Alexander Armstrong heads for the Paradise Isle of the Indian Ocean Sri Lanka, discovering not only the golden sands but also its historic culture. From the gorgeous Sinhalese areas in the central and southern regions to the less-travelled Tamil north.
Now a destination for everything from the most modern urban sophistication to laid-back surf cafes, Sri Lanka has started to recover from a long civil war and incredible natural disasters to welcome the sort of visitors - the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese - who used to be the colonial powers here. Along the way he meets some unforgettable characters - human, elephant… and even the odd reptile.
Straight off the bat Alexander is sent on a mystery mission to learn “how to make his trip to Sr Lanka ten times better”. This involves a tuk tuk ride to meet a mysterious guru called Shanjei.
Alexander is seduced by the golden beaches of the south west, and his first port of call is the fortress town of Galle built first by the Portuguese in 1588. Alexander encounters Asanka who earns his living by diving 30ft headlong off the walls into just 6 feet of water.
Alexander’s love of classical music leads him to investigate the life of a Choon Pan Man. In converted tuk tuks these men deliver freshly-baked bread to Sri Lankans, accompanied by the distinctive notes of a well-known Beethoven piece.
At a nearby Buddhist temple Alexander meets his first elephant which is sadly chained up outside. This spurs him on to find out more about captive elephants in Sri Lanka and at the Elephant Millennium foundation he meets Sudimenika, one of eight majestic elephants that have been rescued. He also gets involved in the making of elephant poo paper at the factory next door.
Sri Lanka has an estimated three million stray dogs and, at what is possibly the world’s largest dog home, Alexander meets its founder Kim Cooling from Essex and a few of the rescued strays. He then joins them for a trip to the beach where some of the handicapped dogs are introduced to chaotic seaborne hydrotherapy.
Alexander has four boys and visits a mask making factory in search of presents. The masks are quickly deemed too scary, and events change direction when Alexander is prescribed an exorcism that turns into a spectacular fire-born ritual.
Sri Lanka is home to the new global phenomenon of the Digital Guru, highflyers working from anywhere on their laptops, and surfing at 6.30am. Alexander joins in the new trend and surfs the rolling waves.
Alexander Armstrong In Sri Lanka begins Thursday 18th May at 9pm on Channel 5.