Planes, trains and automobiles….wait no tuktuk??

14 Mar

We wandered around as planned – not really enough time to do anything more yet still had a whole day to kill. We bought a few more essential things and went for lunch (disappointing – had to dive into McDonald’s halfway through the afternoon, which unlike our KFC experience in Vinh, was all kinds of deliciousness). On our way back we met a guy who ran a shop selling huge pictures of the King and Queen and got chatting to him. He said we needed to see three things in Bangkok (as we’d already been to the Palace, a boat trip down the river etc last time round) – the big Buddha, the lucky Buddha and another temple. By the time he’d paused for breath, he’d ordered us a tuktuk, saying it was 10 bhart (20p) because the journey was subsidised. The tuktuk driver was mental

but got us around in one piece. The big Buddha was indeed big – you could climb to the top – except we couldn’t because it was closed to the public.

The lucky Buddha may have been lucky, except it was closed because the monks were praying…ditto the third temple.

We asked to go back to where we started and there was a slight pause…and then we remembered why it was subsidised as it happened to us last time. Basically the tuktuk driver gets a fuel voucher for every customer he brings to an overpriced jewellery shop and an overpriced tailors. We needed neither jewellery nor suits, but agreed to go along with him so he could get his voucher. An awkward ten minutes in each shop pretending to be interested in things that cost £100 over, we went back to Khao San Road for a nice meal, not too annoyed because it had killed a little time til the evening (where he ended up sitting next to the guy who reminded me of Craig yesterday – he was a lovely Russian and probably thought I was quite strange when I explained the story!).

Craig and I levered ourselves out of bed at 3.30am to catch a minibus to the airport. I am not sure what it is with taxi drivers, but this one was also trying to break the sound barrier. Luckily there was nothing else on the roads and we had seatbelts this time!

Caught our flight with no problems – the plane was brand new, had leather seats and was less than a third full so a pleasant three hours of sleep followed, stretched out across three seats :) The views were pretty amazing

Landed in Colombo having read up on where to go whilst on the plane. A kind taxi driver told us when we insisted we didn’t want a taxi where to catch the free bus to the local bus station and then on to Colombo train station…on which another kind tuktuk driver offered to drive us for “30 minutes” in his tuktuk for $18. I do love guidebooks in this situation because I’m sure lots of people fall for it. We again insisted we would take the bus. This took nearly two hours and cost 80 cents! Not sure I would have been too happy in a tuktuk for two hours…

We got to the train station to find yet another kind man, very willing to help us. By this time we were a bit wary and looked at him with scepticism when he said we couldn’t take the train all the way to where we were hoping to go because there was work going on on the track. I double-checked his story with the rail information centre and they said he was right, so I felt a bit bad for doubting him. He said his name was Ajit and he explained he ran a guesthouse near where we wanted to go, showed us pictures and offered us a ‘special price’. He would help us buy train tickets and come with us back to his hotel. The guidebook said that the area was a bit of a dive, but the beach was ok considering it was relatively close to the city. However, he seemed a nice man and pointed to his guesthouse in the guidebook (“wrong side of the road for the beach, ok rooms”). Ajit seemed so nice and we were tired so we said why not, figuring we could stay for a night and then move on if it was awful.

This is a situation that proves guidebooks aren’t always right – the train journey was beautiful – Ajit said to sit on the right said so we could see uninterrupted views of the beach

The train was brand new and shiny. There were fans above us and the windows and doors opened fully so it wasn’t hot. At the end of the line before the work on the tracks began, we transferred on to a little minibus (the driver of which seemed sure he was in Grand Theft Auto – if I hadn’t been permanently in the brace position I would have taken a video) and then onto a slower local bus for the final leg.

Ajit phoned his wife ahead and asked her to make us lunch as we hadn’t eaten since 5am at the airport, and she turned up with this in the little restaurant area

An unbelievable array – coconut potatoes, creamy dhal, vegetable curry, spiced vegetables, hot roasted fish and a mountain of rice. We nearly fainted with delight. Everything was gorgeous and a welcome change from the food of South East Asia, which had become a bit same-y. All for £2.80 each! I was looking forward to coming to Sri Lanka as I heard the food was excellent and blisteringly hot…we’re going to be about three stone heavier when we leave!

The rooms are also lovely with a hot shower and wifi – really being spoiled! – and set in a pretty garden with flowers and palm trees (complete with chipmunk-like tiny squirrels and lots of birds).

It’s a good job his guesthouse is set away from the road, and therefore the beach, as the tsunami of 2004 swept away a lot of homes and businesses that where right by the waterfront. Ajit had 150 people on his guesthouse roof at one point – the water was three metres high, past the first floor balcony.

It is very peaceful as even though it’s quite close to a road, you can’t really hear much except the birdsong and the crickets. It has been raining so fingers crossed we’ll get a proper tropical thunderstorm soon :)

Ajit’s also promised to try and get us cheap tickets to one of the England vs Sri Lanka test matches that are happening whilst we were here. We tried online but they were $40 each – he said he can try to get them at SL local prices which would be amazing. Ajit 2, Lonely Planet 1.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Planes, trains and automobiles….wait no tuktuk??”

  1. tahitiangoddess 15 March 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Wow–what an amazing journey you’re on. You’re trailblazers, both of you!

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