Today was a hot one. I was sitting on the train platform at Galle Train station, sweat dripping down my neck. Embrace the sweat has been my mantra since I stopped wearing makeup and trying to straighten my, which was a losing battle to the curly frizz.
I was looking forward to my last train journey. It was a 3 hour trip back up the coast. I had booked 1st class. Again for some naive reason I had an image of a comfortable air-conditioned cabin. It was the same “obersvation car” I was in on the way to Kandy, except this was right at the font of the other carriages with a view of the engine. It had a few fans inside but it was cooler to open the windows. There was only myself and a few other people in the car. It was relaxing enough. I did mange to sit at the door for a little bit to get some fresh coastal air.
I had 2 missions in Colombo, to change my flight to Bangkok and to find TGI Fridays! I was hanging out for some buffalo chicken wings. I had put the location in my offline maps app on my phone. After a refreshing shower, I headed out to find it for dinner. I wasn’t too concerned walking around at night as the area seemed quite touristy. I followed what looked like the route to the restaurant. The footpath disappeared as I went through a large arch. I then noticed guards… with large guns. I tried to look as innocent and as non threatening as possible as a slowly and cautiously approached them to ask for directions. It turns out I was trying to walk through the President of Sri Lanaka’s house for dinner! I wonder what he was having that night?
I kept walking and was about to give up until I saw in the distance the distinctive red and white striped awning of TGI Fridays. I sat down and enjoyed a large draft beer, chicken wings and loaded potato skins. The icing on the cake so to speak, was the dessert. Oreo cookie ice cream. I really enjoyed my evening. As I walked home, I realised I didn’t have to go far and get lost like I had, the restaurant was on the same block as the hostel! I got back to the hostel with the biggest smile on my face. I had walked past busy local little shops with lots of local men milling around and was not approached or bothered once. Hallelujah!
The next day I think I had reached my Sri Lanakan quota with patience. I called Sri Lankan Airlines to change my flight from Thursday to Tuesday. I have had enough and I am ready to move on. The lady on phone seemed helpful enough. She quoted me $80 to change. Perfect. Then I was transferred to an automated system to make payment. It didn’t work. For some reason the system would not recognise what I was inputting on my pin pad on my mobile. She said she would call me back. I waited. She didn’t call. I called back. I explained to the man what happened. I also explained I tried to change my flight a few days ago online and it also had not worked. He said he could do it for me. Great, thank you. He then quotes me $150! I said no and protested I had only spoken to someone no less than 15 minutes ago and was quoted differently. He wouldn’t budge so I gave up and accepted the new price. He then wanted to transfer me to the automated system again. NO!!! I asked if he had been listening to me at all.! The whole reason I was calling back because it wasn’t working and couldn’t he take my credit card over the phone (you know like every other airline in the world). He told me he couldn’t. By now my phone credit was dwindling and I was getting really pissed off. He told me I had to go to a ticket office to pay. I asked if he could hold my seat and he said only for an hour. I couldn’t help but quote from the Bridesmaids movie back to him that “I can’t get there within an hour, your setting me up to fail!”. I abruptly hung up on him. I then googled the nearest office. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, it was one block over from the hostel.
I got dressed and headed over to the office which was located in the world trade centre building. Makes me a little nervous entering these kind of buildings as I consider them high risk targets for attacks. I found the Sri Lankan Airways office. It was quite big. I took a seat and waited for my number to be called. I explained to the lady I wanted to change my flight. As she looked at my booking, I could only imagine the comments the telephonist might of put in, “Rude Pax” “Pax hung up”. She happily made my changes AND charged me the original price. As she was changing my booking it dawned on me that this airline was still VERY old school in their operations. I had a giggle at myself as I reminisced about working in the Singapore Airlines ticket office in Sydney back in the early 00’s. I walked out with my new ticket in hand and a smile on my face, I was off to Bangkok in the morning!
To celebrate, I crossed the road from the world trade centre to where TGI’s was. Whats the harm about going back for some more cheeky chicken wings and a beer, it’s not like the dinner team were going to be on for the lunch shift right? WRONG. My face had “Aw shit” plastered all over it when I walked in and was greeted by “ Good Afternoon, back again?”. I stilled enjoyed every last bite of my wings and Oreo dessert.
That afternoon I had a new roommate in the dorm room. She was French and so funny. Something about the way the French say “fuck” makes me giggle. She had been in the country for 3 months and I was so relieved when she described her experience as a solo female traveller with the exact same words as me…..it was a rollercoaster. You would have great things happen, then something shit would happen but then as fast as that came, something good again. It made me realise that although my experience was challenging, it was not bad, it was just Sri Lanka!
I went to go grab a burger from down the road for dinner. I was not venturing far as I had a really early flight in the morning. Burger King was at the end of the ally the hostel was in. In the Ally was another hotel, a food court and a large pub with an outdoor area. I had stumbled upon an outside, free cultural show. There were drummers and dancers. I was really enjoying it and it was a great atmosphere. During a break, I grabbed my dinner and sat back in the front row on the curb to watch the rest of the performance. An old man came out and straight away I was not impressed with what I saw. He had a monkey on a leash/chain and he was wearing a costume. He also had 2 baskets. He was a snake charmer. I had seen this type of thing in India. I am not sure if it was part of the show but what happened next scared the shit out of me. The monkey was to wait to the side for his turn after the snakes. While the man was “charming” one snake out of it’s basket, the monkey grabbed the second basket and tipped the other snake out. The man was trying to put the snake back and the monkey would want to throw it out. Next thing the snake got caught on the leash and it scared the monkey! The monkey started to run away from the snake causing the snake to get flung from the leash and towards us! Time to go!
It was a 4am pick up for the airport. I was tired but excited for Thailand. I couldn’t wait for my next adventure…… I had no idea it was going to be one of life and death!!!