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Running Out of Kandy

We were standing outside the train station in Kandy, Sri Lanka, when Scott agreed to continue fielding questions from the crowd of cab drivers and touts that had formed around us, drawn in by the allure of discovering the retail price of the Speed TRs, so that I could go inside and attempt to purchase another couple of tickets back to Colombo.

Unfortunately, all the seats in the Observation Saloon had been sold already, so we were forced to purchase second class seats, which were about $2.45 as opposed to $3.50 cents. Perhaps these train tickets can serve as an indicator to you, dear reader, why the $4.00 breakfast at Rodney’s seemed so expensive to us at the time.

Regardless of the expense, we had indulged in it once again that morning. However, having for the last couple days endured the giant pot of weak coffee that accompanied it, we had this morning asked to enter the kitchen and supervise its fabrication. In the kitchen, we observed, as we had feared, that no more than a tablespoon of actual coffee was added to the giant over-sized pot of water. However, now that we were in the kitchen, we felt comfortable rattling the pots and pans a little and requesting an increase in the strength. It was like night and day. Our entire experience was transformed as lucidity once again returned to AsiaWheeling.

So great was our feeling that before heading to the train station, we indulged in a little high-speed wheel down the road in the opposite direction of town.

It proved, as with all of our other experiences in Sri Lanka, to be more beautiful and less uphill than we had expected.

While in the other direction, the road headed down the mountain and into town, this one just skirted the side of the mountain affording us a glorious view of the jungle, rich with hidden waterfalls, little villages, and people in brightly colored clothes tending to rice and palm fields.

We made sure to stop for water along the way, at a very interesting roadside general store, where we met an old Sri Lankan man who was thrilled to chat with us in his native tongue, somehow conducting a full conversation without any overlapping vocabulary. This old man is the perfect example of a phenomenon that is becoming ever more apparent on AsiaWheeling: successful communication requires primarily only the will to communicate. Many times, when we are most vexed by an inability to communicate, it is because the other party is not willing to engage, not because we lack the means to convey information.

We stopped for lunch at the Old Empire Hotel for some delicious Sri Lankan fare.

Meanwhile at the train station, it was time to get the heck out of Kandy, and when we were confronted by the baggage personnel clucking at the bikes, we assumed that the same maneuver we had used in Colombo might serve us well here. But this time the baggage handlers refused to be subdued by the folding action and insisted that we load the bags into the baggage car. Despite our many protests, we were brought first to one luggage processing room and then deeper into the station to yet another. In each we were confronted by a different man, asking for a different amount of money, and offering a different answer to the question “will we be able to take the cycles on the train with us?”

Finally, Scott became exasperated, as our train began to blow its whistle, and demand justice. Meanwhile, I was attempting, with no success, to bargain the man down from the $8.00 per cycle that he was asking.

Finally, with only five minutes left before our train was to leave, we paid our $16 and followed a man who lead us through the turnstile and to the 2nd class car. Inside the second class car, we once again saw that there was decidedly no place for the cycles, and thought the fellow seemed to be indicating that we should just climb on, we insisted that he talk to the analogous fellow in the Observation Saloon and secure us a spot in the baggage compartment. Our baggage charging guide seemed a little reticent, but when we entered the Observation Saloon’s baggage car, the fellow inside seemed satisfied enough with the gigantic and now sopping wet $16.00 receipt, which I waved at him, sending little droplets of redissolved ink to and fro. He smiled and allowed us to lock the cycles to a piece of chain that dangled from one of the walls.

Now quite covered in sweat and totally sapped of all energy, we thanked the baggage team as though they had just delivered our son and collapsed into our seats. In no time the train was moving again, shrieking deafeningly against the rusty tracks, and cutting its way into the sunset.

Arriving in Colombo, we mounted the cycles and headed back to the trusty Hotel Nippon.


  1. Mark/Dad | April 11th, 2010 | 9:11 am

    Charming picture of the elderly gentleman. Any notion of the significance of the rooftop effigy?

  2. Woody | April 13th, 2010 | 2:16 am

    @ Mark/Dad

    Thanks. Nope; we are hoping our readers can help. I’ll reach out to Anu.

  3. Anu | April 13th, 2010 | 5:34 am

    ooh that is a dummy that is something similar to a scarecrow, which people in Sri Lanka use in construction sites. Some believe that when you place such an object, all attention goes to the dummy not the building. So it is supposed to divert the “negative energies” that people offer when they observe something…I know it doesn’t make sense

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