Coastal Line 8059: 24 March 2024

Negombo, Sri Lanka

It was 4:30 am and pitch black outside when Kim, Michael, and Kyle met outside of the hotel. It was so early that even the peacocks weren't awake, and the morning was still, dark, and silent.

Sleepily, the driver who we had arranged to meet us helped us load our luggage into the back of his car, and we set off along the empty roads towards Matara.

One of Sri Lanka's highlights is its rail system, and we had wanted to take a train at some point during our travels on the island, since every guidebook, blog, and person we spoke with recommended it. The views from the train on the Coastal Line to Colombo were supposed to be especially nice. The only problem is that the 8059 train we needed to take is scheduled to depart daily at 6:05am and Matara, where the train departs from, was an hour away by road.

We had purchased our tickets online a few days earlier, and while Kyle and Kim unloaded their bags, Michael headed over to the ticket counter to redeem their booking voucher for their tickets.

Three first-class tickets cost us a combined total of 6000 rupees, or about $20.

The sky was just beginning to glow with the first cool light of dawn as we hurried along the platform to the find our carriage.

The first-class seats on a Sri Lankan train are very comfortable. They are wide and heavily padded with plenty of legroom. Each seat has its own electrical outlet as well. The carriages are air-conditioned, and each one has its own toilet. The 3.5-hour ride back to Colombo was going to be very nice!

There were a few other people on the train with us, but it was a quiet and peaceful ride. As we traveled through the countryside, we watched life go by outside the windows.

We were starting to get hungry. The conductor informed us that we would be taking a ten-minute stop in Galle, so while Kim stayed on the train, Michael and Kyle sprinted out to the platform to look for breakfast.

We jogged to the first food cart that we saw and ordered three small cups of hot coffee from the vendor. He also had a cart of triangle-shaped samosa-like pastries for sale.

"What are you selling?", Michael asked. "Veggie", the shopkeeper replied. That was good enough for us! Everything we've eaten in Sri Lanka has been delicious. There has not been one meal, snack, or dish that we've tasted that hasn't been incredible, so we decided to order three of whatever he was selling along with our coffee and hurried back to the train.

Meanwhile, Kim was anxious that Michael and Kyle wouldn't be able to get back on the train fast enough, but there was nothing to worry about. We were soon pulling out of Galle and back on the way north towards Colombo.

Breakfast turned out to be a sort of grilled vegetable curry-stuffed roti. It made for a great breakfast to enjoy with a cup of hot coffee while watching the views from the window.

The reason that we wanted to take this train in particular is because it drives right up the western coast of Sri Lanka. This route isn't called the Coastal Line for nothing!

The tracks are more or less on the beach, and when you look out the window, you can see the beautiful glistening waters of the Indian Ocean crashing up against the shore.

A little after 9:00am, the train arrived at Colombo Fort Station, Sri Lanka's main rail transport hub. The massive eleven-track station was opened in 1917 and designed after Manchester Victoria Station and is one of the busiest and most bustling transport hubs in the country.

About an hour later after a stop for an iced coffee and a moment to regroup at a cafe in Colombo, a taxi dropped us off at our hotel in Negombo. This is where we would spend our last night in Sri Lanka, and we had decided to book a hotel that was close to the airport in order to make our last day of travel as easy as possible.

It was a beautiful, nearly cloudless afternoon. The bright tropical sun beat down on Negombo Beach, and we quickly changed into our swimsuits to spend the afternoon lazing in the water. 

The hotel's pool had a swim-up bar, but it was closed today. Even though the country has a tolerant and pluralistic society, Sri Lanka's official religion is Theravada Buddhism, and the country follows the lunar Buddhist calendar. 

Every full moon day is a Poya Festival, and a public holiday across the entire island. There are 13 or 14 Poya Days every year, and we happened to be here during one of them. Devout Buddhists will visit temples on these festival days to pray and participate in religious observances. Generally, government offices, banks, shops, and businesses are closed, and the sale of alcohol and meat is forbidden.

While we could still buy meat dishes at the hotel restaurant (Michael had a delicious chili crab for lunch), alcohol was banned.

As the day came to a close, we reflected on the adventures that we had experienced during our time in Sri Lanka. Michael and Kyle still can't believe that they were able to convince their mother to race a tuk-tuk across the country with them, but we are so grateful for the great family time that we have had together.

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