Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura Sacred City [YQrtw Day 3 Apr 10]

You would think that after I have 3G on my phone, I would stop getting lost? Nope, I got plenty lost today too.

Good news is that I’ve probably cycled an extra 5km everyday so I will return home fit and lean.

anuradhapura day 2

Back to today’s programing. I decided to visit the real Sacred City of Anuradhapura. This means buying an entrance ticket, instead of cycling into the sites that do not require a ticket.

Unfortunately, the ticket was 3,125 rupees. That’s US$25, according to their exchange rate. I only prepared 2,500 rupees (based on SGD conversions) for the ticket and didn’t bring much extra.

I managed to pay for my pricey ticket which was only checked 3 times at rather boring sites. If I had followed the advice of a travel blogger and cycled in without a ticket, I would be 3k rupees richer and can have 19 sets of curry and rice plus papaya juice.

The sun was unbearably hot. I rode the bicycle with an improvised riding hood made out of my purple pashmina and a safety pin. I look like purple Casper, floating on the village roads of Anuradhapura.

It’s rather a miracle that I have not passed out from the sun.

I brought along a 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water (60 rupees) and a tumbler of coffee from the morning.

I also brought along three bananas, two of which were conjoined. I snacked on the banana for a temporary sugar rush while sightseeing in the heat.

The best part about today’s visit was my cycling. Even though I got lost many times, it’s fun to be able to set my own visit times. I saw a lot of tourists on tours who got off to take photos and zoomed to the next site. Or maybe I’m having a case of sour grapes.

Ranmasu Uyana

Sri Lanka: Lost in Anuradhapura [YQrtw Day 2 Apr 9]

I am proud to say that I have a good sense of direction. However, this skill turns out wonky whenever I travel. I would walk the opposite direction of what is the real destination and will have to walk back a long way after I realize my mistake.

Today was no different. The guest house owner gave me simple directions to Anuradhapura sacred city–turn left at police station and go straight.

I hesitated when I reached the “go straight” part. I took a left and ended up in a very different part of the sacred city. The sign taunted me as it showed “Sacred City 3km”. I was only 1km away previously.

I took a break and got a big bottle of cold water at an eatery. I asked for the right direction and cycled hard.

As I cycled,  I realized that the left side of the road was a lot higher and I suspected it was one of the ancient water reservoirs.

Jackpot! Next to the bank was a large lake. The view was gorgeous and made my stupid directional mistakes worth the trouble.

View of Tissa Wewa

View of Tissa Wewa

I cycled on the bank. At one of the trees, I saw what I thought was an arm dangling. I have an overactive imagination and immediately thought that a child was murdered and parts of its body thrown in different places.

It turned out to be a man sleeping in the tree. Although I’m not too sure if he will ever wake up.

I also manage to sneak into one of the sites: Ranmasu Uyana.

The rock pools were fun. If I have a house, it would be awesome to have pools made out of rocks–as long as mold doesn’t cling to it.

Ranmasu Uyana

Ranmasu Uyana

[Today’s summary: Got very very lost. Bought 3G package to stop getting lost. Napped. Took bus to Mihintale. Missed stop at Mihintale, walked half an hour. Didn’t got up Mihintale. Came back to Anuradhapura before sunset. Ate Chinese at Casserole Restaurant.]

bubbles on a train

Sri Lanka: Colombo-Anuradhapura train ride [YQrtw Day 1 Apr 8]

Missed the 1:45pm train from Colombo to Anuradhapura by 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if you count the time it takes to elbow myself to the ticket counter).

Reached the ancient capital late at about 9:00pm. Guest house has one hidden electrical plug in my room.

bubbles

At some stops, a little person in the front carriage would blow bubbles. I didn’t manage to catch any of the bubbles on film but it was a nice distraction from the same old view.

[Today’s summary: Missed train. Bought Kandy-Colombo train tickets. Took 4 hour 40 minutes ride to Anuradhapura. Guest house’s Wi-Fi wonky.]

Old timey Ceylon

YQrtw: Why Sri Lanka

Welcome to a week full of posts to get you (and I) excited about my RTW. Today, we are talking about Sri Lanka but mostly about how I almost skipped Ceylon.

Old timey Ceylon

Old timey Ceylon

Colombo, Ceylon [Source: The National Archives]

In my original plans, I wanted to visit India. It wasn’t because I was particularly enamoured with India. It was because India is a staple of a modern RTW and I wanted to be hip (but not a hippy).

Later, I crossed India off the list because I was required to pay 161.56 ringgit in visa fees. Yucks.

Luckily, AirAsia started promoting its Kuala Lumpur-Colombo (Sri Lanka) route. [This route was later cancelled, I’ll talk more about it later.] I figured that Sri Lanka is a good beginner’s guide to South Asia. I booked a dirt cheap ticket to Sri Lanka and planned to stay there for two weeks.

I didn’t do much planning for Sri Lanka. My usual travel buddy D also bought tickets to Sri Lanka and I planned to steal her itinerary.  D happily planned her trip while I happily not plan my trip.

Then, we received bad news.

AirAsia cancels KUL-CMB

In February, AirAsia cancelled the Kuala Lumpur-Colombo route. It was a total WTF moment because I’ve seen AirAsia promote Sri Lanka like crazy. Every time I got my hands on its in-flight magazine, I had seen Sri Lanka featured.

What am I supposed to do?

Unfortunately, by that time, I’ve already booked my tickets from Colombo to Dubai. It would be too expensive for me to get a flight direct to Dubai from Malaysia.

I did worry a lot about my flight. I tried searching for cheaper tickets but all full service carriers were too expensive. The best ticket I could get was Tiger Air flight from Singapore but the 10pm arrival time was horrid.

Even if I wanted to make a booking from mid-February to early-March, I didn’t because of Mercury retrograde. Yes, I am very superstitious and did not want to make any bookings during the “horoscopely bad” period.

Things worked out in the end. By the tail-end of the Mercury retrograde period, I found out that Tiger Air changed their timing for the Sri Lanka flight to morning. I booked the 10am flight to Colombo and will reach at 11am in the morning. That’s a great timing.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

I still haven’t done a lot of research on Sri Lanka. I’ve heard only good things about the place from people who have visited: tea, curry, relaxation.

I do have vague plans such as taking the train, visiting Buddha’s tooth and avoid getting bitten by mosquitos.

By the way, I will be in Sri Lanka during their new year. My Sri Lankan friend, M, said most shops are closed then but the temples are open. It would be fun seeing how they celebrate new year there and how it differs from my Malaysian Chinese New Year.

I wonder how much I can wing it. Maybe I will do more reading once I head home on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka, here I come!

Do you have any travel tips for Sri Lanka? Share them in the comments below.

(Tomorrow I will be talking about my 15-night cruise that only costs about S$1,700 with tips.)