Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sri Lanka Among National Geographic’s “25 Best New Trips for 2010″

Sri Lanka has received another nod as a top travel destination. National Geographic has listed Sri Lanka in its “25 Best New Trips for 2010.”

Ranked 20 in the list, Sri Lanka was one of only three other South Asian nations to make the list. Bhutan clinched the number one spot while Nepal was ranked 15.

In January, The New York Times chose Sri Lanka as its top pick in its list of “31 Places to Go in 2010.” The article itself attracted a lot of attention, both positive and negative. Topping the list of a prominent publication gave Sri Lanka much-needed recognition for jump-starting the tourism industry, a major economic sector, following the end of the war.

But the writer’s description of the “conflict” (as opposed to the war) as having “finally ended last May” and others such as the country being “one big tropical zoo” attracted criticism for portraying an unrealistic image of the South Asian nation that is recovering from decades of war.

One of the loudest comments came from M.I.A., the Grammy and Oscar-nominated rapper of Sri Lankan origin, whose Twitter post against the Times article was widely picked up by mainstream media.

In March,the Times published a follow-up story by Lionel Beehner, the same writer who wrote the description of Sri Lanka in the original January article. In the second article, titled “Checkpoints in Paradise,” Beehner appeared to have done a complete u-turn, going to great lengths to clarify some of the initial descriptions.

“Postwar societies, no matter how peaceful or picturesque on the surface, are inevitably complex places that still bear the scars of war, though some less overtly than others,” Beehner wrote. “Sri Lanka is no different,” he continued, admitting that he had received numerous “angry letters” after the first article.

The National Geographic description was brief but could also attract opposition with its depiction of the current situation: “After the tsunami of 2004 and the resolution of a decades-long civil war, Sri Lanka is finally starting to look like its old self.”

Perhaps more accurately described is what many say is unique about Sri Lanka: “Rare is the place you see rice paddies from the back of an elephant in the morning and ocean views from a mountaintop by midday.”

Despite the varying perceptions of the country’s political landscape, the country’s potential as a top travel destination is gaining notice – something frequent travelers to Sri Lanka have known for years, even during times of intense war.

“Let’s discount the politics and enjoy the country,” said Thikshan Arulampalam, a Sri Lankan from New York currently on a visit.

© Sri Lanka News Network

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