5am and I am wide awake… we have 730am pick up and off to the city of Colombo we go. This vibrant, busy city was best known to the Arab, Roman and Chinese traders over 2000 years ago, Muslims settled here in the 8th Century and controlled much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. The Portuguese arrived in the 16th Century and then the Dutch captured the City in the 17th Century and then soon after came the British (naturally) and made the city the Capital of their Crown Colony of Ceylon in 1802. I know, I know you are all SUPER impressed with my history knowledge… trust me SO AM I!!!
The Sinhalese/Singalese are mostly Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu or Muslim and they all live happily together. Well, they do now anyway (thankfully), the language is Singhalese, Tamil or English They trade mainly in the garment industry, precious gems, tea and tourism. In Colombo, according the word of Daya, there is no smoking, no jaywalking , no garbage in the streets AT ALL! no nightlife either it would seem. Everything shuts down at 530pm, families only take their families out for dinner on Fridays or Saturdays.. during the week its early to bed and early to rise… children are off to school at around 530/6am depending on how long the journey takes them from 7am to 130pm .. ALL SCHOOLS ARE FREE! The architecture is mostly British Colonial and the Chinese are pouring all their Yen into the city to build bigger & better structures – It’s absolute BEAUTIFUL CHAOS on the streets , with Tuk-Tuks and trucks and bikes and more Tuk Tuks and trucks and bikes … I mean they are EVERYWHERE.. like little bugs zig zagging all over the place..
Our first site inspection is Casa Colombo right in the heart of the city, this 12 suite hipster meets colonial meets art deco fusion serving Mexican cuisine Moorish Mansion is great for those who want to be in the melee, I am not quite sure how else to describe it to be honest, I just didn’t quite get it, the rooms are spacious and each one has a large copper bath. Next up is Paradise Road Tintagel... located in the more residential, calmer zone of the city called Cinnamon Gardens and not a Cinnamon tree in sight. Named after King Arthur’s Castle in Cornwall this 10 Suite lavish property is both polished and sophisticated and filled with the most AMAZING aroma – an aromatherapy oil infused with lemongrass and mint, for all those who know me and my penchant for all things fragrant I practically bought every last bottle they had in stock!
Back on the van and off to the Cultural Triangle we go, home to 5 of the islands 8 Heritage Sites. The Cultural Triangle links Kandy to Anarudhapura to Polonnaruwa, the 3 main cities of Sri Lanka. The drive to each location takes around 4 to 5 hrs so be prepared. I would definitely recommend securing a comfy mini van for your journey instead of a car, they are far more roomier and come stocked with water and snacks.
Our first stop along the way to Sigiriya is Dambulla, home to the famous caves of King Vattagamini Abhaya – AKA Valagamba who reigned from 103 BC (yeah thats right people – BC!!!!) and from 89-77 BC (and by the way legend tells us that he was over 10 feet tall hmmmmmm!) . Just 5 months after becoming King, Valagamba lost his thrown to a group of Tamil invaders and was forced into hiding for 14 years. He fled to the jungle and found refuge in these incredible caves, when he finally reclaimed the thrown he had these temples constructed in gratitude for the shelter these rocks had offered him. The Individual “caves’, of which there are 5, are all man made, created by building partition walls into the space beneath what was originally a single huge rock overhang. Each statue was carved out of solid rock, the colors were made by different plants and have been pretty well preserved over the years although I am sure restoration was done right up to the twentieth century, although the locals will tell you otherwise. There are over 350 steps from the base to the caves and at the bottom of the cave temples stands the very bizarre Golden Temple, a shamelessly kitsch building topped with a 30m seated golden Buddha which claims to be the largest Buddha statue in the world but if you fact check this the claim is actually incorrect as the largest one is in China – I mean COME ON!! doesn’t everyone know that!!!!
The Caves #3, 4 & 5 were further embellished 1187 to 1196 by King Nissamkalla (I will tell you about him later but I like to refer to him as Denzel Washington) and then again in 1600’s onwards by the Kandyan Kings.
It’s hard to describe in pictures the sheer scope and size of these magnificent Temple Caves, they will literally take your breath away… just remember to KEEP BREATHING!
I hope you are taking this all in as there will be a quiz at the end of the trip!!!!!!
The caves were built beneath a rock overhang so that rainfall does not flood the caves – Pretty damn clever!!
Ok thats enough history for one day…. Back on the bus we go…. and we are off to the Kalundewa Retreats about 45 minutes from the Temple Caves…. WOW WOW WOW!!! this property is AMAAAAAAAZING! set on over 100 acres of farmland complete with organic vegetable garden, this 6 suite property is an architects dream come true. Each Suite has floor to ceiling glass walls so you feel as though you are literally in nature where hundred of birds species nest around the property – the vibe is peaceful and calm and very very exclusive. Each guest gets a bicycle and a trail map… This is the perfect place to unwind, unplug, Breathe it all in and Love it all out.
After a deeeeeeeelicious healthy lunch we are off the Elephant Corridor for the night… We arrived after nightfall so would have to wait until morning to see it in its full glory… so we tucked into a Yummy Curry and an early night… My room was ENORMOUS and complete with plunge pool in the bedroom no less!
CUE VIDEO DIARY POST!
Click here: Elephant Corridor – WATCH ME PLEASE!