We got back home to Saudi last week after our vacation to Sri Lanka. Almost three weeks away from home can really make you miss the place. Even if it is the desert! We had only been home for a few months since our last trip. But since I have an expanding waist line, and in a few months, will have an extra human to carry with us, we took advantage of the opportunity to travel now while I was still able to enjoy it.
When we left, Saudi we had a connecting flight in Doha, Qatar. There a woman noticed I was pregnant and needed to know how far along I was. I guess they have a rule that you need a Dr’s note from your own Dr and the Dr at the Doha airport if you are 28 weeks along. My husband was hoping for some special treatment I think from the airline. They did let us board with the first group of passengers. I personally would rather have hid it, to avoid any special treatment. On our flight home, our seats were in the emergency row. And once again, the belly gave it away and I was told that I couldn’t sit there because they needed “able bodies” in the event of an emergency. It worked out to our favor this time, as they moved us to the center row of four seats. We had it all to ourselves! Plenty of room for activities!
Once on land in Sri Lanka, the mode of transportation became tuktuk, bus, and train for the most part. Tuktuks are cheap to use. It basically is a little scooter with two wheels in the back and a partially enclosed space for two or three to fit snuggly inside. In my experience, most of the tuktuk drivers will wait till the last second to brake and stop within inches of another vehicle. So there may have been many little heart attacks had by me. And there will be those drivers who will try to charge too much. Sometimes, you pay too much because you just don’t have any fight left, and need to get to point B. And then there are those younger drivers who have decked out their tuktuk with blue neon lights and a stereo system in the back!
The trains were such an experience. Crammed with people. Sometimes there was only standing room available. Not always a very clean way to travel, especially if you have a small baby pressing on your bladder forcing you to use the toilet on the train. But once again it was a super cheap way to travel. I read that the rail system carries 3 million passengers daily in Sri Lanka. People watching is such a fun thing to do on the trains, along with the ever changing views out the windows. The windows thankfully, can be opened, to allow fresh air. And if you stick your head out the window you will find that you are not alone in sticking body parts or cameras out the windows along any of the rides. That is something that would never happen in the U.S. There were signs in a few of the trains that had a “reserved for pregnant mothers” sign at one of the seats. But I never needed to use that particular seat, as those trains weren’t completely full of passengers. I could sit were I wanted. One time, I even sat across from a monk and then realized afterward that it was reserved for monks. No one told me to move. So I stayed.
The buses were also a cheap way to travel and even more packed than the trains. Like bodies smashed against each other packed. I was smashed in one time, standing room only and directly in front of this man who sat in the “reserved for pregnant mothers seat” for twenty minutes he saw me standing there and didn’t offer me his seat. I wasn’t really upset about it. And a kind lady eventually motioned me to her seat as she got off the bus. Believe it or not, most times when a person offered me their seat, it was another woman. Just an observation I had.
When traveling in other countries like this, I always felt a bit of worry about when I was supposed to get off the train or bus. After all, I know the name of the town, but have to other landmarks or indication of when to get off (“get down” as they would say in Sri Lanka). Somehow it always worked out though. Either a store sign would give me an indication that I was in the right town, or the buss would actually stop at a large bus stop and that was the indication that it was the end of the line. Sometimes, a nearby passenger would kindly tell you when to get down, if they understood your request for help.
Both the buses and the trains would have vendors who would get on board at stops to sell little bags of peanuts, mango slices, popcorn, some other food items that I didn’t want to try, even whole ears of cooked corn. I usually had my trusty snack of Ritz crackers to satisfy my hunger while traveling long distance. One lady gave me a cup of yogurt also.
I think I will try to break up the Sri Lanka adventures into a few posts, so its not one incredibly long read. So be on the lookout for the next one.