Thursday, January 26th
Woke up early to have breakfast at 7am and met our new friends to leave for Sigiriya at 7:30am. Our first impression of the driver was not great.. The toyota van was in very bad shape and we were all pretty certain he was not too familiar with a manual. Before we even left town he stalled and killed it a few times. The drive from Kandy to Sigiriya is about 2.5 hours and I personally slept for about an hour or so. The county side is beautiful and very green. Tickets to enter Sigiriya-The Lion Rock, Mirror Wall, and the museum was 3,450 rupees ($30). People are standing everywhere to try and persuade you that you need a guide. Through out the fortress, there were plenty of signs to let you know about the most, the water gardens, and various rock locations that rooms were built under. Everything was very green and lush. Killed 2 camera batteries with all the pictures we took! The fortress was built by the King as a palace and fortress for protection in 477 and later changes were made as it was being used as a monastary by Buddhist monks. There were monkeys everywhere!! To get to the cave paintings we had to climb two steel circle staircases that were wrapped in fencing that climbed along the side of the rock. Very scary! Then we continued to the Mirror Wall (which was a smooth rock wall that was polished along the side of the rock pathway, still going up). At that point we reached a landing with grass and trees at the foot of the Lion Rock, with lions feet included! The climb up the rickety stairs wa very scary and there were so many people and school groups. But the view from the top was worth the climb!! We spent awhile admiring the views. Absolutely amazing. The pictures won't do it justice unfortunately. The chinese girl with us was really afraid of heights and didn't make it all the way to the top. Took us awhile to make it down.
Once back in the van, we found a close by restaurant to have a buffet lunch. We were excited to try a local root similar to a sweet potato (more like a plain potato to me) covered in coconut. Didn't have much flavor but it was still good. After lunch we headed to Danbulla to go to the Rock Temple and see the reclining Buddha. It cost 1300 rupees ($12) to get in. The museum had minimal things and nothing was labeled. Check out the map below, they had a huge map of the world on the wall and nothing was correct. More stairs to get to the Rock Temple (our legs were killing us! And only then did we find out our new friend's dad has heart issues!). Before entering the temple we had to remove our shoes (forced us to leave them, I've heard stories of people having their shoes stolen..). Then I couldn't get in because my shoulders weren't covered. One more thing to pay for! This country charges for everything! I had to pay 50 rupees to borrow a shawl to go. There were four rooms total, the first room had the first reclining buddha with paintings on the ceiling. The second room had another reclining buddha and quite a few sitting buddhas (repeat that for the remaining rooms). I originally thought there was only one reclining buddha in existence, however, we saw four at this temple. We learned later that each buddha has a different hand signal and they have different meanings. Throughout the property were tons of monkeys, we even witnessed a monkey fight! Once we got back to the van, we were hoping to get some additional info from our driver regarding the area. No such luck, I repeated myself twice before he finally just pointed for me to get back in the van. By that point it was after 3 and we were all wiped out. Took a nap on the way back to the hotel. I think we're more sore from the car ride than all the hiking and climbing we did! Once we returned, the owner of the hotel informed us that they didn't have a room for us and that we could stay at the 'bungalow' up the hill and he wouldn't charge us extra. By this point we were so mad because the night before he guaranteed us a standard room that we booked. Having no choice he took us all the way up the hill and told us we could still use the hotel's amenities, just walk down the hill though the construction site to the main building. By this point we'd had it. It was dark and there was no way that was happening. We argued with him and finally just decided to stay since we didn't have any options. He had to attach a shower head and assured us there would be got water. No hot water. The window was up so high and open that we attracted a ton of bugs.. The bungalow itself was unfinished and the linens smelled.. The only upside is that he personally drove us up and down the hill when we asked. Cranky all the way around! Not a great way to end our day!