Janaka Dissanayake is Out Adventures’ charismatic Sri Lanka Serendipity guide. Get to know the charmer below as he boasts about the island nation he calls home.
Give us a little intro: what part of Sri Lanka are you from, where do you live now?
Ayubowan! My name is Janaka Thevin Dissanayake. I’m 40 years old and married. I have two children, a son and daughter. My wife is a school teacher.
I live in beautiful Kalutara on the western coast of Sri Lanka.
How did you end up becoming a guide?
I obtained a BA in commerce from the University of Sri Jayawerdeanepure in Colombo.
But due to my long-term interest in the tourism industry, I became a guide. I’m passionate about getting to know people from various countries, other cultures, and sharing my knowledge & experience with them. I’ve been guiding for over ten years.
Travelling is my hobby. Learning about history, archaeology, architecture, wildlife, plants, music and cinema are my lifelong passions.
Tell us about Sri Lankan customs and culture; what do you love showing off?
Sri Lankans are extremely hospitable. We’re warm and friendly; always excited to meet new people. I love when guests experience a genuine smile from a Sri Lankan and the courtesy of our people.
Can you talk about the gay scene in Sri Lanka? From what I understand, Sri Lankan laws aren’t particularly friendly towards the LGBTQ community. However, I wonder if it looks different on the ground.
Homosexual activity remains illegal in Sri Lanka and the subject is little discussed publicly. There is no legislation to protect LGBTQ people from harassment. But the situation is changing slowly and the gay scene is visible.
Equal Ground is a Colombo-based organization that supports gay and lesbian rights, sponsors pride events, offers counselling services and has useful online resources.
Although there are no particular gay bars on the island, there are several LGBTQ-friendly bars and restaurants in Colombo, Negombo and Galle.
What’s the one component of your culture/history you want visitors to walk away with a better understanding of?
I want guests to understand the influence of the Buddhist faith on my people’s lives. The customs and traditions.
Are there any specific activities you personally love on Out Adventures’ tour of your country?
I’m a fan of the wildlife safaris and local experiences (talking with locals, visiting local markets etc..). Nature and culture are two of my passions.
What’s your favourite destination/city on our trip?
Yala National Park. I just love nature and getting to see plants and animals in their natural environment. It’s remarkable there.
Tell me about Sri Lankan cuisine.
Well, it is very spicy. More than other cuisines in this part of the world. But it’s also very diverse and colourful. And less oily, so it’s quite healthy.
Personally, I love a dhal curry, eggplant curry, mango curry, and coconut sambal.
Anything visitors MUST taste before leaving?
Kottu roti is very popular throughout the country. And lump rice is a traditional dish everyone must try.
Sri Lanka is well known for its tea and spice exports. Are there other products you’re famous for? Something guests can pick up as a souvenir.
Yes. We have a lot of blue sapphire gems. We’re also known for traditional and contemporary crafts, handloom, clothing, batiks and antiques.
Can you talk about safety in Sri Lanka today? It got a bit of a reputation due to the lengthy civil war.
Sri Lanka is a remarkably safe place to travel in today. Violent crime against foreigners is virtually unheard of.
Thanks for taking the time to chat. See you next year!
Yes. Great! See you then!