Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/8
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This edition is an expanded, comprehensive guide to all of Sri Lanka, including the long-closed east and north of the country.
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When I was in Mexico, previously, I'd come to expect LP to list nearly every restaurant, hotel, etc. in the area. In Colombo and Kandy, I found that while it had a good enough selection that one could go ones whole trip only on recommendations from the book, there were also a number of stores, restaurants, etc which were really worthy of note (imho) that were not included.
In short, a great book, a worthy travel companion, and a wonderful fallback, but not the all encompassing guide to everything that I sometimes expect from LP.
It's not that the prices are far higher than indicated; that's to be expected when foreign tourism rises sharply after 30 years of civil war, and domestic tourism booms with a rapidly-developing economy. It's not that some accommodation isn't as described; places age and management changes.It's simply that the breathless description of the wonderfulness of the various sites, and the time required to enjoy them, is so at odds with the reality that you can't believe the authors were ever in the country.
For instance, LP raves about Unawatuna ("a place of dreams") and Mirissa (quiet serenity), beach resorts in the south. Well, Unawatuna might be a place of dreams if you're in a Lariam nightmare, but in reality it's a strip of horribly overdeveloped sand that you can only catch glimpses of between wall to wall buildings while dodging loud, smelly traffic on the dirty little lane that deafens most of the accommodation. The water, during the calmest time of year, is murky, and if you don't watch out, you'll be hit by a boat while stubbing your toes on the rocks.
Mirissa, portrayed as a get-away-from-it-all paradise, is a yards-wide strip sandwiched between the murky water and a frantically-busy two-lane highway carrying six lanes of traffic, all beeping signals at each other from early until very late. Like Unawatuna, it's describes as having "excellent" snorkeling, when in fact there's one tiny murky tidepool at the best of times.
It's the same with the historical sites. The ancient city of Anurhadapura is described as being on a par with Bagan in Myanmar or Angkor in Cambodia, and worthy of 3-4 days. When I spoke to the "concierge" at our guest house, he said we'd see it all in 5 hours, and wouldn't want a second day. Having spent a week at Angkor without feeling satiated, I laughed, but he was absolutely right. The same held for the other Cultural Triangle locations, all of them brutally overpriced.
The "cultural capital", Kandy, was also described as being worthy of several days, but after seeing an evening cultural performance and the Temple of the Tooth on the first afternoon and evening, there was not much else there. The "wonderful" English architecture of Nuwara Eliya can be viewed in two easy ho-hum hours, not appreciated for days.It goes on and on. Everything is overstated, and the time allotments (4 weeks for the Cultural Triangle, 3 weeks for the south, 4 weeks for the hills) are frankly insane.
Sri Lanka is a pleasant but unspectacular country to visit. Unless you're a surfer, the beaches are nice to look at, but useless for most other water sports, and they're being badly developed. The food is good if you enjoy curries and seafood, and the people are friendly and intelligent to deal with. The tea plantations are uniform carpets of green that cover hills that have been denuded to accommodate them, and the air is often too smoky for viewing anyway. Accommodation is rapidly headed toward being bad value. The National Parks like Yala see far too many visitor vehicles to maintain the natural experience. You can easily see all there is to occupy you in three weeks or less.
I usually keep my LP guidebooks when I leave a country, or at least leave them for the benefit of the next traveler. I took my LP Sri Lanka, tore the pages out, ripped them to shreds, and wished I could make the authors eat them. This book goes beyond being useless. It misleads and misdirects you in a way that borders on the cynical. Don't buy it, and look with the greatest of care at the upcoming 2011 update. I'm betting it's a slightly reworked pile of the same BS.