From a distance, it looked like a large scarecrow had inexplicably washed up on Bentota beach in southern Sri Lanka. Close up, I realized it was an eco-friendly Christmas tree, decorated with multicoloured plastic discs that ordinarily keep fishing nets visible. The rough-hewn branches in the sand were near a mid-priced hotel called Wunderbar. The hotel, like many along this magnificent 4km stretch of golden sand, looked mostly empty. That morning, I counted half a dozen tourists as I jogged along the beach, which has a large Taj hotel at one end, on a stretch usually teeming with Indian and Western tourists in peak season.