Day 5: Golden Temple Dambulla & Sigiriya Mountain

Trip Start Dec 17, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Where I stayed
Spica Holiday Home Asgiriya
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Citadel of Sigiriya - Lion Rock
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Golden Cave Temple Dambulla
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On the night of of day 4, we had a chat with the owner of the house…he was a major in Sri Lankan navy and was in India for about 7 years and as such knew a bit of Hindi as well…he was complaining a lot about ineffectiveness of Sri Lankan government in solving basic problems such as scarcity of food supply…apparently most of food supply comes from India and that too of second grade items…We asked him about places to see around…he informed us that Dambulla and Sigiriya were close by…and could be accessed via bus…however he warned us that time may not be proportionate to the distance as roads were not that great…He told us that there were regular buses to Dambulla from Kandy bus station…Dambulla is about 71 kms from Kandy and takes around 2 hours….from there, Sigiriya is 25 Kms further, which can be again accessed by bus…wiki travel page, now has a warning that from Sigiriya the   last bus to Dambulla leaves at 6 PM..we did not have this info when we decided our plan, which turned out to be disastrous!So…in the morning on Day 5, we started from the homestay, stopped at the bakery nearby to eat some breakfast and then headed to the bus station…we hardly had to wait for 10 mins before finding a bus to Dambulla..bus ticket was approx. SLR 100 each…we got places to sit…the ride was another good and comfortable ride, with plenty of nice scenery on the way….farmlands, hills….On the bus, a Swedish lady was sitting next to me..she had a lonely planet book, which I referred to for a while…while discussing, I got to know that she had come with her Husband and her daughter and they  were planning to do an overnight trek of Adam’s peak…I really wanted to go there, but we hardly had any days left of our trip…so I marked this on my To Dos for future..but, if anyone is planning to visit Sri Lanka, put this on your priority, DO NOT MISS IT! Here’s link for more info on it:’s_peakWe reached dambulla bus station at around 10…from here we had to take a Tuk Tuk by paying SLR 100 to take us to the temple…so we actually reached the temple at 10.30 in the morning…Most visible thing about temple is huge golden Buddha statue, which can be seen from far off…from near, it seemed even more huge! Its an impressive piece of human-made structure…
We had not even entered the temple and we were already impressed…we bought the ticket which was SLR 1000 each (for asians)…even more famous thing about the temple are the caves…The entrance to the caves was from left side of the statue, accessible by climbing a few stairs..there are in all 5 caves and the the whole temple is a UNESCO world heritage site..the temple dates back to 1st century BC…The caves consisted of very beautiful paintings and Buddha and statues made of clay, copper, bronze etc….one cave had a sleeping buddha statue, which I could not understand as to how it was put inside, considering the cave entrance to be much smaller…it must have been built inside…it was an impressive human work!

One tip: get a guide..there was hardly any information available at the caves and hence we were not able to appreciate the beauty of it to the fullest extent.We checked out the caves and climbed down the stairs to the main entrance…then we went into the museum there which houses more of Buddha Statues and paintings among other things…By the time we were done, it was 12.30 and we went to the temple’s canteen, where we had  egg omelette with bread and coke…then we took a took took to the bus station, where we had to take our next bus to Sigiriya mountain…we reached bus station by around 1.30 and got to know that next bus was going to leave at around 2.30…we waited for an hour or so, before finding the bus, hopped on it and bought our tickets of SLR 40 took an hour to reach the place…from where, bus dropped us, it was about 2 kms more on foot to reach the ticket counter…however Sigiriya fort was already visible..this 2 kms stretch was around the fort with a lake accompanying us on the right side..there were many birds to be seen due to availability of water…Finally by 3.45 we reached the ticket counter…the entry ticket for Indians was USD 15 and included a museum tour, art gallery and the mountain fort itself! we were told that entrance to the main fort closes down at 5 and hence we hurriedly checked out the museum and gallery, hardly paying any attention…we made it to the entrance by 4.30 and then we were relieved as there was no closing time once inside! So, we decided to take our time…The moutain fort was built by King Kashyapa in 5th centry BC…the ground level consisted of flat gardens, each one higher than the one before, until the main entrance to the fort..gardens which shows immaculate planning done during that period…water was still visible in few ponds…
We reached the main entrance and climbing started…the climb was interesting, with steep steps here and there…it took us through caves having some paintings and then to the was mostly flat with middle portion again a level above the rest of it…it hardly had any structure left, except for stairs, a stone throne and two huge stone paws of lion..but apparently this is where the King used to sit and command his army! the view from above was breathtaking and we could see as far as our eyes could, without any barriers in between!

After enjoying the view and the breeze, we decided to go down…it was sunset and hence started to get dark pretty was completely dark by the time we hit the bottom…then again, there was a long walk to the main road where the bus had dropped us…we reached the bus stop by approx. 6.30 PM and could not find a single tourist…also, the place was quite empty and hence we decided to go a little ahead to Sigiriya town…we reached a small restaurant where we asked about the bus and were informed that the last bus had already left at 6 PM! That moment, I should I have captured Abhishek’s expressions in a photo…he was as if struck by a lightning…the lady at the restaurant told us that we can take a Tuk Tuk to dambulla from where we could take a bus…she said, however, that its tough to convince a Tuk Tuk driver to come so far and also that the last bus from Dambulla to Kandy leaves at around 7.30!I had started making up my mind that we might have to spend the night in Sigiriya and was going to ask her about available cheap accommodation…but she called out to a person known to her who also owned a Tuk Tuk and he agreed to drop us to Dambulla main road for about SLR 500…so we hopped onto his Tuk Tuk and were hoping to reach in time!The ride to Dambulla was also eventful…first, he stopped in between to tell his family that he is going to Dambulla and coming back…Abhishek was getting nervous with each passing moment and I had to calm him down…but Abhishek lost his calm when the driver received a phone call on his mobile and while trying to get it out of his pocket, he dropped it on the road…the vehicle was pretty fast and it was very dark…it took him about 5-6 mins to stop, run and find his phone…Abhishek literally told him to keep his phone off till the time we reach our destination!We reached our destination at 7.20 thanks to tremendous speed of the Tuk Tuk that the good driver was able to achieve!However, we were concerned that the bus might have left early! Here we met a guy called Hasan, who was working in Kandy and apparently used to daily travel from Dambulla to Kandy. He told us that bus had not left and was quite curious in knowing about what were we doing so late in Dambulla without a clue of bus timings! We found the bus, jam-packed and hence had to stand all the way to Kandy for 3 hours…We chatted a lot with Hasan on the way (now he is on my facebook too)…and he was really friendly and helpful..his general friendly attitude brought some cheer to our exhausted faces! We reached Kandy bus station at around 10.30, exchanged our facebook ids to remain in touch and bid each other goodbye! Post this, was a task of convincing a Tuk Tuk to drop us till Spica…we had no patience to bargain and agreed to pay a steep price of SLR 100 for a 2 KM ride…as usual, we were dropped at the main road and had to walk up the winding hill, through a scary jungle, hoping that no animal was cruel enough to attack on two completely exhausted individuals!We reached the Spica unharmed and were surprised to see the light still shining in the living room…so instead of pressing the bell and waking up everyone, we checked who was up. There was a new guy sitting at the computer using the internet. We asked him to open the door for us and assured him that we had a room for us….Once in, we were asleep before even we knew it! 
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