After arriving in Colombo after a long journey that started in Lodz 48 hours before, I felt much more excited than exhausted. I was so glad to be in a tropical country and use my summer clothes in February! We had been looking forward to this since October when we booked the tickets and we were finally in Sri Lanka!
We went through the seemingly effective immigration, changed into lighter clothes, exchanged our cash at the airport, bought a SIM card with internet and went outside. I immediately noticed that the place was quite clean. We had to catch a public bus to Colombo center and after asking around, we found the bus and hopped in. The 120 LKR (0.70€) journey from airport to Colombo center took a little over 1 hour.
It was almost 9 in the evening when we arrived at our airbnb host’s place after a reckless tuk-tuk ride through the busy Colombo traffic. For dinner we went to a restaurant in the neighborhood. I had fried noodles with very good fish chilli paste on the side. We then went to a general store nearby to buy some water and fresh fruits (papayas, yay!). I was so happy to be able to just sit on the terrace in the garden enjoying the papayas. We took the change from freezing temperatures in Europe to tropical temperatures in Sri Lanka in less than 48 hours very well!
The next morning, we had to depart for Hikkaduwa. At Fort Railway Station, we bought train tickets to Southern beach town Hikkaduwa and waited at the platform. By then a few things had caught my attention:
- The conductor at public bus from Colombo airport (actually in Negombo) to Colombo center tried to charge more than what is the true price because we’re foreigners. After I pointed him out that I very well know the local prices, he gave us the local prices.
- The man at ticket counter gave me about 500 LKR short in change after I purchased the tickets, which I realized a few minutes later. I went back and he gave me the 500 LKR back.
- A tuk-tuk driver the previous evening didn’t want to run on meter and wanted a fixed price (twice the amount on meter, which we found out later). We instead chose another one which ran on meter.
By that time, it was clear to me that locals tried to charge extra prices to the foreigners, wherever possible. Whether it was only in touristic areas, or everywhere, I had yet to find out. We had to be careful and politely haggle.
At the platform, we were approached by some touts who wanted to sell us rooms in Hikkaduwa, sell things, sell tours etc. We politely declined as we had already booked a place to stay in Hikkaduwa. They weren’t that persuasive and walked away in a few minutes after we had declined.
The train was on time and the interior was quite okay – nothing modern, but I liked how it was cleaner than I had expected it to be. We had chosen 2nd class, as we wanted to hang at the doors later and enjoy the passing views 😀 The train started moving after a short while, and my heart jumped with joy at the first sight of the vast Indian ocean on the right. The train passed through cluster of tiny fishing villages, endless palm trees and small towns where it stopped for passengers. There was some staring at the train by the locals, but I was expecting that. I was too familiar with the culture so similar to the one I come from, Nepalese.
Two hours later, we arrived in Hikkaduwa. After we had gotten off at the train station, a young man asked us to hand over our tickets. He didn’t look like an official, so we were puzzled at the beginning. We asked him to show us his ID, and a tuk-tuk driver who had been trying to convince us to use his tuk-tuk, confirmed that the man indeed worked for the railways. The man wasn’t happy about my question and spat out some words in Sinhalese, but which I think were “Who are you guys to ask me my ID? Just show me the tickets already. ” Anyway, we took the tuk-tuk and after a short ride, we were at our airbnb host’s in Hikkaduwa. Ocean time, finally!
Post about Hikkaduwa stay coming up, stay tuned!