Sunday, April 24, 2016

On Top of the Rocks: Sigiriya, Pidurangala and Dambulla

WARNING: This is another one of my long blog posts with photos. 

My day began early at 5AM. I would like to say I was excited, but I was not. As years and travels go by, I grew some lazy bones and prefer to snuggle with the sheets.

Even adventures require some sort of work. 
It was a hot and humid morning in Dambulla. Not a stranger to that weather. The weather helped me get out of bed. 

I arranged my tuktuk via the guesthouse. They offered me a rate of LKR 1,500. I guess that's lower than the usual tourist rate of LKR 2,000. 

Fields during the tuktuk ride to Sigiriya

I read about the pricey tickets of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. But I still frowned when I saw the rates charged by Sigiriya. 

$30/ LKR 4,260 for a day ticket?!?!?!?! Tickets for Angkor Wat was $40 for 3 days.
I knew that. But still. So much money for a day. Ugh. 


The sun came up and lit the grounds of Sigiriya. 

Sigiriya was a monastery with caves surrounding the rock caves with and without dripledges. King Kassapa I transferred the administrative center from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya and ruled Sri Lanka from Sigiriya. 

Then that huge rock-mountain came into view.
Now I got excited.
I may have started the day with a lazy outlook but this sure changed that. 

Sadly, I didn't have a profile-picture worthy photo with the rock. I got some photos with it but not the one I had in mind. 

The climb is pretty straightforward. There were locals who were offering their personal service of guiding you up to the top. I came prepared with my answer. I said no and brushed them off. One guy was very aggressive in pushing his services that I had to say a rude NO to get the message accross. Geez. 

A bit tricky to find a place to put my camera + tripod on. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers. 

With a photobummer. Oh well. 

The hike up to the top took time and effort but it was not gruesome. Your calves will do some work. The steps are steep. 

Steep stairs

What I wore in Sigiriya:
  • Top: Camisole bra + light cotton loose shirt (I wore a pink one to stand out in the photos)
  • Bottom: Airism jogging pants (from Uniqlo). Merrell OrthoLite walking shoes (also pink).
  • I also wore a hat when needed.
  • I brought a body where I placed a bottle of water, sunblock, some snacks, tissue, sunglasses, wallet, passport.
It was cool in the morning but it got warmer as the day went by and it was hot by the time I got to the top of Sigiriya. No need for a jacket. 

Oh how i would love to wear a nice flowy dress and have awesome photos but that's just not suitable for the climb. Sorry vanity, I'll have to let you go for now. 

View from the "resting spot"

The stairs are steep, continuous and winding. There is no "direct" staircase leading to the top. I would say my wushu + barre3 skills helped me along the way. Hihi! It was not a slow and easy climb. If you are hiking with somewhat older people, please prepare them for this. 

You'll soon arrive at these winding staircase that leads to the frescoes. You cannot take photos of the frescoes. I was not fully able to appreciate the frescoes. So if you're feeling tired and if you wanna skip the stairs, I think that's completely fine. 

Stairs leading up then down to the frescoes.

Hello to Game of Thrones fans out there: Sigiriya somewhat reminds me of the Eyrie of The Vale. The Eyrie is a castle on top of a very high mountain. Sigiriya is just 200m above ground. But the Eyrie is fictional and Sigiriya is real. :)

The views become more awesome. The rock just casts this shadow that somewhat dims the view. At a certain point, people were walking on a single file. 

More climbing on a single file. 

At some point, you'll find signs reminding tourists to be quiet. Why? There are hornets that nest along the rock steps. Keep quiet, don't disturb those hornets. Nobody wants to be attached by a hornet meters and meters away from the ground. 

I finally arrived at the Lion Gate. I think that took me a over an hour of climbing, with stops for rest and photos. You can see the lion's paws. 

I rested a while before climbing those iron staircases. It took me 20 minutes before I found someone to take my photo. Not a lot of hikers that day. I didn't want to bother groupies. 

A nice dad with his young son took this photo. 

More stairs. Now these are scary stairs. I felt them vibrate with every step I took. If you are scared of heights, be ready. You have been warned. 

The top view presented stone ruins and empty pools, overlooking all that grandiose grandness galore. 

To get around, you'll have to climb up and down several steps. The steps do not end even when you reach the peak. 

On the peak of Sigiriya. Look at that fake wedding ring. Hahahaha!

I was glad that it wasn't too hot. I would've climbed down sooner if the sun was scorching. Though a brighter sun would've made better photos. 
I befriended some solo travelers too who were nice. They took my photo. Hihi.

While there's not a lot to be done at the peak, people just stayed. Probably like me, they're bracing themselves for the downward climb.

Standard shoe shot

Not too sunny for the sun salute shot but here it is anyway!

Sun saluting in Sigiriya

I guess a temple stood up here, centuries ago. They could probably live up here with the crops and a pool of water. It felt like an old lost ancient city on top of this huge rock in the middle of somewhere with fields. 

Operational questions swarmed my head: How did the the monks live? Did messengers climb all the way up here back then? It would've taken them more than 2 hours?!?!?! Did the king go up here? Very perplexing. 

Or I can blame all of these to aliens. Hihihihi. 

Well here's a pool with water

I spent less than an hour at the peak. Enough to regain my energy for the trek down.
The trek down was more challenging for me. I'm glad my knees could take it. 

I just followed the crowd. Not a lot of signs leading to the exit.

I am proud to say I avoided all the vendors at the parking lot. There were a lot of cool sugary drinks and ice cream (ICE CREAM!) sold overpriced (by Sri Lankan standards) at the exit. I found the strength to ignore all of them and focused my energy finding my tuktuk driver. 


Pidurangala is the other not-so-popular sister rock of Sigiriya in the area. You can walk from Sigiriya to Pidurangala, though it seemed like a not-so-travelled path. I got there via tuktuk. For those who find the entrance to Sigiriya too expensive, Pidurangala offers a view of Sigiriya for LKR 500. Very cheap price, but the view is not as amazing. So if you're thinking you can use Pidurangala as a substitute, nope nope nope.

My tuktuk driver climbed with me and served as my guide. I didn't see anyone peddle their guide services. In fact, we were the only ones around when we paid for the ticket and got in Pidurangala.

The path was easy to figure out at first but the path got murkier. I didn't notice any clear signs leading the way. 

Here comes the scary part.
My tuktuk driver made a pass at me. 

I did not misinterpret it. His English was very good. He made it clear that he is-a-single-person-with-a-room-by-himself-and-he-is-alone-at-night-and-wants-me-in-his-room-with-him. I did not misinterpret that. I strongly and clearly answered that I had a husband (a fake one though) and I do not like his behavior. He went into detail how he liked me since yesterday. I made it clear I was not interested at all, and I don't want him repeating the conversation. I'd rather not go into the details of the entire conversation that freaked the hell out of me because I do not want to immortalize that creepy and scary memory. 

And we were the only ones in that murky trail. I was travelling alone.
And I was still going up then down with him.
I hope he doesn't try anything.
That was one of the scariest moment among all of my adventures. 

After that scary interchange, we trekked up and I avoided having a conversation with him except to hand over my camera so that he can take my photo. User lang talaga eh no? Hehehe. I remained calm and unfazed while I was very disturbed by the incident.

There was a part where you really had to climb the rocks. He offered his hand as assistance but because I was freaked out with the whole incident, I declined the offer and made the climb myself. Huh. 

Smile pa rin syempre. That's Sigiriya at the back. 

I think the peak of Pidurangala offered fantastic views. It did lack the gardens and pools that Sigiriya offers but you can still find it interesting and still enjoy the view. 

Tweetums pose

The view somewhat took away my troubled thoughts. That is difficult though when he is the one taking the photos. 

Wushu pose

But my tuktuk driver was just so pushy and decided a different approach. He offered to go with me to Kandy the next day. I kept mum on how I planned to go there (I planned to take a bus) but he offered his tuktuk all the way to Kandy. I just laughed a bit and said NO. 

Hay buwiset. 

Standard shoe shot

Amazing view

Thankfully, we got down from Pidurangala without any creepy and untoward incident. Before heading back to Dambulla, I called the guesthouse owner and told him I was tired from everything that we did and I will just rest in the guesthouse for the rest of the day. I also requested him to prepare lunch. I held of telling him about the incident. 


I have been based on Dambulla for two days already but I have not explored what the town had to offer. The Golden Temple of Dambulla or Dambulla cave temple contains statue and paintings related to Buddha. 

Free entrance! Hoorah! That's really good news since I already spent $30+ in the morning. 

Budda-filled room

My tuktuk driver dropped me off at the entrance and he said I could just walk back to the guesthouse because it was very near. I'm actually glad to finally get rid off him. I need to get the entire incident off my mind because it was just so creepy. I sensed that he was blabbering along and waiting for his tip. Even though I didn't want to (because he creeped me out), I handed him a fair amount of tip. 

I was glad to be alone to explore Dambulla. 

Find the light

You'll have to remove your shoes to enter some parts of the temple grounds. I didn't learn my lesson in Polonnaruwa. I didn't wear socks to I had to "dance" and tiptoe to get to the temple caves.You'll also have to leave your shoes with a caretaker for a fee of LKR 25. I handed him LKR 30 because I didn't have change and he didn't give me change. That's just the way it is. *sigh*


Trek down.

Honestly, you could skip Dambulla. If you are tired from Sigiriya, be prepared to do some more climbing. It was a short climb, but it was still steep. I just explored it because it was near the guesthouse and it was free. 

I like these monk statues. 

It was a very eventful morning and I was extremely tired when I walked back to the guesthouse. The cave temple was just probably 200 meters away from the guesthouse. It was safe enough to walk back alone in the middle of the day. 

I ate a hearty lunch before retreating in my room. I took a shower then crashed. My legs did a lot of work that morning. Time to recover. 

While nothing came out of that incident with my tuktuk driver, I decided to be extra cautious. I warn all solo female travelers to reconsider travelling alone to Sri Lanka.


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