BELIEVE IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lankans are justly proud of their islands great beauty and fascinating heritage. Expect them to be friendly, welcoming and helpful, even a little over-protective at times - they'll want you to be happy, safe and love Sri Lanka as they do. The island is a melting pot of religious ethnicity and diverse cultures. Devotees of all faiths co-exist harmoniously pretty much, observing, often celebrating, one another’s auspicious occasions. Sri Lanka hasn’t always enjoyed such harmony, which rather understates the tragic conflict from which its people have awakened. However, since peace dawned in 2009, a cautious optimism has prevailed. Our hotel by-line ‘believe in Sri Lanka’ can be viewed as us sharing this upbeat outlook.
Tending not to take long holidays themselves, villagers can naturally appear bemused by our holiday antics and indulgences. So, a little humbleness plus a few words of Sinhala might not be out of place? Why not take a walk around the village or ride in a tuk-tuk to town, the local way?
Villagers will keenly observe you especially children, and even be cheeky at times. Don’t be offended or worried, rarely is there need for concern and after all, what is their benchmark? Aside from our race, creed, skin and opportunity, maybe we are all much more different than we realise?
Buddhism is the adopted, handed down philosophy and faith of the country's majority (c74%) and is dominant throughout Rekawa and the entire Southern Province. However, Islam and Christianity account for a sizeable percentage of this districts population also. Whatever doctrine is followed, it is done so fervently with much piety, invariably accompanied by colourful ceremonies, superstitions and traditions. Generally speaking this kaleidoscope contributes positively to our overall travel experience, although prejudice and attitudes (often hypocritical) do exist in terms of behavior and dress which should be noted. For example; at hotels, female topless sunbathing is not permissible while overt closeness between couples (anywhere) is frowned upon. Irritatingly, female travelers wearing beachwear or skimpy clothing can attract unwanted male attention, especially on public transport, in restaurants and on touristic beaches. Liberal attitudes are maturing, all the same, one should pay heed and dress modestly when out, if for no other reasons than ones’ modesty and peace of mind.
WAKE UP CALL
When travelling, we can overlook the fact that our host country is evolving at a different pace and way to our own. Conceivably, we could be quick to judge and make silly mistakes, challenging ourselves and those we meet along the way. As innocents abroad let us not be too harsh on ourselves, none of us seek to offend or look foolish do we?
Overwhelmingly, Sri Lankans are good-hearted warm decent people, but as in every country, there are exceptions. Disparities of wealth and opportunity offer temptation to the not-so good-hearted. For perspective, the value of your nice wristwatch may exceed a local annual income. The visa enabling your visit to Sri Lanka was obtained without question for a fee equal to two days’ wages in some cases.
If you’re concerned by what motivates a friendship, go slowly and tread warily. If need be say no thanks unambiguously and remember, our money, naivety and good manners can be our Achilles heel to an opportunist.
At all places of devotion remove headwear; cover shoulders, arms and legs above knees, and remove footwear.
Tourists can be scorned mercilessly for posing for selfies in front of sacred statues and/or for touching them.
Whatever your faith if you have one, it is customary to make small donations at all places of worship (please ask us).
In addition to inter-village cricket, barely a month passes without a wedding, religious ceremony or auspicious occasion of some kind. Everybody attends everything and all are welcome. When accepting a late night party invitation beware, parties can become boisterous quickly when fueled as they usually are by the ever popular arrack. Be prepared to keep the liquor flowing and for a thumping great headache next morning!
SAFE & SECURE
As at home, night and day, when going out (even briefly) please lock and bolt your doors and windows, and lock valuables away in your safety box. When on the beach or travelling, common-sense must prevail. Avoid carrying valuables, don’t leave bags unattended, even momentarily (while swimming or leaving your taxi for a bathroom stop?), and beware; pickpockets and undesirable elements are not a phenomenon exclusive to our home country!
In unfamiliar surroundings it makes sense to minimise risk, especially if travelling solo. Long solitary walks on isolated beaches, remote access locations, and being alone with strangers, must all be considered carefully. Jewelry, cameras and electronic gadgets can be as attractive as those flaunting them! Regrettably, inadequate policing creates a need for extra vigilance. We don’t want your holiday ruined, or anyone to waste time reporting a crime that wouldn’t be solved in our lifetime! For perspective; offences targeting tourists are mercifully rare. After 19 years in residence I still feel as safe in Rekawa as I ever did in the UK.
Since 2002 I've avoided tropical illness and disease with straightforward precautions. I drink bottled water and maintain best practice in terms of health and food hygiene disciplines. Occasionally I use mosquito repellant if they're prevalent and take good care around wildlife, particularly dogs. If bitten by a sand-fly, mosquito or ant I try not to scratch - easier said than done; if I cut or graze myself, I clean, dry and patch the affected area. In the event of illness or injury I seek medical advice immediately. If you fall sick at the hotel please ask us where to go or, for our help – we have a basic first aid box and are in regular contact with English speaking doctors and nurses.
There are public hospitals and private channeling centres nearby, but their facilities may not be quite what you're used to or adequate for the situation. Adequate and world class facilities can be found in Colombo or even nearer, depending on the situation. Dehydration aka sunstroke (our biggest bugbear with guests) i.e. too much sun not enough water, in most cases can be easily remedied.