As I got off the plane I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that Sri Lanka is a developing country but also breathtakingly beautiful. The airport was civilised and calm. Little did I know that the chaos would begin when I got outside….
As soon as I stepped outside men swarmed around me, ‘you want tuk tuk’, ‘you want taxi’ echoed around me as I tried to get used to the searing heat. Eventually I managed to shake them off and make it to the road outside. ‘There must be a bus to Colombo somewhere?’
My prayers were answered and I was soon shuffled on what I would come to know as a ‘luxury’ bus. The man motioned me to sit in the front seat. ‘oh I will get a good view from the front seat’ I thought. Little did I know that out of sight, out of mind is the best motto to abide by when travelling on Sri Lankan public transport…
I held on to the rail as the bus proceeded to travel at breakneck speed through the busy streets. Loud bhangra music was playing and the toys and various Buddhist paraphernalia rattled against the front window.
The bus actually knocked into a car! In England you would stop, get out and exchange insurance details. Here he bus driver just carried on. He must have fancied an early morning game of bumper cars.
I was surprised to see that there were no pavements as such and that people just walked at the side of the road. Many women wore beautiful saris and held umbrellas to protect them from the scorching sun.
I made it to the main train station, Colombo fort! Once again I got hassled as soon as I stepped off the bus. I just walked straight to the station to buy a ticket. As I bought my ticket to Hikkaduwa all I could understand was 25 minutes. ‘oh great’ I thought, ‘that’s no time to wait for a train’ so I made my way in to the station.
‘Your train is not until 2.25’ the ticket man said. ‘you get bus instead’ and proceeded to place my ticket in the bin! It was hard to believe that there wasn’t another train for over three hours! I decided to take the train and explore Colombo, my nerves couldn’t take another bus ride and I wouldn’t know where to get off anyway. The man grudgingly picked my ticket out of the bin for me.
Colombo was bustling with shops and stalls, everyone kept staring at me and quite a few people tried to talk to me, telling me about a temple that I ‘must see’! It all got a bit too much for me, my backpack was really heavy too so I decided to hole up in a small cafe and eat some Sri Lankan snacks until the train came.
The train was packed (not surprising when there’s only a few trains a day!’. It was rickety and I had to stand up right near a door for the entire journey. Being so close to men felt weird after the slight segregation of Dubai and I was a little scared by the open train door. Vendors squeezed their way through the train selling various spicy snacks and drinks. I was too busy clinging on to even consider buying one!
As I got off the train I asked a lady who had been in Hikkaduwa for three months to point me in the right direction to my hostel. She pointed me in the opposite direction….
Luckily a local boy helped me find the hostel. It was located down a narrow road with no street sign As I walked down the road I was surprised by the thick foliage. Everywhere you looked was thick with palm leaves. I felt like I was in the jungle book!
We finally found the hostel. After a cup of tea I decided to get to bed. I had had no sleep for over 24 hours and I had been travelling for nearly 16 hours non stop from my hotel in Dubai the previous night.
I placed my sheet on the bed and swirled the mosquito net around the bed and slept for a solid fourteen hours, dreaming about what this chaotic but charming place would have in store for me….