The Golden Temple of Dambulla

For me travelling is culturally enriching that is why rewarding. I would be immersed to different cultures, understanding the local’s behaviors and learning their way of life. When I went to Sri Lanka, I got the opportunity to feel the life in Kandy city when a Kandyan family invited me to their home for a cup of tea. I had the chance to personally witness the Buddhist worship in the temple of the Tooth Relic. Apart from those, I got to see the religious places such as the holy temple in Kandy and that equally famous Golden Temple in Dambulla. Those temples which are frequently visited for worships underpin the richness of the country’s tradition and manifest their spiritual devotion to Buddhism, the major religion in Sri Lanka. 

The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy City, considered as one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka which houses the surviving relic of Buddha, his tooth.

The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy City, considered as one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka which keeps the surviving relic of Buddha, his tooth.

The Golden Temple of Dambulla is located 80 kilometers north of Kandy City. It is acknowledged as one of the historic and religious sites in Sri Lanka serving as pilgrimage for centuries by both Buddhists and Hindus. The temple is along the main highway that connects Kandy and Colombo. From the road, you would see the golden statue of Buddha that sits on top of a temple cum Buddhist Museum. This temple is the main access going up to the cave monastery complex, another significant historical place that houses more than 150 Buddha statues including reclining Buddha and well preserved mural paintings. Due to the artistic, archaeological and spiritual importance of the complex, it is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Buddha's golden statue sitting on top of museum seen from the main road.

Buddha’s golden statue sitting on top of museum seen from the main road.

A closer look of the golden Buddha.

A closer look of the golden Buddha.

A long line of statue  monks depicting their daily routine.

A long line of statue monks showing off their daily routine.

To reach the cave monastery, you need to climb steep stairs to which along the way some souvenirs and food (mainly fruits) are sold. After around 20 minutes, I reached the top and a number of monkeys greeted me at the temple’s entrance. I saw some of the visitors feeding those monkeys which perhaps keep them staying in the vicinity. Entrance fee to the cave costed me LKR 1300. It may be expensive but to witness an important and sacred pilgrimage site existing for 22 centuries I think it was worth it. Before getting in, you should wear appropriate clothing. Sleeveless and short trousers are not allowed. You should likewise need to remove your shoes/sleepers which could be kept for a fee at the entrance. Yes, as a show of respect, you must be barefooted.

Some of the fruits sold along the way up to the cave monastery.

Some of the fruits sold along the way up to the cave monastery.

The place becomes a dating place for young Lankan couples. I saw at least two pairs while on my way up.

The place becomes a dating place for young Lankan couples. I saw at least two pairs while on my way up.

Monkeys at the side of the entrance greeting visitors.

Monkeys at the side of the entrance greeting visitors.

This is where the entrance fee of LKR 1300 is paid.

This is where the entrance fee of LKR 1300 is paid.

The complex has excavated shrines that contain those hundreds of Buddha statues and whose inside walls and ceilings have murals depicting the life of Buddha and his journey to reach Nirvana. Buddhas are all over and seemingly looking and reaching out that you too could achieve enlightenment.

Excavated shrines that house Buddha statues.

Excavated shrines that house Buddha statues.

Reclining Buddha from the first sanctuary. This is I think the biggest among the reclining ones.

Reclining Buddha from the first sanctuary. This is I think the biggest among the reclining ones.

Basically, the sanctuaries are full of Buddha statues.

Basically, the sanctuaries are full of Buddha statues.

Buddhas of different sizes are everywhere.

Buddhas of different sizes are everywhere.

The largest sanctuary where most of the statues are found.

The largest sanctuary where most of the statues are found.

Century old-murals inside the temple are well preserved.

Century old-murals inside the temple are well preserved.

How these monks and the locals are taking care of this wonderful complex is commendable. I truly salute them for doing all  the efforts to ensure that this temple is not only preserved for every tourist to appreciate but most importantly to show to us that Buddha’s life is indeed worthy of emulation.

Advertisements

A Peek of Colombo

It never came across my mind to visit Sri Lanka but since it is a gateway to Maldives, I set foot in a dominantly Buddhist island country, as a jump off point to Male, Maldive’s capital. Sri Lanka’s capital city is Colombo, a bustling city situated in the west coast of the island facing Indian Ocean. Since Sri Lanka is formerly ruled by Dutch and British, it is evident to see in its capital colonial buildings and palaces which now are museums.

One legacy, I think, brought about by foreign rule is the railway system connecting Colombo to other major Sri Lankan cities including the one in my checklist, Kandy. Established by British in 18th century, the railway is still functioning and accommodating thousands of passengers daily.

A scene from the Colombo Fort Railway Station. People from all walks of life ride arguably in the cheapest means of transpo to travel from one Sri Lankan province to another.

Colombo is almost an hour away from its international airport, Bandaranaike International Airport located in Katunayake. Going to the city from the airport is not that difficult as I expected since approaching the exit of the airport are kiosks of travel agencies offering city ride. The price is expensive with approximately around 2500 Sri Lankan Rupees (28USD) for one way. But a cheaper option, which I took, is to hop in a free shuttle located outside the airport bringing passengers to bus terminal. I took the city AC bus for only 80 LKR (less than 1USD). However, expect less from the AC bus as it is not that comfortable like the one in SG for instance, much more it keeps on stopping anytime picking passengers along the way.

My time in Colombo is limited. I have to contain my stay for only 4 hours. In fact that time, just to get that battery for my Nikon cam is mission accomplished (forced to get one because I left the bat at home). To make the most out of my stay, I hired a “tuktuk” for LKR 400 (around 4 USD) to get me to some places worth the time. I started in Gangaramaya, a temple complex which has a museum and library, in Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo 2. Around the temple are Buddha relics and statues and Buddhist artifacts collected for a long time and donated by its devotees and well-wishers. Even if it is a Buddhist temple, some Hindu god statues like Ganesha are found. Donation to the temple is LKR 100 (around 1USD).

Next stop was the gem store, Lanka Gem Bureau, in 27 Clifford Avenue. I have read that Sri Lanka is famous for its gemstones like the expensive blue sapphire. Getting a piece was worth my limited stay. I learned from the store that they even supply stones to Tiffany and Co. Prices depend on the kinds and sizes.

After getting a good deal from the store, I proceeded back to train station to inquire for Kandy trip. Kandy is in my list, mainly because of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. I went back to the airport at 8:00 PM and ready for the Maldives adventure.

Some tips when in Colombo to avoid being trapped.

  1. Show your skills in haggling. Prices for tourists are more than doubled. Most drivers in Colombo, whether of “tuktuk” or taxi, are jacking up fare more than double the original. Don’t hesitate to ask more discounts, or better tell them that the price in others is much lower. The same thing when buying, show to them that you seemingly know the price. If they insist of their price, tell them you would buy from other stores and most likely they will give in to your request.
  2. Beware of too friendly stranger and their modus-operandi.  Knowing that you are a tourist, a stranger will approach you, introduce himself as a tourist too and starts to talk to you about his trip in this and that around Colombo. Then he will lure you to come with him to see the city spots. Once you agree, he will waive for a “tuktuk” , direct the driver to visit those places, and when done he will tell you to pay the extremely high fare. They in fact are not tourists but locals who can speak English well. Instead of saving, you would end up paying higher. Mom’s advice, “Don’t talk to strangers.”, helps.
  3. Don’t be charmed by the foot-in-the-door technique. Vendors will give you big discounts for your first buy, and then convince you to buy for another item and so on. They know that customers will more likely make a second purchase if big discounts are given for their first buy.
  4. Be firm in saying NO to hawkers. Hawkers are everywhere. Be more firm when you decline to buy from them as they are very aggressive. They keep on following you even if you politely said  No. Buying from hawkers may end up getting expensive item.
  5. Stick to what’s agreed on. At the end of the journey, the driver will demand more from what you previously agreed by telling you funny inexcusable reasons. Don’t succumb to their demands, instead give him the agreed fare, thank him and walk away. But make sure you have the exact amount with you. #