Monday, October 10, 2011

(Travelogue) Oriental Outings Day 17: From Kuala Lumpur's LRT to Colombo's Tuk-Tuk

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
It was even before dawn when we left Umair’s home. We had to catch the morning flight to Colombo from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The challenge was to make it through public transport, i.e. without using a taxi, first from Wangsa Maju to KL Sentral, from where the airport bus/train leaves, through LRT and then to the airport by bus. And that proved to be quite a challenge!
Yet to open: Wansga Maju LRT station

Peeking into it

Another guy waiting

Finally it opened
Morning Walk
We were among the first ones to enter into Wangsa Maju LRT station – as soon as it opened around 6 –after a long walk from Umair’s apartment to the train station. The otherwise easy stroll turned into a strenuous morning exercise partly because of the slope and mainly because of the added luggage, an obvious consequence of yesterday’s shopping!
Long walk

The porter!
(70 km out of) KL-International Airport!
By the time we reached the ticket kiosk outside KL Sentral, the 6:30 skybus had already departed. The next bus had to leave at 7. Keeping in view that KLIA is ~ 70 km away from KL city center; we were left with a thin margin for the 9:10 international flight! With little choice, I started looking for a cab. While I was haggling with one of the taxis, Urooba screamed standing outside the ticket booth!

What I could see from the road that the bus kiosk is surrounded by 4-5 men with Urooba waving her hands crazily. I hurried back only to know that the bus company had decided to operate another bus at 6:45! Good news!

Business Secrets
On the way to the airport, I was pondering why the company bothered to run another bus for 7-8 commuters, maybe to cut on the tax business? More importantly, Urooba’s alertness saved us some decent money and the self-pledge to not using a taxi during the trip.
(Outside) Colombo Airport
The usual one hour journey took only 45 minutes because of the off-peak hours. So we managed to make it to Sri Lankan Airlines counter around 7:45! Rest of the journey – till Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo – was uneventful except that we gained a few hours because of the change in the time zone.
Ask for the front seat

And give the baby some comfort
Getting Connected
Immigration at Colombo airport was swift and within half an hour we were out of the airport. First, I purchased some local currency from one of the bank booths outside the arrival area. Rate was decent and the service was quick. There were also a couple of stall selling prepaid mobile cards. But that was more of a tourist trap because of the exorbitant price; LKR 2,000! The actual price of the SIM was ~50-100 and the rest was the credit in the chip which was too much for our 3 nights stay. So I postponed that until we reach to the town.
Landing at Colmobo Airport
Local Experience
From the airport we had to make it to Pita Kotte, a neighborhood in Colombo, where we would stay with a Sinhalese Buddhist family for the next couple of days.

Do As Locals Do
Encouraged from the morning experience, we decided to give the public transport another try! First we took the old white bus, which they call airport shuttle, to the airport bus depot where we transferred to the coaster style bus heading towards Pettah, the main transport junction of Colombo. Airport shuttle was free of cost while we paid LKR 400 for the air-conditioned coaster, much higher than what they charge from locals. The higher bus fare also accounted for our luggage which was occupying another seat! Anyhow, that was not a big deal for the one hour – ~ 35km – journey.

Saddar, Saddar!!
It was around noon when we reached Pettah, the open-air KL Sentral of Colombo! The ambiance was much like Saddar, the busy transportation hub of Karachi. We tried to catch a public bus to our destination, Pita Kotte, but none of the buses stopped for us mainly due to the baggage!

Of Tuk-Tuks!
Amid the heat and the humidity, and with the empty stomach, we had no choice but to give up our no-taxi solemn oath! With the support of a local guy, who was waiting for his bus, we struck a deal with one of the tuk-tuks for LKR 600! The price included all the luggage plus two enroute stops, one for the meal and the other for the mobile SIM!

The rickshaw driver kept on increasing the fare, citing different reasons, from prolonged enroute stops to the ambiguity in the address. By the time we reached our destination, near Ananda Balika Mawatha, means Girls College, the quote had gone up to LKR 1300! We felt a bit generous on making it safe and sound and settled that for 900!

It was a tough day today but that gave us an authentic feel of the city and the courage to use public buses in the coming days.  

Meeting Dharsana
Dahrsana, our host, gave us a warm welcome and helped us in settling our luggage in the lounge. I had an introductory chitchat with Dharsana, who now works as a freelance cartoonist and journalist, while we had our meal. Unfortunately, we could not meet his wife, Chinta, as she was abroad for a work related assignment.

Though it was not too late for us to go out, but since it was already a long day, we settled for an easy amble around Pita Kotte.

Whats Tomorrow?
Before calling it a day, Dharsana shared with us the photographs of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which he visited with a surfer recently, and some valuable tips to visit the place within budget.


  1. How did you find a person to host you? Is there some type of backpacking website or did you have connections? :)

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