Day -04 - 21-Dec-2015  (I continue From Here ) 

The same tuk-tuk driver who dropped me at the bus station, the previous day came by to pick me this day as well. He is quiet happy to see me, an Indian. On our way to the railway station he stops at his house and collects his packed breakfast. He then makes sure he comes to the ticket counter and checks on the tickets and train timings for me. The first available train is a AC chair train and a ticket costs Lrs 1000. Given a choice, I would have preferred a second class ticket to observe the locals but unfortunately the next passenger train is very late. The tuk-tuk driver gives me a firm handshake and leaves.

I wait for the platform gates to open. Apparently that happens only half an hour before the train arrives. The train arrives 15 minutes late. The locomotive seems brand new and is very comfortable but the ride is bumpy like one is sitting on a horse. I gather from my lonely planet book that India not only funded this railway line to Jaffna but Indian railways helped build this track.  I feel happy about it and somewhere get a sense of the reason behind the high regard Sri Lankans have for us. 

A few very noisy upper middle class Sri Lankan families are in our compartment. Not only are the kids screaming but the mothers are also very noisy. It is also interesting to notice that they are speaking in English. I am reminded of some Indian families who make a lot of noise in public areas and speak in English to seem modern or classy. I use my earphones and play loud music. A Japanese traveler sitting opposite me smiles at me and points towards the ear buds he is using. I smile back and give him a thumbs up. I have traveled in the villages and smaller towns in this country but all the villagers seem well mannered and less noisy than these educated upper middle class families. I being to wonder if there is something wrong with our education.

The vegetation changes from forests to paddy fields. People are dressed in Lungi and Saree and Chudidhars. The place resembles very much a part of south India. 

At the railway station, I speak to the Japanese traveler Tadashi and learn that like me, he too is looking for the same hotel  -  Theressa inn suggested by the lonely planet. We decide to walk there and learn that the place is full. Go to the next place suggested called Saras. Saras is a beautiful old mansion converted into a hotel. Here a Tamil speaking manager greets us. Tadashi and I decide to share a room so that its less expensive. The behaviour of this manager is very different from the people at London Palace. He seems less polite. "If you loose room keys Lrs150 will be charged", he says. For which, I tell him the the AC remote is not working thus reminding him of his duty.

For renting the scooter we go back to Theressa inn. We hire a scooter and take off on a city tour. First we stop at a pure vegetarian restaurant to have a meal. I am delighted to find boiled rice. In Jaffna boiled rice seems to be a common replacement to white rice just like my hometown.  The cuisine resembles very much like that of south India but the taste is not the same though, it is not comparable with that of India. But then I cannot expect Indian cuisine to taste better elsewhere.

We stop by a few churches listed in the lonely planet book but all of them are closed. We next ride to the Jaffna public library. The library was burnt during the riots of 1981 by a group of sinhalese protestors and a lot of ancient Tamil scriptures got burnt. I was surprised to see a photo of the building in ruins inside the library. Post war, the library was renovated and rebuilt. Unfortunately on Monday the archives section is closed but I get to see a lot of locals busy reading newspapers. This again reminds me of India. Many here are interested in reading and news. Sunday observer is a very thick newspaper with several leaflets and looks very informative. 

Jaffna fort is under renovation. There are some exhibits or posters that give us an insight of the fort built by the Portuguese and then renovated or reconstructed by the dutch. 

I must say that in Jaffna, I felt a certain calmness. Having known about the civil war that predominantly took place here, this could have been an influenced thought but even otherwise, there seemed to be a strange silence here, a forced kind, a sad kind, a frustrated kind. I am not going to explore this thought further and just leave it at this. 

At Nallur Kandaswamy temple we witness the evening pooja.  Like in many south Indian temples, one has to remove their shirts before entering the temple. The customs are slightly different from that in India. The temples are very colourful, the pooja itself is a brief one. After the pooja the priests all assemble outside the shrine and chant a prayer. All are offered Vibuthi (Ash) after the Pooja. 

On my way back, I happen to cross Alliance Fran├žaise de Jaffna. I decide to go in. I speak to the director who is very happy to show their excellent collection of books. He tells me that he uses a different curriculum to teach people here and do not necessarily refer a particular book. He uses translations of Tamil poems to French and vice versa. He shares with me a brochure of an art center near Kandy that is setup by a friend of his and houses some interesting art work and heritage. After a small chat with him I head back to the hotel.

We dine at a restaurant called Cosy. Its a nice place that serves Indian style food. Tadashi shares his travel experiences in the African desserts, on climbing Kilimanjaro and other interesting stories. He has traveled almost half the world already. Its great to hear such inspiring stories of other travellers. He complains about the younger generation who always book everything in advance on internet and travel. According to him it is a cheap way to travel. Backpacking on the other hand, he finds interesting and adventurous as you are constantly surprised. 

While returning back to the hotel, we see a bunch of boys singing and dancing in front of a shop. I stop to see what is going on. One boy is dressed as santa clause and is dancing to the song being sung by some and music being played by the others. The shop keeper pays  them an amount after the performance and the boys walk away to their next location. They wish us merry christmas before leaving.

From Anuradhapura to Jaffna this seems like a journey to a different place altogether. The traditions have changed, the culture has changed and the language has changed. Here the locals did not seem to get very excited about the foreigners, they seemed rather occupied in what they are doing. There were no wannabe guides here. This part of the country felt different.

Route - Anuradhapura -> Jaffna

Continued Here