Colombo to Kandy by Train

Waiting for the train to Kandy at Colombo Fort Railway Station

As I mentioned on Instagram the other day, some of my favourite memories of travelling India involve public transport. My initial foray was riding the local trains in Mumbai. Hanging out/off the doors of the trains with all the kids. Ducking in and out to avoid other trains, air conditioning units, and various other items that could’ve seen us loose whatever was outside of the train at the time. I have countless other great public transport memories too. And so, with Sri Lanka being similar to India in many ways, I was excited about my first train trip here. 

It didn’t disappoint. Although my trip from Colombo to Kandy (in central Sri Lanka), was slightly more civilised than my trips on the local trains in Mumbai - I had a pre allocated seat for starters, the experience wasn't lacking. There were three classes available on the train. First, which included WIFI and A/C and to which I saw a number of backpackers get on. Rookies. Second, allocated seats, but no WIFI or A/C, just open windows and doors. And third, of which I imagine was like most third classes (I don’t know because I got a second class ticket), your run of the mill 'stuff ‘em in where and however you can’ type scenario. 

I had been told by a number of people the scenery on the way was breathtaking. Through the craziness of the city of Colombo, into the rural hinterland, through the jungle, and finally into the mountains to Kandy, it all sounded amazing. And so you can imagine how stoked I was, when by total chance, I got a window seat. 

Sitting opposite me on the train was a young Buddhist Monk. I think it’s safe to say he thought I was odd. I feel like we both spent a good amount of time trying to work each other out. Me wondering how he ended up a Monk, and why he was going to Kandy? Also, how many of those robes he owns? Him, probably where on earth I was from, and what a strange sight I was. This wasn’t the first time in Sri Lanka I had been looked upon with a ‘Whaaaaat the hell?!?' expression. The Monk had some cash though. He bought up one of everything that was offered up by the hawkers. He even purchased a ‘Wonders of the World’, colouring book.

I should only be nice really, a) because he is a Monk, and although one should be respectful of all life, I feel you should probably be especially respectful of Monks. And b), because while I was being all ‘artsy’ and taking the photo below, obviously unable to look behind me (or to the front), and therefore see where the train was going, he pulled my head and body inside the train so it wasn’t separated from me by an oncoming bridge. Thank you Mr Monk. Eternally grateful. 

The final part of the journey was the most fun though. As we approached Kandy and the locals got off at their respective stops, the train began to empty. This meant there was space in the exits. Previously all the doors were jam packed, at least three or four people deep. 

So it was towards the end of the trip that I finally got to relive India and hang outside the door of the train. However, my 'hang time' was rather brief. You see a lovely soul in the door of the carriage in front thought it was funny to spit each time I popped my head out. And thus the game went. I pop out. He spits. I see him spitting and pop back in. Only to wait until he’s not facing me and pop back out. 

Disgusting? Yes. But he only got me the once. And aside from not having more time to nail a ‘look-at-me-im-hanging-out-of-a-train' selfie. All was ok. 

Of course no train journey would be complete without some chat with some randoms. I can’t say I made any friendships that will last the test of time on this particular trip - best friends breathe a sigh of relief. But I did meet a lovely man who had been in Colombo to see his sister (and once off the train I also met his wife and three kids, also lovely), and Lakshitha Lakmal (see photo below), we didn’t talk huge amounts, but as you can see, a photo was taken. 

Arriving in Kandy after the intense heat and chaos of Colombo really felt like entering another world. Travelling there through the jungle, the mountains and the clouds, without a doubt added to that feeling. I loved the journey and the best bit is, Colombo to Kandy isn’t even the renowned train journey of Sri Lanka. That title goes to the trip from Kandy to Ella, through the tea plantations. Obviously, I cannot wait. But first Kandy and then north to Sigiriya or Lion Rock, what has been described to me as the 8th Wonder of the World. 

M

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 The photo that nearly cost me my head. Again, thank you Mr Monk.

The photo that nearly cost me my head. Again, thank you Mr Monk.

 Trying to nail a 'hanging-outside-a-train' selfie without getting spat on. Easier said than done.

Trying to nail a 'hanging-outside-a-train' selfie without getting spat on. Easier said than done.

 And finally me and my new friend Lakshitha Lakmal

And finally me and my new friend Lakshitha Lakmal