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
Negombo’s mosquitoes didn’t help to provide me with a good night’s sleep. When I finally fall asleep, Kendrick knocked on our room’s door to return me my book.
And luckily he did. The occupants in my room didn’t realize that it was already 5:25am and we had arranged transport to pick us up at 5:45am. Our military instinct kicked in and the three of us managed to wash up and got ready within the short time. In fact we even had the time to take photographs from the rooftop.
When we were about to leave, I realized that there were blood stains on my pillow.
Some poor mosquitoes must have been squashed by me.
When we returned from dinner the previous night, the guesthouse owner offered to arrange a van to the airport for 1000 LKR. Nevertheless we decided to honor our agreement with the autorickshaw drivers.
Despite being early morning, our autorickshaw driver was chatty and asked us about our trip. He lamented that our trip was too short and told us to visit Sri Lanka soon. Like most Sri Lankans whom we met on the trip, he was friendly and genuine.
The ride from Negombo Beach to CMB took around 25 minutes and the autorickshaws had to pass through cursory security check before being allowed to enter the airport.
Air passengers had to show the security guards their flight itineraries before being allowed to enter the terminal building. The security officer was satisfied with our flight itinerary being displayed on an iPhone but it would be easier if we had a physical copy.
There were several moneychangers which changed LKR into hard currencies such as USD or Euros. None of them stocked SGD so I exchanged my remaining rupees for USD at a pretty poor rate (1140 LKR for 9 USD). Some of us did some last minute shopping at the souvenir shop before checking in. There were no money exchange facilities beyond the check in counters and each individual is only allowed to bring a maximum of 1000 LKR out of Sri Lanka.
There wasn’t much of a queue at the check in and we were almost served immediately. An indication of a light load? Immigration was hassle-free as well.
In the most unlikeliest of places, we ran into Ian Wright, the host of Globetrekker series who was leaving CMB around the same time as us. He agreed readily to a photograph with us and told us to look out for his latest travel program which features Singapore.
Our plane was waiting for us at Gate 7 and I could see its registration clearly (9M-AHY). It is Air Asia’s newest aircraft and was only delivered on 20th April 2010. I got a middle seat of 21E but it wasn’t much of a problem. The load was light and there were plenty of empty rows for passengers to spread out.
Route: CMB – KUL
Flight no.: Air Asia AK 256
Dep: KUL 8:15am
Arr: CMB 2:20pm
Time taken: 3h35m
Distance traveled: 2470km (1535miles)
Cost: 322 MYR (incl in-flight meal & 15kg checked luggage)
The meal service commenced pretty soon after the plane reached cruising altitude. To my horror, I realized that I ordered Asian fried rice for my pre-booked meal. Bad mistake since I had fried rice for almost every meal in Sri Lanka. Luckily it turned out to be quite good.
Chiang was smarter with his choice of chicken rice. The rice was particularly flavorful.
Despite its short time in service, wear and tear were apparent on the plane. One of the washrooms was out of order and Chiang’s left armrest had a piece missing.
The flight was uneventful and we reached KUL on time.
Malaysian immigration cards weren’t stocked on the plane and the Singaporeans could only fill up the cards at the terminal. Despite being held up, we still had to wait a while before our checked bags appeared on the baggage carousel.
Some of us were contemplating flying home instead of taking a coach. The multiple transfers on the previous day had taken its toll and we weren’t particularly looking forward to more transfers. However, the poor schedule and rather expensive prices scuppered the plan.
Kok Wai managed to get his cousin to give us a lift from KUL to the temporary bus station at Bukit Jalil. Cheers to him. If it wasn’t for his kind lift, we would not be able to catch the coach leaving for Singapore at 5:00pm.
The temporary bus station looked as if it was constructed overnight at one of the Bukit Jalil Stadium’s car-parks. It was filled with both travelers and touts looking for seat-fillers. A pretty chaotic scene and I was glad to get out of there in less than 20 minutes.
Route: Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
Mode: Coach (Forgot the name of the operator)
Dep: Bukit Jalil, KL 5:00pm
Arr: Beach Road, Singapore 10:30pm
Time taken: 5h30m
Distance traveled: Approx. 355km
Cost: 39 MYR
We were the last ones to get on the bus and it left shortly after. Despite the lower price of 39 MYR, this bus had more comfortable seats than First Coach. No on board entertainment was available though so I watched Monga on my iPod instead.
After the Sri Lankan roads, Malaysian expressways seemed a blessing. The good roads enabled us to cover 350km in half the time that we took to cover 300km in Sri Lanka the previous day. It will be part of history soon though. The Southern Expressway linking Colombo and Matara will cut traveling time significantly when it is completed.
At Yong Peng where the coach stopped for dinner, Singapore-bound passengers had to transfer to another bus. There wasn’t much of a traffic heading into Singapore on a Friday evening. Our Sri Lankan adventure came to an end with our 10:30pm arrival at Beach Road.
Seven days wasn’t a long time but we managed to cover quite a bit of Sri Lanka. The epilogue post will sum up our thoughts on the trip.