Initially I had plannes to stay just 1, 2 days in Dambulla, and see the Dambulla sights and the Sigiriya sight from it. Then head to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and then Trincomalee. Ater Trincomalee I would head for Negombo, chill for a few days and head south to Ambalangoda to see a special friend again I met earlier.
But Dambulla turned out to be such a relaxed little place that I spend as much as 3 days there. I saw Sigiriya the first day, went to Polonnaruwa the next and saw the ruins and tanks, and went to the Dambulla cave temple the last day. Accidentally, there were also 2 Japanese tourists at the rest house, and the three of us all went to see the same places, but in a different order. I had already seen Sigiriya, another had already seen Polonnaruwa, and such we always just met up back at the guest-house.
There was a lovely little shop close to the guest-house, nothing special about that, plenty of those around Sri Lanka, but this one had something special. I walked in and the girl behind the counter said: “Hello, can I help you”, in such a fluent voice that for a second there I thought she was a native speaker. I mentioned this to her, and we started talking. I was aware of the door next to her leading to the living room, I was also aware that there were people there, but I was not aware that after some time, the entire family was just ignoring the TV and following our conversation. I enjoyed coming back there, no matter who was behind the counter.
There was also an internet cafe close by that I used once. They charged 100 rupees per hour, which is more than they charge in Weligama (80 rupees) but the staff was friendly. At some point we also started talking, and once they found out I knew a thing or two about graphic design they wanted me to show them some photoshop. They had a “fast” computer with an old version of photoshop, and I showed them a few things. They knew a lot of the tools, but not really how to do anything productive with it. What was important was that it is not about using big techniques, but about doing big things with little, common techniques.
Kyoko, one of the Japanese tourists found a nice little bar that I had walked past twice (there are soo many adverts and signs in Sri Lanka that you become blind for them), and I am SO very grateful she took us there. It was a small fruit stand actually, with a tiny bar behind it where they serve fresh, and I do mean FRESH fruit juice, with ice and everything. It’s was the best fruit juice I’ve ever tasted in Sri Lanka, or anywhere, and it was cheaper than all the other places I’ve been. I wish I could wrap that place up in some kind of magic bag and take it with me everywhere.
I was sorry to leave Dambulla, but I had to move on to Anuradhapura. I passed by the little juice bar, so I stopped to get another papaya juice, and I met this English bloke with Sri Lankan heritage. He came to Sri Lanka regularly, had a lot of fun stories to tell, and hints about the price of things, where to go to find healthy and cheap food, and how much the average room should be. Of course, it differs from region to region/town to town, but in the smaller areas you should be able to find basic but good accommodation for around 600-800 rupees. Mine was 1200. And don’t get breakfast (usually 300-400 rupees) just go out for something like fried rice in a small restaurant or a vendor and you should be able to get by on 1600-1800 rupees a day. I told him about the tuk tuk driver from Kandy, and the tour he took me on, and he told me 4000 rupees was an good price for that. He also knew a lot of people in Anuradhapura, so he gave me the phone number of a good friend of his who was a tuk tuk driver and could show me around for “a bloody fair price”. He phoned the guy in Anuradhapura to “look for this tall dutch bloke with a Bob Marley headband at the bus-station in an hour or 2”. And so I was on my way.
UPDATE: I’ve uploaded some photos, finally.
This picture hanging from the wall in the guest-house was so beautiful that I just had to take a picture of it.