A few years ago when the topic of travel came up in conversation with a friend he spoke of his goal to see “the 7 wonders” of the world. In my personal experience, these, the best known sites in the world have never lived up to the hype surrounding them and are always crawling with massive tour groups making the chances for a unique individual experience quite difficult. Local populations living around these places, more often than not, are so used to dealing with tourists and taking their money that it creates a lot of hassel for the budget traveler who does not care about tacky souvenirs and amusement park like attractions such as camel riding to the Taj Mahal.When I think back to some of the most amazing places and people i’ve met thy very rarely include a countries top tourist destination. Having heard the praise for Angkor a thousands times before, I was pessimistic to say the least as to what the next few days would hold.
The Buddhists have a strange way of bringing in their new year. While back home we might get dressed up and spend an evening overdosing on champagne or another booze of choice, this part of Asia prefers to dump buckets of ice cold water on anyone brave enough to enter the streets. Of course one day isn’t enough and the giant water fight lasts a total of 3 crazy days.
While Sri Lanka may be best known for its pristine beaches and producing some of the best tea in the world in the hill country, it also contains some of the finest archaeological wonders in Asia. North of the hill country lies the “Cultural Triangle” including ancient Buddhist caves in Dambulla, the giant rock citadel in Sigriya, the endless ruins of Anuradhpura and plenty more in between. With extremely high entrance fees and time for only one site we polled each group of travelers coming from the opposite direction and decided to head to Anuradhapura.
After physically ripping Lianna from her warm bed yesterday morning and grabbing a quick breakfast in the Everest cafe of French Toast we ran into Ben, our travel companion on the bus from Xining to Xiahe. Ben’s plans were similar to ours for the first half of the day, so at 9:30am the three of us headed off for a tour of Lobrang Monastery lead by an English speaking monk.