Dream Escape: Jaffna, a bittersweet melancholy

‘Tis the season to satiate your wanderlust cravings, so why not do something you have always dreamt of? Slow down in Slovenia, or get ready to live your diving dream in Zanzibar; soak in the Sakura season in Japan or feel the calm at one of the monasteries, or maybe take the road less trodden in the reclusive city of Jaffna, just as these travel writers did. Make the most of your precious holidays in 2017 and get a slice of your own paradise…

Jaffna, a bittersweet melancholy

I have been to Jaffna twice now, and I still remain fascinated by this peninsular city in Northern Sri Lanka. It is the capital of the Northern province and of Tamil culture in Sri Lanka. It is a city that for some reason carries bittersweet melancholy in its breeze. It probably has to do with the three decade long civil war that the LTTE fought for a separate state for Sri Lankan Tamils. Jaffna would have been the capital of that state had Prabhakaran’s grand plans come to life. But the LTTE lost control of Jaffna in the late nineties to the Sri Lankan army totally isolating the peninsula both from the rest of the Tamil north and the Sinhalese south.

In many ways, Jaffna still seems to carry that hangover. It is a reclusive city which is not very forthcoming unlike most of the destinations on the sub-continent. Jaffna needs time to understand you; it takes a while for it to start narrating its story to you. At eight pm the city feels deserted, the streets are empty and most people are locked in the safety of their homes with their family. When I enquired, many said that Jaffna was still used to the curfew culture during the war, when residents were not allowed to walk the streets once the sun had set. The only place that is buzzing late evening is the market area with a bus stop and many restaurants. This is a good place for a traveler to start exploring. Nallur Kovil is another must-visit for any traveler interested in Jaffna culture. The temple is especially beautiful in the evening with its silhouette giving a hint of its architectural magnificence. Other must-visits within the city are the Dutch Fort and the Jaffna Public Library. This library contained some ancient Tamil manuscripts and it was burnt down by nationalists in 1981, sowing the seeds of dissent that gave birth to the civil war. However, it is not just history that makes Jaffna interesting, it is also a geographical marvel. The Palk Strait follows its coast, and the shallow waters close to Point Pedro are quite a sight. This place also happens to be the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. For the ones with a day to spare, Delft island is a great trip. It is probably the only place in Sri Lanka where wild ponies run free. Also the waters on the beaches of Delft island are fun for the entire family. It is easy to float in these shallow and still waters. Jaffna is a place that probably feels cheated of its significance by history, for a place that could be a great capital is now just another city. Probably that is why it lives in bittersweet melancholy. Go there and find out for yourself someday.

Sachin Bhandary, is the founder of Eccentrips.com and has traveled to 14 countries in a year and a half taking 8 learning challenges. He is a long term travel advocate and can be found tweeting @eccentricsachin