Sri Lanka Travel Guide
Laksala Remains the State Craft Emporium
Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda, Minister of Vocational Training and Rural Industries has assured that the Laksala would not be privatised. Laksala, mostly patronised by tourists who look for local crafts at reasonable prices, helped boost countrywide craftsmen engaged in various traditional crafts, who’s products are purchased by Laksala and sold in Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Kegalle outlets.
The state will provide Rs.35 million to revitalize the debt ridden organisation set up during Sirimavo Bandaranayake regime by the then Minister Siva Obeysekera. Minister Dodangoda also help boost Ayurveda Hotels in Sri Lanka when he was Minister of Indigenous Medicine earlier, but it’s still a subject that’s dear to his heart.
Golden Fence for the Bodhi Tree
The World’s oldest chronicled Tree, the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura brought to Sri Lanka over 2500 years ago by the daughter of Emperor Asoka of India, Sangamitta Therani will have a second gold fence, “Ran Veta” erected around it shortly. The gold for the purpose was donated by Princess Chulabone of Thailand, the daughter of the Thai king who visited and paid abeyance at the most sacred place of Buddhist veneration in Sri Lanka.
Increased Tamed Elephant Population in Sri Lanka
Steps will be taken to increase the tamed elephant population in Sri Lanka which has now dwindled to about 300 animals. They are mostly used in Temple processions and in timber yards, but in recent years have become a big draw with tourists and are engaged by some hoteliers as an attraction. At Habarana Safari Park you can participate in a safari into the Habarana jungle riding on elephants.
The Tamed Elephant owners organisation has requested that excess elephants at Pinnawala Orphanage and Uda Walawe “Ath Athuru Sevena” be given away for adoption. Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister promised financial assistance to set up an artificial insemination center to breed elephants. A record 17 babies were born at Pinnawala. There were no records of babies born in captivity from domesticated she elephants prior to successes at Pinnawala.
Hotel in the Lagoon
Environmentalists are protesting against plans to build a 75 room hotel and an amusement park on an 15 acre islet in the Negombo lagoon. Developer D.Guruge says that the environment is the attraction of the hotel and that no damage would be done to the mangroves.
The project, already approved by the Board of Investment, now awaits clearance from Coastal Conservation Department. Locals say the hotel would pollute the lagoon and affect the livelihood of the fishing community, who are now engaged in replanting mangroves in another part of the lagoon in an effort to save the biodiversity of the lagoon.
Save the Fort
The project funded by the Central Cultural Fund and the Dutch and Lankan governments will get under way in the next six months to save the Galle Dutch Fortress, which is the biggest one outside the Netherlands.
“Nothing will remain if the present trend continues,” says Dr. Shiran Deraniyagala, the Commissioner of Archaeology, “we want to preserve the Fort as a part of a living city.”
The 96 acre fortified land mass has 700 buildings in all, houses, administrative buildings, churches, temples, courthouses, warehouses, hotels, banks, schools, museums and an army camp besides other age old monuments like the belfry, ammunition dumps, trenches, gateways, light
house and clock tower.
The Galle Fort is an UNESCO World heritage site and this monument status provides a 400 yard area outside its boundary into the sea and land where no development can take place without the accent of the conservationists. The old Post Office would be renovated at a cost of Rs.14 million and will house an Postal Museum. City of Galle has a twin city project going on with the Dutch city of Velsen.
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Where Is It?
On the East coast of Sri Lanka, almost a stone’s throw from the southernmost tip of India. Click here for a map.
With a history that stretches back over 2500 years, it’s easiest to dwell straight into the interesting blend of varying influences Sri Lanka has seen for more than 600 years like the Islamic mosques, the Catholic, Dutch Reformed and Anglican churches.
The Dutch colonial style of architecture is very much in evidence, as are the special quarters for separate trades in Colombo Fort and Pettah. Yes, the Fort got its name from the former military garrison located here under the Dutch and British; today partly occupied by the Janadhipathi Mandiraya – the Sri Lankan President’s home. Nearby, the beautiful sandstone building which is the Presidential Secretariat – almost a replica of Whitehall in England.
The Pettah, bordering the Fort, its many criss-crossing roads selling anything from sarees to spices. One of these streets – Gabo’s Lane, still specialises in ayurvedic herbal medicines.
Click here for Sri Lankan hotels with websites.
Transfers from the airport cost between Rs. 650-1,000. This fare is for up to four persons travelling in an AC car. You can get an autorickshaw (aka Tuk Tuk) for much less on your return.
A train service also runs from the airport to the city and back. The railway also serves Kandy, Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya), Bandarawela (SE of Nuwara Eliya), Hikkaduwa, Galle, Matara, Negombo, Bentota (all beach resorts), Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa (in the Mid Country) and Batticaloa (on the eastern coast) and therefore makes for a tremendous journey.
You can even get an observation saloon on the ‘Podi Menike’ and ‘Udarata Menike’ trains to Kandy and Badulla. Contact the Railway Information Centre at the airport (tel. 0315-260).
The fare from Colombo Fort to Kandy is SLR 72 which gives you an idea of the fare structure. The island also has an efficient, friendly and cheap Intercity Express bus service of privately owned AC buses connecting every town. The tiny Japanese buses depart almost every half hour from all towns.
Click here for some great places to eat at low cost.
Sri Lanka has a five day week. In addition to to Saturdays and Sundays and special public holidays, the full moon (Poya) day of each month is a public holiday. All places of entertainment including cinemas and bars are closed on Poya day. Hotels arrange to serve you liquor on this day.
Click here for some of Sri Lanka’s more unusual attractions.
Foreign currencies exchanged in every town. You can however exchange Sri Lankan rupees only at the airport. It’s advisable therefore to change $100 bills at a time, which if you are a back packer and travelling every third day, can be stretched over 12-14 days considering you get about SLR 70-71 for the dollar.
Remember the entrance fee to the cultural places is $12-15 per site and the embarkation fee at the time of departure SLR 500. If you travel independently in the comfort of an AC taxi you would then need to budget for more.