Saturday Magazine
‘How To See Ceylon’ By Bella Sidney Woolf

Authored by Bella Sidney Woolf (sister of Leonard Woolf), How To See Ceylon was first published in 1914 - considered by most as the first pocket guidebook to the island. Indeed it proved to be so, considering that three more editions followed in the years 1922, 1924, and 1929 respectively.

The author enthusiastically recommends the best ways of motoring the ‘sunny roads of Ceylon’; she also does not miss describing the pleasures of the rail trips. Care has been given to provide background/historical information of the places visited and also to provide general information on the island which "contains a wealth of interesting and mostly long-forgotten details of a bygone age of travel" to today’s reader. It also contains her own hints to travellers such as "Do not sleep under a fan unless a blanket is wrapped round your body", "Cries of ‘kurumba’ (young coconut), ‘kehel-gedi’ (plantains), ‘bullet’ (betel), and ‘tay watura’ (tea water), are heard all along the platform. Kurumbas and plantains are the only safe things to buy’ and appeals such as". "As you traverse this beautiful island, consider the life and limb of the villager" Even more interesting are her observations of the inhabitants such as "Every native carries an umbrella, not only for use but as a sign of respectability", "It is unfortunate that so many natives are adopting English dress, blind to the fact that it destroys all their individuality and Oriental grace", "Kandyan divorce laws are so enlightened that...."

This interest in the people of this island has lead her to the afterword titled ‘The Soul of The People’ which has made this travel guide one of its own.

Bella came to Ceylon in 1907 to visit her brother, Leonard Woolf - who was stationed in Kandy at that time. Later, in 1910 she got married to Robert Lock, the Assistant Director of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. She says "This book is in great part the embodiment of the most ideal journeyings that ever fell to a mortal’s lot, and I can hope that it will help some others to an equal enjoyment of the many hundreds of miles we (i.e. Bella and her husband) motored to gether along the sunny roads of Ceylon."