Sri Lanka Diaries: Anuradhapura 8th April till 13th April 2012

In my last post I mentioned how I came to be at Lake Wave Rest in Anuradhapura. I strongly recommend fellow backpackers to check out this place when they are in the area.

My original idea was to stay in Anuradhapura for two days before heading to Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. But as it turned out, the place was so comfortable and charming, I ended up staying here for five nights. I did make a couple of day trips to Mihintale and Sigiriya.

My first impression of Anuradhapura was the emptiness. I reached here on Sunday and the roads, parks, markets, etc were empty. It was also afternoon time and the heat may have had a role to play in the emptiness. In the evening when I stepped out for a walk, there was a little buzz around the New Bus Stand (and the shops in the area). One must also confess that one is prejudiced by the sheer volume of people one sees on the roads of Mumbai. Coming to a town whose population is less than 5% of Mumbai, the contrast just hits you.

From Sri Lanka Holiday

There are three things of interest for the traveler like me – history, people, peace. And to top it all, the layout of the place makes for easy exploration either by walking or by cycling. There is the heat of course but then living in the tropics is all about that anyway. Of course, those with the money to spend did hire air conditioned cars or vans to take them dagoba hopping.

My stay in Anuradhapura went like this

  • 8th April: Reached around 2 pm, checked into Lake Wave Rest, went for a walk, had a beer and kottu near the bus stand, came back by 7pm chased by a thunderstorm
  • 9th April: Went exploring around the ancient city – the Maha Bodhi Tree, the Museums, the Dagobas, the ruins of ancient monasteries, etc. , ate chicken curry and rice; returned in the evening again chased by a thunderstorm
  • 10th April: Took a day trip to Mihintale, splurged a bit on lunch and was back at the hotel by sundown. For the third day running, we had a thunderstorm with lightning tearing down trees.
  • 11th April: I had originally planned to check out and go to Polonnaruwa. But Upali, the owner of Lake Wave, very easily convinced me to stay back. It was the Sri Lankan New Year in a couple of days and he said we can have a nice party. In hindsight, I made the right decision because the friends I made in the two days I stayed back. So instead of packing up, I decided to do a day trip to Sigiriya. This was also the day when they gave the tsunami alert. While Sigiriya is quite far from the shore, there was definite concern on the faces of everyone on the streets and in the restaurant where I was having lunch. The trauma of 2004-5 was not forgotten. I returned late in the evening once again caught in a storm. There were two new guests in the hotel and the night was spent over beer, guitar strumming and discussions about world peace.
  • 12th April: With my new friends, I went exploring on the cycle, this time going to places which I missed out on the first day. As is wont to happen, I had a flat tyre and had to return hauling the errant cycle in a rickshaw. The night was again a long one with cigarettes, beer, guitar and world peace discussions.
  • 13th April: The Sri Lankan New Year, a holiday, I along with B from Germany decided to hop over to Trincomalee. Sri Lanka roads on a holiday (I may be generalising on the basis of one day’s observations) resemble a bandh in Kolkata. Not a soul in site, no traffic, no transport and even the schedule of state-run buses are a matter of conjecture.

To close this post, a summary of my five days in Anuradhapura, I leave you with three images that shall always be, for me, synonymous of the place.

Sleepy hammocks              From Sri Lanka Holiday
Buddhist Colour              From Sri Lanka Holiday
Serene Walks                From Sri Lanka Holiday
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