Sunday, August 10, 2014

Day 8-9 : Arugam bay

Stardust is a cottage which was washed away by the Tsunami. It's owner also lost his life in the Tsunami, but his wife survived. His wife has since rebuild Stardust back from scratch and what a wonderful cottage it is. The owner keeps going back to Sweden so I did not meet her, but another young Swede couple were running the hotel and it was pleasant staying there.

Tsunami is a very normal topic here. The tuk tuk driver we hired hung on to his life by holding on to a coconut tree. He though lost his brother.

Startdust is the very first cottage on this arc of seafront. It's interiors are wonderfully done and while the food id a trifle expensive it's worth the price.

A lot of Europeans live on the cottages adjoining Startdust and we felt like we were sitting in an European pub when we visited on of the cottages for dinner.

Arugam Bay was one of the resorts where we had a two/three night halt so we took it easy while we were here. We also did visit a close by National park to see Elephants, but instead saw a few crocodiles.

The cultural part of our trip had come to an end we were again by the sea, though on the other side of the Island and were enjoying ourselves to the hilt.

The interiors are done with wood, there's a small table lamp where one can sit and read/write. The difficult part though are the nights. It's so close to the Sea that you keep hearing the waves crashing on the shoreline. And someone tells you there was a Tsunami just a couple of years back.

Day 7 - Batticola

Batticola was possibly the most boring city in our travel after Nuwara Eliya.

There was no market no nothing and the restaurants were all non vegetarian. We somehow found a small shack which served us Tamilian style veg thali.

We did try visiting a few beaches near the hotel, but the Tsunami had destroyed everything. Batticola was one of the most ravaged city during the Tsunami. I could still see people wearing T shirts which were sent in Aid.

The only reason we stayed in Batticola was that I didn't want to do a long bus journey at any point. Batticola was our transit halt between Polonnaruwa and Pottuvil.

The first bus we took was, I guess up to Akkaraipattu. From where we changed into another bus for Pottuvil. The journey from Akkaraipattu to Pottuvil was one of our high points on this visit. The road is right on the sea and one can see the waves crashing into stones for most part of this trip.

We got down at Pottuvil and took a Tuk Tuk to reach our resort Star Dust in Arugam Bay.

Day 5-6 Polonnaruwa

We came back to the guest house, cleared our bills. The owner had overcharged us on the exchange rate and I for once did not pick any argument and left the place. Partially because it was so spooky and partly also because I did not have a lot of faith in the owner.

We took a bus from Sigiriya towards Polonuwara.

In the bus a lady asked us to get in touch with one auto driver. We took his number and told her we'll see. Not surprisingly the lady in the bus had informed our Tuk Tuk driver and he was right there when got down, introducing himself and asking us to use his services. As had now become our habit, we had reached Polonuwara very late, and luckily the bus had dropped us right near our hotel, Siyanco. This was one of the only two hotels we booked on this trip.

We had our dinner in our room and crashed to sleep.

Day 6.

We woke up at lunchtime, had a quick breakfast and lunch and used the services of our Tuk Tuk driver to take us around. Of all the historical cities, we felt polonnaruwa to be the richest. It had the old temple of the tooth, an old Stone sculptor of Ravana's grandfather, The most beautiful buddhist paintings we have seen and a Hindu Shiva temple. If ther's only one historical city one wants to visit in Sri Lanka, I would suggest Polonnaruwa.

We were quite late when we finished our Tuk Tuk tour. Mr Auto driver then dropped us to the bus stop and left. Unlike our initial scepticism he was pretty helpful and also showed us a museum which had paintings and stuff done from Natural colours. N wanted to buy a Chunnam box here, which she till date regrets buying.

It was quite late when we actually boarded the Bus to Batticola. Midway on the journey I suddenly realised N was the only woman on this bus, and it was then that I realised that I shouldn't be taking this many risked and should limit my travel for the day time only.

We reached Batticola towards midnight and luckily got an auto who dropped us at our hotel. 

Day 4 - Mihintale

On the top of the mountain we also came across a king sized lizard and N and I just freaked out at it;s mere size. We somehow waited and waited for it to leave and then just ran away from it.

The drinking water was pretty sweet on the hill top.

As with any mountain, the climb down was swift and easy. We had our lunch at the roadside restaurant downhill and waited for the next bus to Sigiriya. As there wasn't any direct bus on that line, we took a Bus for Dambula.

Unfortunately, Dambula wasn't in our plan so we did not see anything around Dambula. Of all the cities though, Dambula appeared a lot more developed to us. We waited out, had some south Indian snacks, bought a SIM card and boarded the next bus to Sigiriya.

Unfortunately, we had taken a lot more time so by the time we arrived at a town before Sigiriya, It;s name I forget, It was pitch dark.

We somehow got down from the bus after the locals helped us. And then we entered our Guest house which was directly from one of Hitchcock's movies. Nothing had prepared us for the Grandeur and the lack of human beings. There was an old man who was the owner of the place and lot of servants. He took us to our cottage on the backyard.

When we asked for the dinner menu, all we saw was overpriced items, so we went out to check out some restaurants. As it was around 8 PM, all shops were closed. We somehow convinced an old shop to serve us some cheap dinner. Determined that she will not have Sri Lankan lentils, N went inside and took charge of the kitchen and made the dinner herself. The boy like cooks sheepishly laughing all the while and taking orders from N.

We cam back to the spooky guesthouse and somehow caught some sleep. When we woke up in the morning, we realised the grandeur of the place. It had full size women sculptors, metallic wires hanging from the ceiling, a false pond and what not. We were just glad that we did not see all these things the night before. We had out breakfast and left for Sigiriya in a Tuk Tuk.

Sigiriya is a bit more difficult climb than Mihintale and a lot more beautiful. We saw the various paintings of all the King's queens, from all over Asia. The top of the hill was majestic. Looking from down, one can never imagine that the top can be so flat. During the climb we gave up a couple of times but finally kept our spirits going and reached the top.

The road leading to the hill also has beautiful gardens, a natural water flow system and few natural fresh water taps. The architect had designed the city beautifully using the gradient and pressure to his advantage.

Sri Lanka - 3- Anuradhapuram

Unlike the rainy night before, the day wassunny and cloud free. The weather also wasn't too cold.

Anuradhapura sits top on the cultural triangle that people call it, Polonuwara and Dambula are the two other cities which complete this triangle. The city is like an average smallAsian city but once you enter the historical cities everything around you changes. Before leaving the Mahanela Guesthouse we wrote down all the places we should be visiting and wrote the names on the map. For the first time here, N tasted an Omlette. After a leisurely breakfast we randomly walked up to the road and negotiated with a few tuk tuk guys and settled on the final price, and the places to be visited.

There are huge domes in Anuradhapura, about three which have been restituted and a couple in a decrepit state. Nothing prepares you for the size of the Stupas till you see them. We started with a temple and then walked up a Stupa, it as painted in white and merged with the background quite easily. We came back to visit this stupa at night, and it was beautiful.

The tuk tuk driver took us around all the beautiful sites and dropped us somewhere near the railway station. Anuradhapura railway station is a blast from the British past. The display was completely manual and the time of arrival of the next three trains actually had a physical clock watch against the train name, while the time of arrival was actually shown in the clock watch.

We came back to out guesthouse for dinner and met an European middle aged couple and their adopted daughter. The next day we had to travel to Mihintale and then onwards to Sigiriya.

Day 4:Mihintale

We left the guesthouse after breakfast and took a bus towards Mihintale. Mihintale is about 17 KM frfrom Anuradhapura and by now we were well comfortable with the local transport. I don't remember now, but I guess we should have gone to the main bus stand at Anuradhapura and taken a bus for Mihintale.

Mihintale is a long climb. First the steps, then more steps and finally a lot more steps. In between we saw a few historical monuments like the King's sabha, a place for monk worshippers and a school kind of set up. Towarrds the top there are two more hillocks.On one end a huge Buddha statue while on the other, there's another big stupa. I enjoyed the stupa more. You could sit around it with your legs dangling down and enjoy the view up-to as far as you could see.