The photo above is Sigiriya Rock Fortress. This was one of the attractions I was most excited about after researching it before my departure, and hearing AS proclaim how impressed she was when she went the day before! It may just look like a rock, but wait til you actually get up there. Yes, “up”…we had to climb 1000+ steps!
Sigiriya rock fortress is actually the ruins of an emperor’s palace. For 6 months of the year, he resided at the top of the rock, and for the other 6 months, at the bottom. This was mainly due to the weather and the rain, but I was amazed at how he actually got carried UP to the top by his servants. Don’t forget that they didn’t even have proper steps, but rather grooves in the side of the rockface to aid their ascent/descent.
I hired a guide for my walk so that I could actually learn about the history rather than walk mindlessly not knowing what I’m looking at. The Sri Lankan government no longer allows personal drivers and tour guides to accompany you at these attractions, and if you want a guide you’ll have to pay for another one at the site itself. It’s all part of a scheme to provide more work for the locals. This is fine, but when they hike the prices, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated.
Most of the palace is actually quite well-preserved, but there has been restoration over the years. You can still see the original paintings on the walls, and the separate rooms/baths/gardens from that period. I imagine it would be quite a grand palace with the roof intact!
If I remember correctly, there are 3 main entrances, one of which is the Lion’s Mouth in the photo above. This has been damaged quite a bit, but you can still see the paws at the base. Yes, those are just a tiny portion of the stairs I had to climb. haha.
As we ascended, it got more and more windy. At one point it was so windy, I wasn’t actually moving forwards but getting pushed back by the wind. Thank goodness my guide noticed and pulled me forward!
I made it to the top! I had wobbly legs, and was really hot but I made it! It was so worth the climb – the view was amazing. At the top, there’s actually original remnants of the final 2 steps so I perched myself on that =) It was incredibly windy up the top but after the climb, I was happy to just sit there enjoying the view and cooling down. Throughout my walk up and down the rock fortress, I was just so amazed at how it was even built back then. It’s incredibly high up and it’s pretty much made of individual bricks, not much different to the red bricks used in our houses in Perth.
I had expected the climb to take most of the day, but it surprisingly didn’t. I walked around the tiny museum after descending, then drove around the area and headed back to Dambulla.
I was pretty hungry after the climb – I only had a small piece of coconut roti before it, so I was pretty keen to have some lunch when we reached Dambulla! I’m a huge fan of local foods whenever I travel, so I was happy to eat what everyone else was eating. In this case, we were presented with a mountain of rice, and sides. The sides were amazing! There was curry chicken, a herb sambol, stir-fried bitter melon with chilli, stir-fried beetroot with spices, dhal. The dhal was the thick kind which is my favourite, but was a bit salty! And this is the first time I ate stir-fried beetroot!
As it was nearing the end of my trip, I was quite happy to just walk around Dambulla exploring and then just chilling at the hostel. I didn’t want to tire myself out too much as I knew I’d have to jump back into work when I returned to Perth. Plus, I had a few postcards to write =)
The next day was dedicated to exploring Anuradhapura, one of the ancient kingdoms. It’s a huge area and we drove from each sight. Although we were still in the car, it was surprisingly tiring getting in and out of the car, especially in the heat!
I was glad to have met Anna at one of the hostels, and she happened to be in Dambulla to same time as well! So, we met the night before for dinner and decided to visit Anuradhapura together, which was great because it was more fun like that. We were both a bit underwhelmed by this site, and quite glad we were there together. It was quite difficult to navigate, and although there were info boards explaining the different areas, they weren’t entirely informative.
A funny thing happened though. At each sight, you have to take your shoes off as sign of respect (much like in temples). This was fine with us as we were quite used to it by now, but then we forgot to put them back on! We were at one site, about to take our shoes off when we realised we weren’t even wearing any! haha. Good thing it was far so we knew where we had left them.
After touring the ruins, Anna was heading back to Dambulla whilst I was moving to another place within Anuradhapura city itself so we bid farewell after seeing her off! It’s great to still be in touch with her now though!
Anuradhapura city was pretty busy and chaotic itself, but for some reason, I quite liked it. Perhaps it was the B&B I stayed at but I felt it was quite nice to just walk around exploring. It’s pretty easy to navigate once you get your bearings. The owner of the B&B was great! He was so lovely to chat to, very funny, and even taught me how to play Karam! It’s similar to pool but you use your fingers and it’s just so awesome. I wanted to buy a small one back to frame it, but no one sold them =(
The owner saw me as I headed out for dinner, and invited me to join them. So, we headed out on a tuk tuk driven by his friend to tabao bits and pieces for dinner. It was great! We had string hoppers, kotthu, roti, curry and coconut sauce. Kotthu is stir-fried roti, so heart attack in a pack =P AS was telling me about this and I hadn’t tried it so I wanted to try it before I left. Alas, I’m afraid it doesn’t sit well with me and I ended up vomiting that night because I felt sick from it =( The string hoppers were great though! haha
As I ate, I watched the owner, his brother and friend play Karam. Then we played as teams of 2. It was great fun, and definitely a fun way to spend time with locals! They are extremely competitive though! haha.
It was soon time for me to head to my last stop – Negombo, from which I would catch my flight home. Unfortunately, I had the worst experience of the entire trip here. Negombo was even more chaotic – I went to grab dinner alone at night, and I actually felt unsafe. Although I was simply dressed in shorts and a polo shirt, men jeered at me as I walked past. I had a great egg hopper for dinner, but that didn’t manage to lift my spirits.
Added to that, I got lost on the way back and took a while reorienting myself. I was honestly a bit panicked, but thankfully my street smarts kicked in =P I thought it would be better if I went during the day so I set out again the next morning to explore the fish market, churches and the city square again. But alas, it was the same…worse even =(
It’s a pity my experience in Negombo was a negative one, especially for the last day of my trip which had largely been eye-openingly amazing. Nevertheless, it definitely doesn’t dampen my positive memories of Sri Lanka at all.
I’m glad I got this opportunity, especially as a solo traveller without my family. It really allowed me to be in the moment and experience it! Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures and the little snippets of Sri Lanka! Hope I wasn’t too long-winded! haha.
Thanks for reading! ^^ Have a great weekend, everyone!
Don’t forget about Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them!