Sri Lanka Adventure [10 – 18 June 2010]
Part I: Pre-Trip [Singapore, 10 Jun 2010]
Part II: The Long Shuttle [Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, 10 Jun 2010]
Part III: AK255 [KUL – CMB, 11 Jun 2010]
Part IV: A Slice of Cultural Triangle [CMB – Dambulla, 11 June 2010]
Part V: Temples [Dambulla – Kandy, 12 Jun 2010]
Part VI: Into the Hills [Kandy – Haputale, 13 Jun 2010]
Part VII: Trekking to World’s End [Horton’s Plains National Park, 14 Jun 2010]
Part VIII: Retracing the steps of Sir Thomas Lipton [Lipton’s Seat & Tea Factory, 15 Jun 2010]
Part IX: Leopard! Leopard! Leopard! [Haputale – Tissa, 16 Jun 2010]
Part X: Will this journey ever end? [Tissa – Negombo, 17 Jun 2010]
Part XI: Goodbye Serendib [CMB – KUL – Singapore, 18 Jun 2010]
Part XII: Epilogue
We didn’t give Kandy much of a chance to redeem itself with our plan to take an early train out to Haputale.
The rate for a double room without view was 1500 LKR nett; rooms with view cost an additional 500 LKR.
The train would depart Kandy at 8.24am and we set off early from McLeod Inn to avoid missing it. Along the way, we stopped at a bakery for breakfast.
After passing by the chaotic Goods Shed bus station, we reached Kandy’s train station very much in time for the train.
In fact, we were too early and the ticket counter wasn’t opened yet. Hence it was time for breakfast and photos.
They tasted good albeit a little too spicy for my palate.
More pictures from the train station:
Only one first class ticket to Haputale was available so we had to settle for second class seats.
Route: Kandy – Haputale
Train name: Podi Menike (Little Maiden)
Dep: Kandy 8:24am
Arr: Haputale 2:09pm
Time taken: 5h43m
Distance traveled: 125km
Mode: Sri Lanka Railways
Cost: 210 LKR (2nd class seats)
We boarded the shuttle to Peradeniya Junction from Platform 1 before it started to rain. The train left slightly behind schedule and we had to transfer to a very crowded train across the platform at Peradeniya Junction under rather heavy rain. It was standing room only in second class carriage but some of us would get seats when the conductors came around and sent passengers with 3rd class tickets to the even crowded 3rd class carriages.
In many less developed parts of the world, the concept of personal space differed quite sharply from what I was used to. The local Sri Lankans didn’t seem to really mind body contact in crowded situations as in the train carriages. Despite the crowded conditions on the train, the scenery was wonderful outside the windows.
Despite being stuck in close proximity with strangers, the locals almost always smiled for our photographers.
The guy was a really friendly chap and even helped a fellow passenger to take care of her kid while she was busy. From time to time, there were vendors who sold peanuts and vaadai coming on board the carriages. We even had a busker for a while as well.
The mist began to descend as we neared Haputale.
We were only around half an hour late arriving at Haputale. Six hours was really a long time to cover a relatively short distance of around 125km.
Learning from our lesson at Dambulla, we had pre-booked our accommodation at both Kandy and Haputale through phone. Someone from our guesthouse, Srilakvieww Holiday Inn, picked us up from the train station. The walk from the train station took around ten minutes.
We had requested for two triple rooms and were shown those in a separate building detached from the main wing. They seemed unused for quite some time already and the staff were busy cleaning them up when we arrived. Feeling tired from the traveling, we decided to take the rooms despite apprehension about number of bugs in the building.
After settling down, we headed out to town to search for lunch. While walking around the small place, we discovered that this town was really charming and full of friendly locals.
We decided to have lunch at a place which served rottis, chapattis and pratas. It would become our favorite haunt for the rest of our time at Haputale.
By the end of our lunch the mist engulfing the town and the surrounding valleys had cleared up.
We would take a long walk around the town and back to our guesthouse through the tea plantation.
The locals were unbelievably friendly and genuinely interested in talking to us. Many of them happily posed for the photographers when prompted.
We made a faux pas with the grandma by greeting her “ayubowan”. She smiled and told us that she’s Tamil, not Sinhalese.
The elderly man gamely posed for us with his goat.
We got up close with the tea plants while walking through the plantation.
We just laughed off the suggestion and walked away in the direction of our guesthouse. Ashraf, the friendly guesthouse staff, approached us about dinner. The chef took a long time to prepare and we would need to order at least an hour in advance.
While some of us decided what to eat, the rest of us engaged Ashraf in some friendly banter. We got him to give us some recommendations of places to go around Haputale and he promised to fix transportation arrangement for us.
He noticed about our worry about the problem of mosquitoes in our rooms and offered to check whether there were other alternatives. He then showed us three twin rooms in the main building which were in better condition. We took them without hesitation and spent the time until dinner moving our stuff over to our new rooms.
This was the first place in Sri Lanka where we didn’t feel that we were the only guests of the establishment. A French lady who was on the same train from Kandy with us also stayed at Srilakview as well. The restaurant was packed with European tourists during dinner time and we had our dinner over the World Cup game between Serbia and Ghana (0-1).
Ashraf arranged our following day’s transportation to Horton’s Plains National Park, leaving at 5:00am. It would turn out to be the highlight of the trip.