The Negombo beach, which had seemed an undifferentiated black mass at 11 pm – the night before, was actually quite a decent one. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend a lot of time here, since we had a long journey to what is called the Cultural Triangle. But I still had time to fully and delightfully digest the fact that Muttaappam and Fish Curry was considered part of a legit breakfast in Lanka, at least if we went by the hotel spread, which even otherwise, was quite awesome, with Pittu (Puttu), and string hoppers (Idiappam)
We started out and saw several kids in uniforms, which was surprising on a Sunday. Turned out it was for Sunday school and apparently, the Lankans call Negombo ‘Little Rome’. We passed a place that sounded just like home – Kochchikade. The skies were absolutely postcard, and they reminded me of the Twitter background. There was a lot of construction happening on the roads we passed.
This seemed to be the second most common kind of elephant here, the first of course, being EGB. After Puttalam, which had a bustling Sunday market, we tested out a unique fruit called wood apple. Knock it on the floor to open it, and we get a sour, tangy, rarely sweet and honestly horrible taste. But many people make a living selling this – apparently the juice is very tasty. Though I encountered it later, the fruit had left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I didn’t dare try the juice.
Finally after about 3.5 hours, we reached Anuradhapura, and took a full pass for the cultural triangle, costing SL Rs.2825 per head, after the 50% discount for SAARCy countries. On hindsight, it might be better to figure out the individual costs of the places you plan to visit, since most of the biggies (Sigiriya, Tooth Relic Temple, for instance) are not covered. The tickets were bought in the Museum, where a self appointed guide, showed us, among other things, the ‘pee pee’ and ‘poo poo’ systems used by early Buddhist monks. At the end of it all, I felt quite sad for the old woman, jabbering away about a past that few seemed to be interested in.
Anuradhapura, sacred city and ancient capital, where if you threw the proverbial stone, you’d hit a stupa, and that stone was a freaking relic, mind you! So we saw the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, the oldest angiosperm, which was also the scene of an LTTE massacre about 25 years back. Ruvanveli Mahaseya, white and bright, and very click friendly.
We then decided to get ourselves us some lunch. The Anuradhapura Resthouse was busy with some VIP, and we finally reached The Grand, which gave us pork, chicken, along with the Lankan version of meals, a vanilla flavoured banana shake, and a distant view of Mihintale, which would be later in the day.
After lunch, we zipped through Thuparamaya Dagoba, Jetavanaramaya – made of over 90 million bricks, Abhayagiri Dagoba, the Moonstone (where another family watched us closely), and the Twin Ponds. The stupas were slowly causing a stupor and we decided to move on to Mihintale.
This was only about half an hour away, and is absolutely the place to go to if you’re afraid of heights. In fact, it is a good initiation ceremony for Sigiriya. The climb to Aradana Gala, where the novice invited the gods to come down and listen to the sermon of Mihinda, consists mostly of steps built into the rock face in ancient times, and is at such a height that you can believe the gods are at shouting distance. Spectacular view, which is difficult to capture when you’re praying to the above gods to let you hang on longer!!
We started off to Habarana, which was our halt for the night. Chaaya Village proved to be the most awesome resort in our vacation. A special thanks to our tour guys who offered to upgrade us to this place when they got a good discount. Even the pics at their own site don’t do them full justice. There’s an excellent story about Habarana itself, all of which you can catch here.
The other thing you can catch later is Day 3. In case you missed Day 0, its here.