As I mentioned on my previous post, Day 3 of our Sri Lankan vacay was the most strenuous, stressful, tiring and hardcore of them all. Since the three places we wanted to go to are located way too far from Colombo, we had to prepare ourselves for a loooooooong drive to the Golden Triangle area of Dambulla, Sirigiya and Ponnolaruwa.
It took us about three hours to arrive to our first destination, which was Dambulla. Dambulla is a big town, situated in the Matale District, and is home to the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site, which features more than 80 caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Lord Buddha and his life. Since we were on a time crunch, we were not able to enter the actual caves, which was a big mistake for us. Looking back, we should’ve just waited for their 15-minute lunch break to be over since the photo ops inside those caves were amazing. I really don’t want to talk about it anymore since I really feel so bad we just left without waiting and checking the sights inside those caves.
Our next stop was Sigiriya. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya, which means “lion’s rock” in Sinhalese, is a town with a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. A popular tourist destination, Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings and is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The entrance fee was a little costly, $30 per foreign visitor.
The Sigiriya rock is a hardened magma plug from an extinct and long-eroded volcano. It stands high above the surrounding plain, visible for miles in all directions. The rock rests on a steep mound that rises abruptly from the flat plain surrounding it. To date, walking up that rock and the steep climb to the top is one of the toughest walks I have done so far, even beating the Great Wall walk I did last June.
The Sigiriya site has the remains of an upper palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls, and gardens that extend for some hundreds of metres out from the base of the rock. Both a palace and a fortress, the Sigiriya still furnishes a stunning insight into the creativity of its builders and the moats and walls surrounding the lower palace are still exquisitely beautiful. My favorite spots were the Lion Gate entrance, with the two lion paws on either side, which serves as the entry point for the steep climb up the palace area, and the frescoes which featured unique paintings of beautiful female figures in graceful colors.
Before heading to our last destination, which was Polonnaruwa, we decided to have lunch along the way first since we were so hungry from too much walking and climbing. After lunch, we were on the way to Polonnaruwa. The Royal Ancient City of Polonnaruwa is one of the most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the best planned archeological relic sites in Sri Lanka, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa stands as a testimony to the discipline and greatness of the kingdom’s first rulers.
The place actually reminded me of Ayutthaya in Thailand. From its beautiful statues and ruins, to the preserved temples and palaces, the long drive to that place was all worth it. We didn’t stay long there since we have a long drive back to Colombo. The roads were pretty dark and there’s no lights along the way, so our driver had to be very careful when driving. I didn’t realize how long we actually travelled that day until I looked at my watch and it’s already 8PM but we were still halfway to Colombo. We arrived in our hotel a few minutes before midnight, beaten up like hell. Good thing our flight to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to leave 12 noon the next day, we had enough time to pack and get some much needed sleep.
All in all, we had a great time in Sri Lanka. Truly a beautiful place, unique and definitely interesting. Though we had our own shares of not-so-good experiences with the touts and scammers that flock the Galle Face area, it was truly an eye-opening and learning experience. Seeing the Sri Lankan people go about their daily lives, even just from the window of my car seat, exploring their historical sites and enjoying their scrumptuous and tasty cuisine, it truly is a gem in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Will I be visiting the place again? Slim chance, but who knows. All I know is that I enjoyed our short stay there and I was so glad I was able to endure the crazy travel itinerary we had from the insane airport hopping to the long roadtrip hours we had visiting one place to another. I hope and pray Sri Lanka will develop itself to the fullest and to finally let go of the stigma of being a war-torn country because it seriously is an undiscovered gem that alot of people need to explore and discover.Follow @iamthegarysia