Around the world in 32 days: Country number four, Sri Lanka
Galle is a seaside town about two hours south of Colombo, known mostly for the fort of the same name, a remnant of colonial Dutch power that now houses cute shops and restaurants instead of soldiers and sailors. The century old walls withstood the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004, and the Dutch attention to proper drainage helped the city ride itself of the flood water quicker than other neighboring towns. It’s a nice break from the sprawl of Colombo, walkable, with salty sea breezes that ease the oppressive south Asian heat.
The Internets and guidebooks with tell you that the best way to get to Galle is via the train from Colombo. It hugs the coastline, and the tracks have been refurbished recently, so one shouldn’t have a repeat of the bumpy waking nightmare that is the ride to Kandy. Having taken the train, I would have to agree with the expert advice. The ocean views during the two and a half ride are gorgeous and surreal, the tracks as smooth as one could expect an antiquated train to be. The downside is that you are enjoying the experience with at least a hundred other people, all packed into the train like it’s the last one out of Saigon. The only air conditioning is from the open windows and doors, which prevents you from simmering in your own sweat, but only just so. It was standing room only, with little room for our small-ish backpacks tucked in-between our legs. The small fans oscillating overhead felt like a small dog panting on the back of your neck, or maybe that was the elderly Sri Lankan man pressed up against me, it was hard to tell. It was the most miserable, hot, sweaty train ride I’ve ever been on…but I don’t regret it all it. It was one of those ineffable travel experiences that I won’t ever forget, even if I wanted to.
The weekend in Galle wraps up our time in Sri Lanka, and Teresa heads back to South Carolina from Colombo. Sri Lanka, at least for me, turned out to be the highlight of the Asian portion of the trip. It’s a rich, complex country that’s more than a little rough around the edges, but all the more interesting for it. Transportation and food is cheap, the people nice, the weather hot but gorgeous. I’ll continue on to Zurich, where I hope to check off a few city-states before spending the rest of the time in Western Europe.
How I got there: Train from Colombo $9USD
Where we stayed: Fortress Hotel
What we did:
Old Town Fort and various sights around Galle
Sipped lime sodas and mojitos by the pool
Got a great sunburn that has the made the flight I’m typing this on largely uncomfortable