Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sri Lanka Day 1: Overcoming Murphy's Law

Almost two weeks ago now, Samia and I headed off for our mini vacation to Sri Lanka. We had planned it a few weeks prior and our excitement had been steadily growing. I flew in from Bangalore the night before our flight and stayed with her, which meant that the next morning things would be easier because we could go to the airport together. However, as with many things in life, things aren't always going to go to plan. Or at least in our case, things don't seem like they will until ultimately working themselves out.

Beautiful Sri Lanka

Just as we were about to leave for the airport, Samia made an offhand comment about my visa allowing multiple entries into India. I was certain it did but just to be safe, I double checked. Sure enough, it says that quite clearly... right above the part where it says there must be two months between each visit! This was obviously cause for concern as not only was our trip only planned for five days, but I also have less than two months remaining on my visa anyway. Obviously, being allowed back into India was a pretty important issue for my research since I'm still finishing up different elements of it and being stuck outside the country was certainly not an option. After a flurry of phone calls, we were fairly certain that Sri Lanka was considered an exception to that rule but decided to leave for the airport early so we could check with the immigration officers before going through. 

So green! 

When we arrived, we first checked in for our flight. Since we weren't sure if I was going to be ok in terms of my visa, we asked the Air India staff to keep my bag off the conveyor belt just in case I wasn't going to fly that day. So, having done that, we wandered over to immigration and had a quick chat with the head of the department. He put our minds completely at ease, explaining that nearby countries like Sri Lanka or the Maldives are allowed because it is understandable that tourists might want to see them while they are in the area. However, if I had flown back to the UK or the US for any reason, then the two month exclusion period would have applied. We were so relieved to hear this that we sailed through immigration... completely forgetting about our bags, which were still sitting at the check in desk! Realising our error, and that we weren't going to be allowed back through to the main airport area, we started calling every Air India number we could find until finally Samia was able to get a hold of the desk staff. Still feeling a bit uncertain about whether our bags would be arriving in Colombo with us (they did), we continued into the departures area of the airport.

Roadside houses 

This is where the day finally started to de-stress as we managed to talk our way into the Mastercard lounge despite the fact that I have never had a Mastercard in my life. Samia had her's and the man at the desk let us in without checking mine. This meant we had a nice place to sit, some decent sandwiches and a relatively nice wait for our flight. After hanging out there for about an hour, we made our way towards the gate. The Chennai airport is pretty tiny compared to most other international airports so this took us about thirty seconds. Especially since security is divided into male and female lines, the latter being considerably shorter! I really like this system since the women's line leads to an area completely blocked from view where they do the pat down checks. It definitely feels a bit more comfortable, although airport security is always going to be a bit uncomfortable at best. When we left for the airport, we had found out that a friend of one of Samia's dad's friends (also an Air India pilot) was going to be piloting our flight and therefore there was a slight possibility of an upgrade. Not wanting to count our chickens before they hatched, we boarded like normal only to have the stewardess direct us to 3A and 3B instead of the seats clearly indicated on our boarding cards.

Colombo Swimming Club at night 

Finally, after a great flight in business class, we arrived in Colombo and were met by a driver who took us into the city. We were staying with family friends of both my parents and Samia's, Sumitha and Raju, who hadn't seen me since I left India 23 years ago. After a lovely welcome to their home (complete with traditional coconut water, fresh from their tree), we joined some of their friends for dinner at the Colombo Swimming Club. This was the club my Dad and his sister swam for during their childhood days in Colombo, so I was really excited to see it. I'll have more to say in a later post since we also went back during the daytime and I have better photos from then to share. All in all, the whole day was a perfect example of why you shouldn't panic about something until you have a definite reason to. Although it was stressful, Samia and I managed to keep our cool and as a result, ended up with a pretty nice start to our holiday!

1 comment:

  1. I felt my blood pressure rising just reading about the potential disasters in this one. I'm so impressed you were able to stay cool and level-headed through it. I would have just collapsed on the floor and wailed incoherently about how stressed I was and how no one could understand me.