Brian Spencer entered our 'Subscribe and win!' newsletter competition. And guess what? He won. Now he's on his dream trip and we're going along for the ride. First stop - Sri Lanka, and the benefits of low-season travel.


'Welcome to paradise, Mr. Spencer.'

Like Mr. Rourke greeting me at the gates to Tangalla's version of Fantasy Island, Rohan, the smiling, mild-mannered manager at Palm Paradise Cabanas, hands me the keys to our spacious bungalow on deserted Goyambokka Beach. A few feet away, the brilliant sapphire sea pounds the peach-hued sandy shore, tall, skinny coconut trees rock gingerly in the hot midday breeze, and plumeria and hibiscus trees in full bloom blanket the neatly manicured grounds.


It's low tourism season here in Tangalla and, in fact, in most of southern Sri Lanka. Aside from a friendly pack of local dogs, we're fortunate to have this small slice of beach heaven mostly to ourselves. That's the beauty of this time of the year: many travelers are scared off by the threat of monsoon rains and sweltering temperatures, but the heat has proven manageable and we haven't seen a drop of rain in days. There are, indeed, many benefits to low-season travel, including empty beaches, lower costs, and an especially warm welcome from locals.


It's hard to believe how much we've seen in this wildly diverse country in just one short week: the steamy capital city of Columbo, breathtaking scenery on an unforgettable train ride to Kandy, ancient cave temples in Dambulla, the towering rock fortress of Sigiriya, the cool, rolling hills of tea country, spotted leopards and wild elephants in Yala National Park.


Soon we'll continue moving down the southwestern coast, stopping briefly in Mirissa and Galle before one last night in Columbo; from there, it's on to the Maldives. For now, though, there's no better place to reflect and unwind than here in the lazy, dreamy paradise called Tangalla.


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