The Ancient Ruins of Polonnaruwa
I awoke at the crack of dawn, feeling well rested after getting to sleep in a bed for the first time in almost 36 hours. I had a delicious breakfast at my homestay, although I wasn’t exactly sure what everything was that I ate haha. To get to Polonnaruwa, I had to take a bus back to Dambulla and another bus up north to Polonnaruwa. On the bus to Dambulla, there were plenty of Sinhalese children on their way to school. All of the children wear spotless white uniforms, and are a sight to see when they are in a big group!
When I arrived in Polonnaruwa, I rented a bicycle to transport myself around the ruins. Not only was it much cheaper than a tuk tuk, it would allow me to get some quality exercise in. At only 400 LKR for the day (~$2.75 USD), it was a steal! The ruins were a bit closer together and the temperature wasn’t quite as hot as when I cycled around Angkor Wat with Annika the year before, thank goodness!
There was an air conditioned museum that was included in the entrance price (a staggering $25 USD for foreigners). I found the museum quite informative though. It provided background of how the city was once the home of the kingdom of King Vijayabahu I, and was first erected back in 1070 AD. There were several model sculptures of how some of the structures originally looked back in the day, as well as descriptions of the uses of each building.
The ruins themselves were impressive, although I constantly found myself comparing them to Angkor Wat. Another thing that I noticed were the prevalence of the very large tour groups traveling around in air conditioned buses. There seemed to be a few couples wandering around the ruins, but I did not come across many solo travelers or the backpacking type, which is the opposite in India.
A couple of the structures that I found most impressive were the giant stupas. A stupa is a dome-like structure that is erected as a Buddhist shrine. They remind me of giant handbells, as there is a rod that extends upward from the top of the dome. Looking at these enormous structures up close really puts into perspective how much more advanced these early societies were than we give them credit. While it isn’t as complex as the pyramids in Egypt, nonetheless it still makes my jaw drop.
By mid-afternoon I had managed to see all of the main buildings. I elected to pass on a couple of the minor ones which were located out of the way. All in all, it was a good day experiencing some ancient Sinhalese culture firsthand, as well as getting in some quality physical activity!