Getting up around 8am, we took our time to reorganise and pack before getting a Tuk Tuk to the nearest bus station. Breakfast at our guesthouse was 400lkr and consisted of toast and a small amount of fruit, so we opted to chance our luck at buying something near the bus station. Thankfully, a bakery was just around the corner and we managed to get ourselves a chutney roll and sandwich, a pan roll and two drinks for under 200lkr. (They were delicious too).
There appeared to be no set timetable for the bus, but within 15minutes the bus to Jaffna rolled up. Clamouring onto the still moving bus, we were ushered to seats and made ourselves comfortable. It was genuinely a delight to ride on the bus. We were two of only 3 foreigners and the bus pumped local tunes through its self built sound system. People selling all manner of foodstuffs would climb on for a stop, sell food and them get off and the scenery as we bounced along was lush and entirely different to the sites and pace of Negombo.
The ride took around 4 hours, so we got into town about 1.30. We were greeted again by a Tuk Tuk driver as soon as we stepped off the bus. Ajit was not pushy, but waited patiently until we finally accepted his fare. As he drove us to our guesthouse he explained that he also took people on tours of the city sites, showing us his book full of reviews. As our last tour had been underwhelming, I took his number and asked if he could give us some time to decide. After a quick Google on what we wanted to see, we rang him back to accept his offer.
The afternoon tour took us to the mihintale complex, a place of worship still occupied by monks today. The site was awe inspiring. A sense of calm enveloped the entire place and as the sun went down the views it offered were stunning. While we were trying to stick to a budget, we somehow ended up with a guide. The guide turned out to be well worth it, he was a buddhist himself and was therefore able to give us a detailed history of buddhism at the site. He also knew just where to take us for photos and the best views. We ended up giving him 15aud and he was happy with that.
After the tour, Ajit took us to a little local curry place which was cheap and the best curry I had eaten so far. I have no idea of the name of it though unfortunately. We then organised with Ajit for him to pick us up the next morning to complete the tour.
The next day, Ajit took us to a local bakery for breakfast where we stuffed our faces with delicious egg rotis and chicken pan rolls for under 2aud. Jumping back in the Tuk Tuk, we started off towards the first of the temples we would visit for the day.
The Archeological Museum was well worth the stop. The site had a small museum of well preserved relics dating back as far a 2BC along with a beautiful statue on Buddha lying within a chamber that had been painted centuries earlier and had been lovingly restored.
I won’t go through all of the places we went to in detail- there are too many – however it must be mentioned that the Bohdi tree is a must do. A very sacred place to Buddhists, the atmosphere when visiting the place thought to be the birthplace of the religion is something hard to describe in words. Ajit asked for us to be blessed for safe travels and we had a monk say a prayer for us, then wrap a white band around our wrists before placing a white powder on our foreheads. The Dagobas are also a real treat, towering white structures that bring many worshippers each day to pray.
At the end of the tour, Ajit took us for a quick curry lunch at a cheap eatery near the bus station before we said our goodbyes to the man who made it all happen for us and jumped on the bus to Habarana. I would highly recommend this city if you want to soak up the spiritual side of Sri Lanka.