Polonnaruwa with its Gal-vihara at Sri Lanka
To go there, first we took the bus from Sigiriya to Dambulla getting down at the downtown stop then we crossed the street to take the right bus. To be sure, we asked the driver of the first one we saw if he would stop at Polonnaruwa, fortunately, he said yes. Leaving at 12h15, we paid 96 rupees each (0,60 euros) to arrive at the city at 13h30.
Then we walked about 8 minutes from the bus stop to our hotel Manel Guest House (new town road - 30 euros per night), it is near to the tourist police station.
We got a big clean room with a beautiful view on the rice field and a mosquito net for the bed. As for all hotels we booked, it has of course air conditioning, hot water and wifi (not working very well in our room). It was the second time that we got a "normal" bathroom (I mean not an all-in-one bathroom, the first time was in Colombo).
To kill the afternoon, we visited the city and there are nothing interesting, also we couldn't find a local place with air conditioning so we decided to dinner at the Banana Leaf (255 batticoloa road), I ordered a grilled chicken with boiled vegetable and french fries for 900 rupees (5,50 euros). It was not very good but at least they have wifi.
Since the hotel is close to the ruins (about 15 minutes), we decided to walk but first, we went to find an ATM because if not, we wouldn't be able to buy the tickets and since they accept only cash, we didn't have choice.
It was the most difficult thing to do in the morning, we wanted to start early well, no way. The first ATM (at about 5 minutes from our hotel) didn't accept our card telling us that we reached our limit. The second one neither (very close to the archeological museum). The third one, yes, we got the cash but we walked until the HNB ATM of the hospital (at about 40 minutes from our hotel).
Now with the money, we walked back to the archaeological museum to buy our ticket for 3550 rupees each (21,80 euros, the ticket office is just at the entrance). At 9h30, the temperature was already hot, the ticket office opens at 7h30 and the museum at 9ham, if you won't plan to visit the museum, start early.
We visited first the museum that provides interesting information including a scale model of the whole area and some building models. Then we visited the area next to the museum known as the Island Park (number 5 in the map), the most interesting are the royal bath and the lion throne of the King's council chamber.
From here, there is a track that leads directly to the entrance of the ruins. The security asked us our tickets and they tore up the second ticket counter (there are only 3, the first one was for the museum).
The first area, called the Royal Palace (number 6, 7 and 8 in the map), keeps some structures like the impressive walls of the Royal Palace and the charming bathing pool Kumara Pokuna. The second area, called the Quadrangle (number 11 in the map), has many interesting structures like the Vatadage, the Hatadage, the Atadage, the Bodhisattva shrine and the Thuparama Gedige.
The most interesting is the Vatadage with its 4 Buddhas at each entrance (well in fact, one of them is in spiritual). The Thuparama Gedige is the only structure which keeps its original roof, by going inside, it gives a break to the hot sun meanwhile discovering Buddha statues and a woman graced us.
We did all those sections with our little feet because they are close each other, at 13h30, we decided to go out to eat something because there are only places for drink inside. In order to get in again, we asked the security and they wrote something on both tickets. Walking along the main street, we arrived quickly to the entrance of the city and we opted for a place called Hotel Darshana (an egg vegetable no spicy noodle for 220 rupees - 1,35 euros).
To visit the rest of the Ancient site (from number 12 to 25 in the map), we used this time a tuk-tuk because they are more far away negotiating for 1000 rupees (6,15 euros). We re-entered at 15h to finish at about 18h. For this second part, the most relevant are:
- The Lankatilaka with a huge standing headless Buddha and some interesting old paintings can be discovered in the small corridor on the right
- The Gal-vihara with its 4 Buddhas (2 are sitting, 1 standing and 1 reclining). We arrived in this area at about 17h and a lot people were coming to pay tribute without or with lotus flowers and later, some monks too
- The Tivanka Image House with a huge standing faceless Buddha. Contrary to the Lankatilaka, the building still has its roof and inside, there are old paintings decorating the wall
- The Lotus Pond with a lotus design
The Demala Maha Seya is the only thing that it is still not worth to discover because it is currently under digging out. When we arrived to Rankot Vehera (number 15 in the map), our tuk-tuk told us that we could walk until Gal-vihara (number 22 in the map) because it is very nice and romantic and that he would wait us there. We told him no and to bring us to Baddhasima Prasada (number 18 in the map) once we would finish because we didn't want to walk under the heat. Hopefully, we took the right decision because it was not so nice walking along remains of columns with no shade.
After this long day, it was good to rest during the evening planning our next move, Kandy with its Esala Perahera festival.