Today was our first normal day in Sri Lanka, after yesterday’s Fiasco we was looking forward a day of sight seeing and hopefully decent food. The hotel manager advised we started early so we was in a Tuk Tuk by 7 am heading to the local bakery for breakfast. The only thing on the menu was curry, every type of curry, but all curry. We settled on a potato curry with bread. To be fair it was not to bad and only costing 50p we really could not complain.
If you look up the best Sri Lanka has to offer in terms of culture and history you will probably find Sigiriya on the top of most lists. Sigiriya was selected by King Kasyapa for a new capital, he built his palace on top of Lions Rock and decorated its sides with beautiful frescos. Sitting 200 meters in the air this monolithic rock is a sight to behold and the gardens leading to it are said to be some of the most well preserved ancient landscape gardens on the planet.
I didn’t count how many steps there was to the top but 1400 seems to be the touted on most of the literature. It is also not just an easy walk up a staircase. There are spiral staircases and also metal stairs that just hang on the rock face, this is not one for people afraid of heights. The most interesting though has to go to the Lion Steps. All that is left are two giant paws and the start of the staircase. No-one knows what it would have looked like but some of the artist impressions are just spectacular.
Lions rock is also where you will be able to see murals painted on the rock face that date back to King Kasyapa’s ruling, it is believed there would have been 500 or so in total but 21 have survived to the present day which is amazing considering they’ve survived 1500 years.
From a distance the rock looks like it had a thin layer of lightly coloured stone running along it, but as you get closer you can see that it is actually a wall. This wall was polished to a mirror finish so the king could see himself in it as he walked past and was thus named the Mirror Wall. It was also a place where visitors could inscribe messages, 600 messages have been inscribed into the wall and some date back to the 8th century.
On the top of Lions rock you can see the remains of what was the kings palace. Using every inch of the summit the palace must have been absolutely stunning, and to think all of this would have been done with basic tools 1500 years ago. One of the most amazing achievements was the bathing pool dug out of solid granite. Digging down and removing 5500 tons of material to create a pool fit for a king. Sigiriya leaves you with more questions than answers because we just don’t have enough information to figure out it’s history.
After a steady walk back down it was back in the Tuk Tuk and off to see a herb and spices garden. This was sold to us as a “free” activity so we thought it was probably just Spice fields and maybe a cafe where you could grab a drink. It became apparent as we got greeted by a guy who wanted to show us around that it would not been as simple as this.
After a small cup of herbal tea and a 20 minute tour we sat down in a hut and was presented with a list off all the products we could buy made from their garden. Now one thing I will say that amazed us was their hair removal cream that stripped a patch of hair off my leg. They said that if you apply it 8 times, hair would never grow again. Sounds to good to be true and we thought if this really did exist someone would have mass produced it long ago. We said this to the guide but his response was the ingredients are extremely hard to find and grow, but we were still sceptical, it’s a possible billion pound product.
Whilst we was looking over the menu we were offered free massages from trainee masseuses. It was free but we could tip them if we wanted so we both got a really good neck and hand massage so tipped 500 rupees, around £2.50. It was then that we were lead to the shop and shown everything we could buy. To be totally fair they were not overly pushy but we are quite resilient to this and just said no from the start. However Hayley was tempted by the hair removal cream and the German couple we were with spent £50 on two small bottles!
Getting back to the hotel we did some research and found out all the spice gardens are a total scam, the hair removal cream is just Veet with some added herbs to make it smell different. We read one story of a woman spending £700 on cures for all her ailments. We was relieved that we didn’t part with any cash, but a little disappointed at our hotel for sending us there, we are quite sure they get a commission because the first thing they asked at the spice garden was where are you staying.
After a quick shower we decided to take a walk into town not realising just how far it was but eventually made it as it started to pour down with rain. Finding the closest restaurant, of which there are hardly any, we sat down and ordered another vegetarian curry. Everything came out stone cold, unsure if it’s supposed to be cold we just ate what were could stomach and left, wiping our hands with napkins made from cut up old newspaper. By this time it had stopped raining and we found the stop we was looking for, Food City. Here we could see everything we could want and came away with cereal for dinner and breakfast but having to pay a premium for it. I don’t think we are going to enjoy the food here in Sri Lanka!