Visiting the ancient ruins of Sri Lanka, filled with history, culture and heritage
As a solo traveller, I’ve always sought help to commute in an unknown city by searching for information online and asking the locals. Though I had all the information that I wanted in my hand, the information wasn’t physically present when I reached the bus station - I meant my bus. Walking up and down the bus station, being pointed at different directions by the locals, I was stressed. And thanks to my skin tone, people started asking me for bus numbers in the native language while I myself was trying to get one.
After about 30 minutes of running around the bus station and a cigarette later (because stress overtook my calmness), I got into my bus. Though not very comfortable, there was nothing I could have complained about. Having juggled between counters and buses asking where my bus was, I had forgotten to buy something to munch and 10 minutes into my journey, I started feeling really hungry. Though I have an innate urge to say that I had a pleasant, but truth be told I wanted the bus ride to be over as soon as possible.
And about five hours and thirty minutes of the bus ride and twenty minutes of tuk-tuk ride later, I reached my next destination in the island nation of Sri Lanka - Sigiriya.
As the sky turned reddish pink with the evening sun, I realised that I was the only guest in the entire property and the wilderness of being in the middle of nowhere excited me. But on the other hand, as the sky turned dark, I was afraid of the same thing which excited me a few hours ago. And I’m pretty sure my host recognised this.
This young man came running to me with a bottle of water and asked me what I would like to have for dinner. With no clue what to expect I settled for chicken noodles and in about an hour, my dinner was ready. Not only this young man made my dinner but also stayed by my side as I ate my dinner to the chirping crickets and cold winter breeze.
And boy, that night I slept like a baby, but with the lights of my room switched ON.
What to explore?
Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress
Sigiriya or Sinhagiri, which translates to Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress located near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
According to the ancient chronicle, this site was selected by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on top of this rock and about halfway up the rock, he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion, thus deriving the name Sinhagiri for this structure.
The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king's death and was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Today, this massive rock structure is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and is considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
It felt so good to be at top of this massive rock structure and to be bang in the middle of the country and you will notice this if you locate this rock structure on the map.
While many believe this rock structure to be King Kashyapa’s capital, you can only witness the traces of the capital’s existence with a breathtaking view.
According to different chronicles and historians, this rock structure was considered to be the capital of many prominent names of this island nation including Ravana. But nonetheless, it felt good to be at this site filed with a massive history dating back to god knows how many centuries.
Dambulla Cave Temple
After a 3-hour long hike up and down the Sigiriya Lion Rock, I asked Nuwan, my tuk-tuk driver, to take me to the Dambulla Cave Temple. This temple is situated 160 meters above the ground and to be honest, I felt that this hike was much difficult than the one I endured earlier that day. However, after reaching the top, the view from the hill and the temple itself relaxed me with a swift cold breeze on a sunny day at Dambulla.
This temple dates back to 1st century BCE. This temple has five cave complexes which house over 1500 murals of Buddha on its ceilings and Buddha statues of various sizes, is open to visitors of all religious beliefs and is considered to be one of the important worship places for people practising Buddhism.
Please note that if you are a foreign national, you will have to pay an entry fee of 1500 LKR to visit the temple and must cover your legs and arms.
Having taken the longest route to reach the temple, I saw this magnificent golden Buddha statue during my decent. Made of concrete and bricks, the construction of this gold plated Buddha statue began in 1998 and was completed in 2001.
Where to stay?
I stayed at this beautiful place called the Fresco Lion Villa. Though it’s a villa, the family room is given out as shared dorms for travellers like me. My host was polite, humble and was very helpful, however, I would not give a 10 for its cleanliness.
How to commute?
The best way to explore the city of Dambulla is on a tuk-tuk. The best way to hire one for your expedition in the city is by asking your host and don’t forget to ask for a good deal from them. Nuwan was a humble and soft-spoken driver who took me on my crazy expeditions and cracked conversations to keep me engaged.
P.S: Historic information pertaining to Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Cave Temple is excerpted from Wikipedia for factual clarity.