Day 1-Bangalore to Colombo to Anuradhapura and getting started
Months of planning finally culminated in us (Shaheed, Me and Karthik) zoning in on Sri lanka over cambodia; mainly because cambodia would take 12 days and srilanka could be done in 9 days. (yes, 3 days is important when one is employed). All flights were booked for 13k INR (to and fro bangalore to colombo) which is fairly cheap. Hotels were booked via airbnb which too worked fairly cheap (approx 800 INR per head per night). Train tickets were booked via online via agents who charge almost double the amount but that is the only way to go about for an international travellers. For eg. Tickets can be booked via :
(Impromptu booking at a railway station is too risky to try since it gets really crowded).
Visitors Immigration acknowledgement can be acquired from the srilankan government website for 20 dollars. (https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US)
This gets approved easily within a day or so. This acknowledgment printout needs to be produced at the airport
Overall estimate for the trip was approx 30K INR which is essentially what we ended up spending. If one can save on the food, this can be even lower.
Our Final Route Map was:
#The Night of departure#
The big day/night was the 22nd of October. The flight was scheduled to depart at 12.40 a.m; factoring in bangalore traffic, it meant departing by 8 p.m. Karthik’s place was almost 70 kms away, so for him, it meant departing by,,well,,late afternoon. I picked up shaheed on my way to the airport by 8.30 p.m; we often referred to shaheed as “International Traveler”. As a Bosch employee, he was often asked by his company to visit germany multiple times (for god knows what). As an ‘international traveler’ instead of carrying a Bag pack, he was lugging a huge american tourister luggage bag. *sighs*
So anyhow we reached the airport by 9.30 p.m and lo & behold, karthik was waiting for us. We still had a lot of time to kill; having a sub @ subway would kill at least 40 mins , so we decided to do that. (Man, food is expensive at an airport). As we were ordering, what a coincidence it was to spot my trek partner, anirudh on his way to pune for the dusshera holidays.
We caught our flight at 12.30 a.m ; one memory that stands out from our flight was that we fell in love with the apple juice served in the Jet airways flight and ensured to keep in mind to have it again on the way back. We reached colombo by 2.00 a.m.
The immigration counter is located within the airport. If you have the ETA acknowledgment form with you, go straight to the immigration counter; else pay 25$ at the relevant counter to get it. Regardless of whether you have the ETA beforehand or not, you still have to fill up the Entry form and get the passport stamped.
Near the exit, there are multiple stalls of many mobile service operators, Dialog, Mobitel, Hutch, Airtel etc. We ended up purchasing a dialog SIM with 8GB data connection for 1300 LKR and subsequently tested it out by booking an UBER. Other options are also available at the airport, including prepaid taxis.
Colombo fort railway station was our next stop and is an hour’s drive away from the airport. The road was empty and it was a pleasurable drive; I ended up using 200 MB of data to send an updated presentation for my office work. We reached the station by 4.30 a.m.
Since we had reserved our tickets , we were required to get the physical tickets by providing the booking ID to counter 17 which opens sharp at 5.00 a.m only. (It remains closed before that). Note that for international travelers, passport is required to provided as a proof of booking identity.
We had some time; so we decided to visit of the open restaurants at the railway station to get our first taste of sri lankan food. Not sure if folks of srilanka have an early breakfast but we found quite a decent crowd in there and everyone seemed to have the same thing, a big bunch of assorted variety of buns were kept on the table and one have to the heart’s content. (and pay for what you had of course). We ended up tasting one bun along with what was the sweetest tea..ever…made..by man. Paid the 250 LKr and spent rest of the time at the platform waiting for the train.
We caught the train to Anuradhapura at 6.30 a.m. The idea of taking the observation compartment was to enjoy the view (or so we read). But we were so tired due to the lack of sleep that we just dozed off. Sri lanka though had other plans for us. 2.5 hours into the journey, we woke and realized that the train had halted at a station, for a really long time. We realized that we had only covered 25 kms from our source station. The train ahead of us had derailed and news was that the clearance would take at least 3-4 hours.
Via road it would take another 6 hours and that it is after retracing our steps back to colombo from the middle of nowhere. Unsure of what to do, we decided to wait it out in the train. It was absolute torture but there was nothing we could do really. Finally at about 2.30 p.m or so, the train finally started moving. As the repairs were going on in real time, trains were allowed to pass through on a priority basis. Our train probably stopped at least 10 times along the way. While quite hungry, there was no way to get a wholesome meal; just gobbled up on some chocolate milk and vadas from the local sellers. After a very hectic bumpy ride, we finally reached anuradhapura at 6 p.m. Here we met up with Mr. chaturanga, an auto driver at the railway station who agreed to take us to our AirBnB stay for 200 LKR. (Chaturanga turned out to be the bane of our journey indirectly, more on that later). Our stay located hardly 2 kms away was stunning, nested in pseudo-forest with a beautiful garden.
Our hosts offered us refreshment and offered dinner (for a price). We were quite far away from the city center and decided to take them up on their offer. Veg curry, chicken curry and rice it was for dinner.
We freshened up and evaluated our options to tour anuradhapura. Our tuk-tuk driver had offered us a tour of anuradhapura for 1.5 LKR and another tuk tuk driver had offered us the same our for 3.5 LKR. Our original plan was to tour Anuradhapura on cycles but we were short on time, so that plan was shot down. So we finally settled on chaturanga who mentioned that his brother, Taranga, would pick us up. (Taranga also happens to be the crook of Srilanka). So yeah, we were our way to get thugged. Dinner was ready in the meantime and it was absolutely delicious, our first taste of authentic sri lankan food. By 11 p.m , the satisfying meal and a very tiring day had us dozing off by 11 p.m.