Saturday, January 05, 2013

Steps and Sigiriya

Water gardens below the Lions' rock.

Howdy all. I've had a bit of bad luck here. I have visited 69 countries in my life, but for the first time I have been robbed, boarding a packed train at Colombo station yesterday. I had my wallet picked from my front pocket. Usually have it in the zipped pocket, but was for whatever reason a bit lax yesterday. More on that in my next post though, trying to keep it all in order on the blog for now! 
The lions' rock.
That means today's post takes a look at a few days back when I visited the ancient city of Sigiriya.
We took a small tour on Wednesday from Kandy to the ancient city of Sigiriya and surrounds from our lovely guesthouse in Kandy. Through a friend  organised a great driver, name of Sunil, who drove my wife and I around and explained things as we went. We were both pretty tired from all the travel and the Danish family at the guesthouse who weren't the quietest of neighbours, nevertheless the day was a great one.
Ancient Sigiriya was built by a Sri Lankan monarch on the site of a monastery the good part of 2000 years ago. I believe it was in use for many centuries, and was built by a rather paranoid King who decided the safest spot to rule from was on top of the Lion's Rock (above) and built water gardens and a moat around the foot of it, and chucked in a few crocodiles for good measure.

The lions' paws and the start of the final part of the ascent.
 Today, it's a tourist attraction and visitors can climb the rock via the stairs to see the ruins of the ancient palace, not unlike the ruins of Macchu Picchu, at least the photos I have seen. On the way up we walked past the mirror wall, adorned with paintings of well-bosomed ladies in the one of the scariest (for those who are scared of heights) parts of the climb.
Many tourists were there too. We ascended the 1200 steps with them. We passed the mirror wall, and various gardens. Some parts were steps built into the rock face, at one point there was a wall between the drop and the walkers. Some impressive work to get that made!
leading up to the mirror wall.
 Finally, the last part faced us. Two giant lions' paws and steps leading to the very top. This also was very hairy, but then the view on top was spectacular. We saw the remains of the palace and grounds and even the swimming pool! Unfortunately very hazy but still a wonderful view. 1200 steps climbed and vertigo conquered - we had done well! It's really up there with some of the world's amazing places, it should be more well known. It's not quite the pyramids or Angkor Wat, nevertheless for the seeker of the world's ancient sites, it's a must-see.
Swimming pool and view at the top!
 On the way home we stopped at a temple in Matale, visited a herb garden where we were given the ins and outs of herbal medicine and had a nice buffet lunch - I should say the food is not the greatest here, at least not the restaurants. If you're like me and can't deal with spicy food, you're a bit in trouble. Everything gets a bit of chilli from a chicken sandwich to a bolognaise!

There was also a stop in Dambulla, where there are famous Buddhist temples in caves. We entered behind this huge statue of the Buddha and then... proceeded up maybe 500-600 steps. Yes, I couldn't escape steps wherever I went!
Gold Buddha, Dambulla.
 Impressed that I hadn't had a heart attack, I was sweating like crazy at this point instead! (yes, sorry, a detail you probably didn't need!) Still, the caves were nice if not mind blowing. Monkeys abounded in this area, but of more concern were the tourists, or should I say lack of locals? This place was only frequented, the afternoon we were there, by western tourists and their cameras. Yes, that includes me. But at least I didn't use the flash.
Inside one of the rock temples.

Nevertheless an interesting place to visit. We returned home via a road which was showing signs of the mud slides only a week or two before we came. Imagine sleeping in your house as the rain pours down outside and suddenly you are swept down the hill. Many people died as a result of the rain, floods and mudslides in December. And here we were touring the place. It's a strange thing to be touring an area so soon after tragedy.

So that was the day. A twelve-hour tour left us pretty tired. Next time I will tell you all about how my wallet was lifted - truly exciting stuff. lol. Until then...


Dipa said...

Wow, awesome! I've been to Sigiriya about 9 years ago now I think..I loved Sri Lanka!

Brento said...

With all those people going up & down it was pretty slow going but what a view on top & imagine some ancient Christopher Skase carving a resort & sculptures out of solid rock. We met an Aussie couple taking time out from volunteering on the tsunami cleanup. At the time there weren't more foreigners but then the ceasefire hadn't been around for long. Damn! Sorry to hear about the wallet.