Flight and First Impressions of New Srilanka

   Posted by: Janahan Balasingham   in Experience, Opinions

It has been 3 days in Srilanka and they have been interesting. A lot of changes from the last time I was here in 2007. So I thought I’ll blog about it.

The flight journey from London to Srilanka with a transfer at Delhi was ok. I was pre-warned about the problems I might encounter at Delhi Airport. The flight to Delhi was comfortable and they had a good collection of movies to watch on the way back. Guess that’s a good thing about flying in an Indian flight service (Jet Airways). Landed in Delhi Airport and I had to walk a long distance to get to the transfer point. My hand luggage strap broke so I had to carry the 10 kilo bag in my hand additional to my heavy laptop bag (those who have seen my laptop know how heavy it is). I thought about asking where I can pick up a trolley but then I remembered the warning from someone in UK about people asking/expecting money for any kind of assistance or face problems. So I decided against asking anything and walked all the way. Took me about 20 minutes to get to the other side. Had to go through metal scanning and just my luck, alarm went off for my wallet. It didn’t do that at Heathrow Airport and I didn’t carry any metallic items inside that. So they ended up doing a lot of checking before letting me go. Had to explain to them what a USB pen is (which was inside my laptop bag).

Delhi Airport also for some reason asks you to take the laptop out of the laptop bag before sending it in for scanning. Strange as I didn’t have to do that in any other airports before. But I can’t complain too much as there was a foreigner who had to explain to them what a mini tripod is for and why there was a screw that pops up when you open the stand. Lucky I didn’t carry my mini tripod.

The domestic flight really sucked. Very uncomfortable seating with no entertainment. Food was horrible and the flight was jammed. Very small plane with 6 seats per row (3 on each side with a small aisle). 3 hours and 40minutes journey (add another 40 mins as it took off late) was a very bad experience that made me decide never to fly Jet Airways again. Atleast not the domestic one.

Anyways, landed in Srilanka safely with all my luggages. Nothing lost or stolen. Was concerned about all the electronic stuff I was carrying but they cleared the flight journey safely. My first day back in Srilanka was coincidentally a May Day. So most of the shops were closed. On my way, there were a lot of “Hail Rajapakse!” chanting and even a big stage broadcast happening. Came home and relaxed. Couldn’t sleep eventhough I hadn’t slept at all in my journey but the heat kept me up all night. Just sat up watching movies in my laptop till 6am when I ended up sleeping.

Woke up mid afternoon and went shopping. My primary goal was to get 2 important things. One was a UPS to protect my electornic items. Don’t want a repeat of power surge that destroyed my external HDDs in 2007 to happen again. So bought the one that can protect most items. Costed quite a bit (£50 equivelant) but I hope it will be worth it. Other was a laptop cooler pad. Earlier that night, I realized how much my laptop is going to suffer in Srilankan heat. It was hot as it is normally and even at night, the heat was almost burning a hole in my lap. There weren’t many options available but I bought the one that seemed decent enough. Guess Srilanka doesn’t have many 17″ laptops. 🙂

I also wanted to find out about the mobile contracts and broadband services. So after my shopping, I Went to Hutch first as I saw that on my way to SLT in Dickmans Road. They did not have any good mobile contracts but they had WiFi service. So I thought while I wait for broadband service to get activated, I can use the WiFi. They gave 6GB data for 6 months using a Dongle. It costed around £18 (Rs.3,990) which seemed reasonable. It would come in handy even after I get broadband if I’m on the move.

Next stop was at a Dialog shop on my way to finding SLT. Kind of got lost as I was on foot. Wanted to see the places around. I did look up about Mobile Contracts online and I thought Dialog prices were outragous and Mobitel seemed better. But I understood the price plan differently. It seems Srilanka is still very stingy on the minutes so I have to be extra careful on the minutes. The 1000 package which costs Rs.1,200 (£6) incl. tax has only 200 minutes and that’s the best offer they have. After that, it’s more money per minute. When I saw the plan online, it said additional cost was Rs.200 per second. It made me think that the plan was outragous as the monthly charges is 1,000 and when you go above the limit, you end up paying 200 per second. Nira suggested the website may be wrong which I thought was the case. It wasn’t but the additional cost doesn’t mean the seconds of the call. But how they actually calculate the bill. So the additional charges is for them to count the seconds of usage instead of minutes. So if you talk for 70 seconds, on original package it will be counted as 2 minutes. But if you pay the additional Rs.200, it will calculate it as 70 seconds. So you will have the extra 50 seconds to use. Unfortunately their website or their leaflet doesn’t explain this properly. Instead, you have to talk to them to understand this.

SLT however had very poor customer service. That lady really annoyed me. I wanted to find out about the packages available for me to sign up for broadband. They had very little bandwidth for low prices. I had to get a higher costing package just for the bandwidth. They didn’t let me get it under my name and I needed to get my mother’s signature as the telephone line is under her name. So I brought back the form. The lady was operating on her computer and talking with others while I was sitting there having a conversation. Seriously. It really pissed me off.

Since I woke up late, I couldn’t get to Dialog on time with the money they needed for me to get my sim card. Had to postpone that for the next day. I also have to go shopping for furnitures like table, computer chair, cupboard, shelf etc. That’s going to cost quite a bit.

One interesting feature I noticed in all the locations were the token system they have implemented. I didn’t see that when I was in Srilanka last time. But now every place is operating with token. Some places have tokens that are seperated by language. So if you need a Sinhalese speaking or Tamil speaking person, you get a different token. All the places seem to have the same token service operators. Someone has really profited from this implementation very well. 😀

I also found out that they have introduced many different currencies in Srilanka now. For example, there were 3 different types of Rs.1,000 notes. One was the traditional green note. Second type has Rajapakse’s face in front and soldiers lifting up the flag in behind. Probably printed after Rajapakse’s victory over LTTE. It is bluish green colour. And third one is a newer one that is a smaller note than before. They have gone back to green on the small note. All of them are in circulation. It is going to get very confusing on identifying which note is what. I will have to be very careful before giving money out or taking money back.

Most of the trishaws have meters now. My friends told me about this so it wasn’t a surprise. But it is very interesting. They have a basic Rs.50 charge that lasts for 1km. Then depending on the meter, the price increases for every 100 meters. They have Rs.3, 3.5, and 4 as far as I saw. This may be good for those who have lived in Srilanka all this time. But for me who was here in 2007 last time, the prices seemed higher than before. It used to cost me Rs.100 to go from my Wellawatte house to Majestic City. But now it costs Rs.130 to go from Bamba flats to Unity Plaza which is shorter distance. Guess I need to get used to it. Even the bus tickets have gone up.

One disturbing fact I heard was from my sister. Apparently the private schools that has English medium are restricting it to only Sinhalese children. My sister’s school (Holy Family Convent) refused to accept her daughter as she was not a Sinhalese child. Sister had to fight against their justification to get her daughter admitted. Apparently Anika (Sister’s daughter) is the only tamil child in the medium. There are 2 mixed children as well but rest are Sinhalese only. I was worried this might happen and it seems my fear is coming true. Need to see if all schools are following that practice or only HFC.

This weekend is Vesak holidays. So it will be a fun time. Can take a lot of photos. Must get ready for it.

Signing off for now.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 4th, 2012 at 1:11 am and is filed under Experience, Opinions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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