From Anuradhapura we took a train to Jaffna up in the north of Sri Lanka. Because there was no second or third class train going there that day we ended up taking a first-class air-con train. The train was very nice but it was a lot more expensive than the lower class trains. The third class would have cost us around LKR350 per person and the first-class was a whopping LKR1000 per person. But we really wanted to go so we took the expensive route (LKR1000 is still only € 6,44 for a 191 km train ride).
We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, although with a little one in tow we didn’t manage to see all the sights. The temples in the Sacred City of Anuradhapura and the medieval kingdom of Polonnaruwa were very impressive. What an amazing serene atmosphere! Unfortunately, we had to give Sigiriya’s Lion Rock and Dambulla a miss because we really wanted to travel all the way north to Jaffna. On the morning we left Anuradhapura, Harindra, the incredibly kind owner of Bevary Holiday Home, found us a big three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) to take us and all of our luggage to the train station. Luckily there was one nearby so we had no problem getting to the station.
Waiting for the train
At the station, I was happy we were leaving from the platform closest to the entrance so I didn’t have to carry everything across the train tracks. We showed our tickets to the guy at the gate, went to the platform a took a seat to wait for the train to arrive.
Oh no! Changing platforms
Twenty minutes before our train was supposed to come there was a different train stopping from the other direction. Because there was some sort of problem with this train it didn’t leave on time and we heard an announcement that our train was leaving from platform two. Shit! Now we had to quickly carry everything to platform two via a tunnel in the station. After some heavy lifting and some help from a german guy who was nice enough to help us carry some stuff up the stairs we made it in time to catch the train.
First class trains in Sri Lanka
The fist class train is nothing compared to the third class train we took from Negombo to Puttalam. They have assigned seating and the carriages have air conditioning. The seats are nice like in an airplane but with more legroom. There are a few screens hanging from the ceiling which show a movie but (fortunately) there was no sound.
We didn’t have to buy a ticket for Jace so he was supposed to sit on our lap the whole way (about four hours). Luckily the seats across the aisle were empty so I could have a seat there and Jace had his own seat. After an hour or so he put his head in Lisa’s lap a fell asleep.
Entering a former war zone
The train ride itself was very nice but also confronting. We would almost forget that only six years ago, in 2009, the war between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil “rebels” ended. Making our way through the beautiful landscape we were getting in the middle of the former fighting zone. Watching the buildings from the window of the train we could see a difference from the rest of Sri Lanka we’ve seen so far. There were many abandoned buildings that were broken down because of the fighting that occurred in the area. We could see houses with bullet impact damage. This was the first time for both of us to be in a former war zone that had so recently seen fighting.
From Bhuddist to Hindu temples
Something else that amazed us was that there are some big flat open spaces in this part of Sri Lanka. There is some food grown here but not a lot. When the train got a bit closer to the sea we could see some lagunas and more sandy places. Apparently, salt winning was done here before the war started. Arriving in the Jaffna area we could see a difference in the buildings and of course in the temples, the main religion here is Hindu so there are a lot of Hindu temples doted around the landscape. Because of the war, many of them are being rebuilt and many new ones erected. We want to rent a motorbike to explore this different part of Sri Lanka but that is for another blog.