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zaktim Ratnapura - A travel report by Tim
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Ratnapura,  Sri Lanka - flag Sri Lanka -  Sabaragamuwa
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zaktim's travel reports

Ratnapura. Gem capital of Ceylon.

  8 votes

Ratnapura is not a particularly distinguished town in anything but it's gem trade. It is here that people gather from all the gemfields across Sri Lanka to trade the yields of their hard labour. Wander through the main market area and mention the word sapphire and the dealers will emerge as if from no-where, tiny paper envelopes full of stones miraculously appearing from the pockets of stunningly bleached business shirts and thrust in front of you for inspection. You could fend them off with a big stick, or enjoy the tumult of it all, suggesting a price here and there, haggling for 1/5 of what you expect they'll want for a particular parcel of stones. All good fun, but learn a bit about gemstones before you head off.

Favourite spots:
Ratna itself is for gemstone afficionados. Elsewhere in Sri Lanka, the archeaologically rich northern area around Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura is highly rewarding, as is the south coast with its luxurious accommodation and expansive coral reefs. We were surprised to be refused from one such hotel as we weren't a married couple on a honeymoon - apparently marriage still retains a strong semblance of its former significance here.

What's really great:
The cricket, and the undiluted enthusiasm of the people for it. We saw kids playing in a rice paddy full of water - the ball must not bounce, and I suppose you were never given out caught. etc etc etc.

Sights:
Elephants. Go ride one for a bit of a laugh - like being on a small hill (might take a picnic next time) that moves gently up and down. Not an adrenalin sport, but worth the experience nonetheless.

Accommodations:
Throughout Sri Lanka there are privately run guest houses charging about US$50 a night, which suited us better than the hotels ubiquitously located close to town centres.

Restaurants:
Can be a bit disappointing as many Sri Lankan chefs seem to aspire to cooking a generic and undistinguished standard curry for all tourists. Try to get away from the big establishments and give yourself a chance at the variable and exciting cuisine that lurks in private kitchens and small restaurants.

Other recommendations:
The highland rainforest of Singaraja, near Ratnapura is accessible only by foot, and has potential for many an enjoyable hike. It is the last remaining original tract of rainforest on the island.

Published on Monday January 27th, 2003


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