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Published: December 17th 2014
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Colombo Fort Railway station where we took the train to Kandy.
During our stay in Colombo we decided to take a trip to Kandy which is the second largest city in Sri Lanka.
Actually we had already planned to travel to Kandy, and when we arrived in Colombo the capital of Sri Lanka, Lily our Sri Lankan friend advised us to reserve the train tickets at least a day in advance. Somehow or other, mainly due to our hectic schedule we failed to book the tickets and went to the Fort railway station early in the morning to catch the morning train. Much to our dismay, we found a long line in front of the ticket office. Actually the line extended to the street outside! Anyway, we decided to wait it out and try our luck. The line moved inch by inch, and when we finally got to the ticket counter we were told that all the first class tickets had been sold already. Not to be deterred, we bought the third class (second class was sold out too) tickets that were rapidly selling out, and braced ourselves for the two and half hour journey.
While we were waiting for our train at the platform (or 'track' as they call
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Leaving the suburbs of Colombo on out way to Kandy
it in the USA) a young man approached us and indicated that he would help us with our luggage. He was a deaf mute, but I knew that he wanted a tip and I reluctantly agreed. As soon as our train came in he rushed to it carrying my suitcase. Minutes later, I saw him waving to us from the window, and we boarded our train and took the seats he had apparently "reserved" for us. We discovered later that the seating on this carriage was on a first come, first served basis, and this was the reason why all the passengers were making a mad rush to get seats on it! In hindsight, we would never have gotten any seats if it was not for our self-appointed 'porter'. I had a 500 rupee note ready to tip him. However, he took out his notebook and showed us the page where it was written in English "to donate 2,000 rupees to an orphange" or something to that effect. 2,000 Sri Lankan rupees is about 16 US dollars, but I figured it was worth it just to get the seats on the train.
The ride on the train itself was
Banana trees alongside the railway tracks.
not so bad, although it was crowded with some passengers standing in the aisles. I was told that this was a scenic route, and we were not disappointed as we saw some wonderful scenery along the way. We arrived at Kandy railway station around noon and took a taxi to the Queen's Hotel (separate hotel review to be posted on here later). I suppose we could have walked as the station was quite close to the hotel, but as we had luggage we just got a cab.
Upon arrival at the hotel we had to wait a little while as our room was not ready yet. The front desk staff did promise to take care of our bags if we wanted to walk around outside the hotel. So we had our first view of the Temple of the Tooth and the picturesque lake. We ate lunch at a small local restaurant which was about five minutes walk away from the hotel. The food there was of simple Sri Lankan variety but it was good enough and the prices reasonable. We were even served by a waiter who had a striking resemblance to Elvis! I wanted to take a picture
Bridge on the River Kwai? (the movie of the same name was filmed in Sri Lanka)
of him but wasn't sure whether it was politically correct, so I didn't. However, I went back to this place a couple more times while we were in Kandy.
After we checked in, the first thing we did was buy tickets for the cultural show at a venue near the hotel. I think they were fairly cheap, about 500 rupees per person (about $4). As the cultural show was going to be only in the evening we filled the time gap by strolling around the lake. This lake is really pretty and there were many people, mostly local who come to the place to relax or just walk along the lake. One man walked up to me and asked whether I was staying at the Queen's hotel, and when I replied in the affirmative, he said he was one of the hotel employees. Now, I had been warned that some con artists play this trick on unsuspecting tourists by saying they worked at the hotel, and try to borrow money from you with the pretext that they needed it to go back home on an emergency, and that they would pay you back at dinner time inside the hotel.
We passed this train. Look at those guys standing in the doorway!
So I just walked away before he could say anything else, and he did too.
Around 5:30 pm we walked over to the Kandyan Arts Association where the cultural show is held every evening. It was just as well we went early as we got seats behind the front row with a good view of the stage. The place filled up quickly and the show started around 6 pm. The show itself is an approxiamately one hour display of the dance and music culture of Sri Lanka, and we enjoyed the traditional and classical music, and different dance performances by dancers wearing colorful costumes. The music was live, mostly performed by skilled drummers with their energetic beats! The firewalking ceremony was the last on the program, and it was quite thrilling to see the men walking across the hot coals, plus putting the flames into their mouths!
The next morning we hailed a three wheel cab and went up the hill which overlooks the city. There is a Buddha statue and a small temple at the summit where one can have a panaromic view of the city below. As we still had a little more time before leaving
See the guy hanging on the steps of the train?
for the railway station, we did a sightseeing tour of the downtown area and took many photos.
Luckily, we had taken the time to reserve our return tickets to Colombo when we arrived in Kandy. We could get only second class but they had seat numbers, and so we didn't experience the chaos like we did at Colombo Fort station. The trip back to Colombo was more comfortable, but we didn't see much of the countryside as it was beginning to get dark, and both of us were feeling a bit exhausted from our whirlwind two day tour of Kandy.
When we arrived back in Colombo we took another taxi from the station to go to the Hotel Clarion in the suburbs of Colombo, and very early the next morning left for the airport to catch the plane to Trivandrum, India.
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