Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bangkok to Galle:Sri Lanka

Off to Sri Lanka for a trip primarily to visit the beach on the east coast, but also to slip in a quick trip to Galle in the deep south, which we had not managed to visit last time we were in Sri Lanka.

We headed to the airport at 6:00am without having had any breakfast. I believe this was a significant factor in Andrew's lack of judgement when he tried to step on the check-in agents conveyor belt to adjust one of his bags tags. This sudden move startled both the agent and me. But suitably chastised he then behaved far better once he had had his 1st coffee of the day.

Once on board I was amazed Andrew didn't go on about his knees actually touching the seat in front, perhaps that cup of coffee had made him more normal and relaxed? His good behaviour was rewarded when the steward wandered up and said he was moving us to the exit rows for better legroom - great service Sri Lankan airways. He even moved our bags for us, which we might have preferred to do ourselves as they were a quite heavy 7kg.

Immigration was a dream with pre-approved e-visas, which we didn't even need to print out. We waltzed through, picked up our bags and set off to find left-luggage. Not in the arrivals hall, not in the departures hall but finally located outside the departures building. Rather than carrying our suitcases on trains for the time in Sri Lanka, our bags are having a holiday by themselves at the airport.

We decided to take the modern micro taxi that stopped beside us and quoted the appropriate amount. While small, it was big enough for the two of us and made very good time. On the downside, the engine is located in the rear and the heat from the engine kept our backs hot and sweaty despite the air-con.

Rather hotter than we should have been, we arrived at Maradana station (not main station Fort) as the train started its journey from there and it meant we would be guaranteed 2 seats together for our journey to Galle.

Purchasing tickets was so simple and basic. The ticket, about $2 for a 3 hour journey was hand stamped on press printing aparatus - no computers here.

Happy to have found the station and to have a 2nd class, unreserved, ticket in our hands, we wandered away from the ticket window to be approached by a policeman with a rather large rifle carried in his right hand. Turned out he wanted to speak English to the out of place looking foreigners. He was lovely.

With some time to spare before our 2:15 departure we walked out onto the main road in search of something for lunch. We looked at a couple of places but there were no locals in them and the food didn't look appealing enough to try them out. Instead we found a 'bakery' with 2 lovely boys behind the counter who pointed out the fish, vegetable and chicken roti parcels. Andrew was feeling daring so he had a vegetable version as well as a chicken one! Good local food which didn't stint on the spices. The chocolate eclair, or ecliya as it was labelled, was a super sweet end to the meal.

On the train there were people literally running down the aisles to secure a seat, even though it was obvious there would be more than enough seats for everyone. Apart from getting 2 good seats together the train was one of the new modern ones on the Sri Lankan system.

We pulled into one station and when I asked what the name was and unbelievably what came out of his mouth seemed to be what was on the sign. Andrew is NOT known for ability in foreign languages and even manages to destroy unfamiliar English words. Perhaps Sri Lanka is the place for him?

It was an easy 3 hour ride down to Galle, with the train following the coast most of the way. There are so many basic villages built right on the railway line with people living their life in public view.

It was a short walk from the station to our accomodation inside the ramparts of Galle Fort. Fort de 19 was family run, was in a good location, tidy & clean, with friendly, helpful owners.

After a shower we wandered around for a bit as the sun set. The green area of the ramparts were full of people walking, playing cricket, having picnics and flying kites.

 

It proved difficult to find a place for a beer. We were a bit tired after having an early morning in Bangkok, flights, taxis and trains. This is the only reason I can imagine for the resulting scenario where Andrew accepted a cafe that sold alcohol free beer! But it was good enough that he managed to finish a second bottle.

 

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