Kandy, Elephant Orphanage, Sigiriya

Trip Start Dec 22, 2005
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Trip End Jan 02, 2006


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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wake up at 5.30am and take a "Tuk Tuk". This is what the 3 Wheelers there are called and is a popular mode of transport, especially if you are foot weary. But one needs to bargain hard or be prepared to be gazumped.

I had hired the tuk tuk the earlier day -Kandy to Pinnawaela. (Cost min 1250 - max 1500 LKR and takes about 90 minutes. The other option is to take a bus approx 30-40 LKR.)

Reach the place around 7.30 only to discover that the gates open at 8.30 am. Sigh - so much for that extra hour of sleep we could have had..
Breakfast and a couple of weak coffees later, we get inside and are faced with lots - and I mean lots - of elephants. Of all sizes.

The place is a virtual tourist trap. Every single one of the elephant handlers are out to fleece ( usually with the excuse of offering to take a picture of you petting a mighty elephant, you fall for it thinking of the brave picture you will get to make- and then the haggling starts. Hmm smart!)

We watch the baby elephants go through their feeding routine, which is thoroughly entertaining - they can quaff litres of milk in absolute seconds!! But somehow the sight of some of the elephants in chains and tied down does not sit well. Sure it's safer that way for us mortals but what the hell - aren't they all supposed to walk around free? Isn't that the main point of the orphanage to begin with?

Anyway - hang around for a while and decide not to stay on for their bathing time( around 10.30 am at a nearby river) and head back to the rest house to change and hit the road to Sigiriya.

On the way back, the tuk tuk breaks down - this is the first of the many vehicle breakdowns we were part of . Apparently most vehicles in Sri Lanka don't think its pertinent to carry the mandatory spare tyres or spare fuel! Why bother? seems to be the common foregone conclusion. During one of these breakdowns, out of sheer spite I demanded 20 Rs back! oh the look on the bus conductor's face was hilarious to say the least! Utter shock at the total unexpectedness of it.. Ha!he actually gave me 12 Rs back :D

We hop on to a bus to kandy. Another point worthy of noting is no matter where u are - if stranded, in the middle of nowhere or on a busy section, all you have to do is to stick out your arm when you see an oncoming bus and it stops - then just say the magic word of the place you want to go to and off you are. No need for such niceties like searching or trudging to the nearby official bus stop.

From Kandy we take a local bus to Sigiriya. An extremely unwise call. Severely overloaded - with people falling all over you and themselves! All the drivers uniformly insist on driving at maniacal speeds on truly narrow roads without a care! Much like in India I suppose.

We get dropped off at the Sigiriya junction in one piece and take a tuk tuk from there to the Fort City. Total journey time : 3 hours.

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Sigiriya : An Ancient 5th Century Rock City.
Background : The ruins of the capital built by the King Kassapa I (477-95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 m high (the 'Lion's Rock', which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks is what this place is about.
Sri Lankan architectural tradition is well displayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning.The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts.The plan of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden, moats and ramparts are based on an 'echo plan' duplicating the layout and design on either side. This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in 5th century Sri Lanka.

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As I read somewhere and as we found out - making the most of Sigiriya, requires a good head for heights - it's a must. The last part of the way to the top of this 200m (656ft) plug of rock, is a literal scramble over a series of shallow steps with a sheer drop on one side!

But after having conquered Adam's Peak this is child's play for us. The view from the top is mind blowing. We finish the climb and relax for a bit at a "Water Garden" before climbing back. After the sunrise at Adam's Peak, this remains a favorite part of my Sri Lanka trip.

Unfortunately we could not afford the time to complete the cultural triangle of Dambulla, Sigiriya and Pollanaruwa. All three are UNESCO world heritage sites and are exceptionally well maintained, beautiful and together are known as the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.
However, we opted to check out the Sacred city of Anuradhapura which is a little further up and bypass the Dambulla rock caves and Pollanaruwa. But if you have time, completing the cultural triangle is ideal to get a full picture of the ancient history this land is seeped in.
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