Country 70: Sri Lanka

With a huge travel debt from 2010 to 2012 still being paid off, my trips have become pretty limited, but that doesn’t stop me from planning! I took the plunge and October 2013 I was on my next international flight. I’m still not ready for the assault to the senses that is India, so my aim has been to visit neighbouring countries to slowly acclimatise myself to the idea of India. In September 2010 I tried Nepal which was fine, and 3 years later I gave Sri Lanka a go.

After arriving from Sydney, my first taste of Sri Lanka was lining up at Cathay Pacific’s Singapore check-in. I got there a few minutes before check-in opened and I’d say about 150 people were already lined up waiting! Each person pretty much had at least 2 or 3 pieces per person, and I’m not talking regular luggage but taped-up boxes and things of different shapes and sizes wrapped up in cardboard and more tape. It was like these people had done their shopping in Singapore and were bringing back items they couldn’t buy at home, they were really exploiting the luggage limit. I was the only non-Sri Lankan person lining up, which made me wonder if this was tourist off-season or if non-Sri Lankans even travel to the country!

A good hour later I got to the check-in desk, showed my passport and e-ticket, then the check-in lady asked me for my credit card. I said I don’t have it, I didn’t realise I was expected to have it. I’ve caught roughly 100 international flights over the years and I had NEVER been asked this in my life, so I definitely didn’t expect this. So what happened next? This lady flat out refused to put me on the flight! I was dumbfounded. I didn’t get angry, I was in disbelief. I kept asking what I had to do to get on this flight, that I’d paid online, that my passport matched the name on my credit card, I even showed her 3 other credit cards I had in my wallet at the time, but she was insistent on seeing the card I payed with. So about half an hour of arguing and making phone calls, they said they would contact Cathay Pacific reservations. This seemed to work as they confirmed I had in fact paid with a credit card and checked my passport to confirm everything, but there was a good chance my whole trip was dead over a technicality. Being told you had wasted weeks of planning and about $3000-$4000 is extremely stressful, I do NOT recommend it!! So yeah, I’ll be reading Cathay Pacific’s booking conditions next time and probably take the credit card I booked with just in case. Probably the worst flight experience I’d had in all my years of travels.

Anyway, after all that ordeal I couldn’t sleep on the flight and I was physically and mentally exhausted when I got to Colombo, and of course it took half an hour for luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt. I could barely stand up or keep my eyes open! I got into a taxi at 11:30pm (well, it was some guy’s van but it only cost me $10), the guy drove for 10 or 15 minutes to Negombo in the dark, I had given him my hotel’s name and address, and even though all the hotels are on one single street this guy managed to get lost. It was past midnight and this guy was driving up and down the main drag at a speed of 10km/hour looking out at every hotel name, asking for directions, it was painful. Eventually I found the hotel logo myself which was very badly lit, thankfully reception was still open, and I was in my hotel room by 12:30am. At least I had free wifi and air con. At that point I’d been awake for almost 24 hours and I just crashed. I’d been through some crazy stuff but I had arrived!