Polonnaruwa UNESCO World Heritage Site

April 6, 2008

Tom – We spent five hours this morning touring this historic site.  These ruins are spread out over about three miles.  The oldest ruins are from the 10th century Chola or South Indian dynasty (Hindu).  However, a hundred years later the site was conquered by the Sinhalese Buddhists.  Remember, these people (Hindus and Buddhists) have been killing each other for over 2000 years.  The pictures are as follows:

  • Breakfast at the Polonnaruwa Rest House

  • Helen entering Nissanka Malla’s Palace

  • Tom in the King’s Council Chamber

  • Monkeys

  • Bather in river

  • Washing laundry in lake, Rest House in background

  • Double moonstones at Royal Palace

  • Bathing pool at Royal Palace


  • Notice elephants on bottom, lions in middle and dwarfs on top

  • Polonnaruwa Quadrangle ruins

  • Vantage, fine guardstones

  • Finest moonstone in Polonnaruwa

  • Shiva Devale #2, Hindu Temple from 10th century

  • Rankot Vihara, largest stupa (dagoba) in Polonnaruwa

  • Lankatilaka brick Buddha

  • Lotus in lotus pond

  • Gal Vihara Buddhas carved from granite, 21 ft standing, 42 ft reclining entering nirvana

  • Gal Vihara seated carved Buddha 

Helen – We started the day with a fattening western breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and fruit…better than rice and curry which they usually have.  The museum didn’t open until 9am so we had an hour to walk around the ruins that backed up to our hotel.  Again we decided not to get a guide because we wanted to go faster, so we could get home before dark, but then a nice man approached us.  At first we said no, then reconsidered again, and were so glad we did because we get so much more each time we have a guide.  It was good that we had a car because the entire site covered several miles.The guide suggested that we do the road sites first in case it rained. 


The temples were fantastic, each one offering different joys.  We learned more about the religions and discovered that these temples had Hindu statues on the outside but Buddha statues on the inside; therefore, paying homage to both.  We then went back to the museum and he showed us where we were and how the reconstructed sites would look when completed.  The museum was more meaningful after seeing the sites firsthand.  The whole tour took four hours which meant we were leaving at 1 o’clock.  Tom estimated the trip home would take about 4 hours getting us there before nightfall.


DRIVE FROM HELL:  Tom had inquired about the roads before we left and also from our last guide…they all said that yes a secondary road and then the major highway A26 provided a shorter route back to Kandy and were in good shape, plus we would get to see some beautiful mountain scenery!  Now, remember that we are in the mountainous central part of the country and nothing is as it seems!!!  We grabbed a couple of those veggie rottis and some drinks to eat in the car.  We couldn’t find the recommended cafe so had to scout out another one which took some time.  When I ran in (Tom waited in the double parked car) there was only one rotti in the showcase…no problem…the man just went around the restaurant and took some off the other patrons’ plates so that I would have five.  No one blinked an eye…funny how things get accomplished and we didn’t have to wait to have more made which takes some time.


OK, we are on the road (if you can call it that)…it was mostly dirt with the biggest holes you have ever seen…we averaged about 10 miles per hour when finally one of those buggers tore some protector panel from the bottom of the car.  Tom tried to pull it off and couldn’t (thank heavens!!) but then it made a grating sound so he decided he needed to find someone to take it off (get real!!! it was Sunday and there weren’t any towns on this road!!).  We go along for awhile, and to my amazement, we find a garage (sort of) but it is closed for the day.  We stop anyway and ask if someone can help us.  The nice young man who owned the shop and lived next door came out to look and said that he would have to change his clothes to have a better look.  As it was, the piece could not be removed because it was needed (good thing Tom was unable to tear it off) and so he wired the piece to hold it until we could get home.  It is now 5pm and it starts raining.  The road (major highway on the map) is incredibly steep, narrow and full of giant pot holes.  It is so narrow that in places two cars could not pass without one pulling off the side of the road – and in some places that was not possible because of the drop off!!!   In addition to that, you wouldn’t believe the number of trucks and buses racing up and down scaring me to death!!!


NEED A TOW???  The rain is coming down harder, night is approaching, and it is darker in the mountains because of the trees.  We are discussing whether to try and stop for the night but that never seems like a good idea on roads such as these…so Tom thinks that we should just keep going…Oh well, it is already after 6 (should be home by now!!) and the man at the garage estimated 3 hours from there which would get us back about 8pm.  The road was unbelievable, when it finally became paved, you would pick up speed to about 18-20 mph and then out of nowhere the pavement would end with holes that could swallow the entire car!!  These were extremely difficult to see with the rain and the darkness. 


I am pretty miserable (you can imagine) with my stomach tied in knots and nerves on end when we come upon two young men with a broken down Tuk-Tuk.  My first thought is don’t stop because you can’t be sure about intentions…but Tom the good Samaritan, not only stops, but offers to take them to the next town.  They say that they can’t leave the Tuk-Tuk.  Tom suggests taking one of them while the other remains.  They say, it is too dangerous to be out there alone at night.  What to do???   Of course they want us to tow them to Kandy, which is still about an hour or more away.  Tom suggests towing them to the closest town and so they tie up to the car with an old rope.  I, meanwhile, am getting madder by the minute…what if the rope breaks and they plow into the rear of our rental car…the roads are bad, you can’t see, it’s still drizzling.  We start towing going slow, but pretty soon the rope breaks and now we need a new plan. 


The road seems to be on a decline, so Tom suggests that they coast down with us behind them to protect them from the other traffic (There is other traffic, but no one stops to help).  This worked for awhile until the road began to go uphill.  They get out to push and the going gets tougher…I get out to help them push but then it just becomes too difficult, so we stop.  We can’t continue this way much longer.  Finally they decide to leave the Tuk-Tuk near a small bus stand and drive with us to the closest town for help.   As we drop them off they say “God bless you” and we continue on our way.   Thank heavens the road is now paved and we arrive home at 9pm.


As I come into the house, the landlords tell us that they were anxiously waiting for us.  I tell them that this was my last adventure, that I am not taking another long trip in that car and that I am going upstairs to shower and go to bed.  Thank God the day is finished!!!

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