Local bus travel day – Dambulla to Polonnoruwa

Travelling by local bus is not always easy. But it’s always the cheapest way from here to there. Often it means changing buses in intermediate towns that you can’t pronounce and will never spend time in. Sometimes it means standing in the aisle jammed in like sardines.

So far, here in Sri Lanka, the kids haven’t had to stand on the bus. We get on and either someone gives us their seat so the kids can sit, or they just pick the kids up and plonk them in their own lap.

Yesterday we had a super-smooth travel day. We took a tuk-tuk to the bus stop, the right bus was there at the right time, we hopped on and the conductor just turfed people out of their seats so we could sit down with the kids in our laps, and we were off!

It took about two hours of smooth sailing to arrive in Polonnoruwa; when we got there a tuk-tuk driver took us to see a hotel, we checked in, and that was it. Smoother than smooth for a day when we didn’t book ahead of time.

Dambulla Cave Temple – reclining Buddhas everywhere!

One hundred meters from our roadside hotel is one of the entrances to the Dambulla Cave Temple, home of four giant reclining Buddhas. Unbeknownst to us it is neither the main entrance, nor is it the ticket-selling entrance. If you come in from the Golden Temple (see below), and make your way up, up, up the hill, you’ll arrive at a fork in the road. There, if you’re lucky, someone will ask if you have a ticket and then direct you to the ticket office.

If you aren’t lucky, however, you’ll walk all the way up to the temple in the blazing sun and then you’ll go aaaallllllll the way down the other side of the hill. The ticket office is inexplicably in the valley between the two main roads, close to neither.

We were “lucky” at the halfway point, so we went out the back gate and down a short stretch of road to the ticket office. Being eager to run whenever and wherever I can fit it in, I offered to run down and buy tickets. Smart and considerate, right?

It turns out that the entrance is also down at the ticket office, and everyone tells you you should start there. Now here’s the part that cracked me up: There’s a tuk-tuk driver that spends all day just driving people up and down that hill between the back gate and the ticket office. He does it for only 100 rupees ($0.90 CAD) so back I went in the tuk-tuk to get the family.

Looking back on it now, it made absolutely no difference which way we went in; either way it’s steps, steps, steps. At least going in the “front way” on the back side of the hill was in the shade.

Almost there!
Zoe nearing the top of the shady stairs.

Caves full of Buddhas

At the Cave Temple, there are five caves filled with Buddhas of all styles and sizes. There are giant, reclining ones, seated ones, standing ones… really there’s a Buddha for every home, mood, or need.

All flippancy aside, it is an amazing place where you can’t help but be in awe of the time, dedication, and centuries of work it must have taken to create it. The ceilings are all painted with beautiful pictures, and if you look carefully, even the back sides of outcroppings and the underside of overhangs are covered.

Now for the photos:

The Golden Temple

That is the biggest Buddha I’ve ever seen! Seriously, even bigger than the one we saw in Kamakura, Japan. The 33 m high gold-plated brick statue is right beside the road and totally mind-boggling. It sits on top of a Buddhist museum with an grinning demon face for an entrance.

The biggest of all the Buddhas
This part was built by the Japanese in 2000

Veeerrrry impressive, but we were there for less than fifteen minutes at the end of our day; we had to go eat, and everyone was fading fast.

Aaannd he's out!
Too bad we had to wake him up for dinner!

Quick Update

We’re in Dambulla, home of the famous Dambulla Cave Temple and surprising Golden Temple. We’ve been to Sigiriya, a Unesco Heritage site and one of the more remarkable places we’ve seen anywhere (very Macchu Pichu-esque).

Unfortunately, our internet is terrible and I can’t get any pictures online at the moment. We have been able to upload some photos to our Facebook page using the phone, so you can see that I’m not making all this stuff up.

I have been able to update/modify the elephant video page, which is now called Elephant Video Page and contains some (but not all) of the elephant videos we have made (again, bad internet=hard to upload stuff). Now, most of the videos are of elephants in the wild, inside and outside of national parks, which is where we like to see them.

Also, following up on an excellent comment we had on the site, I have started configuring a map that should show where we’ve been so far:

    It’s up to date but far from finished, just like our travels!