SSoP Podcast Episode 49 — Sri Lanka: Remarkable, Relentless, Resplendent

SSoP Podcast Episode 49 — Sri Lanka: Remarkable, Relentless, Resplendent

Monday, 3 April, 2023

Sri Lanka is known for its rich, full-bodied Ceylon tea, fishermen on stilts, and staggering beauty. If you want to visit an elephant sanctuary, trek to a mountaintop monastery, or swim (and surf) in crystal-blue waters, this teardrop-shaped island in the Bay of Bengal is the place to go.

In contrast to its warm, soothing climate is its long history of civil war. The conflict that raged from 1983 until 2009 between the mostly-Sinhalese government and the insurgent Tamil Tigers had a profound and lasting effect on the population.

But none of that has curbed Sri Lankans’ welcoming temperament nor the island’s natural charms. There’s world-class street food — all manner of crunchy, savory fried things, spicy curries, and tropical fruits like nothing you’ve ever seen before. There are sparkling waterfalls, whale watching and leopard sightings, and an iconic train ride through lush green jungles dotted with colorful flowers. All giving truth to the name Sri (Resplendent) Lanka (Island).

In this episode, we explore Sri Lankan legend, get nostalgic about Duran Duran, hear the details of a remarkable airplane adventure, and get very curious about wood fruit. Then we recommend five great books that took us to Sri Lanka on the page, including an adventure memoir by the world’s best travel writer, an unusual crime story, a colorful cookbook, and two dream-like novels set during the civil war years, one of which Mel clutched to her chest in a hug.

Here are the books about Sri Lanka we recommend on the show:

Books, Transcript, and More

For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend, plus a full transcript and the other cool stuff we talked about, visit the Episode 49 show notes.


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If Sri Lanka makes you all daydreamy about frolicking on the beach at sunset, possibly with friendly elephants, you would not be wrong. It's also the ideal place to take an epic train ride or dig into street food.
Oliver Rice's poem tells the bittersweet story of Sri Lanka, contrasting the island's lush natural beauty and peaceful Buddhist practices with its history of invasive colonialism, civil war, and vicious politics.
And now, a brief list of reasons to visit Sri Lanka: elephants, idyllic beaches, crispy fried fritters and spicy curries, mountaintop monasteries, iconic train rides through the jungle, whale watching, and Ceylon tea.

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