Sigiriya & Dambulla
From Kandy we headed north by bus to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sigiriya. Sigiriya is a spectacular monolith which protrudes singularly out of nowhere high up into the air and can be seen from miles around. It is the hardened magma plug of an extinct volcano. Said volcano eroded away many many years ago and left this rock behind. It is quite a spectacle from near and far. The site was allegedly then used by a former king, King Kassapa, back in the 5th century to house a palace on the summit and the surrounding grounds are quaintly landscaped and inhabited by wildlife, including huge monitor lizards.
We braved the midday sun, donned our hats and began the steep 370m ascent, stopping on the way at some frescoes which allegedly portray the concubines of King Kassapa. And quite saucy they were too. On reaching the summit we admired the panoramic views and shared shade with some cheeky monkeys. And we couldn't resist some more jumping photos.
|The King's ladies
At the summit, which covers 1.6 hectares, you can see the remains of buildings past but there is some dispute as to whether it really was used as a palace grounds or simply as a meditation retreat for Buddhist monks. We reckon the latter. (Tune into the next post for our very own personal experience of a meditation retreat!)
Duncan's excellent accommodation searching skills came into their own in Sigiriya. He managed to find a new place aptly called The Hideout and not only did they have a swimming pool, which in the soaring heat of mid-March in Sigiriya was so refreshing, they also had a brilliant cook who prepared the most delicious home-cooked Sri-Lankan food for us. We happened to be some of their very first guests so we were thoroughly spoilt.
|The pool at The Hideout and in the right hand corner there's Sigiriya
|Another view of Sigiriya from The Hideout
We also used The Hideout as our base to visit a holy site called Dambulla. Although we were now suffering from acute temple-itis we had been assured that Dambulla was worth the effort and I'm glad to say it was.
Dambulla is the site of the Royal Rock Temple, a temple built into caves. The caves house innumerable Buddha statues and paintings on the walls. More recently a Disney-esque style complex has been added at the foot of the caves with a much newer huge Buddha statue but we didn't let that put us off. As a place of worship the caves are thought to date back to the 1st Century.
Sadly our time in Sri-Lanka was coming to an end. After a night's stay in a sea-side town near the airport called Negombo we were headed back to Thailand and began to steel ourselves for a 10 day silent meditation retreat.