Tuesday – day 3
I left the hotel around sunrise, which was nice this morning, and walked to the station – about 15 minutes.
The second class ticket cost Rs200 – double the third class. That’s about $1.80. No one could tell me where to stand to get the second class carriages, so I watched where they were with the previous train and stood there. This didn’t work, as my train’s carriage order was different, and by the time I had walked down the platform almost all seats were taken.
I could only get a seat by quickly grabbing a window seat on the wrong side of the train to the view – that is, the right side. Soon there were standing passengers, too.
Then all I could do was photograph through the standing and sitting passengers across the aisle and through the open window, using maximum zoom. Not so easy.
The train arrived only about 10 minutes late, giving me time to go to the booking office. I couldn’t really get what I wanted, but made a few bookings, then rushed outside to get something to eat, although I expected something on the train. A false expectation, as it turns out, so luckily I ate a little.
Devilled chicken – it was nice, although I had to gulp it down. You turn right out of the station, and once you get to the shops, pass the fruit stall, and it’s on your right, soon. I hurried back to the station and was 10 minutes early – so the train came 15 minutes late.
On finding the only First Class carriage I saw almost all passengers were foreigners. That also made it easy to find. We waited in line to board. The carriage was OK – clean and basic and with air-con, but far better than Bangladeshi or Malaysian First Class. However, there was no service, no water supplied etc. This ticket had cost Rs500.
Naturally it turns out that one should sit on the right side of the carriage – and I was on the left – so the view wasn’t as good.
It was a pleasant enough journey, and comfortable, and we disembarked 3 hours after departure – 45 minutes late.
I couldn’t understand the timetables at all at the station. Never mind – I called Mango Garden and they came and picked me up. In a tuk tuk.
The room cost Rs3500, and had hot shower and fan, but no a-c. It’s cooler here, so the fan is fine, except a-c dries my clothes better, and I need to wash every night as I am travelling light. Wi-Fi is patchy here, so I should use mobile Internet for Skype. (My clothes did manage to dry overnight.)
After a shower and rest I had a late lunch; Western in this case, as I wanted vegetables to keep my digestion happy and healthy.
Then I walked to town skirting some of the lake. It’s about 4 minutes walk to the lake, 10 minutes to town, and 20 minutes to the train station if there aren’t too many people or too much traffic.
I had found a supermarket so I could get some fruit. Taking a tuk tuk with my shopping, and with which I’d confirmed the price at Rs150 multiple times, as soon as we arrive at the hotel he demands Rs200. Why do they do that? I grab my shopping, give him 150 angrily and leave. He misses out on a tip, so is worse off. What’s more, I just avoid taking tuk tuks at all, unless I really need to, because I want to avoid such unpleasantness, so other drivers are worse off too.
Back before dark I just read and considered my plans. I had a train ticket back to Colombo in two days, but then had about four days in Colombo with no travel bookings, and then a return ticket to Jaffna. This was all I could get when I bought them in a big rush at Colombo station, but it made no sense. Because there are separate windows for different destinations it is not easy to book in a logical fashion. I had noted a could get a refund up to 24 hours before, minus a 25% charge, but this meant being at the station at no later than 6am the next morning. In the end I thought this was better, but I hoped they weren’t difficult about it.
Up high on a hill I saw an impressive Buddha so I walked up there. It was a bit steep, but still cool, so no problem. Google Maps didn’t help much in helping me find the right roads, and from halfway up I could no longer see it, but I took the logical streets, and it worked out. Once I saw the sign above, then I knew I was going to find it. There was no one around to ask, as it was too early.
There was one monk, and one old guy sweeping the grounds, and the latter kept on reminding me to make a donation – which I was going to anyway, as I really liked this buddha, and the peacefulness there.
It was now light, but still cool with hardly anybody around. Then I came down, and discovered it was now rush hour, with kids going to school, and policemen directing the copious traffic. I discovered that motorists, motorcyclists and even buses will stop for you on a pedestrian crossing. You still have to be careful, and they would rather not, but they will.
I found a local restaurant (sometimes they call them “hotels”) and had a paratha, Dahl and tea breakfast in a back street restaurant. Rs80. (70 cents).
A local, kind of impoverished looking guy came and sat at my table – there aren’t enough tables for people to sit separately – but his trick was to swipe my tea as soon as it was delivered and indicate that I was paying for the tea that he took. I don’t know if it was part of my bill or not, but I was given another tea without me asking.
And then walked all the way around the lake and back to the hotel. It wasn’t quite 8.30AM, and I had done my sightseeing for the day. OK, there was a lot more I could have seen, but I was satisfied.
Another Western lunch – it isn’t that I want to be unadventurous, but I eat local food otherwise, and want to keep my digestive system happy. Then travelling is easier. As it was, I never got sick once on this trip.
The guidebook told me there is another bus station, The Goods Shed bus station, but Google Maps location made it difficult to find. The hotel wasn’t very helpful about it, or the bus schedule, either. I really had to go there myself. So I walked. One guy said he was going that way, and he asked me the usual questions – where are you from, are you married etc. And then – do you like Sri Lankan girls? Being jammed on a train with Sri Lankan girls, boys, women and men, was the closest I had been to them, so I replied non-committally, and he came straight out and said – I’m a pimp! So it was goodbye to him. But soon after I luckily ran into a staff member from the hotel, miles from the hotel, and he directed me to the bus station, which I had almost found. Google Maps are generally OK, but the walking routes often aren’t accurate.
They told me there was a bus every half hour for Trincomalee, starting around 5am, but only one bus a day to Batticaloa. So Trincomalee it will be, then. It’s a pity I’ll miss the east coast between Batticaloa and Trincomalee, but I don’t want to make the trip too hard, so never mind.