These words were said by the great travel and children’s writer Robert Louis Stevenson. They encapsulate perfectly the founding ethos of Exporail: a return to a time when train travel was something to be enjoyed as an experience in its own right, rather than the test of endurance it has become for many.
Stevenson who was famed for creating enchanting fictional worlds such as Treasure Island would have been utterly charmed by rail travel in Sri Lanka. A small island blessed with a stunning diversity of terrain our two major routes both starting from the capital Colombo offer wildly differing but equally enticing scenic and cultural pleasures.
A trip with Exporail to Kandy the proud capital of Sri Lanka’s beautiful Hill Country takes you from the hum of the vibrant Fort region of Colombo a steaming mass of humanity where market vendors trade nosily and tuk tuk’s swerve on a slow rise through paddy fields, before without really realizing it, you find yourself in a part of the world that seems barely touched by modernization.
Huge plateau’s surround by tree covered hills that roll on for a seeming eternity into the horizon, with the odd temple or glimpse of the vast tea estates that are indicative of a different era, a slower and more sedate time of British tea planters and gentleman’s clubs. Often likened to the Scottish Highlands imagine that charming part of the world then add a tropical flavor and no icy winds and you are just about there!
Heading south from Colombo to the southern Capital of Galle is another visual treat. The train follows the costal line darting in and out of the thick pine jungle that is ubiquitous on the west coast of the island. The slow crawl out of Colombo is the perfect way to see Sri Lankan’s going about their daily business.
Gradually the suburbs end and you are travelling past miles of untouched palm fringed beach, where fisherman go about their catch on their garish boats. On the trip you will pass through tourist villages and fishing villages, centers of Singhalese culture such as mask making, places of worship denoting the varied history of Sri Lanka and get to see firsthand the sleepy pace of life that prevails in southern Sri Lanka. Galle itself has a fascinating 16th century Dutch Fort and is surrounded by some of Asia’s finest beaches.
Train travel is perhaps the best way to see Sri Lanka at its natural pace-languid. Sadly the carriages are getting tired and all but the bravest of visitors will think twice before jumping on the train, which we think is a great pity. That is why we have created our special Exporail carriage. Comfortable seats, air conditioning and a menu of tasty snacks and cool drinks will bring the romance and excitement back to rail travel in a host of glorious trips that combines the nostalgic world of ‘Old Ceylon’ with a country that is rapidly emerging now peace has been restored to the island.