Sri Lanka through a Bangladeshi Lens

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By Sanuj Hathurusinghe

Recently, a group of Bangladeshi travel writers representing the Bangladesh Travel Writers Association (BDTWA) visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh High Commission of Sri Lanka, and Sri Lankan Airlines. The aim was to promote tourism between two countries as well as to strengthen the positive bond the countries share. 

During their one-week journey around the country, the six-member travel writers group visited many places in Sri Lanka and on the last day of their visit, they spoke to Ceylon Today about their stay here. We talked with the Founding President of BDTWA Ashrafuzzaman Ujjal – an experienced travel writer who has been to 58 different countries across six continents.

As Ashrafuzzaman revealed, their travel itinerary was a busy one, packed with lots of places and activities. Their first stop was Sigiriya, followed by Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. From there, they travelled to Galle followed by visits to Beruwala and Bentota before returning to Colombo. 

“In Colombo, we had the chance to visit the Lotus Tower. We went to the top, took pictures with a drone and it was fantastic,” Ashrafuzzaman said animatedly. 

He had known that Sigiriya is the number one tourist destination in Sri Lanka, so his expectations for the rock fortress were high. To his satisfaction the tourist hotspot didn’t disappoint and lived up to its reputation. “We visited Kandy, the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic.  The peace and tranquillity in Kandy was amazing, although it would have been even better if we could have come during the Perahera season,” Ashrafuzzaman said. 

Nuwara Eliya has been the only place that gave Ashrafuzzaman chills while the chic town of Ella; the exciting activities, old railway stations, and the overall travel culture of the town impressed him. “The excitement and the fear you feel while hiking and taking a zip line is amazing. The experience is good for tourism. Ella is such a small town but very vibrant,” Ashrafuzzaman said. 

Ashrafuzzaman was visibly taken up by his visit to the famous Sri Lanka Architect Geoffrey Bawa’s house in Beruwala. He had also loved his stay at the iconic Heritance, Kandalama. “It was one of the best hotels I have stayed in. The simplicity is the best feature of the hotel and it goes to show that you can build without disturbing nature.”

Ashrafuzzaman also said that he really loved how green the commercial capital is. “I have never seen a greener capital. The pollution is so low here. Whatever the level of pollution in the whole of Sri Lanka, we have more than that in our capital alone. So, we feel good here; no pollution and no traffic jams,” Ashrafuzzaman said with a smile. 

“As an outsider I find Sri Lanka to be a peaceful country. There is no shouting and no fighting in the streets, and people are generally friendly. We [he and his team] like Sri Lanka very much because it is so green and the people are so hospitable. We never felt unsafe during our trip.”

Was there anything you didn’t like about Sri Lanka? We quizzed Ashrafuzzaman, to which he replied, “Outside Colombo everything closes rather early. At least keep shops open until 10 p.m. It is good for business, especially to attract tourists,” Ashrafuzzaman said with a smile. 

After returning to Bangladesh Ashrafuzzaman will write about his travels in Sri Lanka for the Bangladeshi readers to know and hopefully, some eager travellers will decide to visit Sri Lanka. “Tourism is a good income source for Sri Lanka and authorities are doing their best to promote tourism. The pandemic has taken a huge toll in every industry but I hope things will go back to some sort of a normalcy soon and the tourism will pick up the pace again,” Ashrafuzzaman said. 

BDTWA plans to hold a ‘Sri Lanka Day’ in Bangladesh to further promote tourism. He plans to gather other Bangladeshi travellers who have been to Sri Lanka, and share their thoughts and experiences too. 

Ashrafuzzaman said that there are quite a few places he wanted to visit but couldn’t. “Places such as Trincomalee, Jaffna, Yala, and Anuradhapura are interesting. Moreover, Sri Lanka was visited by some famous people such as Che Guevara and Pablo Neruda. We are going to Bahrain this month but would love to visit Sri Lanka again, sooner the better,” he concluded.  

(Pix courtesy Azim Khan Ronnie and Abir Abdullah @BDTWA)