The cheapest way from Trincomalee to Anuradhapura was in a local bus. There were apparently three buses; 8:45am, 10am and 12pm. Then another person told us there was only one at 11:45am. Then someone else told us 7am, 9am, and 1:45pm. We decided 9am would be the best time to arrive and jumped in the auto rickshaw. The driver told us to wait under the sign to Anuradhapura and the bus should leave at 9:30am.
Creepy Man: “Where you go”
Mr & Mrs Larko: “Anuradhapura”
Gross Mouth Man: “No bus today”
Mr & Mrs Larko: “What’s that bus your driving, it says Anuradhapura”
Creepy Man: “Not Anuradhapura”
Mr & Mrs Larko: “How do we get there then?”
Group Of Men: “No bus today”
A shopkeeper came and joined in the conversation.
Shopkeeper: “The bus will leave today at-“
Gross Mouth Man: “No! (local dialect)
Shopkeeper: “Oh. There is no bus today.”
They all had weird creepy smiles so we decided to walk away. Eventually a guard told us there was a bus, we needed to change on the way and it was waiting at another spot about to depart. We jumped on and headed off towards our destination. We hoped. You are told the bus will take 4 hours. Or 5, if the driver is slow, or 3, if the driver is Sri Lankan. I’m not sure where our guy was from but it took 4 hours with a change and overall it was quite comfortable, considering the reports we had heard.
It took almost just as long to find our hotel, as we had a slight language barrier with our auto rickshaw driver. He took us to the wrong hotel, then the wrong address but would not stop to turn around when we said he was going the wrong way. When we finally arrived at White Diamond Resort, he asked us to write a recommendations his notebook. We politely declined.
After some terrible looking, yet very tasty samosas, we spent the afternoon washing clothes and spraying backpacks trying to dispose of the bed bugs acquired in Trincomalee before heading out for dinner. There was a restaurant nearby so we wandered in, smelt what can only be described as human faecal matter and returned home for some fried rice.
The next day we hired bikes to explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura. When we finally reached the area, we rode to the main office for our entry ticket. Thankfully, the Lonely Planet’s map was slightly incorrect so we missed it. There are a heap of sights in Anuradhapura but we narrowed down our selection and headed straight to Thuparama Dagoba, which, as the guide book says, is to be the oldest visible dagoba in the World and, houses Buddha’s right collarbone. We arrived at the same time as hundreds of pilgrims carrying offerings and an extremely long flag as a gift to Buddha. Normally deterred by so many people, it actually made visiting it more incredible. As we removed our shoes (slowly as I still had a hole in my foot from a bbq incident) we asked the guard where to by a ticket. He smiled and said no, we didn’t need a ticket. Sweet. We hobbled around the praying, the monks, the flags and the posts as a local girl with perfect English explained about the dagoba and how it gives strength to people when needed. She had came here during here exams to ask Buddha for help and was now returning to give presents as she had passed and was about to become a lawyer.
Back on the pushies (cycles), with concrete seats, and cycled along to Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba. We were stopped at the gate as my knees weren’t covered. So, after a slight wardrobe adjustment of pulling my pants down to the acceptable ratio of covered knees:exposed bum, we wandered in while the guards giggled. Joining the other thousand visitors of monks, devotees and tourists, we walked along the hessian bags protecting our bare feet from the burning tiles, past the line of creepy elephant faces and wandered around the colossal structure.
We then rode the wrong way towards The Bodi Tree, the oldest guarded tree in the world, before correcting ourselves by cutting across to the main path. A slight mistake as the cement seats did not cater to our backsides as we bumped over ditches and stones.
Parking the bikes under a shady tree, we walked past a group of mischievous monkeys to Brazen Palace that was locked so we walked onwards towards the Bodhi Tree. They would like to charge $10 per person to see said tree, so we opted for another option, peeking over the fence. $0!
The last site we wanted to visit was Jetavanarama Dagoba, once the 3rd largest monument in the world, but decaying. As we cycled around the corner to be stopped by a stodgy police officer.
“Sorry officer we have been cycling all morning trying to find the ticket office.”
“The ticket office is right here.”
“Are you aware the lonely planet has incorrectly marked the location of the office.”
“No. Come buy the tickets.”
“Certainly, how much.”
“3500 Ruppees” ($27USD)
“Hmm, actually sir, can we have the directions back to town.”
We followed his directions briefly before cutting right and seeing the pagoda from the backstreet. We rode on back to town via the highway, not the greatest decision of the day, as we were passed by numerous buses clearly driven by Sri Lankan drivers – it would seem.
After a brief stop at a pharmacy for some antibiotics for my slightly infected foot, we stopped in the shade to grab a cold drink. As we rested we noticed a small little cart selling all kinds of snack foods. We wandered over and ordered some small donut type balls that are filled with chilli. They were incredible. We asked what they were called but it was lost as his reply was to give us a ball of fried dough with a fish head poking out of it. As we cycled home, we had our eyes peeled for more of the same as it was lunch time.
We found some, bought 8 more and headed back to the guesthouse. After a small interlude, when a squirrel dropped by to distract us, we asked the guys running the place what they delicious chilli donuts were called. When they spelt it for us, it was discovered the were called Wade’s – Uludu Wade. They pronounced it Vada – we don’t.
The next morning we had to catch our train back to Colombo. When we had booked our seat on our very first day in Sri Lanka almost 2 weeks ago, there was only one class of seat available – 1st Class Observatory. We had high hopes that it would have been as good as the train from Matara to Galle, but we were wrong, it was hot, bumpy – very bumpy – and late. Thankfully, to get us through the discomfort, we had bought 12 Chilli Wade’s from our favourite street stall before we left.
Like last time in Colombo, the bus to Bed Hostel was not a success. Not because we got on the wrong one, but it never arrived. So, again in an auto Ricky we made it back, grabbed a beer and some takeaway food and went to bed. The next day was planned, go to the old Dutch hospital, use their wifi, get their jug of beer at happy hour and catch up on blogs and work. When we got there, their wifi wasn’t working, there was no happy hour, and worst of all, today was a Poya Day so there was no beer. Another reminder not to get our hopes up in Sri Lanka.
Of the two weeks we were there, we can say we really only enjoyed a few things.
The trains (the journey not the purchasing process)
The devilled prawns.
The cooking lesson
One Pagoda in Anuradhapura
Would we return – probably not. (Sarah says definitely not)