A Travellerspoint blog

Part 1

28th Oct 2018

Today we headed to the airport via Beaus Pet Hotel where we dropped Mika off for her holiday. We checked in at the Cathay Pacific desk as we flew international from Adelaide and went Premium Economy. This time we didn’t get an upgrade like last time. Oh well you can't always get what you want. We were heading to Colombo via Hong Kong. As the plane taxied out the pilot welcomed us to the inaugural 1pm flight to Hong Kong. It used to be at 6am in the morning which meant an early start. Last time we had to leave home at 3am for this flight. After over 30 years of uneventful travel some of you have been following our last few blogs and read about all the bad luck we have had lately. Well yet again things didn’t go smoothly. We were meant to have a 50-minute layover in Hong Kong to get from our Adelaide flight to the Colombo flight. We were 20 minutes late arriving. As we disembarked there was a Cathay Pacific representative holding a sign for the Colombo flight, so we thought we were going to be whisked away to our next flight. But no, she was there to advise us that it was too late to get to the flight. She remained with us and took us to a counter to get a new flight to Colombo. To our surprise we had to go Hong Kong to Bangalore in India then change flights again to Sri Lanka. Instead of arriving around midnight we would now arrive around 5am. We were more worried about our bags than anything. They confirmed in Hong Kong that they had been diverted onto our new flight so this took some pressure off.

29th Oct 2018

Upon arrival in Bangalore just after midnight, we were again met by a representative, but this time from Sri Lanka airlines. They advised us that our bags had to be collected and put through again with Sri Lanka airlines. She told us that we did not need to be involved in this process. They would find the bags and do this for us. She needed our passports. So nervously we handed over our passports and waited for her to return. They found our bags and did return with our passports so that was a bonus. We had never travelled Sri Lankan airways so another experience we were not expecting. At 2.55am we boarded our flight for Sri Lanka. We had still only snoozed and were getting tired. We arrived in Colombo just before 5am. We had a smooth transition through immigration as we had already done all the paper work in Australia and had our ETA approval notice, no queues to get the right paperwork, like a lot of people that arrived. We then found our luggage which was again a bonus. It only took 15 minutes to arrive at our hotel at around 6am in Negombo. We had now been up for 25 hours as we had left home at 9.15 am Adelaide time. Negombo was once an important commercial trade centre, well known for offering the best cinnamon in the world. It was one of the first towns taken by the Portuguese, only to be captured by the Dutch in 1640 and then recaptured by the Portuguese some months later. The British eventually took control of the town in 1796. We went to bed for a couple of hours and set the alarm to go to breakfast.
This was the view from our hotel balcony when we awoke. All the hassles were well worth it.

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There were lots of traditional fishing boats out.

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Shane at breakfast. What a view to enjoy at breakfast.

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We wanted to stay awake, so we could get a good night’s sleep so we spent a relaxing day hanging around the hotel. We went for a walk along the beach.

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This is the hotel. Jetwing Sea Hotel. The staff are so friendly.

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We watched the fishermen bring in a big net on the beach. They took it out quite a way to sea and then slowly they pulled it back in.

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Their catch. One of the ladies we spoke with told us that this was not a very good catch.

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Shane in the pool cooling down. It was getting quite warm.

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30th Oct 2018

Before heading out of Negombo this morning we had a look around the area where the fish are dried. It was quite smelly.

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This was one of the fish markets.

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We then passed the big fishing fleet.

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The Dutch Canal in Negombo was used as the supply route in the times of the Dutch administration along with the Old Churches and fishing villages and is still being used today. It runs across the town and is hundred kilometres long. It was constructed by the Dutch people from Colombo in the south to Puttalam in the north.

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We then travelled five hours to Sigiriya. Once out in the countryside there were lots of rice paddies. Some were getting ready for planting and others had just been planted.

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We also went through a village that makes bricks.

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Some of the local shops

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We stopped half way for a break at this man-made lake.

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The ancient city of Sigiriya lies at the 180m summit of the granite peak known as the ‘Lion’s Rock’. It is apparently one of the most dramatic sites in Sri Lanka and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. So, of course we were to visit the Lion Rock also known as the Rock Fortress. We are going to climb to the top. This would be done tomorrow but we got our first look at it on the way to the hotel.

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We settled into our next hotel which was the Sigiriya Hotel. We are spending 3 nights here and just venturing out each day. So, it’s nice not to have to move each night.
We had a wander around the hotel. Even from the hotel you can see the rock.

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There were lots of monkeys running around on the roof of our room.
These are toque macaques

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These are Grey face Langurs.

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There were also parrots in the trees.

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We relaxed and enjoyed a drink watching the monkeys.
Shane had a Sri Lankan Lion beer while I enjoyed a mocktail.

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31 Oct 2018

We had an early start today as we were heading for Lion Rock to make the big climb to the top. Nearly 200m high with 1,200 steps leading up to the top of the Rock Fortress the climb was very steep. OMG we will only ever do this once in our life but we both felt good when we finally made it to the top. It was built by King Kashyapa for his new capital. The rock fortress is also known as the ‘Lion Rock’ because a massive lion carved out of the rock once sat at the entrance to the palace. Today only the lion’s paws remain. This was a big complex. Upon arrival there was a long walk firstly across a moat.

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We could see the rock and it was quite misty as it had rained most of the night.

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We then walked through remaining ruins of the gardens.

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This is a natural boulder arch that they took advantage of when building the fortress.

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We looked up and this was the view of the rock.

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We continued our climb.

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We climbed up steep spiral stairs to see some frescoes. But we weren’t allowed to take photos of the frescos.

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We then walked along the Mirror Wall. Originally this wall was so highly polished that the king could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. It is made of brick masonry and covered in highly polished white plaster.

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We finally arrived at the lion’s paws.

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Once on the summit we saw the foundations of the Royal Palace built for King Kashyapa.

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Along with the Kings Bath

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It was a bit hazy but there were panoramic views of the town and the gardens.

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You can see where we walked to get to the rock.

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The rest of the ruins at the top.

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We then started heading back down. Part of the way down was the same way up. Once we hit the lions paws we headed back down a different way.

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This is the audience hall. They split the bolder in half. When one half fell over on its side they carved the top out for the audience hall.

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After this adventure we were soaked with sweat, so we headed back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes. We then drove two hours to Polonnaruwa. We were really lucky as on the way we saw 2 spotted deer that ran across the road and also a wild elephant bathing in the lake.

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We also stopped to see this replica buddha statue.

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We visited the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of Polonnaruwa. This was the capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to the 13th centuries and was a thriving commercial and religious centre. In the 10th century the South Indian Chola dynasty conquered Sri Lanka. The Cholas chose Polonnaruwa as their capital and moved the capital from Anuradhapura. In the 13th century the city was fading and was abandoned. The capital moved to Colombo where it is today.
We first visited the museum which gave us a bit of an introduction to what we would see. It was pretty warm in there, so we didn’t spend too long in there. They had scale models of the buildings and temples showing how the capital would have looked back then.
We then stopped at the 800-year-old stone carving of the king who developed 3 man-made lakes into one large lake to assist with water problems during the dry months. It is about 25 square km. His name was King Parakkramabahu. He reigned between 1153-86.

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We then visited the main ruins of Polonnaruwa. Firstly the Royal Palace. Today only some of the walls are left.

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This is the King’s Audience Hall.

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It had various carved elephants around the walls.

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The stairs to the Audience Hall was lovely with lions guarding the entrance.

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and the King’s Bathing Pool. It didn’t look too inviting today.

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There were lots of toque macaques around the ruins. So, we couldn’t resist some more photos.

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We then headed to the Sacred Quadrangle. This had some beautiful and impressive ruins. This is The Vatadage, it is a round relic house. The outer terrace is 18m in diameter and has 4 entrances.

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This is the main entrance.

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There were also a lot of smaller temples and ruins in the quadrangle.

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Our last stop was to Gal Vihara, which is a magnificent group of rock temples consisting of four separate statues all cut from one length of granite; a meditating Buddha,

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a smaller Buddha said to be visiting heaven,

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a standing Buddha which is 7m tall

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and the reclining Buddha entering Nirvana, which is 14 metres long.

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We also saw a variety of other wild life today. We saw:
A couple of monitor lizards

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Palm squirrel

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Some Chameleons

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We then headed back to the hotel for Halloween celebrations.
They went to a lot of trouble at dinner. All the food had ghoulish titles. Here are some of the deserts.

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This was the cute towel art on our bed.

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1st Nov 2018

We were up at 5.45 this morning. This was not by choice. We were both woken by the monkeys having a party on the roof of our room. They were so noisy. After breakfast we drove two hours to Anuradhapura. It is one of Sri Lanka’s most ancient cities. The city’s greatest treasures are its dagobas which are domes enshrining sacred relics. It was first settled by Anuradha, a follower of Prince Vijaya the founder of the Sinhala race. Later, it was made the Capital by King Pandukabhaya at about 380 B.C.
As we headed towards Anuradhapura we could see the Ruvanveliseya Dagoba, dating back to the 2nd century BC. The dagoba is one of the world's tallest ancient monuments, standing at 103 metres and with a circumference of 290 metres. The original dagoba had been about 55 metres in height and was renovated by many kings. The dagoba was a ruin in the 19th century and after fundraising efforts it was renovated in the early 20th century.

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We then saw it closer.

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There are elephants all the way around it.

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We then visited several other ancient locations.
Jetavanaramaya dagoba which is 122 metres high. It was the world's tallest stupa and the third tallest structure in the world when it was built by King Mahasena of Anuradhapura (273–301). A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here.

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There was a lot of decoration around it.

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One of the entrances.

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Kuttam Pokuna or the twin ponds is a monument of superior engineering, it was built for Buddhist monks at Abhayagiri Vihara for their daily baths. The ponds are from the period between the 8th and 10th centuries.

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Samadhi Buddha is a 2m tall Buddha statue, popularly known as the Samadhi statue. It is a masterpiece of Sinhalese sculpture from the 4th century.

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Abhayagiri Dagoba

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Isurumuniya Temple was built by King Devanampiyatissa. The temple is built partly into a cave with a pool in front and with a boulder forming the rear wall. It has carved stone sculptures.

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Beside the temple was a crack in the rocks housing bats.

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Moonstones serve as a doormat at ancient buildings of Sri Lanka. The stone carving on the semicircular doormat is given an interpretation that the ring of animals depicts the four states of birth, disease, ageing, and death. Going beyond these sorrows on your path of emancipation there is the creeper and leaves that symbolize the life force. When you surpass this craving, you reach the swan representing purification.

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Each of the animals.

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The stone carving on the steps was in immaculate condition.

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Dakkhina Stupa also called Dakkhina Tupa is a 2nd-century BC structure. This structure currently identified as a Buddhist stupa, but considered until the mid-1800s CE as Elara Sohona, the tomb of 2nd century BCE Tamil king Elara, who invaded Sri Lanka from the Chola Kingdom, in the Tamil country and ruled in Anurahapura.

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Thuparama dagoba is 20m in height and 60ft in diameter. It is one of the smallest ancient stupas which was built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the third century BC. It is believed to enshrine the collar bone relic of Buddha. By the seventh century, the stupa was renovated by King Aggabodhi the second in the 7th century. The monolithic pillars surrounding it once held a circular roof making the shrine a Vata Dage (Circular Relic House) which is characteristically a Sinhalese architectural feature. The roof doesn’t exist today. It is meant to be the first dagoba built in Sri Lanka.

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We visited the Bo Tree which is the most renowned Buddhist relic. It is said that Emperor Asoka’s daughter brought to Anuradhapura a branch of this tree, under which Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment. Planted over 2,250 years ago, it is the oldest surviving historical tree in the world. It was not what we expected as it was only one limb being held up by poles.

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We also stopped to have a look at a cannonball tree. It is named this due to the fruit looking like cannonballs.

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This is the flower, it was the size of your hand.

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Once again, we saw a bit of wildlife.

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Their buses are certainly colourful.

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We then headed back to Sigiriya. This afternoon we heard about the trouble in Colombo. The president has sacked the Prime Minister and there are demonstrations in the streets. One person has already been killed. We are nowhere near Colombo at present so are hoping things resolve themselves before we arrive in Colombo.
Once again, we had a lovely piece of towel art on the bed to brighten our day.

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2nd Nov 2018

We left Sigiriya this morning and our first stop was to do some retail therapy. We stopped to buy some t-shirts.
We then stopped at a wood carving factory.

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They had beautifully painted elephants.

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Shane couldn’t resist this piece of wood carving. It is a seat but looks like you are sitting down with your pants down.

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Then just down the road there was a batik factory. Once the pattern is traced onto the fabric, they start putting wax on the parts that they do not want to dye.

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We passed the Golden Temple which had a large gold buddha on the hill.

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We continued our drive another half an hour to view the Dambulla Rock Temple. There are 800 steps you need to walk up to get there.

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You could look out across the valley.

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Of course, there were lots of macaques around.

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Dating back to the 1st century BC, the Dambulla Rock Temple is made up of five caves that have been converted into shrine rooms containing around 150 Buddha statues and colourful frescoes.

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In the first cave we saw the 14m statue of Buddha cut out of the rock. At the Buddha’s feet is Ananda, the most loyal disciple, as well as other seated Buddhas nearby.

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The second cave is the largest, also known as the Cave of the Great Kings, where there are 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha. The frescoes on the ceiling depict scenes from Buddha’s life and important events from the country’s history. Inside the cave is a spring created from the drips from the ceiling, which is said to have healing powers and is used in sacred rituals.

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The third cave was much smaller.

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We did visit the 4th and 5th caves but to us they were alike but were still impressive when you considered how old they were.
We then continued towards Kandy. We stopped at a fruit stand to have a coconut drink.

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We then stopped for lunch and a visit to a spice garden in Matale. Sri Lanka is famous for its spices, so we enjoyed walking around and seeing the spice garden where cinnamon, cardamom, pepper creepers and other spice trees were planted.

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Not only do they use the spices for cooking but also for herbal medicine. Shane had a 10-minute shoulder and neck massage and they used chilli which Shane said cooled him down, he was quite surprised.

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This is a large Hindu temple in Matale.

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We then arrived in Kandy. Kandy is situated 500m above sea level and is known for its culture and beauty. It is a sacred Buddhist city, famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Dalada Maligawa. Each year the tooth relic is honoured in Esala Perahera, a religious parade with elephants, drummers and dancers performing in the streets.
Before heading to our hotel, we went and saw a cultural show.

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They even did some fire walking.

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After the show we had to board shuttle buses to get to our hotel on a hill. Our bus could not go up the small steep streets. We are staying at the Amaya Hills Hotel. We arrived in the dark, so it will be nice to have a look around in the morning.

Posted by shaneandnicola 20:11 Archived in Sri Lanka

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