Monday, 22 January 2018

The first city ...

So much for a quiet and peaceful sleep! Well The Tootster managed one, his was apparently a deep and relaxing sleep, despite the numerous times I kicked him (politely?!) to ask him to ‘stop the bloody snoring!’ So I was not in the best of moods when the alarm went off again at 7:30 this morning.

Breakfast was buffet style, there were various curries on offer, but my delicate English stomach could only handle a light omelette and a cup of Ceylon tea.  Then Jay picked us up at 9. I was looking forward to the two hour car journey to catch up on some sleep. However, the scenery was so beautiful, I didn’t really want to miss out and as we left Dambulla and headed towards Anuradhapura we watched as the landscape became ever more greener and lush than it already was. We passed by mango trees, coconut trees, huge rice fields and a couple of large beautiful lakes - which it turns out are man-made. In fact, all of the numerous lakes in Sri Lanka are man-made, much needed due to the bad irrigation out here.

Anuradhapura is found at the centre of Sri Lanka’s northern plains. It is the oldest city here which was lost and forgotten in around 993. However, after the British invaded and colonised the island in the nineteenth century, it was ‘rediscovered’ and remains (excuse the pun) to this day a huge and valuable archeological site that could take weeks just to walk through. Even Jay was saying how easy it is to get lost, no matter how well you think you know the area. So in the short time we have to spend over here, we had a day to squeeze in the best parts, (and hope that Jay’s sense of direction is better than mine and we don’t actually get lost).

Back in the day Anuradhapura was considered one of the greatest cities of its age, filled with numerous monasteries and inhabited by approximately 10,000 monks. It’s temples and dagobas was seen amongst the greatest architecture of its time; only just beaten in size by the Egyptian pyramids in Giza (and they are pretty mammoth!)

Our first stop was The Mahavihara found at the centre of the city. It is the oldest Monastery on the site and built around the Sri Maha Bodhi; the oldest Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, taken from the oldest Bodhi tree in the world. It was grown from a cutting taken from the original Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in India, where Buddha found enlightenment.


As with all religious sites in Asia, out of respect, we had to remove our shoes and make sure our knees and shoulders were covered before entering. This was proved to be slightly challenging as my t-shirt only covered the top of my shoulders but luckily I had a pashmina in my bag which served as a decent cover up, though the material was a tad too hot to be wearing in over 30 degrees of heat, making me feel even hotter than I already did. The poor south london geezers shorts were just an inch too high above his knee and so having come unprepared for his mistake, he had to make do with my bright pink sarong tucked into the depths of my ruck sack, ready for our three days on the beach next week. I should point out that his love of pink is not at all equal to mine, though I have to say I thought it suited him and quite happily told him so - he was not impressed.

The stupor was amazing as was the whole Monastery but slowly our feet began to cook in the hot sand as morning slowly turned into midday and the sun started to burn down on us and we returned to the shoe stand where Jay was waiting. Being the unfit person that I am, I couldn’t just stand on one leg whilst strapping my shoe to the foot on the other, so I proceeded to take a seat on the neighbouring bench where a young woman was sat with her back to me. As I bent down to take my seat, I saw her casually lift up one buttock and let rip a couple of loud farts. 

I was rather taken aback, particularly as she really didn’t seem to be bothered, not even the slightest bit embarrassed at what she’d done so blatantly in public, but then only a short while later, whilst stood by another site talking with Jay, a group of Sri Lankan’s walked past on their way to prayer and one of them did exactly the same! It was then that I remembered similar occasions that TC and I had experienced in India and realised that a touch of public flatulence is no big deal out here!

And so we continued with our tour, both The Geezer and me starting to flag under the hot sun, with not much shade in sight. We took a gander over to The remains of the Brazen Palace. So called because of the Copper roof that used to cover it. Though never actually used for royal engagements only monastic duties, in its day, the building allegedly consisted of nine floors and a thousand rooms and now all that remains are 1600 columns that would have supported the first floor alone.

After about four hours of walking round the site, broken up by a couple of short car rides from one ruin to the next, we had seen: The twin ponds, where the monks used to bathe, the Ruwanwelisaya (yep another long name), also known as The Great Stupa (believed to hold various remains of The Buddha), the Kujjatissa Pabbata and then parts of The Citadel including: The Royal Palace, The Mahpali Refectory (an alms Hall) outside of which was a huge trough that would be filled with rice everyday for the monks, an ancient swimming pool that was 160 metres long, (it wore me out just imagining trying to swim one length) and many more ruins. 


With plenty more available to see, we were knackered, hungry very, very hot, so we were beyond delighted when Jay suggested that we head off to our hotel for lunch as it was already 2:30!

Half an hour later the car pulled up outside The Margosa Lake Resort Hotel and we staggered inside, dropped our bags off in our room and stumbled into the dining room for a buffet lunch. I could hear TC in my head telling me how unhygienic and dangerous it was to eat the buffet that had been sat around in the heat with flies dipping in and out. I even mentioned it to my Geezer, but he shrugged - too hungry to care. So I carefully dug my spoon into each dish, making sure I scooped out from beneath the top layer of food and sat down to a delicious and well deserved lunch.

We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, but the hotel was out of the way of any shops and walks. Besides which, we were both ‘walked out’ for the day. The pool looked inviting and so back to our room we trudged to get changed into our swimming costumes. But by the time we’d climbed the stairs and got to the room, even the thought of getting changed seemed too much of an effort and with that we lay down to rest our weary bones, only for a minute and woke up just in time for dinner!

Tomorrow we are off to the second oldest city: Polonneruwa, we are leaving earlier in the morning so as to try to get as much done before the heat gets too unbearable. I just pray that tonight I get a decent nights sleep ... this room has a balcony and it’s just long enough to fit a certain sleeping South London Geezer! Hmmm ........


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