Dan and I took a lovely bus on a new highway to the capital city of Colombo where I got a first hand look at the chaos and insanity. we spent a total of 30 minutes there walking from the bus station to the train station. It's moments like this that really drive home the fact that at heart I am still a small town girl. I really do not enjoy the typical urban travel settings and much prefer the calm outskirts and natural settings. We booked a third class train ticket for 60 cents (not wanting to splurge the extra 25 cents for second class -that's a whole samosa!) To the cultural capital of Sri Lanka; Kandy. There are there classes on the trains (first-ac assigned seating and bathrooms, second-assigned seating and bathrooms and third-12 seats for 40 people and a hole in the cart for the toilet) as well as different classes of trains ranging from new soft seated ones to old wooden seated ones
. We were in an old train and were there early enough to get seats, which was great as it's a 4.5 hour journey. The train goes pretty slow, some areas have a speed limit of 8km/h and they probably top out at 30 km/h. After 1 stop our cart was full of locals and we gave up our seats to an elderly man and a new mother. We said good bye to our personal space bubble and cuddled up with everyone. The train is bumpy, hot and loud. Eventually I made my way to the junction between two carts and sat in the door way with my feet dangling outside the train. What an experience. The scenery is stunning, the people are lovely, your senses are just running on overdrive. I have decided that I love the train. Pure and simple. And as I discovered in Myanmar, third class is the way to go. Yes it is a bit more uncomfortable, your space is violated (they don't call it land of the wandering hands for nothing), it stinks and its hot but you get the real deal, hear stories from locals about Sri Lankan life. It's especially interesting if you meet people who talk about life pre and post war.
We got to Kandy and were terribly ripped off by a tuk tuk driver (despite both is us being well seasoned veterans now, it's exhausting being on guard at all times and the moment you let it down they swoop in). Besides the annoying and aggressive tuk tuk drivers and touts it was quickly apparent that Kandy is a perfectly pleasant place. There is nothing amazing it spectacular about it but the atmosphere is one of a calm Serenity
. The city is dominated by a central lake full if fish, birds, monkeys, bright flora and deep green fauna. We spent the day being typical stingy tourists. The city has a lot to offer for a price (botanical gardens-20$, the most scared temple in Sri Lanka that houses Buddhas tooth-10$, elephants-$40 etc...) But we decided that the natural gardens were stunning, we were templed out from Burma and we would be seeing wild elephants in a few days time. We spent the days walking around the town; by schools, suburbs, the lake, the down town core and the surrounding hillside. We took a walk up to the large Buddha situated on a hill overlooking the city. It provided us a wonderful perspective of how green the country us and really how isolated each city is from one another. train is really the only way to get around (probably why it's always so crowded). In the evening we took in a Kandy cultural dance show (similar to the one I saw in Bali) and it was just amazing. There was a showcase of dances, music and acrobatics that was preformed with such talent and heart. The costumes were beautiful and the performers equally so. We left the show and decided to try our hand at Sri Lankan night life. HA! Turns out everything shuts down at about 730 pm. We eventually befriended a young local who took us to a local pub. This place was a huge maze of smoky, crowded, smelly rooms. We walked in and everyone (I mean literally everyone, all 100 or so people) stopped, went silent and stared at us. We were the only foreigners and I was the only female
. Our friend took no notice, took us by the hand and dragged us through bathrooms, hallway, stairs until reached a balcony room. This is the kind of place where you pay to have a seat, you by cigarettes one at a time, there is one bathroom for all the men with doors that don't lock and people share bottles of rum. The locals were loud, curious, and had that typical glazed over eye look. I was very uncomfortable and promptly left the scene. Our friend took us to a much smaller much calmer local pub where we were still the only foreigners and I was still the only female. But the atmosphere was night and day. We say and drank our lion beer (8.8%!!) And chatted about local customs, life and religion. It was fascinating. The people here are hard workers or scanners, intellects or thugs, selfless or selfish there doesn't seem to be an in between. It is so nice to meet the lovely people, as it is depressing, exhausting and wearing in your soul to be constantly looked at as dollar signs.