What I really love about journeys using public transport is that they not only offer beautiful diverse landscapes, but also a chance to take a quick peek into local culture and the opportunity to interact with locals (as cliché as that sounds, it is true). So when every other forum and every other traveller talked about the scenic train ride to the sleepy villages of Ella, Haputale and Badulla, that was something I just could not miss, no matter how pressed for time I was or how exhausted after the hike to World’s End.
This being an impulsive last minute decision to take the train from Pattipola station (close to World’s End) , I travelled second class on a 3.5 hour ride to Ella. The train which is usually late by a few hours, chugs into Pattipola station and is reminiscent of the toy trains of Indian hill stations. Second class travel means, standing mostly in what is an extremely crowded compartment, packed with backpackers and Sri Lankan families. If you’re lucky, you may manage to stand close to the door and truly enjoy the beautiful scenery. The train rides through vast forests, over streams and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Every few minutes, the train enters a dark tunnel for a few seconds and that is when the ‘joy” in joy ride comes alive. Local children squeal and scream in delight in the tunnel, and to a silly tourist like me, that is quite exciting. Seriously these kids love their tunnels!
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The locals are very friendly and will give you good tips about what to do in these areas. They are also nice enough to offer you their seats if you have been standing for a long part of the journey, shooing their children off them. Mostly, they are just so pleased that you are enjoying their country and travelling second class just like them!
Tip: If you are sure of your itinerary or even almost certain, book the Observation Class ticket, it looked way more comfortable than standing for hours in Second class. This can only be done in advance and in Colombo.
For more posts about Sri Lanka, visit the Sri Lanka Travel Blog.