I have been longing to visit Jaffna for a long time since my childhood. My father used to tell me many stories about Jaffna. Since I started travelling around the Sri Lanka, I was eager to visit Jaffna very badly after ethnic conflict being resolved. My wife wanted to visit Jaffa with some of her closed friends but did not come through due to many reasons so I told her that , first I visit Jaffna, then I take her to Jaffna later once figure out the ways and things. Fair enough right !!!!
One day, 19th of March 2015, While I was chatting with one of my good friends at office, Ari, I told him that I would like to visit Jaffna with him if he goes, as I wanted to go with somebody who knows about Jaffna. Ari’s home town is Jaffna but his family left his home town due to ethnic issues many years ago. Myself and Ari decided visit Jaffna by Yal Devi, Intercity express train on the 2nd of April 2015 for two nights stay in Jaffna. Just make the long story short, a few of Ari’s office colleagues also joined us.
Yal Devi Express Train
We took Yal Devi Express train tickets after several attempts. We took our tickets 10 days before our journey to Jaffna. You should do the same if you ever plan to visit Jaffna by Yal Devi.I will write a post about how to buy Yal Devi Express train ticket so that you will not have any issues when you try to book.
Anyway, We came to Pettah station (Main Railway Station in Colombo) at 5:00AM to catch the train and I was surprised,Yal Davi came sharp at 5:50am. It seems that Sri Lankans are working on time now !!! 🙂
Tell you frankly, it is just a normal train at glance on appearance but once I reached inside the train , I was stunned. I was confused, whether I have accidentally boarded into an air plane. Yal Devi interior looks like an air plane and it was well maintained. It was so nice and so comfortable and you never expect this type of comfort from a transport service managed by government institute in Sri Lanka. Anyway changing is happening every where !!!. Touch Wood!!! I am not sure what is the condition now 🙂
New Railway Track after Omanthai Station
Journey of the train until Omanthai station was very wobbly. It is like you travelling by an old train but this was due to old rail road track. New railway line was built after Omanthai Station. you can really feel the difference in the train experience after Omanthai station. It feels like , you are in a bullet train. no wobbling, no noisy sound, It was a different experience. You have to experience it to feel what I say.
After passing the Omanthai station, I got into the footboard of the train to video the Journey. Tell you frankly, I was risking my life, the train speed was more than 100km per hour and I was videoing while holding the train by one hand. When I think of it, it is scary and very risky thing to do. I was all alone too: could have happened anything since train was moving in such speed.In my opinion, Do not try videoing without somebody around with you as there should be somebody to help you in case something goes wrong 🙁
Legendary and Historic Place of Elephant Pass
As Elephant pass was passed it appears the very spectacular landscape of Jaffna and this breathtaking view you should experience by yourself. There are many stories,events and incidents pertaining to this historic place but it is NOT my interest to note them in this post .
This Elephant pass beauty gives the real feeling of the atmosphere of Jaffna peninsula for the first time visitors. This narrow strip of land is in a sense the gateway to beautiful Jaffna. There was a Dutch fort at Elephant Pass If you want to know more about Dutch Fort at Elephant Pass.
Please visit this website: http://amazinglanka.com/wp/elephant-pass-fort/
Jaffna Lifestyle and Its Culture
Since the train stopped few stations after Omanthai station, I tried to smile and wave to some of villagers. Some of the small boys were joyful but most of the villagers were very conservative in their outlook,behaviour and culture which truly define the true beauty of young beautiful Jaffna and also it is the main reason for the rich culture in Jaffna. Do not misunderstand their socially reserved behaviour and misinterpret. If they do not look straight at you or simile with you when you pass each other or meet each other , it does not mean they are rude or moody or angry but that is the very nature of Jaffna culture.
After Omanthai Station, every station is very modern and probably the best railway stations in Sri Lanka. The real feeling you get is when the train approaches the Jaffna station.
It is modern , Luxary , state of art station compared to other railway stations in Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa’s regime has carried out tremendous development in Jaffna and it is worth to appreciate it. Being a Sri Lankan, it is proud to see the development vested in Jaffna.
We got down from Jaffna station with high hopes and there were lot of native crowds. Just look at me, sungalass, track bottom with white hat and hanging a camera. I am pretty sure that Jaffna people would have welcome me as an alien.These are the type of stupid outfits that I wore during my entire trip to Jaffna. When I look back, I feel bit odd now.
These type of clothing, does not suite to Jaffna.
Native Food and How to Order
We told Ari to take us for lunch and he wanted to take us to high end restaurant but none of them were opened at that time. In my opinion, I was lucky as I wanted to eat native food at a native restaurant. We ordered native food of Jaffna and I enjoyed a vegetarian lunch. My other friends, most of the guys ordered Mutton and Rice.
These portions were really big. Entire trip, we had very delicious food but it is not very easy to find good restaurants. I was expecting, eating shops and restaurants every corner of Jaffna but it is not the case therefore do your research before you visit.One of my friends who visited Jaffna before me, told that there are houses that cook and give food for very cheap price for visitors so ask your friends before planning. if you know these type of places, just add a comment below so that everybody can share the information.
You should ask for the food description before order otherwise they serve you with the native version of the food . Example, If you order a Kottu, they add rice without asking you then you may not enjoy the Kottu therefore tell them what you want specifically. If you are not used to the quality of Jaffna water then it is advisable to use bottled water all the time.Generally, the cost of a good meal in a decent restaurant per person is about Rs 350/=. If you love Sea Food, Jaffna is the best place to have it and also it is very cheap compared to Colombo prices. I did not try but my friends say, it is very testy and cheap.
Since this is the SUMMAY of the trip, let me quickly touch other points too. I am planning to write few posts on this jaffna visit.
Ice Cream and Jaffna
Hmm!!!, I do not know what is the reason, it seems like , Jaffna people loves Ice Cream. we did not cover much places in Jaffna but you find ice cream shops every corner of Jaffna town. Rio Ice Cream place is the best and I do not know how do they give an Ice Cream for Rs 100/= or 150/=(Less than US Dollar) with such quantity and variety.
Rio Ice Cream Shop in Jaffna
We tried Lingan Ice cream house too but I still prefer the Rio place and their Ice cream. If you visit Jaffna, Rio is the place you must visit.
Jaffna People and Temples
Religion is the integral part of the Jaffna people and its culture. Every site and every corner of Jaffna, you find temples. I guess, You can not give land mark as temple for any body in Jaffna as you find more temples than shops. You find good number of churches in the town too. I was unable to spot a good Muslim mosque but I am pretty sure there are Muslim mosques in Jaffna town.
I am not trying to tell that Jaffna is holy place or Jaffna people is holy but religion and religious influence has carved into the society from every angle of the culture.
I noticed that, every time, when the van passes a temple, our van driver touched his heart from the left hand.People in Jaffna rise in every early morning to visit temple and temple is the pinnacle of their life.It is very common to hear the chanting and sound of drums from temples most of the time. Religion is the fortress of the Jaffna culture and it influences the every life hood of the Jaffna peninsula.
Majority of Females in Jaffna are very timid and innocent but they ride bicycles boldly and steadily. What ever the dress, it covers from neck to anckle but you find a few exceptions some times.
We went to Casuarina beach and tamil ladies were in sarees and shalvars.
Casuarina beach is packed with outside Jaffna people.You can obviously observe the cultural difference between natives and others. I tried to smile with couple of ladies but they do not look at my face(of course I am a stranger why the hell they smile with me :-)). It is not because they are rude but that is the Jaffna culture.Males takes a very prominent place in culture while ladies support the building the family.According to my friends,most of the jaffna ladies are house wifes. Even if you go to a shop, female do not look at your face straight or smiles with you. that is the culture they have been brought up.
Pink & Brown in Jaffna
The most of the places in Jaffna, are coloured in pink or pinkish brown, I asked from my friends, what is the reason for, they do not know,if anybody knows, why Jaffna building and houses are painted in pink, please add a comment to this post.
You do not see many modern cars like Colombo but mostly bicycles,motor cycles and small vehicles. If you find a modern car,that can be from other cities of Sri Lanka. Surprisingly , You do not find much traffic in Jaffna but the horn is the main driving force on the road.
We visited many places like Jaffna Fort, Jaffna University, Jaffna Library, Nallur Temple,Keerimalai/Naguleeswaram Temple and Jaffna general market, you can feel a very different experience all together.
Every house has many plants and much greener vegetation than a Colombo house. I was expecting very dry and withered trees but every house in Jaffna has much green vegetation than expected. Banna and Mango trees are very common in every house hold and I was that soil is very fertile.
I did not find many modern two story houses but I am sure, new generation will build lot many modern houses in Jaffna very soon.
One thing that I clearly notice was, social status dominates each others life. This can be due to caste of a person or wealth of the person. I have observed these type of social status influences in India too.I am a outsider to judge or rate these social attitudes but it is obvious if you watch with your nakad eyes carefully. Other biggest issue is the language barrier. They only speak tamil and do not understand English or Sinhala. If your driver speak only tamil, you will find lot of issues when try to communicate with them.
Money has more value in Jaffna and you can do lot of thing in Jaffna with a few money. Health, Religion and humanity are build into their daily life style. People are slim as they prefer to walk than take a vehicle. They eat home cooked food. My friend told me that Pizza Hut was closed down as nobody eat from these places as Jaffna people prefer to eat home cooked food as it is healthy and cheap. They love movies, music and dance and Kollywood is a integral part of the culture 🙂
Jaffna people life style is very simple therefore they are the biggest saves in our communities. Again, My friend told me that, when the Bank of Ceylon reopened after the war, the very first day , the amount of deposits that came to Bank of Cylon was the highest deposits that bank of celyon receive in it history of banking. This is itself , tell us that, Jaffna people has very simple life style which allow them to save more 🙂
The biggest war that Jaffna people will face and are facing is other culture’s influence. Civil war had shielded the Jaffna culture from rest of world but it is exposed out side world now.
The three days that I spent, carried me to my child hood life experience, more than 35 years back life in outskirts of Colombo. We played cricket in main road and ate home cooked food that our mothers cooked. we did not eat chicken or sausages in every meal daily basis. Society was very simple and people were not busy like today.
So Jaffna is still in that state and very homely culture. The biggest challenge is that how Jaffna people face other culture’s influence on them and how do they adapt and embrace it. I believe that change is the only constant thing therefore every society and culture should go though a change. It can be a right direction or wrong direction.As in every society, you may find a few Demons and Villains are in these cultures too , nobody can deny that but majority are humble innocent common people who love to live a decent peaceful life.
In my opinion, Jaffna, She is still a virgin but how long that she can be a virgin with the other cultural influence is to be seen..