Our Christmas Trip (part six)

I really should finish off the story of our Christmas trip, the story that was so rudely interrupted by my bout with a stomach virus. There is just one last day to report on, so this will be the final installment.

You might well wonder, given my poor recall of Day 5,  if my memory is to be relied on for Day 6? Well there are two things working in my favor here. First, there are more photos of Day 6 and, frankly, we were somewhat “templed out” by Day 6 and so we only saw a few sites; what we hope are the highlights of Polonnaruwa.

The kings of Sri Lanka ruled from several different capital cities, but the sites of the  longest lasting kingly headquarters, in order, were Anuradhapura (380 BCE – 993 CE) (see Day 2), Polonnaruwa (1070-1314 CE), and Kandy (1581-1815 CE). These three cities make up what it called the “Cultural Triangle” in Sri Lanka. In addition to the historical importance of these three cities, most of the other culturally important sites, at least from a Sinhalese perspective, like Sigiriya and Dambulla, lie inside the imaginary triangle formed by connecting lines between these three cities on a map.

I have uploaded the photos I took on Day 6 to my Picasa website. They begin with some enterprising men at the side of the road on the way to Polonnaruwa.

Baiting water monitors

Baiting water monitors

These men use what I choose to believe to be cut-up chicken pieces to bait a group of water monitors from a small stream. Once the monitors have gathered, they flag down passing cars so that tourists can take pictures. The tourists are then, of course, expected to pay the men for the photo op. Works for me! These large lizards are about the same size as the land monitors. I have no idea if they pose any danger to humans, but if I were an egret, I would definitely watch my backsides around these guys.

Upon arrival in Polonnaruwa, we visited the National Museum there. (In Sri Lanka there are many National Museums, each specializing in artifacts of the region where they are located.) This museum was the best museum I have yet visited in Sri Lanka. There were a wealth of displays about the history of Polonnaruwa with good explanations in English. The museum was laid out according to the geography of the city so you could follow Polonnaruwa’s development and organization over the years. The museum, and the Lonely Planet, helped us narrow the number of sites we would visit that day.We also felt that by visiting the museum we would be able to appreciate some of the sites that we were not going to see.

Like I said, we were pretty “templed out” at this point in our trip. So we had lunch after visiting the museum and set out to see only two sites, really: The palace of King Parakramabahu I, one of the greatest of the ancient kings,  and the Gal Vihara, the site of four exquisitely carved Buddhas, all hewn from the same stone.

My photos show the brick ruins of the palace of King Parakramabahu I, originally said to be seven storeys tall. crw_6378crwMore picturesque was his Audience Hall, the structure with the many vertical columns. The Audience Hall was decorated with many animal carvings, no two alike, it seemed. The Audience Hall was also the scene of a confrontation I had with two overly persistent peddlers. They had zeroed in on Kris and would not leave her alone. I finally had to physically place myself between her and them, spreading my arms to block their way. “Don’t get angry,” they said. I told them that I was not angry, but they had to back off or I would get angry. They backed off, perhaps aware that they were breaking the rules prohibiting selling too close to the monuments at a World Heritage Site and not wanting to risk attracting the attention of the police.

The Gal Vihara is remarkable. The four rock Buddhas are of excellent craftsmanship. My pictures show only three of the Buddhas, the fourth was in the interior of a rock cave cut into the stone and I did not attempt to photograph it.

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

The unnamed carvers did a great job of using the patterns in the stone to enhance the images of the Buddha. There is a nice touch also in the reclining Buddha. If you look at where the Buddha’s head rests on his pillow, you can see that the artist has depicted the depression in the pillow made by the Buddha’s head. This detail is missing from many depictions of the reclining Buddha and it is kind of ironic that this detail would be included when the pillow is made of solid granite!

So Day 6 was a bit abbreviated. We drove back to the Kandalama Hotel and had another delightful meal outdoors under the stars. We made our peace with having to leave all that luxury the next morning to return to Kandy.

And we did. The drive back was essentially uneventful and so does not deserve a separate installment. We had had a wonderful vacation week and returned to our “regular programming” refreshed.




  1. Kara said,

    February 27, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Hi Tim & Kris —

    Re the peddlers — before I went to India my Indian students (especially the young women) told me I needed to acquire an umbrella and a willingness to swat and/or poke (hard) at men with it when necessary. Being the non-confrontational body I am, I took hotel cars everywhere or went with the families of my students instead of braving public transportation, so I never had to face actually doing that, but I kept it in mind. I wonder if that’s a tactic that’s also used by women in Sri Lanka and another use for your handy umbrellas?

  2. Kristina Replogle Sullivan said,

    July 26, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Yes, Kara, elbows too. Also heaving a heavy purse or shopping bag is pretty effective. I was on a public bus in Sri Lanka once where an obnoxious man was trying to grope the woman sitting next to him. She jabbed him hard with her elbow and the woman behind her hit him with her bag. He was pushed off the bus by another woman squished in the aisle, tho he pretended to be getting off voluntarily. Choosing a seat, women choose other women as much as possible.

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