The Climb To Sigiriya

We had some traditional homemade breakfast before heading out. I cant remember the name but it was basically some black grains compressed into a tube with coconut milk on top. it was really tasty and apparently super difficult to make, so we are lucky Lanka (Guesthouse host) offered to make it for us.

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Manoj (our driver) picked us up to drive us to Sirigiya, an ancient rock fortress. This is the most famous tourist attraction in Sri Lanka and they definitely make you understand that with a ridiculous $30 entrance fee that basically say “screw you white tourist”. We noticed that all tourist attractions here cost a fortune, basically destroying a budget traveler’s wallet but the cheap food helps balance it all out. We basically decided to skip some old city ruins part because it was another $30 per person and we had a tantrum every time we needed to pay ridiculous entrance fees.

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This site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes.  The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

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The hike up was not supposed to be hard, but the heat made it very difficult. They have built a series of stairs and ramps to take you to the top.

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You can walk through almost intact frescoes from the Anuradhapura period. There were around 500 painted ladies, but today there are only like 5 left to see. Some believe that they are the ladies of the king’s while others think that they are women taking part in religious observances.

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Originally this wall was so highly polished that the king could see himself when he walked alongside it. Made of brick masonry wall and covered in highly polished white plaster, the wall is now partially covered with verses scribbled by visitors to the rock. The mirror wall has verses dating from as early as the 8th century.

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On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock, the king built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion.

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The Gardens of the Sigiriya city are one of the most important aspects of the site, as it is among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. This are the gardens of Sigiriya, as seen from the summit of the Sigiriya rock.

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It took us about 1 hr and around 1500 steps but we made it! The view was incredible from up there.

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The sun was so strong that we took refugee under the only tree up there.

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We were out of water and surprising there was absolutely nowhere to buy more, so we cut the visit short and started to come down.

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At the bottom of the rock, we saw a snake charmer! For a small tip, he will hypnotize the furious cobras with some flute’s music (the flute is actually called pungi). I wish that work with Sarah as well. By the way, after reading about this snake charmers, now we know that this is fake and its all a show and he is in no danger. Although snakes are able to sense sound, they lack the outer ear that would enable them to hear the music. They follow the pungi that the “snake charmer” holds with their hands. The snake considers the person and pungi a threat and responds to it as if it were a predator.

The charmer typically sits out of biting range and the snake is sluggish and reluctant to attack anyway. More drastic means of protection include removing the creature’s fangs or venom glands, or even sewing the snake’s mouth shut.

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Even the 2000 rupees note shows Sigiriya rock on it! But only a nerd like Eitan would notice those things… more banknotes to come:

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Our second stop of the day was the Dambulla cave temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla and is a World Heritage Site. This was by far one of the most beautiful and unique temples we have seen.

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There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life.

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There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses.

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One interesting thing we have noticed in Sri Lanka is that they don’t allow you to take pictures posing in front of Buddha, you are welcome to take pictures of Buddah by himself though. We never encountered this in any Southeast Asian country.

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The temple is full of monkeys eating lotus flowers. Eitan now leaves these creatures alone after his close encounter with rabies in Bali.

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We came back to Kandy that night and there was rush hour traffic into the city so we decided to get Pizza Hut delivery. We realized we are not in America too late. Eitan’s medium size pizza was the size of a small tortilla and Sarah’s small size pizza was the size of an oreo cookie (this is an example of Eitan exaggerations….) We sat with our Sri Lankan family Dr. Nimal and Lanka, and share some beers while we learned about local history and traditions. We learned about the Sri Lankan recent civil war, the difference between the Tamils and Sinhalese, and other very interesting subjects.

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Eitan asked them where can he get old Sri Lankan Banknotes. As you may or may not know, Eitan has a great world banknotes collection of about 4000 different notes from all corners of the planet (next time you see him, ask him to show it to you). 1 hr later, Eitan was sitting with a family friend who happened to be a collector as well, and Eitan was able to purchase from him several Ceylon Banknotes! Amazing and definitely an experience we would have never expected to have in Sri Lanka!
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By the way, if you have banknotes sitting in a drawer or the closet, or you might travel a lot and sometimes you keep some by mistake, or maybe you are going traveling to somewhere exotic and want to help me. I can purchase those from you and you can help me grow my collection! I accept donations as well 😉

Bonus Pic Of The Day: If you are feeling lonely in Sri Lanka, you can always get a porcupine as a pet. They love to cuddle with you but I recommend always wearing safety glasses.

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