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Chennai, India to Colombo, Sri Lanka

Day 178: Country #21

The local train back to Chennai airport was relatively straightforward, but I recommend getting on from a station other than Central because it’s much bigger with multiple ticket windows and also services long distance trains.

The outbound train was not as packed in the morning and I even got a seat part of the way as well as a view of an advertisement for some foreign currency trading scheme!

I expected Sri Lanka to look and feel like an extension of south India, but it felt completely different the moment that I landed. I got on the airport bus and saw the first foreign travelers in a while. We chatted for the 30 minute or so ride, then were dropped off at the Colombo Fort station right in the middle of the city center.

As I made my way to the hostel, I was surprised just how different things were. Colombo was overall much quieter, modern, and orderly. I caught an example of the contrast outside a Bank of India building, which oddly, looked like the only under maintained company in the whole of the neighborhood.

I was concerned about a recent dengue outbreak, so I took a few extra protective items and set off to explore the city center. My attention was drawn to the Lotus tower in the distance because such towers represent a city’s claim to international status.

First, I headed through the markets around Fort station until I reached the Pettah Floating Market where I found some really cheap coconuts, one of my favorite foods when traveling. As I walked through the lake’s walkways, I ran into an engineering that worked on seaplanes in the Maldives, my next destination, so I talked with him for a little while to learn more about the island country.

Then I walked to the Railway Museum and got a free tour with detailed explanations of the trains. I also got some advice on how to reach Sigiriya, Sri Lanka’s top attraction, by train. I realized the rail tracks would prevent me from getting closer to the Lotus Tower and that it was probably not open, so I headed back to Fort to explore the area further.

Due to only two roads leading back to fort, I found myself crossing the market again, but tried to loop a little south by Sri Sambuddaloka Viharaya before heading toward the edge of Port City, a large area of coast being reclaimed, and displacing the fancy Kingsbury hotel as a seaside resort.

As I was walking by, I got tricked by a nice seeming man who suggested I visit somewhere interesting. Before I knew it, his accomplice pulls up in a tuktuk and I’m whisked away to a gem store 2.5 miles (4km away). Luckily, I got a fair and probably subsidized price because they likely expected me to either buy something or overcharge me for the return trip. I just wanted the cheap one way ride and was curious about the “famous Sri Lankan stones.”

I listened for about five minutes while the driver left then got up and walked to Liberty plaza nearby where I met a small group of university students and talked to them about all the changes they’ve seen in Sri Lanka over their lives. It’s been dramatic. As evening approached, I strolled parallel the coast back to Fort district.

Tip:

Scams are part of the travel experience. I try to never fall for them by reading about them ahead of time. If I deem it safe, I’ll pretend to let myself get scammed so I can become more familiar with them and further protect myself from more sophisticated scams in the future.

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