Island Life Has Never Been So Awe -Inspiring

Article excerpt

Byline: BY MAX DAVIDSON

SRI Lanka has been beset by tragedy up until recently. There was the 2004 tsunami and the long-running civil war that only ended in 2009 - however better times are around the corner for this island nation.

Given this moment of serenity for the Indian Ocean country, there is no better time to visit one of the world's most beautiful islands, which has a lush landscape topped by densely wooded mountains ringed by white sandy beaches. Probably the first thing that strikes you is the sheer richness of the vegetation. In rural areas, it is thrillingly green. There is hardly a bare patch of ground as fruit and flowers of every description, from mangoes to orchids, pineapples to tea roses, papayas to camellias, burst out of the soil.

There are meant to be more than 20 varieties of banana in Sri Lanka, and one stall-holder in Galle seems to stock most of them, judging by the rich palette of colours on display, from lurid yellow to dainty pink. I buy one of the smaller ones and, as I sink my teeth into the flesh, let out a little purr of pleasure.

Galle was colonised by the Dutch, and the old Dutch fort that dominates the town has been lovingly maintained. The ghosts of the past are all around as you stroll through the narrow streets past 18th-Century churches, dusty libraries and gnarled old banyan trees.

If Galle is a hive of activity, with its plethora of shops and cafes, the Fortress Hotel, 16km along the coast, is a haven of luxurious calm. …