Adrian and I woke up at 5:15 to catch the train from Colombo to Anuradhapura, an ancient city known for its historical ruins and temples.
We got an Uber at 5:30 and were at the train station by 6.
We weren’t sure which platform to wait on, but we needn’t have worried— as soon as we stepped into the train station, several guys asked to see our tickets to make sure we were at the right platform.
The train rolled in 15 minutes later.
I waited for Adrian, who was using the bathroom, and during that time several more people came to see which car I was in.
They kept pointing at the car, motioning for me to get on, and I kept having to explain that I was waiting for my friend. The people here are so concerned and friendly!
A couple minutes later, Adrian was back and we got on.
It was a pretty old, rickety train. Our seats were pretty big, though, so that was nice.
We ate our papaya plus some bran crackers with almond butter.
I slept, listened to podcasts, and blogged a little.
Blogging proved especially difficult because the train bounced up and down and side to side so much that I couldn’t really see what I was typing.
I’ve never been on such a bouncy train. I don’t understand how the train doesn’t just fall off the tracks. The physics doesn’t really make sense to me.
We miraculously got to Anuradhapura around 11 am and were immediately approached by a tuk-tuk driver.
He took us to our guesthouse for 200 rupees (about a dollar), which is pretty cheap for a tuk-tuk.
Before we got out, the driver offered to take us around the old city in the afternoon. We got his number and decided to research a bit more and then call him if we were interested.
We got to the guesthouse and were greeted by two Sri Lankan ladies, both of whom didn’t speak much English. They dialed a number and motioned to me to speak to whoever was on the phone.
It turned out to be the owner, Sarath, who told me that he was out taking some customers on a tour and would be back in a couple hours. He asked us if we needed anything, and then told us we could check in to our rooms now. He also asked me if I wanted coffee or tea. I said I’d like coffee, but that my friend would probably want tea. I found it funny that I was ordering drinks from someone who obviously wasn’t nearby— once he was off the phone with me, he’d have to relay the information to one of the ladies.
We dropped our bags off in the room and tried to decide what to do.
I researched a bit and wrote down all the temples and ruins that I wanted to see.
I called Raja, the tuk-tuk driver, and asked him how much it would cost to drive us around the old town for the afternoon. He told me 2000 rupees ($12), but I didn’t want to pay that much. I asked for 1000, and he told me 1500. I asked for 1300 but he wouldn’t budge from 1500. I told him I’d talk it out with Adrian and then call him back.
Next I called Sarath real quick to see how much it would cost with him. He told me 2000.
So clearly Raja was the better deal.
I called Raja back, told him to pick us up at 1 pm, and we quickly went to find lunch. We had about 45 minutes.
We walked about 7 minutes to a nearby restaurant called Big Mama and ordered veggie curry and rice.
The curry was already made, so all they had to do was box it up and give it to us.
We were back at the guesthouse by 12:45 and quickly ate the food. There were four different types of curries. One was beet, another was eggplant, another was carrot, and the last was daal (lentils). I loved the daal and eggplant most.
Our tuk-tuk driver came while we were still eating the food, so I asked him to wait 5 minutes while we finished up.
Right before we were about to leave, Sarath came back with his tuk-tuk and we all introduced ourselves. We told him our plan, and he let us know that he would drive us around the city and take us somewhere to eat that night if we wanted.
We thanked him and got going.
Normally it costs $25 to get into the old city, but our driver was offering to take us around for 3000 rupees total ($18). That would save us a good chunk of cash. I was hesitant since it seemed wrong to pay the tuk-tuk driver instead of the city, but it was too good an offer to pass up. I guess I’m going to have some bad karma now.
We drove around to a bunch of different places: some ruins of ancient temples, more modern temples, a couple viewpoints, and the Bodhi tree temple.
At one of the temples, two Sri Lankan men— I’ll call them the SL men— approached us and asked where we’re from. We told them Germany and the U.S.
After a few more minutes of chit-chat, one of the guys asked me,
“Who is HE?” pointing at Adrian.
“Him? That’s Adrian,” I told him.
“No I mean, is he your friend? Husband?”
“Oh no, he’s my boyfriend.”
“Oooh boyfriend!” They said while laughing.
Why do men in SE Asia always ask women if they’re married?? They never ask the men. It’s so bizarre.
All 4 of us then walked into the temple together.
Once we got to the top of the stairs, Adrian and I started walking a bit ahead of the two SL men. A few minutes later, one of the SL men came up to me and asked me,
“Why don’t you respect the buddha?”
A little taken aback, I asked him,
“Oh sorry, what was I supposed to do?”
He then showed me how I was supposed to get on my knees and touch my forehead to the ground 3 times.
I did as I was told, got up, and kept walking.
He then proceeded to continue to ask me questions like,
“Do you believe in buddha?”
“Why don’t you believe in buddha? He is the best human being in the entire world.”
“Why didn’t you buy flowers for Buddha?”
“Why isn’t your hair long?”
And kept calling me “my dear.” Ugh, he was so annoying.
When we walked back down to the gravel road, we saw our tuk-tuk driver waving at us to come back.
I was relieved to have an excuse to ditch these two guys.
We saw some more temples and were back home by 5.
We sat outside and drank tea in the guesthouse garden for a bit.
Adrian wanted to do a short strength workout, so I decided to join him. We got in our workout clothes and went in the backyard and started the workout. I started with 50 pushups (half of which were girl pushups), 20 leg raises, and a 1 minute plank. I repeated the set 3 times, but instead of 50 pushups I did 30 the next round and then 20 the last round. I just wanted to do 100 total.
Next I did some gymnastics because I never get a chance to practice, and I wanted to see if I could still do anything. I started with a bridge, then a standing backbend, and then a back-walkover. It was actually pretty easy! I didn’t want to risk a back-handspring or anything more intense than a back-walkover since I hadn’t done one in quite a few years.
We also did 3 sets of 30 tricep dips, 2 minutes of frog jumps, plus some back raises to finish up the workout. It felt good to do strength. It’s hard to find the time and space when you’re traveling, so it’s nice when you get the opportunity.
We showered and then left for dinner. Sarath had just gotten back with his tuk-tuk, so he took us to one of his recommended spots for dinner. It was called A-one, and had a bunch of curries to choose from. They were all vegetarian except for one, which had fish.
We could choose five— I really don’t know everything that I chose, but I know that one of them was made with eggplant, another with beans, and another with some sort of root vegetable. Nevertheless, they were all really good. Ugh, Sri Lankan food is phenomenal!! I could have it everyday and be happy.
We tuk-tuked back to the guesthouse. I was pretty exhausted, so I was fast asleep by 10 pm.