Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sri Lanka - Day 0 + Planning

Nov 25, 2011
This was the day which was suppose to be spent in preparing for tomorrow's trip. We were suppose to have packed our stuff completely for the early morning flight tomorrow. But, this was also the day we were throwing a wedding reception, my parent's idea. Till very late, up to one month before my marriage I had resisted the temptation of throwing a reception.The way I saw it, it was a waste of money and time. But, like other things my view was over ruled, sometimes by dialogue, at others by subterfuge. But I guess, finally it was worth it as N and others had a gala time.

The reception ended at about 12 AM and left us with a few hours of sleep. i.e. if we had slept off as soon as reaching our home. But an argument soon followed on the utility of a bagpack (my idea) and a heavy bag(her idea). We were going to have a road trip, and I did not see how a heavy bag would be accommodated in trains, buses and autos. The argument ended with me giving in, but the next day morning common sense prevailed and we decided on bag packs, at the cost of some items which N badly wanted to bring to the trip.

We slept at 1:30 AM and woke up around 4 AM. The morning had another mini argument and we got into the cab at 4:20AM. The flight was at 6:05 AM from the airport, and I had all but given up on reaching up on time. In my mind I was making calculations as to what would be next best way to reach Colombo.

Before planning on flights, I had also contemplated going to Colombo in a ferry. The plan was to take a Mumbai Madurai flight,with a transit halt at Chennai. And from Madurai, either take a train, Bus or a cab to Tuticorin. From Tuticorin a liner plies three days a week to Colombo. And the ticket was about 2.7K per person on the ferry/ship. Unfortunately this ferry plies on Fridays, and then Mondays, which would have delayed my trip even further. I actually had made plans for taking this on the Friday Nov 25th, but then my reception came in the way.

A lot of planning for this trip was through online discussion boards, lonelyplanet, tripadvisor, agoda, etc. In the first iteration the plan was sri lanka + maldives. But then I read about Maldives and realised it was a pretty commercial place with sky high diving equipment renting costs. And then the overriding thought that when I am going to a particular country I would rather spent all my time there and enjoy ourselves there rather than hopping from one country to another to touch maximum places.

So, first I started with all the places I wanted to visit in Sri Lanka, basis user reviews on lonely planet and trip advisor. Then I put them on google maps. Finally I sketched out a route that I could take. I also read about public transport in Sri Lanka. The reviews about public transport in buses and trains were pretty good. I also ended up downloading the entire bus and train timetable, but never actually used it.

 In the ensuing iterations I deleted a few cities and added a few others.

I gave this itinerary to a few travel agents, but none actually came back with a quote for my plan. Rather they each modified my plan according to their whims, and commercial interests.

It finally came down to me myself planning the entire hotel booking with N. I did not do bother about local transportation and felt that I will figure it out once I reach there.  A friend had also suggested a cab driver who would charge Sri Lanka RS 38/KM. For shorter trips this would have been fine, but I was planning an entire cross country. I also did not want to see a country from a cab's window, but wanted to be with normal people and travel the way they travel. Inspiration here,

I booked a few hotels through Agoda, but then realised about their misleading pricing. Ended up cancelling a hotel booking through Agoda. Then I tried emailing the hotels, but finally the penny dropped, I could just call  up the hotels and book a room and take an email confirmation. As my official phone did not have international calling, I used up my mom's talk time.

All this obviously took time. And for the first time I was planning a trip with N, which added to the fun.