UK to Colombo Via the Scenic Route

I’m typing this up from my diary in a hostel room in Colombo, three days after I began the journey from Birmingham airport back home. WiFi connection is pretty good at this place – my mom and I are staying at a budget place called City Beds. As mentioned, this is being typed up in present tense from my travel diary (as I’m a bit sleepy to turn it into prose!).

Currently sat in Dubai airport waiting for our 3.25am connection to Male, in the Maldives. The flight with Emirates from Birmingham went smooth and the 7 hours passed moderately quickly. When the sky grew darker tiny lights appeared in the aircraft’s ceiling like stars.

IMG_20140702_170341340 I turned to watch the sun set out the window. The airport in Dubai is alright but there’s little to do. Wifi is free for only 30 minutes. Mom and I killed some time walking up and down the length of the airport before settling for a dinner at Burger King with my granddad’s leftover currency from previous holidays to Dubai. Now we’re sat in two recliner chairs near the gate, another 2 hours until boarding.

The flight from Dubai to the Maldives was alright, but my legs were starting to ache after 4 hours and jet lag was setting in. The cabin crew served breakfast at 5am – a lovely meal, but all I desperately wanted was some shut eye. As the plane neared the Maldives, we flew over stunning islands ringed in glowing turquoise. Coming in to land it seemed as though we were going to glide into the ocean, but cameras below the plane revealed a sliver of land with a runway on it. Hitting the ground it felt as though we were about to shoot right off the other side! IMG_20140703_042821894 Walking into the airport we made our way over to the Transfers desk to check in. We waited and waited until a group of rather nonchalant airport staff informed us that our seats had been booked out to people coming from Dubai on the next flight. Um, what. We had our seats booked ages ago. Why had they given them away?! I began to worry we wouldn’t get a seat at all on the flight. We complained to a man who looked like he knew a bit more, and he told us we could have seats, just not together. Still disappointed and tired with the hassle, we said OK and the man told us he’d try over the next few hours to change our seats. With a 7 hour wait until departure we set about leaving the airport. We asked a security guy the way but he told us we couldn’t leave. We went back to the desk and this time they pointed us to immigration. So we walked up to a man and asked how we could leave. There was some confusion and he called a manager over, but eventually he stamped us both through, giving us a card as a temporary visa.

On the other side the airport opened up. Sauntering through the foyer we could see the aquamarine glow of the ocean ahead. We stood at the waters edge in the heat, photographing the boats and the palm trees against the beautiful backdrop of sea. I have never seen water like it – you certainly don’t get crystal blue sea in the UK!

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DSCF2324 Grabbing a cool drink from The Coffee Club we sat down on seats beneath the trees. After some time resting we meandered along the promenade, down one way before heading back up the other. Locating some empty seats we settled in to read our books facing the sea view. The air was thick with salt and the humidity enveloped us, leaving a sticky residue on our skin. It was 30c outside. After some time I needed the toilet, so we slowly walked back to the airport. When we came back our seats were taken, but we found much better ones in a wooden bench. It even had a concrete footrest. As we read our books we watched the sky grow darker. A grey mist began to develop on the horizon, obscuring the distant boats and then the city. Maybe it was going to rain?

Within seconds it began to pour. We shoved our stuff away as the rain hit us out of seeminy nowhere. The roof structure above the promenade provided no shelter at all from the driving rain. We ran past the people queuing for their boat rides and into the airport once more. Inside we freshened up before going back to the foyer. A friendly local man approached us, advising that we could check in and collect our boarding passes at 2pm. I don’t think he worked there but he was very kind. After checking in we were unable to change our seats. In the end I was grateful we had any seat. The girl at the desk offered us places on the earlier flight with Korean Airlines but we declined. Waiting at the gate, suddenly our names were called out over the tannoy. Hearts pounding, we assumed they’d mucked up our seats once more. Instead we were greeted by a group of airline staff and were presented with two Business Class tickets, sat side by side. We were over the moon.

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Soon we were boarding the aircraft, and for the first time in our lives we were able to experience Business Class. The differences were immediate. Bigger TV screens, cushy reclining seats, noise-cancelling headphones and ‘gourmet’ food. It was really nice – if just for an hour! Before we knew it we were coming in to land in Colombo.

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Baggage took 40 minutes to show. The whole time I was nervous that they hadn’t transferred. Thankfully both bags showed, and we found our driver in the foyer. Outside the heat was oppressing and the sky was dark. Black birds swirled around the tropical trees noisily. After a short wait we were in the taxi. It took about 45 minutes to reach our hostel down the expressway. Cars, lorries and tuk-tuks fought for space on the roads whilst motor scooters weaved dangerously in and out amongst the mêlée. Horns blared and rules seemed not apply. There was much relief from the both of us when we pulled up at the back of the hostel unscathed. Walking inside it looked like we could have been brought anywhere. The guy on the reception seemed friendly enough, and offered to help us out tomorrow.

Our room is very plain and basic, with hard thin beds and a crude ensuite bathroom with an open top. Our room is right in reception. According to the man it’s soundproof, but I’ve heard two trains rumble by outside and people speaking outside the door. The hostel literally backs onto a train station. Been awake for so many hours though now that anything is comfortable!

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