for making it more likely that I’d be harassed during my travels. I chose to forget for the moment that I, too, exploited the increased freedom my white skin afforded me. When I got off the bus a few hours later, I was thrilled to find a beach touristy enough for me to sunbathe in a bikini without being harassed by local men. While I dove and splashed in clear, green waves, women in saris stood on the sweltering shore, dipping their toes in the froth.The problem with this dichotomous thinking became clear when I decided to treat myself to a massage. After hearing from several travelers that female massage therapists were too gentle, I found a masseur who seemed professional, trustworthy, and capable of softening the knots in my back. I asked him if I could remain clothed for the massage; he nodded and smiled beatifically in his long white skirt. But once we got into the stuffy, dark massage room, he motioned to my skirt and top and said, “Off.” I hesitated for a moment before pulling off my outer garments and lying down on the table. The masseur had reassuringly effeminate eyes and lips, and slow-moving, skinny limbs. I told myself to relax into being a tourist and enjoy this luxury I couldn’t afford in the U.S. Besides, I was wearing a bathing suit underneath my clothes.

But just a few minutes in to the massage, his heavy breathing and disproportionate focus on my inner thighs made it clear that he was not only doing this for the money. After a month of enduring catcalls and groping, I felt so stupidly vulnerable for having believed I could apply Western social rules to a Sri Lankan interaction. I knew how rare, and therefore freighted, female nudity in Sri Lanka was. Yet there I was, lying mostly naked before a man I did not know.

I kept my eyes shut tight throughout the massage, trying to pretend that the hands rubbing oil into my stomach and legs belonged to a woman. This became impossible when he put his face close to mine and whispered, “Do you want massage here?,” motioning to my chest. “No,” I said, wanting to jump off the table but compelled to see the massage through to the end, as if doggedly assuming the role of nonchalant client would make this seem like an everyday business transaction.

When I paid him at the end of the hour, he offered to drive me on his motorbike to visit some waterfalls. “No, thanks,” I said, and headed back to the beach, to let the salty waves wash the oil off my skin.

When I saw Sarasi again a few days after the massage, I thought of how horrified she would be to know that I’d put myself in that situation. She wouldn’t even let her boyfriend kiss her on the mouth. He was 23 and she was 19; they had been dating for four years. “For Sri Lanka people, the body is very important,” she’d said in response to my shock at their restraint.

“Doesn’t your boyfriend try to do more with you?” I asked.

“Oh, no!” She tossed her shiny black braid over one shoulder. “He says, ‘When we marry, you are mine. Until we marry, I protect you.’” I tightened my jaw against a sense of vicarious suffocation. But then Sarasi flashed me an excited smile, her eyes widened mischievously. I couldn’t help grinning back.

“Well then,” I said, “I hope he will be a good husband.”