Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
5 days - December 2018
Hello Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka is often referred as « India for the beginners or the little sister of India » but in less than 2 days we will discover these 2 countries have nothing in common. In 18 days here we are going to discover how diverse the country is!
The process of going through immigration, getting cash and a SIM card was surprisingly smooth-less. Looks like we definitely left India.
For the first time ever we splashed a bit and hired a driver for the first 150kms. Our goal: reaching Sigiriya straight from the airport!
Sigiriya is part of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. This region is home to Ancient royal Kingdoms having names with so many vowels and syllables, it makes it hard for a tourist to remember them all ;)
They all are part of the Unesco Heritage List and we got why: the country has a rich culture.
We started our Royal visits climbing Pidurangula Rock. It took us around 30 minutes with some proper climbing at the end to reach the summit. We had uninterrupted views on the Sigiriya rock, the sunset and on the jungle. A story of betrayals and fights between brothers inheriting the throne led to one of them building an empire on the rock back in the 5th century! The heir deposed from the throne by his brother came back around 20 years later to seek revenge and besieged the Lion Rock. What the King forgot building his new empire were provisions and in less than a week he had to surrender or starve to death...
The day after we headed to Dambulla with a tuktuk and Cédric had a revelation: his new life goal is to own a tuktuk! (1 month later he still speaks about it, it looks like it’s a serious idea...!)
Dambulla is a complex with caves temples dating back to 2,100 years ago! It became a Buddhist temple in the 12th century and we saw more than 150 sculptures and paintings of Buddhas in every position : Buddha sitting, Buddha sleeping, Buddha standing, Buddha with a piercing, Buddha smiling etc. We also attended a ceremony with monks and pilgrims, nothing compare to the craziness of Meenakshi temple but still interesting. The sleeping Buddha has massive feet and take size 250 at least!
Finally on our last day we headed to Polonnaruwa (I probably missed a couple of syllables ...!). We jumped into/down buses as they barely slow down to take passengers, what an adventure!
Once in, party time! All buses have a TV broadcasting concerts and music shows and they all have bright colours. Well we were the only one in the mood to party, none of the bus passengers were dancing...
90 minutes later (with awful Sri-Lanka pop music) we finally arrived to Polonnaruwa and rented bicycles. Under scorching sun (35 degrees !) we discovered the ruins of this Ancient Kingdom. What is cool in this country is that each time there is a fight between brothers, father & son or between empires, they build a new Kingdom with many palaces and temples. Polonnaruwa dates back to the 12th century and today it’s a site with ruins of a royal palace, Buddhas, sculptures, stupas , all of them in the middle of the jungle and home to many monkeys. It reminded us of the Angkor temples in Cambodia (not as big and well preserved but still). What a good day just strolling around !
We finished this first part of our Sri-Lanka trip delighted and we couldn’t wait to discover more.
Besides we had a first glimpse of local food: Rice and curry being our favorite. A lot of different vegetable curry to mix with rice. Yummy!
# we didn’t climb Sigiriya rock for 2 reasons: the cost ($30 USD per person) but most importantly due to the many tourists there. You have to queue to visit it so we passed ...
# instead we have been to the Pidurangala rock and it was amazing ! Max 20 people, a beautiful sunset and this for 500 rupies.
# the bus network is well developed in the region and super cheap.
# it costs 500 rupies per bicycle for the day
# Polonnaruwa : $22 usd per person
# we stayed at Passion Ray Villa for 9 euros a night. The breakfast was amazing as the dinner !
#driver Colombo airport to Sigiriya: 9,000 rupies.