Visiting Sigiriya to Colombo with stops in Dambulla and Kandy.
At 6:30 am, we surveyed the damage from the mosquitoes. Looks like the only war victim was Christina. Stepping out of our room, we had the first look of our hotel, The Lion Rock, in daylight. Breakfast was a mix of traditional Sri Lankan egg curry, vegetables, and rice noodles and western buttered toast with jam, eggs, and coffee. Splendid!
A short drive away was our first destination, the ancient ruins of Sigiriya!
We purchased our tickets (US$30pp) and strolled through the Sigiriya Museum. Besides some history and displays on the excavations and restorations, the architecture of the museum peaked my attention more than the exhibit.
We then continued to the lonely rock that holds the ancient capital at the top. The ascent wasn’t very difficult besides convincing the many guides that their services were unneeded. The first sight of importance was of the many well preserved frescos of topless women. Climbing up a circular rusty staircase we reached the mirror wall which apparently use to be so shiny that it served as a mirror for the king. Since the 8th century visitors have marked the wall with graffiti giving insight to the thoughts of the visitors during the time.
We enjoyed the views over the gardens and national parks while taking plenty of pictures. Heading down, we passed a snake charmer before finding our driver. We stopped for some wifi before driving to our next destination.
We arrived in Dambulla to view the famous Cave Temple and the Golden Buddha Statue. Our driver parked and we bought our tickets (1500 rupees). We walked up a fleet of stairs in the drizzling rain passed monkeys and street hawkers. At the top, you must check in your shoes before stepping on the temple grounds. The decorations and murals on the walls were impressive and in surprisingly good condition.
Through the rain we walked back down. At the base of the stairs is another set of stairs to the largest Buddha statue in world. As it was raining we didn’t stay long and headed to Kandy with only a stop for gas.
Arriving in Kandy, we parked right next to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic and went into a nearby deli. We dined on traditional Hoppers (appa), a light flour, coconut and palm based fried pancake eaten with spices and sauce, accompanied by Ceylon milk tea.
Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic
With our bellies full and an umbrella in hand we approached the temple. I first noticed the police security check with separate entrances for men and women. It was quite lax though, with no frisking. This was probably put in place after the terrorist bombing in 1998 by the LTTE killing 17 people.
Once inside a tour guide convinced us to see a traditional dance show taking place nearby mentioning that the tooth relic was going to be displayed at 6 pm. It was now 5 pm.
We followed his advice and he led us to the show, which was a short walk away. It was held in the auditorium of a Red Cross building and cost 500 rupees. The audience consisted of mostly tourists and some locals huddled in the back of the room.
We left the show 5 minutes to 6 pm as the sun was setting. We could already hear the chanting coming from the temple.
At the entrance you purchase your tickets and put your shoes away. There were traditional drummers performing inside and some dancers similar to what we saw in the show. Upstairs we found the masses of Buddhists waiting for the ceremony to start.
At 6:30 pm they opened the golden window to expose the tooth relic, which looks like a miniature golden stupa.
Then we explored the rest of the temple, stopping at the octagon, which held the world’s oldest oak leaf book, another room with a Buddha and the great hall with a series of paintings depicting the story of the tooth relic.
After the tour through the temple, we headed back to the car and were on our way to Colombo. Christina napped as I chatted with our driver about his life in Sri Lanka. Three hours later, we arrived at our hotel Tingatel Colombo. After a quick check-in we bid our driver goodnight and settled in for well needed rest.