It was a year ago when I visited SriLanka and I admit, it was not part of our travel plan. Me and my colleague were supposed to go to Egypt for a week-long holiday, but things turned out differently when the consul advised us promptly that it was too late to process our tourist visa application due to short amount of time. Apparently, it was next to impossible to get the visa before our intended departure, (which was a week before) so the next thing in mind was to find a country where we can get the visa upon arrival, since we are holding Philippine passports.
While searching online in the office, I received a call from a client inquiring a tour package in SriLanka. Ting! just like in cartoon programs, a light bulb popped out in my head. Without hesitation, I immediately booked the airline tickets before it’s too late (most flights were fully booked due to peak season), and coordinated with our tour operator in SriLanka to prepare an itinerary for us. Lucky enough, we made it on time and everything were all set for the bunch of adventures awaited for us.
SIRIGIYA. Climbing the Lion’s Rock Fortress. It was a three-hour drive to Sigiriya from Negombo, where we stayed overnight. Since we anticipated for a wholeday-hike, we made sure to get there as early as possible in the site. My excitement grew seeing the rock from afar standing magnificently, studded with lush green gardens.
Declared by UNESCO as the 8th Wonder of the World, this rock is considered as one of the largest monoliths in the world. According to our local guide, it used to be a monastery but later on became an ancient fortress built by King Kashyapa, who murdered his father and seized the throne. Fearing for the attack of his half-brother, the rightful heir, the King decided to place the palace on top of the rock. (interesting story, huh?)
We walked past through the ponds, fountains, and noticed ruins of giant pools before reaching the foot of the rock. First we climbed a number of stairs after we entered The Boulder Garden, until we realized that it was getting steeper as we ascended through a spiral staircase and led us to a cave of frescoes. It was fascinating to see such old paintings that were preserved, not to mention the cool breeze and the stunning view of the forest surrounding the rock. Then after few more steps we reached a platform where the real challenge starts: Two gigantic paws of a lion, carved into the rock, with an iron ladder steeply upwards as the final ascent to the summit.
Having no fear in heights, I still managed to walked through those steep set of staircase hanging in a cliff. But after few more set of stairs, which seemingly endless, my strength and stamina were put into test. My legs began trembling so I gripped through the handrails tightier as I felt that those rickety-looking stairs will collapse anytime.
While catching my breath, I finally made my last step towards the summit! Upon reaching, a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view spanned the distance as far as my eyes can see. I just stood for a moment and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery. Such a great feeling of accomplishment to be on top of a historical site, and it was suprisingly spacious that you can imagined how beautiful it was when first built. Foundations and remains of the palace were still standing. It was completely worth the risk to get there.
DAMBULLA. Temple Hopping. After the strenuous climb, we immediately headed to Dambulla, a 20-minute drive from Sigiriya, where the Golden Rock Temple is located. For centuries, this place is an important shrine and monastery for Buddhists. It is the largest and best-preserved cave-temple complex in SriLanka, making it as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Upon reaching the base of the hill, we were welcomed by a monstrous golden Buddha situated around 100 – 150m above the road. Before we started the hike, we got the chance to take some pictures with some Buddhist monks around.
The temple consists of five seperate caves and I was impressed by the exceptional craftsmanship as these caves were hewn from a big rock. I was stunned by the superb views over the surrounding countryside, where Sigiriya was also visible. As soon as I entered the temple, I felt the serenity, peace and calmness. Each caves are decorated with hundreds of statues of Buddha images, all beautifully carved and a reclining Buddha got my attention. Paintings in the walls and ceilings were so detailed that they appeared to be fine cloth billowing overhead.
Unlike the previous climb, ascending and descending to the temple was quite easy but with sloping rocks to reach the top. It has been a sacred place for centuries, so it is mandatory to remove any foot coverings of all people who intend to go inside the temple.
Obviously, the whole hiking experience that day was tedious but totally gratifying and rewarding with its beautiful landscapes, exquisite culture and fascinating history.
Sometimes, the best things in life come from where we least expect it. We may have missed the chance to see the Pyramids of Egypt, but nevertheless, from the Lion’s Rock of Sigiriya to the sacred Golden Rock Temple, these places were truly remarkable and incomparable.
Next Stop: Kandy.
Wondering what happened next? Join me as the adventures continue on the second part of my story. Please don’t hesitate to share this post through Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on twitter @WorldMeetsEarl and looking forward to your tweets as well.