Published by K&P,
We're two days in to this 'round the world in 300 days...or so' adventure and making our way North to Sigiriya.
Our plan for the day had been to catch two trains and a bus, which should have taken around 8 hours on a good day. Unsurprisingly for a developing country we heard there'd be long delays on the tracks. So we decided to get a driver - aparently this is quite normal, although it felt like luxury - being chauffeured.
It turns out Sri Lanka is receiving millions in Chinese investment into road infrastructure. Large scale national deals of this nature always seem to come hand in hand with longer term detrimental trade-offs for the country benefiting. In some cases agreements that involve vast mining of resources, national treasures exchanged at a cheap price in relative terms. Nevertheless, in the name of 'development' there'll soon be an impressively smooth surfaced and direct road linking the north to the capital. And a very wealthy guy rubbing his hands together with glee.
But for now, a road trip that will soon take three hours, once the surface is sealed, took us six - airconditioning and comfy seats save the day. It had felt like an early expense we would struggle to justify - we were both thinking it - we can't afford to live like this for a year! On the other hand the sightseeing stops we got to make along the way and local knowledge of our driver turned tour guide made us feel we had gotten a two for one deal.
A couple of our detours included some sights we wouldn't had chance to see otherwise. A giant white sitting Buddha statue atop a hill overlooking an unpronounceable city, north of the capital. Big Buddha offered panoramic views, we were joined by a family of monkeys and the odd stray dog having a stretch or scratch here and there - typical, in the best kind of way.
Dambula golden temple is a tourist trap, as with many temples, it seems that all foreign looking/sounding/moving people, read 'prey', must pay a fixed tourist entry fee. I sensed a fine balance between feeling discriminated against and knowing these places should be maintained and provide employment, clearly good things. We haven't tried to blag the line of this being part of our religious observance - as yet - but I'd be tempted. But then again, who'd buy it unless we went all out and dressed as Western monks on an epic pilgrimage - having seen a couple of these already, curiously they all had bright yellow teeth. I'm sure we could pick up some saffron coloured robes, but may have a harder time convincing Kat to shave her hair off to save a few Rupee...
So, if you ever decide to come this way, we would say the views from Buddha's perch are a must - all the best with finding it.
Despite the steep climb and price, Dambulla Golden Temples and particularly the cave temples, once you reach the top of the hill are worth a visit. The clear views over to Sigiriya on a good day, the relief from scorching sunshine in the cave-conditioned cool air and cute factor of the monkeys, did make this a memorable experience that will break up an otherwise mundane road trip.