Terrorism, Tsunami – Now Greed

Sri Lanka could be paradise. Moon-shaped beaches. Azure waters rolling in over crusty white sand. Heavily laden palm trees casting their shadows on hot foreigners and cool locals. And inland: tropical hills and tea plantations bathing the landscape in a kaleidoscope of greens. Add gorgeous ruins of ancient cities and an Utopian image should emerge. For a moment you’ll even believe it; this could very well be the Eden where Adam first set foot on earth.

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…If it wasn’t for the civil war that eclipsed this island for thirty years. In a quest for an independent Muslim state in Northern Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers held the whole country under a terror spell with bombings, kidnappings and political murders. When the military reciprocated, more than one hundred thousand civilians lost their lives. Finally, in 2009, the president launched a terminal assault on the Tigers. The outcome was quite successful – the insurgents were eliminated (although another 40,000 innocent bystanders also lost their lives).

…If it wasn’t for the tsunami that crippled the country in 2004. Hitting the shores from all sides, the ten meter high wall of water killed 35,000 people and wiped out entire coastal communities. Suddenly ALL resorts were gone, and tourism came to a complete stop. There was nowhere to go.

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…If it wasn’t for the greed that in the few years of peace has blinded its citizens. While the restoration has been incredibly rapid, the prices have risen to almost European heights. The entrance fee to the ruins of Anuradhpura and Polonnaruwa costs a ridiculous $25 each. To climb a rock called Sigirya or walk uphill to Adam’s Peak relives you of an exorbitant $30. Compared to other world-class sites (Acropolis $16, Angkor Wat $20, Taj Mahal $14), the pricing strategy feels both naïve and downright rude. After all Sri Lanka has been through, shouldn’t they approach the tourism industry with a longer-term approach?

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Instead, Sri Lanka is getting a bad rap among travelers. Prices are too high, touts are too pushy and the heavenly beaches are too crowded. It’s a shame, because the locals you meet on a train, in a small town or on the street are really lovely. And kind. And smiling. And honest.

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But hope always floats. The island is far too beautiful to become a second thought. If only the greed is controlled, Sri Lanka could again become the paradise that was once blessed by Adam, Buddha, Mohammad and Shiva.

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