In August 2011, I went to Sri Lanka for my sister's wedding. Sri Lanka had never really been on my list of destinations to visit but if I was ever going to consider going to India I was always going to choose the "cleaner and safer version" as an alternative because I am one of those travellers who cannot stand travellers' diarrhoea.
So after a couple of days in Singapore I boarded a flight to Columbo and went to sleep for a few hours until I arrived. I then found my way to my hotel (yay for hotel transfers) where I enjoyed a refreshing tropical drink before going to sleep. 2am… umm… god no! Thankfully, it only happened the once in the whole trip.
The next day I got up and negotiated with the hotel staff to get taken to a local train station so that I could head up to Kandy where I was to spend a few days before I headed off to Galle/Thalpe where my sister was having her hitching ceremony. It proved to be very expensive to get to the local station and then even more confusing to get the train from there. I really wish I had just gone all the way in to Columbo and gotten on the train there. I know that it was more dangerous for a single white female with light coloured hair to do that but I get the impression that it might have been easier given the language barrier. For the first time in my life I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I had a ticket for a train and a platform number but that was it. I learned how to rely on the kindness of strangers and little middle aged ladies in saris. Not knowing which train to catch, looking utterly lost, then being spoken to in immaculate English by a woman my mother's age asking where I am going, which train I was trying to catch and being given detailed instructions of how to get on and which train to get on was so very welcome that day.
The train ride up to Kandy was an experience in and of itself. People boarding and singing in an effort to earn some money then getting off at the next stop. People boarding and attempting to sell food then getting off at the next station. Paranoid about eating stuff in less developed nations, I chose to not buy anything. Talking to a family who didn't speak my language but understood the language of iPod, camera, and smile sitting with me was an absolute joy and despite me feeling like a right fool and such a tourist, I realised how much joy a simple smile can bring. Oh my goodness and the joy of the breeze created by the train as it winds its way up into the mountains.
I don't know if I will ever forget how much I appreciated that breeze or that family that day. There was something about feeling welcomed and not feeling alone and oh my goodness feeling as though I was not going to completely melt that just warmed my heart just that little bit. See even when you travel alone, it's important to remember that you never really are alone, you are part of a community of people for those fleeting moments all experiencing the same thing, at the same time, on the same train (for example) and that's a nice feeling and a nice thought.
Next post, Kandy, and the tuk tuk driver who tried to tell me my hotel didn't exist after I failed to follow the instructions of the owners of my guesthouse. Naive and slightly stupid of me perhaps?