02.07.2013 - 02.07.2013
Alain and I arrived in Sri Lanka to a warm welcome in Negombo, a small city close to the Colombo airport. We were greeted at our guesthouse by Pathoum (pronounced 'Pa-toom') who scooped up our bags and told us everything we needed to know including which dog not to touch on the way to our room! When we made it down to lunch, we were a little disappointed that there was no Sri Lankan food on the menu as we were excited to try the local dishes! When we asked Pathoum where we could eat, he suggested that he could make us something local right there (not on the menu). We were so happy that he offered. Our first tastes of Sri Lankan food were amazing! We had fresh, hot coconut roti, Dahl curry, potatoe curry and coconut sambal (ground coconut with onions, tomatoes, lime and spices). We were in Sri Lankan heaven when we started tasting the spicy and delicious flavours washed down with a cold Lion Lager! After all that good food and a dip in the pool, we were ready to explore Sri Lanka!
We started at Sigiriya Rock Fortress, an ancient historical site that is said to have been inhabited by royalty in the First Century AD and just rediscovered in the late 1800's. Our jaws dropped when entered the site and saw how big it was (370 meters to the top!). Climbing the steep steps, I literally felt like I was walking on the edge as my fear of heights kicked in, looking down 300 meters! I hugged the railings with both hands as we made our way to the top. I was happy that I overcame my fear of heights after seeing vivid paintings on the cave walls and beautiful views atop the rock! We couldn't believe the size and quality of the Lion's Paws and it was hard to believe that they weren't designed by some Disney theme park architect! At one time, the steps when through the Lion's paws as they do now but also straight into the Lion's mouth (which is no longer there)! Those ancient Sri Lankans didn't do anything on a small scale!
We then ventured on to Dambulla, another ancient refuge for the royalty that has caves filled with about 150 Buddha statues! We also saw Polonnaruwa, an ancient capital of the Chola and Sinhalese Kingdoms. My favorite part was basking in the sacredness of a group Buddha images carved into granite that are up to 14 meters long. Monks still come here to meditate and give offerings. The carvings are in such good condition that you would think they had just been done. There was such a beautiful energy of peace and tranquility here, I could have stayed all day! Alain managed to pull me away though.
From here, we traveled on to Kandy, the hub of the Ancient cities! It was busy and crowded. The highlights were walking in the botanical gardens which were beautiful and walking around the lake that's by the center of the city. We visited the 'Temple of the Tooth', a sacred Buddhist temple that is said to contain one of the Buddha's teeth, removed from his cremated remains. We stayed just outside Kandy in a old Colonial house called the 'Mansion'. It was obviously glorious in its day but is now falling apart a little and I'm pretty sure it was haunted judging from the rattling I heard in the hallways all night long! After that, the Cinnamon Grand, where we finished off our stay together in Colombo seemed very, very grand! What a way to finish our tour of Sri Lanka's cultural heritage!