This seems to be where the really pushy Sri Lankans live.
So, before we get in to Dambulla, I have to give huge recognition to maybe the nicest man we’ve met in Sri Lanka so far, Lakshman from the Luxman Guest House in Polonnaruwa. Not only is he running a top-notch establishment, but he is insanely helpful, almost in an overbearing grandmother kind of way, knows his stuff when it comes to travels around Polonnaruwa, and really cares about his guests and his establishment. Gave us a great tip to a restaurant called Banana Leaf, where we had some good local curry last night, and he made sure our onward journey to Dambulla was as smooth as possible.
It’s all too common to feel like a walking dollar sign sometimes when you’re getting off a bus in a country that, frankly, is not as well off as Canada. You take it in stride, you don’t get offended, you politely refuse and move on. Dambulla though…
I don’t know if it’s because we got a little bit more of a local taste at Luxman’s, or if it’s that we’ve been in Sri Lanka long enough now to kind of know how much things might cost, but the tuk tuk guys here seemed to be highballing a lot. High prices for a day trip to Sigiriya or to get to the cave temples, and an almost snarky return when we finally agreed on a price. I’m hoping it was just these few that we ran into today, because our hotel manager (yes, we’re in a tourist hotel today instead of a guest house) seemed really nice and almost apologetic for the shady tuk tuk drivers around here. Since we’re a bit bike busted from Polonnaruwa, we’ll probably do a tuk tuk tour tomorrow, and he said he could get us a good rate. So we’ll see how that goes.
Anyway, on to today! Dambulla’s big sight is the Rock Temple. It’s a cave monastery, with five sanctuaries, each filled with intricately carved Buddhas in various poses, with walls covered in paintings. The site has been used for over two centuries, with the temple complex taking shape in the 3rd century. It wasn’t until the 12th, though, that the caves took the shape you see today.
Newer and WAY more tacky is the Golden Temple at the bottom of the hill, which can best be described as “Vegas Does Buddhism”, right down to the neon sign. Once you get past that and start walking past the hordes of monkeys (cute ones, but be careful if you’re holding a flower going up, they will snatch them from you if you seem like you’re not paying attention). The reward is 157 Buddhas, though, so you can’t go wrong with that.
We decided to walk back to the guest house (because “forget” tuk tuks for now), and stopped in for a few shots at the Dambulla market, where fruits and vegetables were being loaded up for sale around Sri Lanka (but, apparently, mostly for Colombo). Dambulla is one of those “one thing only” towns, but it’ll be our hub for one of our most anticipated sites tomorrow, Sigiriya.