Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 14, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
The letlibridge Herald Fourth Section Lelhbridge, Alberta, Wednesday, March 14, 1073 Pages 45 86 Charming, giggl What's Sri Lanka's tourist specialty? People, of course By TOM TIEDE COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (NBA) Everybody laughed when, in "Animal George Onvell equipped the beasts in his political alle- gory with some of the worst of human characteristics. But the fairy talc is less than sides plitting to increas- ing numbers of tourists wbo have confronted this other- wise idyllic island's ili-le-n- pered, aggressive and even conspiratorial crows. The crows, which ominous- ly blacken the skies of most areas of South Asia, .are huge, rude birds out of a Hitchcock movie. No seed- p e c k in g feathered friends, those, but winged bandits which commonly will snatch bread from one's hand and what's more, have been known lo attack en masse four legged creatures who attract their displeasure. No kidding. A tourist here recently r e p o r t s that one' crow flew into his open hotel window to rob his lunch leav- ings: "I had to hit the darn thing with a book before it would retreat. Later, when I was lying on the hole! beach, several dozen crows began circling over me, squawking to one another, as if plotting. Sure enough, after a time they eban to c'ive. They came at me in fluttering ro- tation, like Phantom jets. Now I know this sounds weird, but it happened. Real- ly, I had lo go into the surf before the damn things let me alone." HAPPENED Improbable as the event sounds, it did indeed happen- and was witnessed. The tour- ist believes the crows were seeking revenge for his treat- ment of their brother. And, says Sri Lanka tourist offi- cial Lucien Rajakarunanay- ake, smiling, amused, they may well have been: "It's possible that the man mortally wounded tlie crow when it flew into his hotel w i n d o w. The crow might have fluttered out and died in the vcget a t i o n on the beacli. When the man went lo the beach he probably lay down near the dead crow, which irritated the other birds. Crows here, you see, have a kind of funeral ritual; when one dies the others take up watch, and they don't like intruders." Pause. More smiles from, the tourist official. "But you he adds, "what we lack in pleasant crows here on this island, we make up for in pleasant people. Don't let the birris influence you much. We humans still rule Sri Lank'a and we humans still like intruders." To be sure, the people of. this Indian Ocean nation (once known as Ceylon) im- mensely enjoy the tourist variety at least. Worried by a steady decline in the value of ils traditional financial income (the exports of tea, rubber and but blessed with virtually un- explored natural pleasures, Sri Lanka has in recent years created an exaggerated em- phasis on the import of tour- ism money. Hotels have been renovated, scenic spots im- proved, airline service upgraded the result is that tourism has increased four fold in the last half dozen years, to about visitors a year, most of whom pay far more attention to the peo- ple than the crows. CHARMING And the people are worth the consideration. The physi- cal attractions of Sri Lanka degrees of year round sun, miles of beaches, old ruins which rival those of Cambodia's Ankor not aclually superior to other lotus lands less distant from America. But the natives? Charming, giggly _ the 13 million peo- ple are among the most ingratiating h o s t s in the world. There are two principal reasons. One, being remote, 20 miles from the tip of India (some of the Indian Ocean is still not precisely Sri Lankans are relatively in- nocent of worldly affairs. Outsiders remain a novelty in many island villages. There is no anti American- ism worth reporting. A tour- ist with camera and baggy Bermuda shorts is, here, still worth a genuine and univer- sal smile. But the overriding reason for the Sri Lankan disposition seems to be Ms religion. Eighty per cent of the island is Buddhist in the original (not Orientalized) form. Says one veteran monk: "Bud- dhism teaches us one basic rule, treat everyone as you would yourself. All other rules are merely commen- tary." Thus the ciU7.enry, with exceptions, inherits a philosophy of decent respect for all living things. INSECTS Killing, for instance, is so foreign to many Sri Lankans that even repulsive insects and creepy crawlers are protected (which may, aias, account for the mosquito pop- Aggressive war is out of the question the Sri Lanka navy has a total of four boats and the reputed service motto is: "Don't fire you see the wliitcs of their' eyes, and don't fire at all if they have more than one gun." Even the police here, no saints, arc forbid- den to carry arms unless rai- der emergency. This is not to say the place Is entirely Eden. There are nasties here and serious aggravations as every- where. Inflation is stifling the average citizen, crime is growing. For .the tourist, the Buddhist influence means lit- tle nightlife, no television, a complete absence of Ihe raunchy and ribald. For the tourist also, the hotel situa- tion is mediocre at best (when you order a ham and cheese sandwich in a room, the waiter brings one ham. and one cheese, both But for the visitor seeking escape, the general atmo- sphere is reassuring and re- warding. Prices are among the lowest in the world (the average taxi ride is 20 The scenery ranges from underwater skindiving to cool mountain backpack- ing in tea country like to says a government official, "one can do any- thing here except throw CHEAP Shoppers can pick up gem jewelry from five to ten limes cheaper than in Amer- ica (a stunning topaz ring sells for And sun? Sri Lanka is merely a quarter of an inch on the standard map from the equator. But it is the people, really. The people. Visitors to the rural villages may have to sidestep the cow dung, but the people will make it all worthwhile. During the pre- viously mentioned tourist's altercation with the crows, as example, he was able to finally relax in the sun only after five children appeared as his protectors. Voluntar- ily, they chased the birds away and then stood guard for hours wliile their guest roasted in peace. "Ayu they explain- ed; which, roughly translated pharaphrases Orwell: "All tourisis are equal, but in Sri Lanka, compared with other getaways, some tourists are more equal than others." Show-off value! Stowaway double- duty sleeper. Limited space and budget? Then you'll love this compact Stowaway unit wilh built-in storage drawers. It's ruggedly constructed of hardwoods and veneers that are wonderfully childproof. 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