Anuradhapura with its Ancient Ruins at Sri Lanka
Polgahawela with its expensive tuk-tuks at Sri Lanka
With the help of the hotel owner, we planned our next town, from Galle with its Fort to Anuradhapura but we didn't want to pass a lot of time in the train so we decided to make a stop in the middle, exactly at Polgahawela for 1 night.
We took the train (270 rupees each second class - 1,70 euros) of 10h55am to arrive at 15h30, our hotel Mimosha (128/8, kegalle road, Pinnawala - 31,50 euros per night) is at about 3km from the station but before, we had to fill our stomach. In the station itself, there is a restaurant but we went outside. Just at the exit, there is a local restaurant, no one spoke very well English but at least, we were able to order something, the main goal was achieved successfully.
I ordered for 250 rupees (1,50 euros) a big plate of no spicy chicken rice. There is also a supermarket just next to the station. Now that we felt better, the second goal was a little much complicated. We asked some tuk-tuks to bring us to our hotel and they asked 1000 rupees !!! We decided to call the hotel to send us a tuk-tuk but they don't speak very well English so it was not easy to explain with the hands if the voice didn't work.
The other option, ask one of the employees of the restaurant to speak with them, we didn't get what we wanted but the employee talked with one of the tuk-tuk and at the end, we paid only 200 rupees (1,25 euros). In 7 minutes, we were at our hotel. While we turned our back, the tuk-tuk asked the hotel to pay him saying that we didn't do it but it was too late when we discovered it, we were cheated by him paying twice.
The room with air conditioning is clean with a big all-in-one bathroom, there was a heater but not working so only cold water, the wifi worked correctly. The hotel is near to the main road as our room, so a lot of noise but for 1 night, we could survive.
Anuradhapura with its Ancient Ruins at Sri Lanka
Leaving behind Polgahawela, we took the train to Anuradhapura (200 rupees each second class - 1,25 euros), the slow one at 10h40am to arrive at 15h30 (it was so long, 40 minutes late, stopping at each station and taking its time, after that, we said only the express one). In the city, there are 2 stations, the new one and the normal one. We get off at the new station because our Thilaka City Hotel (560/2, godage mawatha - 28 euros per night) is close to this one and we paid 150 rupees (1 euro) to the tuk-tuk.
The hotel is clean with its all-in-one bathroom, with a good wifi and air conditioning, the only point is that there is a low water pressure. Nearby, between 2 and 10 minutes walking, there are a local market, a Pizza Hut (very cool if you don't like spicy food, particularly here, it is more than the South) and a cheap local restaurant, just at the corner from our hotel called Hotel Creston Park (a vegetable curry rice for 250 rupees - 1,50 euros).
Since the Ancient city is huge, we decided to do it the next morning when the temperature was cooler. In the other hand, at 17h30, we took a tuk-tuk for 200 rupees (1,25 euros) to bring us to the sacred tree called Sri Maha Bodhi then we walked to the Ruvanvelisaya dagoba.
As for all sacred places, no short pant, no sleeveless t-shirt and only naked feet. For our shoes, instead to let them to the shoes stand, we put them into our backpack inside a plastic bag. We didn't pay anything although we read that the entrance costs 200 rupees (may be because at this hour is free).
At this time, a lot of local people come to pray and to make offerings, especially lotus flowers, first at the tree then at the dagoba. It was nice to live this moment with those faithful people. The tree has more than 2000 years old and it is said that it was brought by Sangamitta, daughter of the great Indian Buddhist emperor. Protected by a kind of small fortress, Buddhist monks guard it against whoever trying to touch it, only the upper side can be seen. Some faithful people tied up some white ribbon with a coin to make a wish. Others were praying in front of a shrine with a Buddha (behind him, the tree) or directly in front of the tree. Others went to be blessed for a white thread at the right hand (meaning, well being and good luck) and a white dot in the front between the eyes (meaning, a spiritual eye).
Meanwhile that the sun was going down, candles and lights started to illuminate the area making it more particular and beautiful. Then we walked to the Ruvanvelisaya dagoba about 10 minutes in the cool air of the sunset.
The currently one has been restored without keeping the original height. In 140 B.C., the King Dutugemunu ordered its construction during the full moon day of the month of Vesakha (April-May) under the Visakha constellation. It is a special date for the Buddhism because a lot of important events occurred in the past at the same date. This stupa owns an additional valor, in its core contains Buddha's relics.
A lot of local people also are here to pay tribute, we saw many of them at each cardinal points connecting spiritually with Buddha and most of them were at the main entrance and inside the big shrine next to a reclining Buddha. We were fortunate to assist to the ribbon ceremony which consists to put it around the base of the dome. The ribbon can have different designs but always with the orange color because in Sri Lanka, it is the most important meaning the Buddha's teaching/wisdom.
For the next morning, we booked a tour with a tuk-tuk that we met. We told him what we wanted to visit and the time, based on that, Malek offered his service for 1200 rupees (7,50 euros, for instance, we asked the same tour to our hotel and they asked us 2000 rupees) that we accepted (the price didn't include the entrance ticket which cost 3550 rupees each - 21,80 euros).
The ticket office opens at 7h30am but we decided to start at 7ham so he came to pick us up at our hotel. We visited first the Abhayagiri monastery with its dagoba because one of the ticket offices is nearby. To enter, the ticket is needed but since Malek knows the security guy, he let us in.
In the past, it was one of the greatest constructions and it said that inside the dagoba, there is a golden bull keeping relics of Buddha. After that, we went to buy our tickets then towards the moonstone and the guardstone (the names are more impressive than the stones). Next the Eth Pokuna, also known as the Elephant Pond and the Kuttam Pokuna, known as Twin Ponds (both are water storage tanks). Next different dagobas (known also as stupa) like Jetavanarama, Lankaramaya, Thuparama, Ratnaprasada, Mirisavatiya, Sandahiru Seya (under construction ordered by the current president) and again Ruvanvelisaya.
The Citadel has very nothing to see, there is only a small uninteresting area that was digging out for the moment. We entered in the Royal Park but not in Isurumuniya Vihara, also known as the Rock temple (we had to remove our shoes to enter and it was too hot the ground). At 11ham, we saw more than what we wanted so we asked Malek to drop us at our hotel.
Around 9ham, it started to be hot and visiting stupas on naked feet, it was not great, always looking for a little shade to not walk on the hot stone. In fact, I was getting tired to see stupas (1 was nice, 2 was OK, 3 was boring, the 4th, the 5th, etc. brrrr, small, big medium, they have the same structure, some are renovated and some not but with different stories) and about the ruins, they are just columns and columns and columns (even using my imagination with the name and the description, I couldn't make it in my mind).
If you will have to discover the site and you will have limited time, go to the Ruvanvelisaya stupa, the sacred tree Sri Maha Bodhi and why not, the Rock Temple.
Visiting it in tuk-tuk and with someone who knows the whole site as his palm and some security guys, it helps a lot, moreover under the heat of the sun. We were very happy with the service offered by Malek, a very cool guy speaking English. If you will plan to visit the ruins, don't doubt to contact him, he will do a good price:
- Malek, phone (+94) 0774397679 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our next discovery was Mihintale with its Mahaseya by taking a bus from Anuradhapura.