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mistybleu Polonnaruwa - A travel report by Amanda
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Polonnaruwa,  Sri Lanka - flag Sri Lanka -  North Central
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mistybleu's travel reports

Exploring the ancient city of Polonnaruwa

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Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura was destroyed in 993. At the time it was an immense city and dates back to the 12th Century.

Sigiriya Fortress
Sigiriya Fortress
Since then Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon) has had a few capitals including Kandy and present day Colombo.

Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until 1972 - Ceylon is the English translation of Ceil√£o which was given to the island when the Portuguese arrived in the 1500s. Around the country there are still many references to this names and for me the most notable was Ceylon tea.

Polonnaruwa is as 4 hour drive from Colombo (240k) in the northern central region of Sri Lanka. I thoroughly enjoy my visit there as I had to drive through to countryside. To be fair, being out on the road was great, driving around and speaking with the locals.

Sri Lanka lacks proper infrastructure and a normal 100 km drive can take quite a few hours. I also found there was a pecking order on the roads starting with the mopeds, tuk-tuk, cars, buses and trucks; and the horns is used all the time to assert authority and keep that order. Most roads only have two lanes without a hard shoulder.

The royal ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological sites in Sri Lanka (coupled with Anuradhapura). It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO, which makes it a perfect place to start my journey of exploring this wonderful country. However it really depended on the route I took as Anuradhapura could have been interchanged. I believe they are both worth visiting as these cities demonstrate the discipline and greatness of Sri Lanka's first rulers.

Favourite spots:
Polonnaruwa travelogue picture
To get to Polonnaruwa usually your driver will pass through Kandy and Dambulla. From Kandy it is around 140km (90 miles) and the entrance fee is 3900 LKR (or 30 USD) which is payable to the museum. Then I had to come out of the compound and head 10 minutes up the road for the entrance to the town.

Getting around the town can be done easily by either renting bikes or taking a tuk-tuk or getting a driver who can take you around. I chose by bicycle as I really love cycling. However, I arrived at 12pm and it was so hot in the midday sun, maybe cycling wasn't the best choice.

Some of the buildings which make up the complex are as follows:

Gal Vihara Temple - The Royal Palace

King Nissanka Malla's Palace

King Parakramabahu I Statue

Siva Devale

Alahana Pirivena Complex - Buddhist temples

Lankatilaka Gedige Temple

Gal Vihara Temple

Topa Wewa Lake and the Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama)

Demala Maha Seya (Temple)

What's really great:
Elephant bathing
Elephant bathing
Sri Lanka is a tear drop island and has very friendly people. Most of the men are completely cricket crazy. As I sat waiting for my flight the world cup was taking place and the riotous roar which went out the someone was caught out was very funny. They even wnet so far as to ask the pilot to give them frequent updates of the scores which unfortunately the pilot declined. Lol
The worse thing about Sri Lanka is the amount of time it takes getting from place to place. But the best thing is being in those places.
I liked going to the Elephant orphanage as well as the elephant park. I learnt a little more about these incredible animals. I also didn't realize that you can tell the difference from Sri Lankan elephants from Indian elephants.

Stilt Fiserhmen
Stilt Fiserhmen
There are so many places to visit in this small island, before you even get to the beach.

Some of my favourites include:

Galle Fort - built by the Portuguese in 1588 and extensively fortified by the Dutch later.

Stilt fisherman - this type of fishing is very unique to the island and it amazes me how they can do this. It is usually early morning before the day gets too hot.

The town of Kandy - although I was more impressed with the town then the Temple of the tooth

Sigiriya Fortress - this lion fortress is the iconic symbol of Sri Lanka.

Dambulla Cave Temple - it is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex which has 153 Buddha statues plus and paintings.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage - an orphanage and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants, which is fascinating to see. They is also a elephant sanctuary relatively nearby where it is possible to bath and ride elephants.

Nuwara Eliya - famed for having tea plantation owing to its perfect climate.

Picking tea on the hills of Nuwara Eliya
Picking tea on the hills of Nuwara Eliya
Historically, Sri Lanka was meant to be a coffee producing nation, but after a virus devastated most of the coffee plantations the British brought in tea from China as a replacement crop. Growing tea became very successful especially in the Nuwara Eliya region owing to its cooler climate and altitude.

After a visit to a tea plantation I obtained greater insight into tea production and doing a taste test was great fun. I was taken in by white tea.

To create white tea the tips of the bush is harvested during spring. Great care is taken to ensure that the fermentation and drying is done to keep the taste and health properties.

It is said that white tea strengthens the immune system, helps to guard against viruses and bacteria, de-stresses and the best thing it prevents the accumulation of fat. The combination of antioxidants and caffeine helps to burn fat faster. I was sold and laid down $20 for 50g to prove them right. Well fingers crossed!

Street food
Street food
A lot of my time in Sri Lanka was taken up driving to ensure I saw the main sights. Not necessarily because the country is so large, but because there are only a few roads which interlinks the country. A lot of the time it's one way in and the same way out, as opposed to having a ring road or roads which traverse the island.

Owing to doing so much driving, it is really nice to try some of the fruit and vegetables stalls en route. Many times you will see fruit sellers cut and bag up the fruit. I liked the pineapples, they were very sweet and had to try some out. It truly was the sweetest things every. Also I tried the guava with their various salts - it was really tasty. I also love coconut water - sold at the side of the road it was just the best.

Other recommendations:
British Airways ran a weekly service to Sri Lanka going via the Maldives. The Island are incredible and really should be on the list of places to visit. The only problem is, it really is a couples destination and they have rules of bringing in alcohol and cigarettes into this Muslim country. I believe BA have now stopped this route as on my return journey I ended up going via Kuwait City.

Published on Saturday September 5th, 2015

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Mon, Feb 22 2016 - 08:48 AM rating by louis

Interesting report. It brings back some memomries from my stay there in 2009. I visited Polonnaruwa on the bicycle. I had load of fun with it!

Sun, Sep 27 2015 - 10:18 AM rating by krisek

Thank you for yet another great report, Amanda. Keep on sharing, please.

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