Sri Lanka – Sigiriya to Dambulla, Polonnaruwa to Kandy

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Standard Sri Lanka curry and rice (with many side dishes as normal)

Getting back from Sigiriya to Dambulla was trivial – just walked to the road and waited for a bus – got a seat, bags in boot and taken to Dambulla.  Just a word of warning, the bus officially stops in the town, but they offer to take you to the temple – which is handy – however they charge 100LKR per person for the 2 miles!  (Whereas from Sigiriya its 50LKR for 20 miles). So more of tuk-tuk pricing really. Handy, but not free! 

We went back to the same guesthouse as we left and decided to stay there and ue Dambulla as a base for visiting Polonnaruwa as a day trip rather than relocating and coming back again.  Same journey but means breaking the route from Polonnaruwa to Kandy into two rather than one long (3-4hr) bus.  Plus the guesthouse is good with great food!

Polonnaruwa ruin

On arrival we had planned an afternoon of rest after all our climbing, and fate had loads of customer jobs needing doing – so made use of reasonable wifi and settled down to an afternoon of work….

After yet another great meal and English-ish breakfast, we headed to Polonnaruwa by bus, getting the bus from the northern bus stand – 107LKR each for about 2hrs of interesting driving.  Bus was full but everyone was seated.  On arrival at Polonnaruwa you have to get your ticket for the old city from the Archaeological museum which isn’t by the entrance, and then make your way to the entrance.  The entire area could be walked, but that’s silly, everyone who doesn’t have a private driver hires bikes.  This is trivial, a pace opposite the entrance is good enough – we probably over paid 250LKR each (the guy was too quick to say yes!  But £1.10 for hire felt ok!).  Bikes were just about usable but fine for the area, no locks, no deposit, and actually no problem.  Entrance was $25, around 4500 LKR.

Polonnaruwa ruin

The site is basically an ancient city layout, lots of ruins, some well preserved, some renovated, some not so.  Some “oh my that’s impressive” to “that’s a bit dull” and everything inbetween.  I’m not going to write down all the sites, Wikipedia does a much better job, suffice to say, it was a very impressive day out and a must see for the area.  Lots of photo opportunities and worth the money to visit.  The most impressive sites are a 40m high Buddha, and a solid rock with 4 massive Buddha carvings in. (You get the theme!)

Very tall ancient Buddha –
Polonnaruwa ruin

There are guards that ensure you take off shoes for certain temples, and behave, so its not quite as free for all as some other sites we’ve visited.

It is deffo worth a visit, but we’d say its closer to, say, Ayutthaya in Thailand (without the modern buildings) with its spread-out temples and differing structures, and not in the same league as the Angkor complexes. That’s not a bad thing, we loved Ayutthaya!

After around 4 hours, we grabbed a bus back – and that was as easy as walking along the road looking for a bus and shouting the right password as they drive past – and the right password and they slow down enough for you to jump on.  Just.

Interestingly the bus drivers over here are all nutters – not going to say bad drivers as (a) we survived, and (b) the bus is ancient and clearly not been written off.  But they are kings of the road and the fastest things on them.  On the way to Polonnaruwa we were protected by Buddha at the front of the bus, and on the way back it was Jesus who kept us safe.  Seem to be hedging their bets….

Buddhas carved into rock face – Polonnaruwa ruin

Brill day out.

As an aside, some other guests where we are staying were on a 5-6 month backpacking trip going over some of the places we’ve been to 7-8 years ago and its interesting to hear whats changed.  They mentioned the tubing in Laos is now heavily regulated!!!  Noooo!  That was such a manic and fun experience, lots of tubing, drinking, and ridiculously dangerous slides/swings on the edge of the river.   It was fun.  Though people did used to die if they were unlucky.   But now, all that’s gone….  Moral of this paragraph is get out there and enjoy everything (carefully) before it comes too dull everywhere!

Lake at

The following day we headed back to Kandy, so with rucksacks packed we stood at the side of the road, saw a bus, shouted the password and got on.  He had to stop to get out rucksacks in the back which may explain the extra speed we got on the journey.  Very full bus – I was in the doorway for the first quarter, and standing till we got to Matale – Mel got a seat fairly early next to a mother with a couple of annoying kids.

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