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Mihintale/Ambasthale Dagoba

My favorite thing we did in Sri Lanka was our visit to Mihintale and the Ambasthale Dagoba. And it's a side trip we almost didn't take!

Mihintale and the Ambasthale Dagoba are at the top of a prominent hill near Anuradhapura, and you reach them by climbing a lot of ancient stairs. (A dagoba/stupa is a Buddhist center of worship or meditation.)

We started our climb in the late afternoon, when the worst of the day's heat had passed. It was quiet and beautiful and we enjoyed walking among the fallen plumeria blossoms and trying to spot monkeys in the trees.

Speaking of: at one point, I gave Sterling a milk box to drink in the backpack. When he was (mostly) done with it, I held on to it as we climbed, keeping an eye out for a trash can. Instead, I got stalked by an aggressive monkey who very much wanted that milk box. I was determined to stand my ground, be a responsible tourist, and throw the box away in the trash, but there was no trash can anywhere and the monkey was getting increasingly brave. Finally, a passing Sri Lankan woman told me (in German!) that it would be safer to just give the monkey the milk box. So I did. And we all watched, fascinated, as it retreated up into a tree and tore open the milk box with its hands and teeth. Sometimes you wonder what your young children will remember about a certain vacation; I think my kids will remember THAT.

Closer to the dagoba, we had to take off our shoes and continue barefoot. I had never hiked barefoot before! The girls were entertained by the novelty of climbing up rocks in bare feet.

The view from the top was glorious. There was a nice breeze that cooled us down. This was especially nice for Jeremy and me because you have to wear long sleeves and pants to visit these religious sites.

We headed back down as the sun set, the end of a perfect visit. Thinking back, there was nothing about the dagoba/stupa structure itself that was amazing. What made this site my favorite was the effort required to reach it, and the rewarding views from the top in a peaceful, worshipful atmosphere. We had decided to go there almost on a whim, even though it was out of the way, and I'm so glad we did.

Why I travel with kids

April 10th, outsourced