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.
Water puddles reminded us that the monsoon rain was getting more unpredictable and lengthy in recent years according to the driver.
Fishmonger like to set up their stalls right by the road, usually under a big tree.
Peacock 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.
Many rely on the state-run Sri Lanka Transport Board buses to move around the rural areas and go about their daily business.
Convenient stores selling snacks, sweets, fruits and drinks were the most common shops we saw on the road.
Like 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.
Occasionally, we would pass by large neglected estate or plantation compound.
Christian shrines dot around the roads near Negombo.
The Christian shrines gradually make way for their Buddhist counterparts further away from Negombo.
Dialog 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.
Bicycles are the most popular means of transportation for local villagers in rural areas.
For town dwellers, motorbikes are definitely their desirable choice.
However, for moving a group of people or traveling with goods, most locals would opt for hiring a tuk tuk (auto-rickshaw).
For local women, fashion and styling are heavily influenced by Bollywood from its powerful neighbhour.
Fashion in Sri Lanka is relatively conservative, especially in the north or near religious sites.
A Buddhist monastery features a smaller version of the famous elephant wall at Ruwanwelisaya Stupa in Anuradhapura.
Approaching 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.
The 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.
240km of travel distance, almost ten hours on the road including three major sights we stopped by along the way: Bhangarh (ruins), Abhaneri (stepped well), and Fatehpur Sikri (historical capital). Hiring a car from Jaipur to Agra provided us the flexibility to make detours in the countryside at the eastern edge of Rajasthan. After a week in the desert state, it was time for us continue en-route to complete the “golden triangle” of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Our hired car was booked through Jaipur’s Arya Niwas Hotel. The driver for the day turned out to be experienced and gentle. The journey was smooth and rather comfortable despite we ventured into villages and sights away from the main expressway. Throughout the journey, we passed by villages and farms, giving us an opportunity to see another side of Rajasthan away from historical palaces and fortresses.
Always wearing his flat cap, our driver was experienced and gentle.
We passed by a village dominated with small stone carving workshops.
Colourful clothing of local Rajasthan women often stood out from the otherwise earthy background.
Along the dusty road, we passed by numerous makeshift petrol filling facilities for motorbikes.
An eye-catching motorbike and a woman with a marvelous outfit standing confidently looked as if a scene from a sci-fi movie.
No matter in cities or the countryside, street food remained popular among the locals.
Disregarded of their age, local Rajasthan women always cover themselves with clothing in vivid colours.
In rural India, cars and trucks are often utilized to their limits.
Throughout the day, we constantly crossed path with an elevated expressway under construction.
Simple hair salon.
In rural India, dried cow dung are commonly used as fuel.
Locals embarking on a motorbike journey.
Occasional sighting of camels on the expressway reminded us that we were still traveling in the desert state.
Shared tuk-tuk or auto rickshaws are everywhere.
Wheat, barley, pulses, sugarcane, oilseeds, cotton, tobacco, mustard, rapeseed, soy bean are some of the main crops in Rajasthan.
End of school day.
Construction site of a multi storey concrete building.
The smiles and laughter of Rajasthani locals would live long in our heart as we left the desert state for Agra.
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-
Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur
Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer
Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer
Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
With an area about twice the size of France and including some of the most remote mountainous landscapes in the world, traveling in the Autonomous Region of Tibet takes time and patience, and requires a reliable SUV and an experienced driver. We didn’t have sufficient time to venture out to the furthest areas of Tibet, such as the sacred Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture. We did, however, managed to include a 6-day excursion out of Lhasa as the second part of our Tibetan journey with a classic tourist route taking in Shannan (山南), Gyantse (江孜), Shigatse (日喀則), Mount Everest Base Camp (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營) and Lake Namtso (納木錯). We hired the SUV and driver through Pazu, the owner of Spinn Cafe. As our agent, Pazu took care of our border travel permit (for visiting the Mount Everest area) in Lhasa. He also told us a little about the habits of Tibetan drivers, meals and accommodation options before departure.
Many Chinese travelers who come to Tibet would arrange a shared SUV through online tourist forum or notice boards in hostels and local travel agents. In a small group of three, we decided to hire a 4-seat SUV on our own. Writing to Pazu prior the trip, we requested for an experienced and safe Tibetan driver who would not smoke in the car, and a decent 4×4 SUV vehicle with a proper AL or BL license plate (official license plate of local tourist vehicle). It turned out that Sangzhu (桑珠), our Tibetan driver for the journey, was a highly experienced driver. Despite his sometimes unpredictable attitude and services, his driving was safe and efficient. The intercity roads in Tibet were better than we expected. The roads to and from Everest Base Camp were dusty and occasionally treacherous. Everyday we spent hours on the road between towns or destinations. Scenery along the way was often spectacular with golden barley fields, sleepy pastures, picturesque villages, rugged plateaus, and distant snow-capped mountains.
The white Toyota SUV offered us a comfortable means of travel and a movable resting place between different sights.
Our driver Sangzhu (桑珠) with Mount Everest in the background.
Most of the intercity highways were decently paved.
Along the way, we saw various new infrastructure under construction, including highways and railways linking Tibet to other parts of China.
For most of the time, we passed by a number of arid landscape such as the huge sanddunes in Shannan.
Fields of Tibetan Highland Barley, a local cereal for Tibetan milk tea, alcohol and tsampa, were common sights along the roads.
Our SUV was occasionally blocked by flocks of sheep and cattle in the rural areas.
On the road, we encountered quite a number of motorcyclists and cyclists who were willing to brave the chilly winds of the high altitude.
As one of the high profile tourist attraction in Tibet, our SUV drove along the Yamdrok Lake (羊卓雍錯) after our brief stop for photos.
The scenery on the road to and from the Everest Base Camp was breathtaking.
Most parts of the Friendship Highway between Tibet and Nepal was decently paved.
Due to point-to-point speed and driving time limit, our SUV occasionally would take breaks on the road. Our driver made use of the last break on the journey to wash the SUV.
On a few occasions, we stopped by a roadside Sichuan eatery for a quick lunch.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet