© Siyambala 2012
….“Don’t write about this place,” the chubby little man admonished Supem De Silva sternly. “People will come here and spoil everything.”…..
According to industry expert Supem De Silva, you’ll find more family-friendly places to go and fun things to do within easy driving range of Arugam Bay
than there are around almost any other travel destination in Sri Lanka.
“Don’t write about this place,” the chubby little man admonished Supem De Silva sternly. “People will come here and spoil everything.”
The agitated speaker was Manik Sandrasagra, the late auteur of Sri Lankan cinema, but Supem hadn’t known who he was back then. This was in 1998, and Supem had been gathering information for Arugam Bay’s first online directory of hotels and other services. He’d seen Sandrasagra sitting by himself at another table at Chutti’s Place Restaurant. Since the movie director was barechested, with a towel draped over his shoulders, Supem had assumed he was one of the local beach bums.
The baby waves at Whiskey Point are perfect for beginning surfers. Lessons cost around $20 an hour.
Supem chuckles as he recounts this story, shaking his head as he adds that Manik had been a consultant to the Sri Lanka Tourist Board at the time (I could just picture this scene, having encountered the mercurial director and his larger-than-life personality when I wrote the ads for Rampage, Manik’s 1978 movie about a homicidal elephant; my colleague Chris Greetwrote the movie’s tagline, “Can an elephant plan and execute a murder?”).
In a way, Supem notes, his encounter with Manik Sandarasagra neatly illustrates one of the reasons why Arugam Bay has been overlooked as a tourist destination. On the one hand there are those who’ve been coming to Arugam Bay for years, and who are apprehensive about the notion of it becoming discovered as a resort. And on the other, there are those who should know about Arugam Bay and don’t. Among this latter group are travel industry experts who aren’t even aware that there’s hotel accommodation here.
Johnson Ratnasingham’s new Amigo Surf School charges around $20 an hour for lessons (that’s Farook painting the sign in February). I forgot to ask Johnson whether he named the school after his dog Amiga, a personable pooch.
“Arugam Bay is a black hole as far as many people in the travel industry are concerned,” says Supem ruefully. “They have no idea what’s available here.”
That’s too bad, because the fact is that there are quite a few good hotels in Arugam Bay. And there are going to be even more, what with a number of plans for hotels underway (scroll down to the bottom of this post for information on a really cool new place to stay in Arugam Bay for around $9 a day).
Elephants are supposed to need 300 pounds of fodder a day, but at the rate this fellow was stuffing himself with water plants at Lahugala National Park (twelve miles from Arugam Bay
), I’d say they eat a great deal more.
Supem himself is an unassuming guy whose mind is a jackdaw’s nest of fascinating facts about Sri Lanka. He’s also able to step out of the Sri Lankan mindset and see the country from a tourist’s perspective.
He knows, for example, that you’re not coming here to be bored out of your skull by sitting through a harangue on Sri Lanka’s religious history and cultural heritage; you’re coming here to enjoy yourself and have an unforgettable time. He gets that.
Supem De Silva created Arugam Bay’s first
online directory of hotels and other services, and was the first webmaster of the first site dedicated solely to news about the area. The Sri Lanka Tourist Board
is using his case study on Arugam Bay
as the basis for its plans for the area’s future. In case you wondered, there are no tall buildings within fifty miles of Arugam Bay
; took this picture outside Supem’s office in Colombo.
As a senior travel industry professional—among other things, he lectures trainee tour guides on Sri Lanka’s east coast attractions—Supem has seen the glazed eyes and the jeez-what-did-I-get-myself-into look of Continue reading ‘Arugam Bay: Sri Lanka’s last frontier?’