After a long sleep it was time to pass to serious things so we headed north, to the so called “Cultural Triangle”. Crumbling temples, ancient sites and lost cities would be on the menu for the following days.
First stop was Anuradhapura, the first great capital in Sri Lanka, since 380 BC. It was also during Anuradhapura’s reign that Buddhism arrived to Sri Lanka and still today many of its sites are used as holy places.
The archaeological site is very spread and we took a tuk tuk to visit the main sights. There was also the bike option but I did not even consider it because it was too hot and humid (+80%).
What we saw in Anuradhapura? There are the remains of the palace, many temples and the citadel, a compact residential complex 1.000 years old.
Samadhi Buddha is considered one of the best sculptures of the Anuradhapura Period. Sculpted sometime during the 3rd or the 4th century, it is much venerated by locals.
And of course there are many dagobas! Every dagoba (stupa) is important for some reason and they all have a story behind. White, brick dagobas . . . no matter its color or size, locals need to do three laps around them barefoot which seemed double penitence to me because with that sun the floor was burning!
The most interesting site for me was the Sri MahaBodhi (the sacred bodhi tree)located at Mahavihara, the spiritual centre of Anuradhapura. Usually all the monasteries have a bodhi tree around but this one is special because it is a direct descendant from the original tree where Sidharta reached enlightment. This sacred tree is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world and it has been guarded uninterruptedly for 2.000 years. There is a very spiritual atmosphere here, with many devotees praying or giving offers.
By 3pm we were KO (not because of the visit but because it was too hot) and we were driven back to the guesthouse where, apart from a well deserved shower, we did not do much else.
Entrance to Anuradhapura costs 25$ (!) for one day;
A tuk tuk for visiting all the site cost us 2.400 rials (try to negotiate a better price if you can!);
The Family Super (279 Main St) has a separate bakery to have breakfast (coffee, tea, fruit juices + delicious pastries) or lunch, with all kind of staples. Everything is very good!
You are not allowed to visit the stupas with your shoes on. A pair of sockets to visit them is not a bad idea, the floor was so hot that I almost burned my feet!