Plenty of stories get shared on blogs and in publications encouraging travel to areas devastated by natural or man-made tragedies. And their authors know enough about the war to call the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group and Buddhist monks peace lovers. They explore the south of the country and recommend visits to beaches and hill stations, or train journeys and waterfall excursions, via inspiring videos and itineraries. In contrast to the pictures of coconut cocktails under palm trees, picture-perfect forts, luxury hotels and happy elephants, the reality of Sri Lanka is more ambiguous.

We traveled around enough of Sri Lanka to see the dramatic differences between the south and north. While southerners have rebuilt the houses that were washed away by the tsunami, the war has left its mark in the north, by way of bullet-pocked buildings that remain to this day.

A trip to Sri Lanka can be quite sobering. It helps you to understand that travel isn’t always about escaping the boredom of your daily routine, or as a holiday. Sometimes it teaches us to analyse our lives and to be grateful for what we have and what’s considered a normal livelihood back home — peace.