844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Anuradhapura (North Central Province, Sri Lanka)

Aug 19th, 2009 - Today I explored the ancient city of Anuradhapura. It became the capital of Sri Lanka in 380 BC under the rule of King Pandukabhaya but reached its height under Devanampyia Tissa (247-207 BC). It was to serve as the capital of Sri Lanka for over 1000 years. I began at the Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba. What the hell is a dagoba? A dagoba is a dome-shaped memorial alleged to contain relics of Buddha or a Buddhist saint; also referred to as a stupa or chaitya. This one was built by Devanampyia and was his crowning achievement. It is an impressive sight and extremely sacred to Buddhist followers. People come to make offerings, pray, meditate, and the like. In fact most of the people there were pilgrims and worshipers, not tourists per se.

I then moved on to the Sacred Bodhi Tree. This tree acts as the heart of the city both physically and spiritually. It is said to be the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world and has been cared for and guarded for over 2000 years. Wowie.

Much of the sacred city is nestled in a light forest that simply emanates serenity. As you make your way through a sense of calm and well being slowly overtakes you. It is all you can do not to curl up on a patch of grass near a ruin or under tree and drift off to sleep. Oh what a sight this must have been in its heyday. I made stops at Elephant Pond, the Moonstone, Samadhi Buddha (statue), Twin Ponds, and a host of other sites that formed part of the thriving ancient city. Wowie.

I ended my tour at the massive brick Jetavanarama Dagoba built in the third century. It originally stood at a 100m but now reaches only 70m. The area around this dagoba contains the ruins of a monastery and, like other parts of the city, is situated in a beautiful area of green patchwork interspersed between trees and the remains of ancient structures.

Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba














Sacred Bodhi Tree





Elephant Pond




Ancient shitter






Samadhi Buddha


 Thuparamaya



Jetavanarama Dagoba


The conclusion of my day was undoubtedly the highlight although the circumstances were a bit strange. On my way into Anuradhapura I managed to lose the key to my motorcycle. It actually fell out of the ignition while I was driving. Fortunately, I had extras made (at the tall goofy white guy rate if one recalls).

This was the main key and had the owner's phone number written on it. Well, someone found it and called the owner who then called me and told me to call the gentleman who found the key. I did so while at the museum near the Jetavanarama Dagoba. It was not an easy conversation as this person spoke very little English. Luckily for me a gentleman that had been helping me remove some mud from my bike took the phone and assisted with the translation.
Chandana (his name) told me that the guy was not at home but would be there around 5:30 pm. I was given the name of the street but nothing else (like an address). Chandana offered to help me locate the place and gave me his card with his number so I could give him a call when I was ready to go. It turns out that he is a tour guide in Anuradhapura. He claimed that he was not interested in money and that he only wanted to help. As always I was a bit skeptical but since I had no idea where the street was I figured I might as well give him a call.

We agreed to meet at the same spot from where we would head to the man’s house to retrieve my key. He showed up in a tuk tuk with two of his friends, one of which was a rather large Sri Lankan gentleman (the driver). At this point I was not sure what to make of the situation but I pressed on. Chandana hopped on the back of my bike and we drove off with the tuk tuk in tow. After about a two minute drive we arrived at Chandana’s house where we parked my bike so we could all pile into the tuk tuk and meet the keymaster. I was not entirely comfortable about jumping into a vehicle with three strangers and driving off but my instincts told me I would be okay….probably. On the way I called the keyman once again and once again understood very little. I handed the phone to Chandana only to discover that the guy was not where he said he would be. Instead he was outside of town. My choices were to drive to him or pick up the key the following day. I decided to do neither. I have two spare keys and so does the owner so I figured screw it. He can keep the key. I phoned the motorcycle owner just to be safe. He was not concerned about losing a key. My new friends made repeated offers to take me to get the key but I explained that it was not worth my time. They also wanted to make sure I understood that they wanted nothing in return for their help.

Instead of going back to my bike my pals treated me to some ginger tea at a local roadside stand. Sri Lanka is famous for its tea and I have to say it is delicious. It was at the tea stand that I began to realize that these guys were sincere and just being extremely kind and hospitable. We had an extremely interesting conversation on a variety of topics. All spoke English well but Chari (another of my new friends) stuck out as being quite educated (self-educated as it turns out). He threw out words like ‘ascetic’ and ‘flabbergasted’. We talked politics, family, religion, and philosophy among other things. They really piqued my interest in Buddhism and I am determined to read up on the subject. 

We discussed the security situation and I explained how the US State Department has issued a travel warning for the country, more for the possibility of random acts of violence then any kind of overt conflict. They too reiterated what I’ve heard all along, that for the most part the situation is relatively safe. They did concede the ‘shit happens’ possibility however. They laughed at my stories surrounding the fleecings I'd received in Negombo and were adamant that most Sri Lankans were not like that. I am starting to understand.

Chari, also a tour guide (according to Chandana the Anuradhapura tour guide), shared his fascination with the ancient civilization that thrived here and told me that if you dig deeper you will be amazed. From the way he spoke I had a feeling he was on to something. He spoke of Buddhism and how it is all about finding the path. You have to free yourself and everything you need will come to you. He spoke of rebirth (as opposed to reincarnation of which he does not subscribe to) and the continuous yet ever changing status of the universe. He mentioned Einstein and his connection to Buddhist thought. Although I was unaware of the association it does make perfect sense. Einstein’s work involved unlocking the secrets of the universe, piercing the veil if you will, which is exactly what Buddhism is all about. To quote:

Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”

and

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

It appears Einstein was, more or less, a Buddhist. Funny how I had to come to Sri Lanka to find that out.

Chari seemed to think me an interesting fellow and told me I was not the person he (or the other two) thought me to be. I was to learn that by my appearance and demeanor they thought me to be hard man, perhaps even a bit of a ruffian but were pleased to discover my kind nature (according to them of course). Thankfully, I also have good Karma. I wonder about this. It seems I have an unapproachable air about me. This is not the first time the topic’s been addressed but their impression seems to carry more weight for some reason. I guess it’s time to soften that rough exterior. I need to trade Grrrrrrrrrr for Purrrrrrrr.....or something along those lines.

Something about standing next to a thousand year old ruin (our post tea time lounging area) under cover of dark in the rain while discussing philosophy in Sri Lanka that is really gratifying and almost, for lack of a better word, spiritual. Buddhism is the path to Enlightenment, the search for truth. Chari admired the idea that I would come to the ancient city to learn more about the culture, the people, and that I am willing to sit in the rain at night and allow him to share his thoughts and is ideas. My own personal search for truth I suppose. Perhaps, I am unwitting Buddhist myself. Chari seemed to imply such. 

Interestingly, much of this conversation was had while two of my new friends passed a joint between them. Notice how I said ‘them’ and not ‘us’. Who needs drugs when you have Sri Lankan Buddhists to converse with? Admittedly, the idea of Chari smoking Mary Jane does seem a bit incongruous with the Buddhist aura but then again it appears to do him no harm. In fact, he told me that he taught himself French under the influence and is often called upon to guide those hailing from the land of Napoleon. He is a highly (pardon the pun) intelligent fellow and sophisticated enough to know what is and is not good for him. I guess I emphasize this because more often than not people use/abuse drugs as a form of escape or diversion. This is just as true in the developed world as it is in Sri Lanka. Chari, at least at a glance, seems to derive a genuine benefit from the practice and, dare I say, it almost feels like it assists him in his quest for self-actualization. If he keeps it up he might be e-mailing me in German.


Chari

So after our sacred city ganja-laced pow-wow I was invited into Chandana’s home for some tea and a monstrous portion of succulent watermelon. I was honored to be a guest in his home where I met his wife and his mother. More conversations ensued with everything from Buddhism to Sri Lankan soap operas vying for our attention.

I discovered that Chandana and his wife eloped without seeking permission from her parents, a source of constant tension within the family. In fact, her parents are refusing to speak to them (I guess there is a bit of a class issue at work). As Chandana put it, “They are not ready to speak to us yet.” As I searched their faces for any signs of regret I found nothing but love and child-like glee in their eyes. Her parents might as well get on board because these two are planning to be together a long while. 


Chandana and his wife

It is rare to be in the company of relative strangers and feel such a profound sense of calm and tranquility. I consider these people my friends and I hope to see them again soon. Part of me wants to spend more time here and I have not ruled it out but there is so much to see that I should probably move on. Decisions, decisions.

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim