ultramarinus – beyond the sea

ROAD TO ANURADHAPURA, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.06

Day 2 (2 of 5).

We always enjoy scenery outside the car window while traveling on the road.  It offers us an aperture to frame momentary street scenes away from tourist attractions.  From billboards to posters, gas stations to bus stops, convenient stores to market stalls, private dwellings to communal housing, observing the locals from the car gave us a collage of insights on their daily businesses from a discreet distance.  Unlike driving on a North American highway where human activities remain unseen from the road, the enthralling human activities in South Asia may happen anytime next to the curb, even along a busy highway.

The 4 hour car journey from Negombo to Anuradhapura passed through numerous villages and towns, school complexes, wet markets, Buddhist temples, Christian shrines, palm forests, rice paddy fields, etc.  Roads were surprisingly clean and well maintained, and traffic was certainly not as hectic and insane as we have seen in other countries like India, Egypt or Peru.  Indeed, Sri Lanka is one of the fastest growing economy in South Asia.  According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka has the lowest rate of extreme poverty in South Asia.   As we have seen during the trip, the gap between the rich and poor in Sri Lanka is certainly not as apparent as many other countries we have visited.  While lives of most Sri Lankan remain simple, rapid urbanization, wide-spreading of the Internet and mobile network, and high literacy rate would certainly transform this sleepy island nation in the near future.

01Water puddles reminded us that the monsoon rain was getting more unpredictable and lengthy in recent years according to the driver.

02Fishmonger like to set up their stalls right by the road, usually under a big tree.

03Peacock is the national bird of India.  These magnificent birds are also very common in Sri Lanka.  Their vivid colours become an undisputed symbol of beauty for the country.

04Many rely on the state-run Sri Lanka Transport Board buses to move around the rural areas and go about their daily business.

05Convenient stores selling snacks, sweets, fruits and drinks were the most common shops we saw on the road.

06Like much of South Asia, the sugar-coated problem of diabetes also poses a rising threat to Sri Lanka.  In 2017, the prevalence of diabetes in Sri Lanka was about 10%.  This number climbed to 27% in the city of Colombo.  Around 10% of pregnant mothers had diabetes and 35% of women were overweight.

07Occasionally, we would pass by large neglected estate or plantation compound.

08Christian shrines dot around the roads near Negombo.

09The Christian shrines gradually make way for their Buddhist counterparts further away from Negombo.

10Dialog and Mobitel are two of the most popular mobile service providers in Sri Lanka.  Foreign tourists usually choose between these two providers for sim cards.

11Bicycles are the most popular means of transportation for local villagers in rural areas.

15For town dwellers, motorbikes are definitely their desirable choice.

13However, for moving a group of people or traveling with goods, most locals would opt for hiring a tuk tuk (auto-rickshaw).

16For local women, fashion and styling are heavily influenced by Bollywood from its powerful neighbhour.

12Fashion in Sri Lanka is relatively conservative, especially in the north or near religious sites.

14A Buddhist monastery features a smaller version of the famous elephant wall at Ruwanwelisaya Stupa in Anuradhapura.

17Approaching Anuradhapura, we passed by a series of water bodies.  Since the 3rd century BC, reservoirs were constructed around the ancient capital to sustain the earliest kingdom of Sri Lanka.

18The arrival at the artificial reservoirs of Tissa Wewa and Basawkkulama signified our 4-hour-drive had come to an end.  We had officially arrived at the heart of Sri Lanka’s most ancient capital, Anuradhapura.

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