This weekend I had the opportunity to travel throughout the hill country and further north visiting some of the ancient city. I went with two of my new friends from Ireland and we visited many of the temples in the area. We went to Dambulla, Polonnaruwu, and Aluvihare.
It was quite an adventure to say the least. It started off okay with us not knowing how we were going to get to the end of the road (literally) and catch the bus. We were told we could just walk outside Millennium and catch the bus to the crossroad and then catch the bus to Kandy. The buses don’t really stop and you have to catch their attention to get on. We couldn’t figure out which bus to get on since they writing was all in Sinhala so instead we just hopped a tuk tuk and had them take us to the corner. I will say the corner is quite a ways away. It is probably 2-3 miles from our site so walking with a full backpack is not a great plan.
We did finally get to the corner and were able to figure out which bus to get on to Kandy. So that part was easy enough. The bus ride was about 1.5 hours to Kandy.
I will admit that I have forgotten what it is like to have a language barrier. I have really only been traveling in countries lately where either English is widely spoken or where I speak the language, in this case Spanish. So when trying to figure out where to get off the bus in Kandy there was a bit of a language problem. We thought the ticket taker was asking us to get off right when we got into Kandy, which we did. However, we now think that he was just telling us that we were in Kandy. So instead we got off a couple of miles from where we needed to. Then we had to get another tuk tuk to the city center and 5 of us piled into one tuk tuk with a small child already in it. That was interesting to say the least.
Some of you may be asking what a tuk tuk is. That is a great question. It is basically a three wheeled vehicle. Think of a motorcycle front attached to a cart. I have a picture below. They are always interesting experiences. I don’t think I could drive here at all. Some of the drivers must be literally crazy! There must be some sort of elaborate system for passing and honking one’s horn that I don’t yet understand. Additionally, some of the drivers have no concept of what shifting is and they pass each other like they were playing chicken with each other. Sometimes it is better to just close your eyes.
I will say that I was a little disappointed that at the Temple of the Tooth that you couldn’t even see the tooth. It was hidden behind a gold wall and doom. However, hundreds of people were stopping to pay their respects and pray to the tooth, which you couldn’t see.
Then at Dambulla, what the guide book said was a little climbing, ended up being a major climb. I think it took us more than 30 minutes to climb to the top using uneven stairs (standard construction here in Sri Lanka). Dambulla is the cave temple with the statues placed inside the different caves. It is kind of neat how everything is built into the various caves.
Polonnaruwa was different than the rest as it was more ruins as well as temples. I did find it interesting but we were having an unofficial tour so we missed a lot of information. Plus some of the ruins were basically just the floors left. Most of the temples were sealed so we couldn’t see what was inside and it was a little disappointing.
One thing we underestimated was how long it takes to get from point A to point B here in Sri Lanka. You would think that a 3 hour bus would take 3 hours but here is Sri Lanka you are lucky if you get there within 4 hours. Part of it is that the roads in the area are hilly and extremely curvy which means driving them takes more time. Plus we ran into a bunch of construction that created one lane roads with buses still trying to pass each other like it was two lanes. Craziness to say the least.
This meant we couldn’t do all the places we planned on since we underestimated the time it would take to get to places. So instead of doing another temple we headed back on Saturday which worked out well since I had gotten this stupid cold thing. We had to take a tuk tuk to a bus to Kandy and then figure out how to get another bus to Kegalle which is the city we are near.
We ended up getting some food and trying to find the bus to Kegalle in Kandy which was an ordeal. We asked numerous people which bus to get on and we walking all over the bus area being sent in multiple directions. Sometimes even back where were started. I should also mention it was pouring down rain during this time and we were getting soaked the more we walked. Finally, a nice old man took pity on us and walked us to our bus. We were one of the last to get on and we felt bad since we were soaked and didn’t want to get others soaked as well but there was no way around it. We had to ride the bus for 1.5 hours soaking wet. But, eventually we got back and took a tuk tuk back to Millennium. It was an interesting but nice weekend. All the places we stayed at were extremely nice and many of the shops we went to gave us discounts since we were working with the elephants. In the end it was nice to see more of Sri Lanka and review some of the history and culture of this country.
Enjoy some of my pictures below. They are unedited!