SATURNINO P. JAVIER, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC
Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs
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Sri-Lanka has a little island secret. Situated in the eastern coast of the country, approximately 260 km east of Colombo, this island called Trincomalee (also known as Gokanna) is a major resort city of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Ranked as the fifth largest natural harbor in the world (and hailed in many tourist blogs as the finest harbor in the world), it is a Tamil-dominated area and once boasted of the finest beach resorts in the country.
However, due to armed conflict in the last decades, many of these resorts and nearby homes were bombed and destroyed. As the island slowly begun to be rebuilt and rediscovered with the sprouting of new resorts and hotels, one might never get to imagine how the splendor of this resort city rose from tumultuous conflict and destructive artillery.
Fast becoming recognized as an emerging paradise, Trincomalee has become a must-visit place in the itinerary of many foreigners who have been trooping to the island ever since it has been developed. The place teems with pristine and picturesque beaches that provide the most inviting waters for surfing, scuba-diving, fishing and whale watching.
After attending a Cardiology forum in Colombo, several colleagues of mine headed off to this island retreat via Helitours, a 60-seater helicopter flight that took us to this island in all of 45 minutes. Another half-hour travel by car took us to Chaaya Blu, a new upscale resort that blends the trimmings of modern-day amenities with the exquisite and untainted scenes and sights of nature. (One is easily reminded of Boracay long before it was commercialized to its present-day form.)
On that quiet Sunday afternoon, traditional Hindu practices greeted us upon arrival, with hotel staff members applying a yellowish ointment on the forehead, another applying a light dab of holy water and another offering a traditional fruit drink and a hot towel to warm the heart and freshen the senses. One could only quietly exclaim – “I am in for a real relaxing treat.”
Away from the noise of the city, with only the sounds of the occasional howling winds, the rushing waves of the nearby shores and the cacophony of bird sounds and cracklings from tree branches, this respite from the urban jungle was sheer and pure nature at its finest.
As one enters the compound of Chaaya Blu (now known as Trinco Blu by Cinnamon),one is greeted immediately by a magnificent oversized pool that juts out to the shores of the beach giving one the illusion of a pool that extends to the ocean.
Later in the evening, it was time for a buffet dinner by the beach and a rowdy get-together, dancing and sing-along with physicians from other countries –Singapore, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Kazachstan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, among others.
I made sure to wake up early to have an invigorating morning walk by the beach. Many of my colleagues in the group were all up and about to savor the serene waters of the shore. The before-6 a.m. stroll provided a resplendent and breath-taking panorama of the early morning sun slowly emerging to illuminate the vast Indian Ocean. The magnificent sunrise beaming from a distance could easily produce a calming, soothing and uplifting effect on anyone. The quiet manner by which the Trincomalians went about with their daily chores – fixing their boats, cleaning off seaweeds from their front yards or playing with their dogs evoked the nonchalance that could only come from familiarity associated with frequent visitors in the region.
“Take it in” – I kept telling myself – and I meant the fresh scent of the morning sea breeze, the melodic harmony of the waves, the cool air suffusing the face, the visual spectacle unfolding on the horizon. But yes, as one embraces the beauty of such imagery, one is also easily reminded of the unimaginable and unprecedented chaos and destruction that such waters can bring – particularly in the southern part of the Philippines through the roaring murderous storm surges brought about by super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).
Trincomalee’s splendor is a revitalizing concoction of nature –a powerful reminder of the wisdom of the adage that literally and figuratively describes “silent waters run deep” or more like, “serene waters evoke uncertainties.”
The thrills of Trincomalee are boundless. I have listed a second trip to Trincomalee on my bucket list.