Good morning, class, and welcome to Advanced Sri Lankan Driving. I'll be your substitute instructor today, as Mr. Pinnaduwa was fatally injured in a brutal head-on crash last night. Let's get right to it, shall we?
Of the three monasteries which define the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, our favorite was the Abhayagiri, towards the north. We spent hours roaming the sacred grounds, talking to the people who worship there, and getting lost among remnants of the distant past.
It can't match the Sacred City for ancient splendor, and by itself wouldn't warrant a visit on even the most comprehensive itinerary, but the New Town of Anuradhapura is unavoidable on any visit to the city. We spent a lot of time here, shopping, drinking and eating, and visiting the wonderful weekend market.
Found at temples, on hills, in caves, or just along the side of the road, the dome-shaped structures called stupas are one of the hallmarks of Sri Lankan Buddhism. They range in size from modest to monumental, and pop up all over the island, but nowhere are they more impressive than in the sacred city of Anuradhapura.
The only thing more abundant in Anuradhapura's Sacred City than monkeys, is ruins. Pools, prayer halls, refectories, temples, residences; ruins great and small, in varying states of decay. These vestiges of the past serve as silent testaments to the former glory of Anuradhapura.
I've never been in a city as schizo as Anuradhapura. Its two sides are basically equal in size, but opposite in everything else. East/West. New/Old. Secular/Religious. Chaotic/Serene. Humdrum/Magical. New Town/Sacred City.
Hoppers, or appa in Sinhala, are one of Sri Lanka's most popular snacks, available at nearly every shop across the country for breakfast or dinner. They're good for a quick bite, and their preparation makes for fun spectating.
For nearly ten centuries, Anuradhapura was the capital of Sri Lanka and its most important city. Found in the steamy, low-lying North Central Province, Anuradhapura has long lost its political significance, but remains the spiritual capital of the island, and is still one of the world's major Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
On the road back from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, we made a short detour to the Mackwoods-Labookelie Tea Estate. This storied business was started by the British Captain William Mackwood in 1841, and today owns an incredible amount of land to the city's north. On the bus into Nuwara Eliya, it seemed that every field for at least ten miles had a big "Mackwoods-Labookelie" sign stuck in the middle of it.
Twenty miles south of Nuwara Elyia is the Horton Plains National Park, which is most well-known for its amazing viewpoint called World's End. The relatively cool temperatures of the park, steady precipitation, high altitude, and the convergence of three rivers create a rare and fragile ecosystem in which a unique biosystem flourishes. Some of the birds found in Horton Plains are only found here.