Sri Lanka: Train Ride into the Clouds

The creaking sound of metal wheels running against the tracks was the only background music we had. As we entered into the thick fluffy clouds, the view slowly changed from hilly tea plantations to foggy blurry heaven. I closed my eyes as the mist started to brush against my face, and then suddenly, a cute li’l boy from nowhere sat on my lap and enjoyed the scene with me. Speaking in Sinhalese Language, he spoke to me as if I understood every word he was saying. I couldn’t be much happier for that one-dollar ten-hour coach from Ella to Colombo which is definitely the highlight of our Sri Lankan adventure. It wouldn’t be dubbed as one of the world's most scenic train rides for nothing.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride

Sri Lanka was the third country on our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 backpacking trip. After revisiting Malaysia and Thailand, me and my buddy headed to Colombo for an overnight transit and then moved to Sigiriya for a four-day visit on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We then transferred to Kalkudah, Arugam Bay, and then went to our last stop in the country, Ella.

After four days of being stuck in the beautiful Ella Jungle Resort, we emerged to the main road and waited for a bus going to the center of Ella town. We waited for the bus to pass by outside a preschool and watched the cute school kids play before the start of their classes. 

Arriving at Ella's town center, we had two hours to roam around before the train arrives so we did a little errand first, my buddy getting a long overdue haircut. We then walked our way at the foot of the train station where we had an early lunch on an eatery. We loaded up with local noodles that will serve as our fuel for the ten-hour train ride.

Ella Sri Lanka
My buddy's mandatory haircut abroad
Ella Sri Lanka Train
Ella, Sri Lanka
Climbing up the hill to the train station was made challenging with our heavy backpacks in tow. We bought train tickets and specifically asked to be accommodated on a local coach (LKR190 | US$1.25) as compared to the touristy air-conditioned one (LKR2,400 | US$15.88). We waited, and waited, and waited, until the train slowly creeped into the scene with its booming horn.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Here it is!
Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
We could've stayed on the AC coach but no, we chose to be where the locals were.
We hurriedly climbed up the steel steps and settled on our seat for ten hours.

Not expecting what to see, I relaxed on the window seat and set my stuff underneath me and waited for one of the best train rides in the world to commence.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Tea plantations surrounded the Sri Lankan countryside 
Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Truly amazing!
The Sri Lankan train system started its operations in 1858 pioneered by the British settlers for the transport of tea and coffee products. A century and a half later (whoa!), it is now considered as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Taking the Main Line (Colombo to Badulla), we watched as the locals hop on and off through the ten-hour ride.

It started on a slow, steady pace that transported us to a nice hilly countryside scene with the chilly afternoon breeze brushing against my face. It was relaxing as we get to enjoy everything from the open windows. We could’ve stayed on the comfy air-conditioned coaches but we really do want to have the best seats.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
I am on the exact same position on where he is
Sri Lanka Tea
Tending tea plantations
It was dreamlike as we passed by some hilly tea plantations filled with farmers who were manually tending the area and then after a good one hour we literally went inside the fog-capped mountains and got the chills, literally. I was enjoying the scene when a young boy, probably around three or four years of age, sat on my lap and spoke to me in Singhalese Language and went on with his musings as if I understood everything he’s saying.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Fog. Mist. Blur.
That moment remained for two to three hours until he effortlessly dozed off in my arms. It was cute, that moment. The mom was constantly calling her son but the boy didn’t wanna leave my side. Until they had to leave.

Sri Lanka Kid
My buddy for three hours :)
The beauty of countryside Sri Lanka was passing by me and the feeling of amazement never went off. Until the chilly weather from the uplands awoken the stubborn me that I felt grumpy halfway through the trip.

Windows were shut as the freezing wind started to pierce towards my skin. I was grouchy and didn’t know how to perfectly position myself as my droopy eyes were aching for rest. I snoozed after battling with the harsh conditions as my buddy was, still, enjoying the great view.

Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Into the clouds
Sri Lanka Best Train Ride
Definitely the best train experience thus far
Hours turned into a day as the sun started its farewell. We were at a busy town where commuters started to budge inside the coaches. I woke up to that scene only to realize that my buddy was, still, enjoying the train ride.

We arrived at Colombo with sore bodies after ten hours. We then hailed a metered trishaw then headed to our lodging in Colombo, Clock Inn Colombo.

That very special train ride still lingers on in my memory. It may not be as hardcore as our ten-hour train ride in Myanmar but it was really great as we get to experience the shifting of landscapes in Sri Lanka. If there’s one thing that you should do while in Sri Lanka then it would be the greatest train ride to the heavens.

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