Nov 14 (Forbes) Over the last few years, this tear-drop shaped country off the tip of India has become a travel writer's darling.
Earning accolades for its ring of beaches, enduring ruins, distinct cuisine, vibrant culture, and wild game-viewing, this "up-and-coming destination" for tourists seeking "India Light" was "pure, untouched and unspoiled" and "ready for its close-up." Sri Lanka sounded like a veritable Shangri-La. Encouraged by high expectations set by effusive media praise, I booked a two-week trip to see for myself.
The truth, I would discover, was murkier than the crisp images printed in travel mags. For example, game parks were burdened by hours-long entrance lines and competitive (dangerously so) racing to spot animals. Traffic congestion snarled for hours beyond the capital. Ugly Chinese construction proved Asian developers were already reimagining parts of the island. However, despite my frustration with the disputable adjectives lavished, notably "pristine" and "undiscovered," I was also surprised at how little was written about one of the island's most compelling distinctions: Ayurvedic medicine and the accessibility of treatments through some of the world's loveliest spas.
Combing "ayuh" (life) with "veda" (science), Ayurveda is one of the world's oldest holistic wellness systems based on restoring balance between mind, body and spirit. Ayurvedic medicine has been passed down from generation to generation for 5,000 years in Sri Lanka. It outlines a healing scheme that offers "rejuvenating pathways: from purifying skin, balancing and grounding the emotions, alleviating stress and fatigue, to treating a wide range of specific ailments," according to the description on the Anantara hotel spa's website.
You might call it "Ayurveda Light," what was offered at the hotels. The full spectrum of Ayurvedic medicine, as opposed to spa therapies, was offered in Sri Lanka's Ayurvedic hospitals. But I was told by our driver treatments there were reserved for serious medical patients, not tourists. Either locals with calamities like broken bones or the rare foreigner who had flown in to treat cancer, he said. But unless your ailment exceeded a stiff back from the long flight to Colombo, the spas would suffice in providing an enjoyable introduction to the concept, especially since most employed trained specialists to preside over their programs.