Taking a red-eye flight from Zurich via Doha to Colombo I was exhausted, but was thrilled to be back in Sri Lanka for the second time.
One big difference I noticed between my last visit in 2010 and this time was that I had to pay USD25 for a tourist visa this time. Yet, what was still the same as my last visit was the weather; it was hot and sticky. There must've been a downpour just before I arrived here as I saw the ground wet and the sky was grey. I smelt something tropical in the air. The heat as well as the humidity revived my whole body.

The reason why I re-visited Sri Lanka this time was partly because I wanted to surf the east coast of Ceylon island again, and I also wanted to apply for a visa to India while in Sri Lanka.

The below are some of the things that I did or happened to me during my stay in Sri Lanka this time;

1. Reunion with Rod & Priscila

It's been almost 10 months since I last saw Rod and Priscila, a Brazilian couple who I travelled and surfed with in El Salvador, La Antigua and southern Mexico in the late 2011.
Both Rod and Priscila looked as good as before. They travelled through Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and a couple of other countries in SE Asia for the past several months, and we were reunited here in Sri Lanka.


It was fantastic to see them again, and Priscila's English improved a lot now. She was able to keep up with us in all conversations without any problems. The only emerging concern was that Rod seemed to hurt his back badly a few days ago and he could barely walk by himself....

2. How to Get to Arugam Bay

Due to Rod's severe back pain, they decided to spend a few more days in Negombo while I left for Arugam Bay by myself.
I had no intention to travel by train and bus to Arugam Bay via Baticaloa like what I did in August 2010. Nevertheless, means of transport from Colombo (or Negombo) to A-Bay were limited. The following are some of the means to get there (As of September 2012);

Option 1. Private taxi (At least USD120 ~ 130)
Option 2. Direct bus to Pottuvil (about USD10)
Option 3. 3rd class train & local bus via Badulla (about USD7)

I could have chosen the 2nd option, but could not get any information about a bus running from Colombo to Pottuvil for my departure date. I somehow chose the 3rd option AGAIN!, but not via Baticaloa anymore.
The reason for choosing the 3rd class train was because all the 1st class seats were sold out. Many people also told me that there was no difference between the 2nd class and the 3rd class. Therefore, I bought the cheapest one.
The photo below shows the inside of the 3rd class carriage. No luxury and it was deadly cold when the train ran through the mountains at night.


Here are the details of how I travelled by the 3rd option:

1) Caught a tuk-tuk at 16:30 from my hotel in Negombo to go to Negombo's train station (cost: LKR200)
2) Took a train at 17:00 in Negombo for Colombo Fort station (cost: LKR40)
3) Took an overnight train at Colombo Fort at 20:00 for Badulla. My 3rd class carriage was packed with all Sri Lankans. I must have been the only foreigner then (cost: LKR280)
4) Arrived in Badulla at 7:00 and walked about 1km from the train station to the bus terminal of Badulla by dragging my backpack and my bulky 6'3ft board-bag.
5) Took a local bus to Monaragala (cost: LKR100)
6) Changed to another local bus in Monaragala for Arugam Bay. This bus-ride was longer than expected and it took almost three hours to Arugam Bay (cost: LKR200)
7) Arrived in Arugam Bay around 15:00. I was so sweaty and exhausted.

By summing up all the fares from Negombo to Arugam Bay, it only cost me LKR820.00 (about USD6.00). Super-cheap and no train conductor or bus driver asked me for extra charge on my board-bag this time. However, this whole trip was quite hectic and I wouldn't do it again.


3. Surfing A-Bay

Despite the fact that it was nearly the end of the main season for surfing around the east coast of Sri Lanka, there was no flat-day here.
On average days waves were about 3 ~ 4ft on sets with occasional bombs at the Point in Arugam Bay. The wind tended to blow light offshore or cross-shore and turned onshore or strong cross-shore by midday. The water was warm and clear. No wet-suit was needed.
I found waves here quite similar to those in Punta Roca, El Salvador, although Arugam Bay seemed to me a bit softer and more sectioning than in Punta Roca. I didn't take any good photos of waves this time, but they were more or less the same as my last visit. So you can just visit my past article here for some images of the bay.

The only problem of Arugam Bay is the number of guys and girls out there. I won't specify any particular nationalities in this article, but some of them were real beginners or intermediates with no surf-etiquette at all. A shame!


I stayed in Beach Hut during my last visit in 2010, but I didn't like the atmosphere there this time. Instead, I found a reasonable guesthouse called Arne's Place. It was located much closer to the Point than Beach Hut, so that I only stayed two nights in Beach Hut and quickly moved into Arne's Place.
The above photo shows Chris and Cathy, a couple from Australia who I met at Beach Hut. They were renting a car for themselves, and they and I one day went to Whiskey Point for surfing. We had no high expectation at all as it was late in the afternoon, windy and high-tides.
Waves at Whiskey Point were tiny, but looked playful with offshore winds. Chris and I paddled out there as quickly as we could. And we actually had quite a few fun waves then.


4. Surf Injury

After surfing the Point in Arugam Bay for a few days in a row, on this particular morning the very first wave that I caught shut down right after I took off. It was a solid 5ft set-wave, and luckily it didn't suck me over. I just jumped off my board with a lot of formies then.
What happened to me over the next few seconds was so vivid; I actually jumped right in front of my board. And as I was going to submerge ahead of my board, my Firewire Hellfire was concurrently "hell-firing" towards me with no brakes. As a result, the menacing super-pointy nose of my Hellfire struck at just above my left temple like a clean gun-shot.
I somehow thought that it was just a casual hit and blindly believed that I would be able to continue surfing (it was my very first wave of the day, you know). However, the wound quickly became swollen and very bloody. I decided to come in after catching two more waves....

My travel-insurance had already expired by this time. However, very fortunately, there was a British guy staying at Arne's Place. His name was Chris and he was a general practitioner working in Australia. I explained my incident to him, and then he gave me some non-antiseptic cream and told me to put it over the wound.


The whole left part of my head became swollen overnight, bigger than yesterday and I couldn't sleep much.
I spoke with Chris again and he gave me some of his antibiotic tablets which I swallowed right away. Nothing too serious, but it was better for me to take precautions as I had no valid travel-insurance and I was in the tropical climate.
How lucky was I to have a proper doctor at this remote place in Sri Lanka?!

The photo below shows (from right) Chris's Chinese girlfriend Jane, Chris, Rod and Priscila. We had a lovely dinner together. Jane cooked fried rice and I cooked yummy Tuna fillets.
Jane and Chris loved drinking. One night they and I had Arak, a local brewed alcohol (possibly made of coconut). And I nearly passed out an hour later!


After all, I pondered how things went wrong in the water and I reached this conclusion:
The nose of my surfboard was deadly pointy and I had been planning to cut it off to make it rounder and safer for myself and for other guys, but I never did. Additionally, I broke my own rule - do not catch the very first set-wave, observe it and analyze how it breaks. In the end the menacing nose of my board wasn't only to blame. It was my sheer negligence and over-confidence in the water. Keep in mind, Esky - Neptune is always mightier than us (I actually went back out for surfing two days after this incident, though.)

5. Sri Lankan Rotis

I never tried these Rotis during my last stay in Arugam Bay.
As the photo below shows; The triangle Roti had some spicy vegetables inside. It was quite hot but good curry flavor. Whereas, the rolled one had some coconuts with a banana inside. It was sweet, and I absolutely loved it!
The best of all was that both of them cost less than a dollar. So cheeeeeeaaaaap!


6. Back to Colombo (and Negombo)

This time I took a private taxi to go back to Negombo with Rod, Priscila, Chris, Jane, one other Brazilian surfer and one Japanese surfer from Saitama.
It was LKR20,000 for seven of us (about USD22 for each) and it took us just over 8 hours to Negombo with a couple of stops for lunch and snack on our way.
This private taxi wasn't cheap, but drove us straight to Negombo and I didn't have to squeeze my ass on a tiny seat in a rusty local bus nor did I have to haggle the fare with any greedy Sri Lankan drivers.


Negombo is located north of Colombo and is where I stayed this time simply because it's nicer and quieter than Colombo. It seemed to me that there was nothing interesting in Colombo, but I still had to go there in order to apply for my Indian visa.

Downtown Colombo was extremely busy with lots of people, cars, buses, tuk-tuks along with noise and air-pollution. I even started coughing a bit while I was strolling around. One good thing, however, was that many Sri Lankan people were very friendly and smiling a lot. This was something that I didn't really notice during my last visit here in 2010. It may be because of the fact that this time I came straight to Sri Lanka from Europe where people would hardly smile at a stranger on the streets.


7. Applying for Indian Visa

I once thought about applying for a tourist visa for India while I was in Europe, but the application fee was so high (more than EUR70). Whereas, I only had to pay LKR1065 here (only about USD8.00). So lucky to travel with a Japanese passport!
The following is a list of things that I needed in order to apply for my Indian visa;

* My passport (Of course!)
* A print of my online application form
* A copy of my passport
* Two photos of my face with white background
* Fees (Varies depending on your nationalities)

You must visit the website of Indian Visa Centre of Sri Lanka and fill out the online application before you show up at the IVAC in Colombo or in Kandy.


While Priscila, Rod and I waited for our visas to be issued, we went to see an Indian movie called "Heroin" at Majestic Cineplex on Galle Road in Colombo. The ticket was LKR400 and it was freezing inside the cinema.
Although the story was so predictable and very soap-opera, I really enjoyed this film with one break in the middle of the movie-play. Funny! It was also a good little introduction of India (?) to me.

Now I'm ready for India. Bring it on!!!


India was never on my radar for this whole RTW trip up until very recently, but this land of spirituality (?) was always somewhere on my mind, mostly because all the people who had been there before told me some of the funniest and most fascinating stories. It simply made me feel that I had to go there sooner than later not in search of enlightenment but purely out of curiosity.

My travel-diary of India begins now;


I flew to Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu in southern India, by Sri Lankan Airlines today.
The ticket was LKR11,000 one way (about USD85.00): it was cheaper than all other airlines in this region, plus they didn't charge me for my surfboard.


I took a local train from a station called Tirusulam located just outside of Chennai's international airport, and I wanted to go to a station called Chepauk in town. The fare was only INR8.00 (about USD0.15) then.
The train that I caught was so rusty and old and full of passengers; mostly men. I just hopped on it with my bulky luggage regardless. Many people in the train stared at me as I was carrying a bulky coffin-like surfboard bag which many of them had probably never seen before.
The train had no doors and I stood by the entry part of a carriage. I was looking outside and could not believe my eyes how messy and dirty it was out there as shown in the photo below.


When I got off the train at Chepauk, a tuk-tuk driver outside the station approached me: "Where you go...? Where you go...?". I told him the name of the hotel that I wanted to go to - Broadlands Hotel. Then a negotiation with yes-no-yes-no began between him and me. Seemingly forever....
We eventually agreed on INR50.00 (about USD0.95) with my surfboard loaded on the roof of his tuk-tuk and headed to Broadlands Hotel. Huh....


Broadlands Hotel was run-down and it even looked slightly haunted to me. It was "only INR300" (about USD5.80) for a prison-like single room with a dirty shared bathroom. I would definitely not stay here if I were travelling with my girlfriend. I chose it only because receptionists were nice enough to me and I didn't wanna drag my luggage around on those rugged streets of Chennai.


As soon as I checked in at Broadlands Hotel, I dropped my luggage in my prison-cell and went out for lunch at a nearby restaurant.
I walked into a decent-looking one where I ordered "chicken fried rice". Then I became quite worried that they might make my fried rice very spicy. So I asked my waiter not to put any chilli in it by repeatedly saying to him: "No Chilli. No Chilli. Okay?". And what I got in the end was fried rice without chicken....


Later in the day I strolled around the city. It was so exhausting with tons of rubbish, cars, motorbikes, cows, dogs and millions of people. Even after travelling through Latin America and a few countries of Africa, Chennai has already overwhelmed me in many ways, though this city is only India's sixth largest city and it's only my first day here.


Hot, sticky, dusty, smelly and chaotic. That's my first impression on Chennai.
So far India appears to be very alienating to me. I actually wanna get the hell out of Chennai as soon as possible!


Today's Chennai is as hot and dusty and noisy and hectic as yesterday.

After taking three different tuk-tuks, for each one of which I had to negotiate the fare with a constantly head-shaking driver, I managed to buy a train ticket for tomorrow from Chennai Egmore to Varanasi, one of the most sacred cities located in north India.


Buying a train ticket in Chennai wasn't quite straightforward partly because I was a foreigner and no credit card payment was accepted for some reason. There was even a separate counter inside the station dedicated just for foreigners to purchase tickets only in cash.

My train ticket cost INR2635.00 (about USD50), plus a few extra dollars were spent for those tuk-tuks. Even considering the distance from Chennai to Varanasi, the ticket was certainly not cheap at all by Indian standards.


In fact, my ticket was for a 2A class seat, while the cheapest ticket available was a Sleeper class seat for IND560. I bought it simply because tomorrow's train ride will be almost 40 hours in total, and strangely enough, there was no 1st class for this train.
I am absolutely aware that this is India, but I'm still seeking minimum comfort for the longest journey on a single train I've ever done in my life before.
To be honest with you, I'm a bit nervous about tomorrow's journey now.


!!!!! Note !!!!!
Although it took me a little while to figure out how to manipulate the following website, I found it super useful to find out the time-table for each train, and to look for any available seats as well as their fares (As of October 2012):

The following might also be useful to look at how thoroughly extensive the Indian Railway network is and to know how far your train goes (The file can be quite large):


As of October 2012, there was a train running every Thursday from Chennai Egmore station all the way to Varanasi.
I was lucky enough to purchase the last remaining seat in the 2A class carriage yesterday, but now I'm not sure how lucky it was of me to travel for 40 hours on this train.


The 2A class was the top class (no 1st class) on this occasion. However, it was neither upmarket nor luxurious. Perhaps, the only luxury inside the 2A compartment was that it was fully air-conditioned; 2A's "A" probably stands for Air-conditioned; Just kidding.
It was quite dark inside the carriage because the windows and curtains were all shut, apparently, in order to keep the room temperature low. Stupid!


Another downside of the 2A carriage was that it was not as spacious as I thought it would be. My seat/bed number was 42 and upper-bed. I could not sit or keep lying down there all day long because it was an upper one and not enough room between my bed and the ceiling. Therefore, during the day I had to share the lower seat/bed (the number 41 designated for somebody else) with a very old Indian man....
The photo below shows the number 41 seat folded and transformed into two seats while the top bed (the number 42) remained flat.


The photo below shows my upper bed. A blanket and a tiny pillow as well as clean sheets were provided. Yet, there was no window for this upper bed, only a small reading light attached on the wall, which became really really hot after keeping it on for less than an hour.


Train conductors weren't very friendly and one of them often disturbed my reading by trying to close the curtain every time I opened it. I just wanted to get some natural light through the window, but he wanted to keep it closed at all times in order to maintain the room temperature.... Annoying!


Although I stocked up on food for this 40hr train-ride, I was curious about what on-board food was like; I know I shouldn't be too experimental when it comes to food in India, but I gave it a try twice on this train.

The first one was Egg Briyani as shown in the photo below. It was, of course, a little spicy hot, but no meat in it and I quite enjoyed it.


My second try was vegetable curry as shown in the photo below. I couldn't tell a difference between these three types of curry. All of them were certainly spicy, and I actually found them quite salty too. Mediocre.


Later in the day I had a look at the Sleeper class, and it actually looked somehow nicer and brighter than the 2A class. It was probably because there were no curtains and no air-cons. It was FULLY open-air and breezy. This Sleeper class was the cheapest option, but the least spacious and it must've been quite hot, especially during the day and when the train wasn't moving.
I would've travelled in this Sleeper class only if I had been with small luggage without my surfboard.


As mentioned in the previous article, the fare was INR2,635 (about USD50) for my 2A class seat, food and beverage were not included.
I remember travelling by train in Sri Lanka in August 2010. And I must say that overnight train from Batticaloa to Colombo was better and cheaper with a little more privacy than this 40-hour train. Consequently, this train-ride from Chennai to Varanasi was not really enjoyable but tolerable.


Anyway, the train is supposed to arrive in Varanasi around 5am in the morning of Saturday. I'm only hoping that nothing bad will happen throughout this longest train-journey.

No problem and no drama except a few hassles with a grumpy conductor during my 40-hour train journey and I arrived in Varanasi around 6am.
The photo below shows a platform of Varanasi station. Don't ask me why there is a cow (maybe a goat?) in this photo.


A funny thing happened to me on my way from Varanasi station to a guesthouse located near the Ganges River:
As I wanted to catch a tuk-tuk (aka auto-rickshaw) from the station, I started looking for a driver around. Then I ran into an old guy in his 50s and asked him to take me to one of the famous Ghats near the river simply because to my eyes he appeared to be a tuk-tuk driver. He yelled at me: " 100 Rupies! ". I responded: " 70 Rupies! "
Shortly after I settled the fare with him for INR80 (about USD1.50), he grabbed my surfboard bag and I carried the rest of my luggage to a nearby car park. But there were no tuk-tuks in the car park. Instead, a line of cycle-rickshaws were in sight.... Then my instant thought was: "Nah. No Waaaaay! This old man cannot take me with my big luggage all the way to the river!" But he insisted that he could.
Very uncertain about his ability on his retro cycle-rickshaw, I hopped on it regardless by placing my heavy backpack behind my seat and putting my board-bag next to me upright.


As we left the station, everybody stared at me. The reason was most likely to be my surfboard bag, half of which was actually sticking out of the roof of the cycle-rickshaw. Some people might even have thought that I was carrying a canoe, so that I could row along the Ganges maybe. Whatever was on their minds, they kept staring at me anyway. I was so embarrassed and I regretted bringing my own surfboard in this country with me for the very first time.


The road from the station to the Ghat which I told him to take me to was longer than expected.
When the sweating rickshaw guy finally dropped me off near the Ghat, I actually paid him 100 Rupees: it was not for making me as a stupid tourist on public display, but for his great efforts in taking me all the way to the river. This old man really did a good job.


I was somehow expecting Varanasi to be a little oasis of north India as it was said to be a sacred place for Hindus, but I was shocked. Varanasi was extremely hectic: the density of people, bikes, cars, etc. seemed so much higher here than that of Chennai to me.


The photos below prove how hectic Varanasi can be. These sequential photos were taken within 30 ~ 40 seconds on a small road this afternoon.






Like what happened to me on my first day in Chennai, Varanasi already made me suffocate quite a bit. So I dodged the crazy traffic and stumbled into a small street where a few cows were causing traffic then.


Oh...., Varanasi....

Is this really a sacred place???