Train ride in Sri Lanka, to the mountains!

Sri Lanka airport

After our glorious five days at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort in the paradise that is the Maldives, we were ready to go back to reality (I mean we really have to, at some point). You know, see people around who aren’t tourists in a small, secluded island, probably have some street food, get on a local bus and explore a city in the real world type of activities.

We landed in Sri Lanka with a renewed sense of adventure.

It is a totally different world. Not necessarily better or worse but different. And we love exploring and experiencing something different in our travels. Sri Lanka has always been on my travel bucket list because of its proximity to the UAE, cheaper airplane fares compared to say when we go to Japan or the Philippines and I heard the food is amazing and the people are friendly.

And it is very green. And even rains in July.

We’ve lived in the desert for almost 8 years now and the words “green” and “rain” always excites us.

(I will skip mentioning our first days in Colombo and jump to the part where we were crazy enough to take the challenge of taking Sri Lanka’s train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (210 km south of Colombo) because I’ve read that this must be the most scenic train ride in whole of Sri Lanka.)

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is located in the hill county south of the capital city of Colombo and accessible by public transport, by train for about 6 hours (approximately) from Colombo Fort Station to Nanu Oya Station in Nuwara Eliya.

VERY IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP (and you will thank me for this!): Don’t eat or drink too much during this train ride if you are in the 2nd class or 3rd class carriage. I know it’s a looong journey but the toilets are dirty. And while I know many will not mind in case of emergency (I know I wouldn’t too), I personally did not want to use it, as much as possible. Ever. Until we reach our destination. (Thank me for not posting a photo!)

Anyway, there were a bunch of high school (?) kids in our carriage and instead of taking photos of what’s ahead, I turned my camera towards the back of the train and saw this young student taking photos with his iPhone (as most passengers did). When I blinked, he almost lost grip of the phone and it nearly fell off from the moving train!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

TRAVEL TIP: it might be very helpful to put something to strap your phone to your wrist during these kind of train rides. (I wonder how many phones/cameras have fallen in this route?)

Also what makes it dangerous for phones and cameras is that the train is really SHAKY. If you live in the Dubai and curse the Metro for the crowd during rush hours, I want you to stop complaining and think of the tracks. How smooth and perfect it is compared to the train in Sri Lanka. See for yourself and be thankful!

//instagram.com/p/q0j4Odu9eg

We opted to sit in the 2nd class seat because 1st class is too touristy and 3rd class is too local (not that we didn’t like that but with two young kids, we felt 2nd class was the safer and more comfortable choice).

What I’ve read is that you get better views in the 2nd class and it’s true. The views were breath-taking as was the very fresh and cool mountain air!

Note on the train classifications: 3rd class is very basic and gets very crowded, and it is not generally recommended for visitors. 2nd class seats are the recommended option on trains with no 1st class. A 1st class observation car is available on one or two of the daytime trains on the amazingly scenic route from Colombo to Kandy and Badulla. The observation car is normally at the rear of the train or occasionally behind the locomotive and has comfortable though slightly grubby armchairs facing a large window looking back along the track.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Travel tip: You may actually prefer 2nd class as the opening windows in the non-A/C 2nd class cars are much better for photography and sightseeing. Plus, we wanted a break from the aircon environment in Dubai!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

The first few hours was fun. We loved the scenery as it was totally different from Dubai, most especially. Man, look at those trees and plants! And it’s different from Maldives as well. I’d like to think of it as something out of a scene from rural Philippines.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

I suddenly missed my home town. The kids enjoyed the ride …well at least for a few hours!

kids in the train

Benjamin is into trains. No surprise, he is after all a boy.

Benjamin and dad

kids in the train

After a while, the little humans got bored, switching activities from drinking juices and Milo (you don’t know how hard I prayed he wouldn’t poo!!), to sleeping to swinging in my legs like a zonked out Koala bear.

in the train 1

I feel very lucky to be traveling with these kids. They love the simple joys on our travels. They don’t fuss or throw tantrums and patiently wait for each of our journey to end. And Benjamin didn’t poo!!

The ride seemed ENDLESS. I was also very tired already – I thought I’d be ok because I have internet data on my phone (life is good as long as you have internet, right?). I updated my social media channels whenever I had the chance (you follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, yes?) but there were places where there is no signal at all. I took a lot of photos through my phone and my SLR to while away the time but FIVE hours into the train ride, I think I stopped taking photos. And just wrote on my journal. But the train was really shaky I stopped doing that too.

Then we reached the peak of the mountain!

Nuwara Eliya

We were 1,464 meters above sea level. The world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at 828 meters so imagine THAT. We were higher than the top of Burj Khalifa!

The wind was getting colder as well. I never thought I’d say, “it’s cold” while in the tropical island of Sri Lanka! The view was magnificent from up there. Nuwara Eliya is the tea capital of Sri Lanka and sure enough, tea plantation fields are all around.

tea plantation

tea plantation

When the train pulled into one of the stations near our destination, we can see a group of passengers in warm clothing.

Nuwara Eliya

Fleece jacket.

Leather jacket.

Knitted caps.

Socks

Ladies in long, thick skirts.

We were in shorts. Flip flops and t-shirt. Thankfully, I always bring jackets for the children when we travel because the plane can get really cold so they used their jackets while my husband and I froze. It as about 10C when we arrive. In July! In Sri Lanka!!

That long stretch of train ride that lasted for SEVEN hours was a very unforgettable experience for all of us. I would highly recommend you do it if you have the chance to be in Sri Lanka although honestly, I don’t think I’d do it again! Maybe because my legs were just tired of Benjamin lying on it like that one in the video or maybe because I was really scared to use the washroom so I didn’t eat or drink much (DON’T JUDGE until you see the toilet, ok?).  Or maybe because I was really cold when we got off the train, haha! I am glad I took a lot of photos to remember that very beautiful place atop the mountain! I wanted to bottle up the fresh air and take back with me to Dubai.

How about you, where was your most unforgettable train ride?

Next up: A review of where we stayed in Nuwara Eliya, Jetwing St. Andrews Hotel.

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