by Malinthe Samarakoon on December 12, 2011
I love trains. I travel between Kandy and Colombo using Trains mainly because it’s more comfortable than those dreadful long distance buses. I can’t stand buses since they are cramped, crappy and smelly. I hate those new buses with really tiny windows and cramped seats and I despise air conditioned buses due to their crappy air conditioning, smelly curtains, lack of oxygen and general wildlife (Cockroaches)
So as a frequent passenger of the almighty train, I was excited to hear about the two luxury compartments that were introduced to the Kandy ICE: Rajadhani Express and Exporail. Priced at LKR 850 (Update: It’s 950 now) and LKR 1200 respectively, it’s quite expensive than the 2nd Class (LKR 220) and 1st Class Observation (LKR 360). Although I was excited, I wasn’t keen about spending that much for a train journey.
I purchased my Rajadhani Express ticket using Mobitel’s Ticket Reservation System (365). Mobitel currently handles the normal tickets and the Rajadhani tickets for Kandy/Colombo. According to their automated message, you can’t purchase Exporail tickets from them. The service charge was 144.50, which was higher than the ordinary service charge. I acquired my ticket from the Mobitel Kandy HQ.
It was good. There was wood everywhere. Air conditioning was perfect. The lighting was nice. The whole interior was clean and spotless. The ambiance was lovely.
Leather Reclining seats. Very comfortable. There’s more than enough legroom and even if the front seat is in a fully reclined position, there would be a lot of room. Armrests are somewhat small and there are only 3 per two seats. 2 for the window side seat and 1 for the other. So you have to share the one in the middle. If the outer seat is moved, it loses one armrest.
Curtains move freely without an issue. There’s a lovely orange glow when sunlight hits them. There was something about the windows I really liked. Maybe they were too clean.
You also get Hot Towels when the train leaves the station (Update: Not anymore)
The washroom was small, but it’s clean and has all the facilities you would need. Much better than the ordinary ones you usually see.
There are power sockets near all the seats. You can plug your laptop charger if you’re working. Sockets were 5A round pinned ones so if you have a charger with square pins, you’ll need an adapter. I was expecting two sockets but there was only one. So if your fellow passenger also has a laptop you would have to sort it out with a few rounds of bare-knuckle boxing.
There’s a large LCD TV. Items played on it vary. There was a documentary on Kataragama in the beginning. After it ended, there was Gods Must be Crazy II. After that ended, there were some Mr. Bean clips. The volume was inadequate after the documentary. But I would be unhappy if the speakers were blasting movies through the whole journey.
Food and Beverages
The usual baked stuff. Rolls, buns etc. Most people ordered Seeni Sambal buns. I think they microwave them before serving. I just got a cup of coffee for 50 bucks. They also have tea. There were menus on some of the seats. You can ask for one if you want.
They will setup a folding plastic table with a table cloth when your order something, so there’s no chance of spilling anything. Everything’s served properly on clean plates.
Food isn’t included in the ticket price on Rajadhani, but it’s included in Exporail afaik. You’ll get a bill when you’re near the destination.
It was relatively quiet inside because the windows are all closed. I was expecting something like better suspension for a smoother ride but there wasn’t The staff is very friendly and you’ll be greeted with smiles most of the time, and I think it’s awesome. They will handle your bags once you’re inside the train and once the journey is over.
There were more people than I expected and almost all the seats were full.
The Rajadhani website (http://blueline.lk) is not good because it’s not functioning properly. Same goes to Exporail. There’s an online ticket booking facility on the Rajadhani site but it doesn’t seem to be working. I couldn’t even create an account there.
The facilities and the service is top notch and it’s very comfortable. Overall a nice experience. But at LKR 950 per journey, it’s just too expensive for someone like me.
An Update: As mentioned in some of the comments, I did experience an air conditioning failure once. Power generators kept failing on another occasion. I hope these issues are fixed now.