We had planned a few stops on the way from Kandy to Habarana, but it started raining on the way, so we skipped most of them. The Hindu temple “Sri Muthumariamman Thevasthanam” in Matale was an interesting stop though. Beautiful statues and decorations with incredibly many details. Sadly it was closed, so we were not able to see the inside of the temple.
We spent quite a bit of time in Colombo deciding where to stay in the Cultural Triangle. We ended up in Habarana Village by Cinnamon, which was pretty much in the middle of all the things we wanted to see in the area, and we got a very good discount. We had our own little house, with plenty of space, and a nice porch outside. It was located close to a lake, had some monkeys, squirrels and iguanas on the grounds, large gardens, a treehut and a beautiful multilevel pool. We also had access to the spa, travel desk and other facilities at the neighbor hotel, Cinnamon Lodge, but that was quite expensive. We still had a wonderful “couples massage” there, and booked the elephant safari through them, mainly because we didn’t have time to organize anything else.
We were really lucky with our safari guide, Kalum. It was just the two of us in the back of his jeep, and there was so much to see, so we were standing most of the trip. He spotted even the tiniest of animals that all other cars drove right past. We saw alligators, lizards, all kinds of birds and eagles, peacocks, monkeys and two large groups of wild elephants. We spent a lot of time watching them eat, flirt, play and protect the small kids. Awesome! We were served fresh pineapple half way through the safari, and Kalum had so many stories to tell and information to share. We were happy to book with him for 2 more sightseeing days.
The day we were going to Dambulla and Sigiriya it was raining, but we decided to go anyway. In Dambulla that was actually a good thing, because there were not a lot of people there at all. Our guide, Kalum, knew a shortcut, so we only had to walk the upper part of the steep trail to the top. 5 of the 80 caves dating back to the 1st century BC were open to the visitors, and they contained a lot of statues, murals and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There’s also 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. We also had a short stop at Dambulla Golden Temple downhill from the cave temple. We ended up skipping Sigiriya rock, since it was barley visible through the clouds.
Our last sightseeing day in this area we went to the royal ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lankas capital in the 11th century. It was a very warm and sunny day, so it was hard to walk around a lot, but we got to see the most important sights. The area contains hundreds of ancient structures, tombs and temples, statues and stupas and a museum displaying a lot of the relics found in the area. One of the highlights were Potgul Vehera or the Library Monastery, a circular shrine where the sacred books were deposited, and the ruins surrounding it. The rock temple, Gal Viharaya, was also impressive with it’s 3 enormous buddha statues carved out of a single granite boulder.
Our resort was a bit outside the city, so we spent quite a bit of time there. They had big buffets for lunch and dinner, but we mainly ordered from the ala carte menu (except one evening). After a couple of days all the people who worked there knew us pretty well, and we were offered free desserts from the buffet (and later soup and salads as well). We’re not really dessert people, but this was too impressive to skip. The first night they had a mediocre keyboard player, but luckily a couple of pretty good troubadours with guitars took over the next evenings, so we had a great time there. We got a lot of recommendations for the rest of our trip, had some great drinks and local arrack, and were given a very cute goodbye present (cookies and chocolate in an elephant shaped box) from the waiters.