Updated on August 26, 2017
Day 2 of Sri Lanka Trip, Anuradhapura on July 12, 2017
Second day of our Sri Lanka trip.
The plan of the day was to meet up with our chauffeur driver for the rest of our journey through Sri Lanka, then drive up to Anuradhapura, the first capital city of Imperial Sri Lanka, with many cultural relics sprinkled around the city.
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We arranged pickup time of 0830 in the morning with the chauffeur driver company, and found our driver at the hotel at 7 (he said that the company told him to come this early). Given just how long it took for Sri Lankan restaurants to serve your order, it seemed that the company did prepare quite some cushion for the driver to be on time, but it’s just too much in our opinion.
Since we experienced baggage delay on our flight to Colombo, the first thing that morning was to reach airport to retrieve our bags. Airport was usually the last stop for chauffeur drivers around Sri Lanka, we made it our first.
Since we didn’t ate any breakfast that morning, we asked our driver to take us to some local bakery, which served various bread and sandwiches. Unfortunately, bread in Sri Lanka usually have stuffings like curries and strange leaves, which wasn’t very much to our taste. Compared with what we ate yesterday, they were reasonably cheap though.
Visit to Colombo Airport Baggage Office
Well, to retrieve our delayed bags, we first need to get a “Day Pass” from a counter outside arrival hall.
This took a lot longer than what we expected, because we need to fill out a form first, then wait for the officers to type in our information, that’s not to mention it’s a crowded counter (I guess Colombo Airport has this magic to leave behind checked bags?).
After that, we reached the baggage office and quickly identified our bags. Then there’s more form-filling, and that included going to the customs desk for a stamp and back. Oh, and it seemed that there’s only one clerk to handle all these bags and forms, so that won’t be quick.
After that, we needed to go through customs, as somehow Sri Lanka customs would go through these left-behind baggage, opening them one by one. Guess what? There’s only one counter.
Road Trip to Anuradhapura
So 80 minutes later, we were finally on our way to Anuradhapura.
But before that, our driver showed us his home in a village not far from Colombo Airport, which gave us a brief glimpse of what ordinary life in Sri Lanka was like: cement walls and floors, no aircon. It happened that that morning, our driver’s village is having a big cleanup to deal with the country’s mosquito crisis, so basically everyone in their village was on the streets clearing the ditches.
So it’s nearly 11 O’clock when we set out of Negombo.
On the way North our driver told us some interesting stories along the way, like how Muslim people occupied parts of Negombo suburb and Buddhism people occupied other parts, with what street acting as the boundary, of how mothers were bringing brooms to clean up playground of the school of their children (I liked this one) and so on.
For what was otherwise a boring ride up the congested country road A3 up Puttalam. (I guess it was that West Coast’s highway only went as far as Colombo Airport, so the highway traffic and local road traffic all got squeezed in this two-land A3 route.)
These golden coconuts were sold as low as 60LKR (0.39USD) each, which was the cheapest I’d every seen, and they tasted good.
Our driver stopped and showed us this Murugan Temple, which turned out to the most important tourist attraction today along the way. But since it was still under construction, we treated it as bathroom stop.
The traffic congestion went all the way up Puttalam, then we turned on A12 route, and there’s no traffic on it.
Our driver told us these cyclists were soldiers training. Well, it seemed that their gear was way too expensive for the everyday life in Sri Lanka. It’s like the word “corruption” written on their shirts, and they were riding to show it off to the taxpayers.
When we approached Anuradhapura, we were hit by a downpour, which turned out to be basically the only rain we’d seen throughout these two weeks. We checked in at our hotel, headed downtown for lunch (at 1530 though). And since it was birthday for one of my friends, it’s a small party of celebration.
After that, our driver advised that we visited Isurumuniya Temple and Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya today which carried separate tickets, and tomorrow the rest of Anuradhapura temple groups with a collective ticket, which was good advice.
Isurumuniya is a Buddhist temple situated near to the Tissa Wewa (Tisa tank) in Anuradhapura. The temple was built by King Devanampiya Tissa (307 BC to 267 BC) who ruled in the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura. After 500 children of high-caste were ordained, Isurumuniya was built for them to reside.
As I said it rained heavily the afternoon when we arrived, so it was not a pleasant feeling walking on the temple grounds barefooted (Shoes weren’t allowed in temples in Sri Lanka, and everyday Sri Lanka people didn’t seem to like them). Plus, there were numerous bugs crawling the grounds we trod on, thank God they didn’t bite.
Photography wasn’t permitted in the cave temple or in the museum nearby, where famous stone relief of the temple like Lovers and Royal Family were displayed. They were nicely carved though.
There were some giant rocks in Isurumuniya Temple, and one can climb upon them.
It was a quite temple by the way, not many visitors, it’s a nice experience after a rainy afternoon at Isurumuniya Temple listening to the birds
After that, we headed for Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (ජය ශ්රී මහා බොධිය) is a Sacred Fig tree in the Mahamewna Gardens, Anuradhapura. It is said to be the right-wing branch (southern branch) from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. It was planted in 288 BC, and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. Today it is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world.
There were two passages into Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (and other major temples in Sri Lanka like Kandy’s Temple of Tooth Relic) separated by half a meter, one for men and one for women. I’m not sure whether that’s for security checks and religious blessings. It’s just two empty passages when we arrived.
In the grounds of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi we witnessed what we thought was a funeral procession. It’s like people of a whole village were out singing requiem for someone they loved, and that’s awesome.
By the way it seemed that the locals in Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi were all dressed in white, a color that Sri Lankan’s deemed belonged in this holy ground.
It was sunset time when we arrived at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, and the locals were spread around the temple doing their evening prayer. It’s a spiritual and tranquilizing presence at the site.
By the way the original Bodhi was high on the pedestal, and in our opinion, off visitor access. We could only walk around the Tree looking up to its presence.
After that, we headed back for hotel and called it a day.