Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka: Ruins Of An Ancient Capital

Not as grandiose as Angkor Wat. Then again it's not a temple complex, but an ancient Sinhalese capital. So ancient in fact, that it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet.

Anuradhapura's underrated charm does not lure tons of flip-flopping, shindig-seeking gap packers. Instead, it beckons busloads of retirees and a handful of travelers whose idea of adventure may not necessarily include beer tasting around the world. Seven months ago, as new parents craving for tranquility, we belonged to the latter mob.

Rough Ride

A trustworthy tuktuk driver picked us up from our Couchsurfing host's home in Kandy early morn and drove us to the bus terminal. The driver directed us to an air conditioned mini bus bound for Anuradhapura, which spared us from dealing with touts. We bought a bunch of samosas with mystery fillings for brekkie before hopping aboard. The bus was packed in a matter of minutes, and we rolled out of the frenetic terminal in no time.

Though the bus was full, the driver kept picking up passengers until we were sardine-packed. If you ain't claustrophobic, this bus can easily turn you into one. I pity the standing passengers who had nothing to cling onto. They toppled like dominoes on the aisle whenever the driver hits the brakes or does a daredevilesque overtaking stunt. This went on for three hours. I feared not only for our lives but also for the life of an infant on board. We were relieved Luna didn't join us for this trip.

Guide Named Wimala

Shervin and I obviously made it to our destination alive, but with a newly acquired phobia. We alighted at a random bus stop near the city center and headed straight to a food place for lunch. A stranger helped us order for there was no menu. This man named Wimala also offered to take us around the ruins since he's actually a tuktuk driver (surprise, surprise).

After finishing our meal of bland fried rice (well it's either that or a tear-jerking spicy curry dish), he took us to a cheap guesthouse (1,300 LKR or about $12 a night for a double room) called Lake View Tourist Guesthouse which despite its name does not have a view of some lake. We spent no second idling. After dropping off our backpacks, we asked Wimala to drive us to the old town, pronto.

The Ruins

Admission to the ruins will set you back $25. The ticket counter is located somewhere within the vast complex. Since there are several entry points, tuktuks aren't properly monitored. We didn't pass by the counter when we entered, but we paid the "ticket fee" to Wimala. Fishy ain't it? We didn't point this out however because he only charged 5,000 LKR or $45 for the two of us, and this rate included hiring his service for three hours.

He's well-equipped with information anyways. His impressive knowledge about his city's history made us feel that the money we shelled out was worth the tour. He lent us a brochure to browse as he took us to the following sites:


An old vihara (Buddhist monastery) where the sacred tooth relic of Buddha in Kandy was originally kept.


The first dagoba (a dome-shaped shrine that houses sacred relics) built by Great King Dutugamunu. It may not seem magnificent, but being more than 2,000 years old (though underwent several renovations), it is definitely an architectural marvel.

Not too distant from the dagoba is a tree with prayer flags hanging onto its branches.


A stupa built under the rule of King Valagamba. Pillars surrounding the stupa indicate that the structure was once roofed. It was originally Lankarama monastery's center.

As we left the dagoba, I looked up to the sky and saw rainclouds fast approaching. It was going to be a mad dash to the other sites.

Not-So Refreshingly Sri Lanka (and it's all my fault) Series:

Temple of The Tooth
The Kandy House
Not-So Refreshingly Sri Lanka
How To Apply For A Sri Lanka Tourist Visa In The Philippines


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Markyramone said...
November 21, 2011 at 3:37 PM

I will eagerly await for the continuation. Sri Lanka is penciled for next year hope I fulfill it :)

Supertikoy said...
November 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM

when I was checking on information about stupas in Bangkok, both Lankarama and Mirisawetiya showed up on Google --- now I want to see Sri Lanka.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 21, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Marky, yey! Including India?

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Jerome, I wonder how that came up... Haha. I still prefer Borobudur's stupas, but Anuradhapura's worth the visit.

Markyramone said...
November 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Yes, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 22, 2011 at 1:14 PM

YEY! Excited for you Marky!

dong ho said...
November 22, 2011 at 9:50 PM

is indeed underrated. i love places like this Gay. im listing down places that you consider underrated and plan to go there too.

Gladys | said...
November 22, 2011 at 10:27 PM

so Wimala is "the guy" LOL. maybe we should go to sri lanka, too. seems interesting to go there...

Rizalenio said...
November 22, 2011 at 10:39 PM

2000 years old!!! Wow! I wonder how some of the sacred relics look inside. :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 23, 2011 at 1:46 AM

Dong, underrated places are da bomb! Just like Imugan which you recently wrote about :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 23, 2011 at 1:55 AM

Gladys, Sri Lanka's old Sinhalese Kingdom is interesting. But like India's history, a bit too overwhelming :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 23, 2011 at 2:25 AM

Lito, I wish I saw the relics also. I guess they're too precious be shown to the public.

nathalie said...
November 23, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Plan to visit Sri Lanka next year, safe ba sya puntahan mag solo? :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 23, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Yup, I reckon it is safe :)

Ding said...
November 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Sri Lanka is not that popular, no? But equally interesting!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 24, 2011 at 1:08 AM

Yeah, Ding. It's really overshadowed by India.

Aleah said...
November 24, 2011 at 8:05 AM

I'm really loving Sri Lanka because of your posts. I hope I get to visit it next year before I settled down!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 24, 2011 at 8:28 AM

SETTLE DOWN?! Aleah, when's THE date?

thepinaysolobackpacker said...
November 24, 2011 at 10:35 PM kamahalan nga ang entrance. pinakmura pa din ata ang Angkor, sa halagang $20 dame mu na mapupuntahan. hihi pero ok pa din toh based on your photos, parang kakaiba naman xa sa mga nakita kung stupas. thanks for sharing naisip ko tuloy baka makita ko si Luna kung kelan malaki na xa. date inaabangan ko pa naman xa nung asa tiyan mu plng xa.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 25, 2011 at 12:48 AM

Yeah, it's pricey Gael. When we visited Tamil Nadu's (India) temples we just paid camera fee of 30 rupees.

Hope Luna gets to see you when we're back in the country next year.

sometimes kim & sometimes mj said...
November 25, 2011 at 10:31 AM

That entrance fee is steep but thanks to that enterprising tuktuk driver, you seemed to have a good deal.

Just from reading your account, natakot din ako sa bus ride haha.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 26, 2011 at 7:56 AM

Yeah, it's an awesome deal. He found a cheap accommodation for us too :)

Mark Wiens said...
November 27, 2011 at 11:17 PM

I just got back from spending a few weeks in Sri Lanka - but unfortunately I ran out of time before getting to Anuradhapura. I just clicked on the "couchsurfing link" in this article, and coincidentally I also stayed in the same house for a few nights - with Benjamin!

Bersikulo Curves And Lines Graphics said...
November 28, 2011 at 12:12 AM

Thank you for joining PEBA 2011 "Any Blogger, Anywhere"
Please visit your Facebook Profile here
Tell your FB friends to like your profile!
Once Again Thank you!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
November 28, 2011 at 4:11 AM

Mark, Benjamin hosts tons of travelers! I love his family :)

Nomadic Samuel said...
December 1, 2011 at 3:12 AM

I'm so keen on visiting Sri Lanka - one of the few countries in SE Asia I've yet to set foot in. This post has really reminded me of that :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
December 1, 2011 at 4:04 AM

And I'm pretty sure you'll take heaps of awesome photos Samuel...

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