Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sri Lanka: Habarana - our base to the Cultural Triangle

Habarana train station
We decided travel around Sri Lanka with public transports (and some tuk-tuk), rather than hiring a car and driver. We found out that car + driver hire cost about USD 50 a day, excluding accommodation (usually hotels or B&Bs have driver's quarter but if this is not available, you'll have to pay for the driver's board as well). We figured that as there were only 2 of us, it would probably worked out more expensive to pay for a private driver and car for the whole 2 weeks. Between train or bus, we both prefer train but not every town that we wanted to go could be reached with a train, so bus it would be in that instance.

From Colombo, we made our way to Habarana which would be our base to get to Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Minneriya National Park. I found out that there are trains running from Colombo to Habarana from Sri Lanka Railways website though the options are not great. There are only 2 trains and we chose to take the ungodly 6:05 am train because we don't want to reach Habarana at 3:01 am. When I initially searched for the train, an indicative train fare was provided but it is not shown on the website anymore. We paid LKR 300 (~AUD 2.70) per person for a second class, unreserved. Yes, this is for the 5+ hours train ride.

If you are using Mobitel phone, you could also call number 365 for Mobitel Ticketing service code to pre-book your train ticket. They will bill you on your phone credit. We did try this to avoid making a trip to Colombo Fort the day before our commute but for some reason they were not able to purchase train ticket for this leg. So I think this was why there has been some stories on this train line is a bit of a myth.

Colombo Fort before 6am
Despite getting a non reserved train ticket, there were plenty of seats available as not many were taking this train though makes me wonder why the reserved tickets ran out. Anyway, we scored ourselves seats all the way from Colombo Fort to Habarana. View was nothing to shout about and please keep check of the stops as no announcements were made on the stops. We almost missed our stop as Habarana has a really small train station, more like a train stop. We were lucky that there were people getting off and my friend, S casually told me to check the train stop name, just in case.

Bad random photo but spot the fans and the luggage space overhead :)
Habarana is basically a small town with not much of attractions but useful as a base to get to the cultural triangle if you don't want to move everyday. We reached Habarana at about midday but as we had an early start, we basically just lounged the rest of the day after an unremarkable lunch. I decided to give mixed chap suay rice a try. I don't even remember to take a photo of it. Haha.

I can't remember how I found this accommodation (Le Grand Meaulnes), maybe stumbled it on my rampage googling spree but it was pretty comfortable with reasonable price. There was some issue with our booking initially as they claimed they didn't receive our booking and kept on insisting that I ring the number I had on the booking sheet to speak to the person. I booked via their website directly (even though it re-directed to a 3rd party) but all information on my booking sheet is on this B&B, phone and email address. The B&B manager claimed that this had happened before so I was perplexed as to why they didn't fix it if it was a known issue. Anyway, it was sorted and our stay there was pretty good. I've rechecked the link as I write this post, it is now directed to agoda.com. We paid USD 150 for 3 nights (1 room, 2 pax) including breakfast and dinner.

Chicken curry with array of vegetables curry


Side note: About 8 weeks more to Christmas! @_@

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