It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in Colombo for work. I have a fair bit of experiences in the public transportation in Colombo and thought of sharing some of them with you. Some of the tips I give would help you.
I travel between Upali Newspaper Limited halt in Homagama and Public Library halt in Colombo by bus. I used to ride my motorbike when I worked in Colombo earlier but due to the soaring petrol prices, I thought of opting to public transportation. Besides, riding motorbike is bit risky and you can also get drenched in unexpected rains. I use the bike for long distant riding.
I usually don’t get a seat when I get on to the bus at Homagama. Since I have to be standing, I start to listen to some music over my phone’s MP3 player, mainly DJ-remixed Bollywood songs and later I started listening to audio books as it was more productive. That doesn’t mean I have totally given up the Bollywood music. I can concentrate on audiobooks only if I am little comfortable in the bus, even if I am standing. If I am uncomfortable, DJ music is the best option. I recently downloaded a good Bengali-Hindi mix. I would advise you too to invest on a phone with an MP3 Player or a radio so that the hassle of being in a jam-packed bus will be temporarily forgotten.
I always get a seat before my destination. When I get a seat, I start reading a book which I gave up few days back because the weight of the laptop bag with this thick book started giving me back pains. So, if you want to enjoy reading in the bus, buy something light like a magazine. You cannot open a big newspaper inside a bus and Sri Lanka hardly has any tabloid newspapers now. Magazines and smaller books would be ideal.
Getting a seat on the way is a little secret. I have tested this every day and it works for male folks. Sorry women, I have no tips for you. As soon as I get into a bus, I go closer to the front row of seats. Even if the front row is occupied I hang on there, especially close to the seat allocated for the clergy. There are two advantages. Most monks get on to the bus get out on the way and the seat becomes vacant for you. The other benefit is that if women are seated in that seat, when a monk gets on, they all have to get out of the seat as the society thinks that a woman being seated next to a monk is unacceptable. In both ways, you manage to get a seat. Not bad eh! Try this next time when you are in a bus.
Remember to keep some coins with you when you travel in a bus. The conductors are poor fellows working hard throughout the day and we shouldn’t give them the burden of looking for change. In the developed world, commuters are used to keep change for the bus fair. When you offer changed money, the conductors even smile with you. A smile is something you can least expect of a bus conductor in Colombo.
I am scared to sit in the seats where young ladies sit because I often fall asleep in the bus. While asleep, if I lean towards such a woman, she might think that I am purposefully doing it. To avoid the embarrassment, I skip a young woman’s seat. And this is why I have never made female friends in a bus. Some of my friends are experts to get friendly with the girls in the bus and they even end up going for a date with the girl once they get down the bus.