Paranoid or Almost Robbed at a Train Station in Sri Lanka?!

Good day,

Let’s be real, I’m going to tell you a story and you’re going to decide where I’m a wimp who isn’t down for “the next adventure” or some dude who realized he had made many newbie travel mistakes and jumped out of a tuk tuk just before CERTAIN DISASTER!? The setting of today’s story is a long way away from Little Corn Island but takes place on another little island which dwarfs this place called Sri Lanka in the beautiful Indian Ocean…

It had been an interesting few weeks of mental expansion and straight up relaxation in various parts of Sri Lanka and a beaten down but never beaten “Sir SHABL” was taking yet another train aka bacteria bin on a binge that could be considered a “sh!t hole” in the most endearing of senses. The usual random couple from somewhere wearing a tiley hat was in front of me and I began taking photos of everything I saw with reckless abandon, usually senseless shacks lining the railway lines.

These two kids and by kids I mean teenagers probably 16-18 stand near a door where I’m getting down to business. We both get off at the same stop and go to change trains. Sure enough these hipsters are again near me and small talk conversation ensue. They ask me where I’m going and they reply that coincidentally, so are they. Hooray, new friends! Something wasn’t quite right and my mind as ingesting it in a strange way so that when it got to my gut, just didn’t sit right.

I put my camera away, somehow I’m probably holding my laptop, then my iphone. Whatever it was like one of those weird places like a total newb you just go through everything you have, in public.¬† I love making friends while traveling, but usually other travelers who have what appears to be a similar agenda and we team up like groups of prey do in the Serengeti, safety in numbers and whoever you have the most in common with / can relate most with is whatever you’re a part of, sorta. Anyways…

We hit another station, change. Get kinda a weird vibe from the two teenagers as though they shouldn’t be trusted and at this point we embark to our final destination. When we get there they are kinda waiting for me and typically I’d say “peace out” but I didn’t and ended up agreeing to split a cab. Decide that I have a fool proof plan of sorts to ensure my safety…

If this is a scam, they need a tuk tuk driver. Random “Joe the Driver” won’t just join such criminals on a whim, they need a driver. I know it sounds horrible but these kids were well dressed, as though in a manner they had lots of expendable cash or were crooked criminals. Ask them how much and they reply, they’ll pay – more alarm bells go off. Back to the driver, yes?

As we approach I get distracted by an incessant nagging to have a cigarette which my new friend provides. In my mind say “need to make sure we get a random tuk tuk” but I get distracted and about 1 minute into our journey away realize this one sorta cut the line, we didn’t wait long enough and they seemed to have a good rapport with him, they now have a driver…

As we pull away from the place, I’m sitting in the middle with the 2 gents on my sides and the driver in the middle. We take a turn off the main road onto this gravel road and I start freaking aka losing it. I say where are we going and he gave a great answer which gave me my opportunity to demand they stop. He said “we’re taking a detour to visit a friend which confirmed my we aren’t going to the hotel suspicion.

Yell to the driver “Pull this ride over, immediately!” and they wouldn’t stop, eventually they did. I got all my stuff and myself out, they gave me a menacing glare and drove off. I walked about 5 minutes until arriving at the road we turned off off and hailed another tuk tuk. Told him where I was going and immediately we began driving¬† in the completely opposite direction and arrived there within 5 minutes…

Makes you think? Am I being paranoid or did I just avoid getting jacked, robbed or looted? Regardless, this is a scenario in how you can easily get robbed and it happens all the time. When traveling solo and especially in transit, you have to watch your back and harden up because for the time being, you’re a mule with all the valuables that act as a necessity to your existence in the strange land you travel…

Safe travels.

Tips hat,

23 Comments

  1. Julia

    April 2, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Dude, you did the right thing. I think they were scamming you — that many train switches? The driver? They’ll pay? Your instincts were right on, good for you!

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 6:42 am

      Believe you are right, feel lucky to have had the option to bail when I did.

  2. Adam Daigle

    April 2, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Yeah, those guys definitely seemed sketchy. I’ll keep this in mind as I’ll be going to Sri Lanka next week. I may send you a message. Peace.

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 7:09 am

      Less to do with Sri Lanka as could occur anywhere, this just happens to be the time I let my guard down aka possibly became bait and got a bite…

      Safe travels.

  3. Audrey | That Backpacker

    April 2, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Close call! I would’ve bolted, they certainly sounded suspicious.

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Definitely suspicious train station dwelling suspects.

  4. scott

    April 2, 2012 at 7:24 am

    you made the right choice, we’ve all been there and know that sinking feeling well. you live by your instincts, always trust your gut reaction… it’s always right

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Good thinking on the gut. The larger the gut, the clearer the thinking!?

  5. James Shannon

    April 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Always trust your gut … it may not always be right, but I almost always regret going against my gut!

    Gripping story!

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Indeed, hope you’re enjoying SE Asia.

      • James Shannon

        April 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm

        I definitely am, up at 5am to head off to off to the Philippines today!

  6. PHIL

    April 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

    OU LA LA … ROB YOUR SUCH A WIMP.. IF I WERE YOU I WOULD OF BEATEN THE HELL OUT OF THE BUNCH TAKEN THEIR TUK TUK AND ENJOYED THE REST OF THE DAY GIVING FREE RIDES TO ALL !!

    • Rob

      April 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

      We know you would have, we need a weekly column “Travel the World Like Phil Would”.

      Let me know when you draft up the idea of 5-10 sample posts.

      • Larissa

        April 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        I have to agree with Phil on this one. Maybe paranoid. I’m pretty certain that even if you ended up somewhere dodgy you could have taken on a couple of 16-18 year old well-dressed Sri Lankan hipsters AND gotten a free tuk tuk out of it.

        Please do that column, Phil. I promise I would be your most dedicated reader!

        • Rob

          April 5, 2012 at 5:50 am

          Oddly enough “Scott” sent me the identical message through facebook, are you one of the same!? I kid / jest but really, I’d rather just be bounce 99.999999999999998999322 % of the time.

  7. SJH

    April 4, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Great story, great decision…but even greater video. One of the all-time best.

    • Rob

      April 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

      #truth on video

  8. Lorenzo

    April 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Woah Rob! You are definitely not being paranoid. Glad you got out of that one before it was too late… Remember to always trust your instincts!

    • Rob

      April 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Indeed / agreed.

  9. VD

    January 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Simular experience in colombo .. got out of bellagio casino found one tuk tuk near by .. told him to drive us to silk club he said ok 300 rs i said ok .. we were 2 … opposite of belagio .. one car 4 people in it .. tuk tuk driver was sitting with them prior talking to us … then we got in he went to the car and said something to us like they know the club you will go together etc etc didnt hear him well .. i said no no stop then take us to colombo 8 .. he said wait i will stop here my friends will go to massage bla bla ( driving in some small street ) then he stopped car was behind us .. he got out before that switched the tuk tuk off .. i told my friend lets run .. but we waited he came back started again and went to oneain road .. started talking some bull shit again i told him stop right now in middle of turning left .. he said no no .. then i put my foot on the
    road and he had to stop got out .. gave him 200 rs .. got another tuk tuk immediatly with running :) this was happening at 2:15 am .. not sure what to think but i think we saved our asses

    • Rob

      January 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Definitely really shady and all signs point to some kind of scam.

      Good call on making the move to stop it before they make theirs!

  10. vd

    January 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Yep i tought the same sorry for my english and maybe bad writting this happend before 2h and 30 min and im still shocked i was looking for. simular experiences and i found yours so i just want to warn everybody to be carefull at night when using tuk tuk

    • Rob

      January 12, 2014 at 5:35 am

      Night time is the witching hour when the predators come out in the jungle as well as the cities!

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