A Journey to Galle by Train by Edmund O'Sullivan

on Sunday, 04 February 2018.

Photo by Hamish John Appleby
Reef Villa & Spa is a luxury, full-service resort on Wadduwa beach about 90 minutes’ drive south of Colombo. It is unique for two main reasons. First, because of the spaciousness, luxury and lovely detail of its suites. Ours was Namal and it was superb.Second, because there are only seven suites in the whole resort. This means that it feels like a private estate. The resort has direct to Wadduwa beach, which extends for miles in both directions. It is a working beach for local fishermen but is essentially unspoiled. The beach shelves gently into the sea which was safe but still fun in January 2018.We spent 10 nights at Reef Villa & Spa and loved it.We were guests at Reef Villa & Spa for 10 nights and dined every evening at the resort’s Summer Breeze Restaurant. There was plenty of choice on the menu and we enjoyed the grilled mullet, the chicken, fish and vegetable curries, the grilled prawns (really first class) and two different chicken dishes. The starters were tasty: we loved the pumpkin soup. We were a bit conservative about pudding, and went for the home-made ice cream. Excellent. The restaurant echoes those of the resort: quiet and intimate. The restaurant team were smart, friendly and attentive. There’s a wide range of drinks. My invariable preference was the local Lion beer.We also travelled to Galle by train during our stay.  Galle is the site of South Asia's largest colonial era fortification which occupies a lovely location on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.  You can get there by car or bus, but we went by train.That involved travelling by tuk-tuk from Reef Villa for about 15 minutes to the town of Panadura where the train to Galle stops on its way south.The tickets were Rs100 (50 pence) one way in second-class. You go to the ticket office and buy them. The station master speaks enough English to understand your questions.The train was slightly late but packed. You need to stand at the south end (left hand) of the station to get in the 2nd Class carriage. This provides separate seats, four across. If you can, get a window seat to the right of the train. This will allow you to see the ocean view and enjoy a breeze through the window. Our mistake was to stand in the wrong part of the platform, which meant we were forced to get in the third-class section which was very crowded. We also had stand for about 30 minutes until some of the passengers got off. The carriages are more than 30 years old and look it. The seating when we got it was utilitarian. There’s no airconditioning. The windows and doors are left open. The lavatories are what you’d expect in a developing country.  I spent much of the journey standing by the open carriage door enjoying the breeze and views. Health & Safety conscious people would be horrified. We also discovered that many of the passengers spoke English and are interested in chatting. Our companion on the journey south studied at Sheffield Hallam and was working in Colombo. We learned a bit more about what it’s like to live and work in Sri Lanka. For example, rent for a one-bedroom flat in Colombo is about £200 a month.The journey to Galle took about 1hr and 45 minutes. More than half of it is close to the coast and offers an ocean view. There was also a sombre moment. About 20 minutes from Galle there’s a giant Buddha looking towards the sea. This memoralises at least 1,700 people who died while travelling on the same railway line we were on Boxing Day 2004 when a tsunami smashed into the coast at this point: Peraliya, near Telwatta. More than 30,000 Sri Lankans tragically died in this disaster. Most lived on the east coast.Galle station is about a kilometre from the Galle fort, the largest colonial era fort in south Asia and a World Heritage site. There are plenty of tuk-tuks at the station but you have to be clear about what you want. They will try to give you a complete tour, which is not expensive but takes time you may prefer to devote to other activities.We directed our tuk-tuk to the Rampart Hotel inside the fort which has a first floor restaurant with a view over the fort walls to the ocean. It serves a range of food a la carte and a luncheon buffet. We got a seat with a good view next.After, we walked the fortress wall and the journey allowed us to enjoy more ocean views and the distinct character of the fortress town, which has buildings dating back to the era of Portuguese and Dutch domination. There are plenty of shops, other restaurants and hotels. On 27 January 2018 when we were there, the annual Galle Literary Festival was being held with celebrity speakers including Sebastian Faulks and Alexander McCall Smith.There are temples and other sights to see in Galle outside the fortress. We got to the station about 15 minutes before the time the train back departed, bought tickets and got a good window seat in 2nd class. Galle is an excellent place to visit and is within easy reach of Wadduwa. It would be a shame if you didn’t get there at some point during your stay in Wadduwa. We took the train and enjoyed every second, but others might prefer the greater comfort and privacy of hiring a car for the day. Edmund O'Sullivan January 2018nd, bec

 

 

Eddie OSullivan Train to Galle 2ause there are only seven suites in the whole resort. This means that it feels like a private estate.

The resort has direct to Wadduwa beach, which extends for miles in both directions. It is a working beach for local fishermen but is essentially unspoiled. The beach shelves gently into the sea which was safe but still fun in January 2018.

We spent 10 nights at Reef Villa & Spa and loved it.

We were guests at Reef Villa & Spa for 10 nights and dined every evening at the resort’s Summer Breeze Restaurant. There was plenty of choice on the menu and we enjoyed the grilled mullet, the chicken, fish and vegetable curries, the grilled prawns (really first class) and two different chicken dishes. The starters were tasty: we loved the pumpkin soup. We were a bit conservative about pudding, and went for the home-made ice cream. Excellent. The restaurant echoes those of the resort: quiet and intimate. The restaurant team were smart, friendly and attentive. There’s a wide range of drinks. My invariable preference was the local Lion beer.

Galle is the site of South Asia’s largest colonial era fortification which occupies a lovely location on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

You can get there by car or bus, but we went by train.

That involved travelling by tuk-tuk from Reef Villa for about 15 minutes to the town of Panadura where the train to Galle stops on its way south.

The tickets were Rs100 (50 pence) one way in second-class. You go to the ticket office and buy them. The station master speaks enough English to understand your questions.

The train was slightly late but packed. You need to stand at the south end (left hand) of the station to get in the 2nd Class carriage. This provides separate seats, four across. If you can, get a window seat to the right of the train. This will allow you to see the ocean view and enjoy a breeze through the window.

Our mistake was to stand in the wrong part of the platform, which meant we were forced to get in the third-class section which was very crowded. We also had stand for about 30 minutes until some of the passengers got off. The carriages are more than 30 years old and look it. The seating when we got it was utilitarian.

There’s no airconditioning. The windows and doors are left open. The lavatories are what you’d expect in a developing country.  I spent much of the journey standing by the open carriage door enjoying the breeze and views. Health & Safety conscious people would be horrified.

We also discovered that many of the passengers spoke English and are interested in chatting. Our companion on the journey south studied at Sheffield Hallam and was working in Colombo. We learned a bit more about what it’s like to live and work in Sri Lanka. For example, rent for a one-bedroom flat in Colombo is about £200 a month.

The journey to Galle took about 1hr and 45 minutes. More than half of it is close to the coast and offers an ocean view. There was also a sombre moment. About 20 minutes from Galle there’s a giant Buddha looking towards the sea. This memoralises at least 1,700 people who died while travelling on the same railway line we were on Boxing Day 2004 when a tsunami smashed into the coast at this point: Peraliya, near Telwatta. More than 30,000 Sri Lankans tragically died in this disaster. Most lived on the east coast.

Galle station is about a kilometre from the Galle fort, the largest colonial era fort in south Asia and a World Heritage site. There are plenty of tuk-tuks at the station but you have to be clear about what you want. They will try to give you a complete tour, which is not expensive but takes time you may prefer to devote to other activities.

We directed our tuk-tuk to the Rampart Hotel inside the fort which has a first floor restaurant with a view over the fort walls to the ocean. It serves a range of food a la carte and a luncheon buffet. We got a seat with a good view next.

After, we walked the fortress wall and the journey allowed us to enjoy more ocean views and the distinct character of the fortress town, which has buildings dating back to the era of Portuguese and Dutch domination. There are plenty of shops, other restaurants and hotels. On 27 January 2018 when we were there, the annual Galle Literary Festival was being held with celebrity speakers including Sebastian Faulks and Alexander McCall Smith.

There are temples and other sights to see in Galle outside the fortress.

We got to the station about 15 minutes before the time the train back departed, bought tickets and got a good window seat in 2nd class.

Galle is an excellent place to visit and is within easy reach of Wadduwa. It would be a shame if you didn’t get there at some point during your stay in Wadduwa. We took the train and enjoyed every second, but others might prefer the greater comfort and privacy of hiring a car for the day.