Just when you think you’ve seen every Buddha in Sri Lanka, you come upon the BUDDHA BASE, SIDDARTHA CENTRAL, OM SWEET OM.
Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka and the rock itself rises up 160 m above the surrounding plains. In the distance you can see Sigiriya, the Lion Rock that we climbed in Week 1. The Buddha-love is spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings relating to Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses including Vishnu and the Ganesha. It’s a curious thing here: Buddhism is rarely the simple philosophy I’d imagined – it’s often more fetishistic than Catholicism and laced fairly heavily with Hindu symbolism and figureheads.
They’re pretty sweet statues but you know what its like: once you’ve seen one massive reclining dying God you’ve seen them all. Also, it was another scorcher and John got bored within about 10 nanoseconds and literally RAN AWAY straight out the entrance and climbed up a rock. Vijay, our guide, ran after him and plucked him off the vertiginous rock face, heroically.
Lunch was at Zee’s Garden, run by a lovely Sri Lankan lady called Sofia and her friend Günther, a big Bavarian dude who got very exercised about the Civil War, as well he might – we found out he’d lost his 9 year-old daughter in a Tamil suicide bomb attack. It’s truly shocking how much bloodshed these guys experienced and amazing to me that the war only ended in 2009.
Anyway, I digress: Zee’s Garden is a terraced spice and fruit garden with restaurant and two guest rooms and it’s delightful. We ate freshly picked passion fruit as we walked the terraces and nibbled green peppercorns off the stem (delicious and very fragrant and aromatic rather than just hot).
Finally we rocked up at The Elephant Stables in the outskirts of Kandy. There definitely *were* elephants there once but now it’s a colonial guest house with 6 rooms and an infinity pool with sweeping views towards Kandy and the mountains. No more buddhas for … ooo… at least 12 hours *gritted teeth emoji*.