Polonnaruwa the Ancient Capital - July 6th 2015

Another wonderful dinner here at Jayabo residence last night. One of the dishes had Plantane bananas and was scrumptious. The red rice every night and the dahl is agreeing with me and I am starting to regain some weight methinks.

The same driver Harsha that we had on Saturday picked us up for our trip to Polonnaruwa the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. The drive was a visual feast as we travelled through small and large towns with activity all around. White clad school children waited for buses or walked along the roads.  Many people all Sri Lankans were seen along the roadside going about their daily lives. Passed many Spice Gardens and rice paddies. Many buses of varying age sped along and some even passed us! The Red Government buses drive at remarkable speeds and seem to have a “Menacing” look as they lurch towards you usually with their front higher than their rears and leaning to one side with 80 passengers on board hanging on for dear life! These buses more often than not are approaching one at speed on your side of the road as a part of a “Passing Manoeuvre”. The private buses travel in a safer manner but many of them have “Cowboy” drivers as well. It all makes for a very interesting drive with never a dull moment.

After about 3 hours and after passing through an area where Elephants cross the road we arrived at the ancient city ruins. Our first surprise was the entry fee for Foreigners of $25 US each.  The second surprise was we needed a guide who was $20 US. It turned out it was worth it. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries. The ruins consist of a walled inner and outer city surrounded by monasteries, temples, a palace gardens and a manmade lake built by hand.

The palace ruins, the giant Stupa, many temples, monk’s swimming pool and a giant headless standing Buddha took us by surprise. It is about the same age as Angkor Wat. The second King was the one who ordered construction of a giant lake to irrigate crops and was by all account a humble King. Today Sri Lanka’s President lives in Polonnaruwa. Another must see while in the country.

From here we drove to Sigiriya an old rock city that dates back from over 7,000 years ago.  The Garden City atop this huge freestanding rock was built 477-495AD. Unfortunately it is only accessible via 1220 steep steps carved into one side, takes over two hours to climb and Erica’s knees said “No”. We took some distant pics and vowed to return with her new knees. Truly a remarkable and wonderful thing to visit the old city ruins on the top of this rock and today is one of Sri Lanka’s “Must not miss” attractions. We walked to the base through jungle for about 750 metre and a sign beside the track proclaimed “Do not travel after 6pm Elephants roam and are dangerous”. Even though it was before six we kept looking around just in case!

Palace Ruins.jpg

Driving back towards Kandy we stopped at The Rock Temple at Dambulla. The Monastery was established in the 3rd Century BC and is one of Sri Lanka’s major religious and historical sites with a history of more than 2000 years. It is a very large cave temple complex with well-preserved 18th century roof paintings. It nestles under a large overhanging rock ledge almost at the top of a giant rock mountain. The steps and sloping climb nearly killed Erica as her knees were almost unable to cope. We eventually reached the temple and her knees were swollen and burning.

It was well worth the climb! One of the most beautiful places we have been in. The roof paintings were magnificent and covered every part of all the cave’s roofs. The many Buddha statues and the atmosphere gave one an intense feeling of peace and tranquillity. We were lucky enough to be alone in the temples but it could be a different story with a busy day or a tour group. Another site not to be missed while in Sri Lanka. At Mattel on the way home we stopped in the very bust town to see the exterior of a Hindu Temple. It was quite something as it glistened in the sun.

Heavy traffic back to Kandy and our total journey took over 12 hours. We would suggest staying overnight rather than doing it in one day. Another great day in Sri Lanka.