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Posts Tagged ‘dambulla’

Many Buddhas

My driver collected me from the Villa Araliya around 9:00 my second morning in Sri Lanka and we took off for the Cultural Triangle area. For this, my first visit to the island, I was just hitting the highlights, and the Cultural Triangle, home to dramatic temples and ruined cities, certainly seemed to be one of them. I would have the driver (J. R. A Ganiori at (0)71 49 50 890) all the way to Colombo, and unlike the drivers I had suffered with in India, he was not only careful but almost embarrassingly solicitous. Usually I travel on public transport, with a backpack (admittedly only weighing around 10 kilos, but still). Now my driver wanted to carry my day bag for me when I visited sights, and wiped my feet for me before putting my sandals back on when I had to take them off for temples. I thought I had traveled back in time!

Dambulla's Golden Temple, which I didn't visit

Perhaps as a result of the bad weather Sri Lanka had been experiencing, the road from Negombo to the Cultural Triangle area deteriorated as we got further from the coast, plus we hit a number of traffic jams, and so didn’t reach Dambulla until 2:30, instead of 1:00 as I had expected. Not a problem for some people, but I have a blood sugar problem, and lunch was way overdue. Fortunately, for once I enjoyed a buffet, at the Gimanhala hotel. Although I was sad to see the Sri Lankan dishes segregated in a small section of their own, I ate plenty of the delicious fried prawns.

Outside the cave temples

Before I tell you what I thoght of the Dambulla cave temples, I should explain that I am not really a paintings person. I preferred Ellora (sculpture) to Ajanta (frescoes) in India, and in London I head for the V&A (decorative arts), not the National Gallery. So when I say that I was not that impressed with Dambulla, I’m aware that mine is a minority opinion, although I certainly think that the wikipedia author who claimed they are the finest caves in Asia had either been drinking or hadn’t traveled very far. Dunhuang outclasses them easily, and so do Ajanta and Ellora, and even Yungang.

Inside the temples

The bad weather didn’t help, of course. What I saw of the setting was impressive, but the far view was obscured by mist. Nor was I happy about having to walk barefoot over the wet rocks outside the caves – I don’t mind taking off my shoes inside, but after six weeks in India I was really tired of getting my feet dirty every time I wanted to visit even the outer perimeter of a temple. I don’t even walk barefoot in my house any more – after several lectures from my chiropractor I keep a pair of “indoor” Birkenstocks. So when I say that I found both the Buddha statues and the frescoes repetitive and not particularly appealing, don’t let me keep from going to see for yourself. Note that I’m not complaining so much about the multitude of tiny Buddhas painted on the walls and ceilings – very reminiscent of Dunhuang – but about the larger frescoes.

I skipped the kitschy-looking Golden Temple and we continued on to my “home” for the next four nights:  the Deer Park in (well, more accurately near) Giritale. I should have read the description of the hotel more closely, as I wasn’t really prepared for a place with 77 cottages that was home to tour groups and big buffets. On the one hand, I had a sizable bedroom with a nice window seat and a desk, although no view. On the other hand, it came with an indoor/outdoor bathroom. Rant alert! I really cannot understand this fad for outdoor bathrooms in the tropics. I live in central North Carolina, with a semi-tropical climate, and believe me, everyone who can afford it has a fully indoor bathroom and AC! The problem for me wasn’t the lack of AC as it was quite cool, it was rain. True, only the shower area was actually uncovered, except by wire mesh, but it was decorated with potted plants, and the heavy rain splashed off the leaves into the rest of the bathroom. Plus, even when it didn’t rain everything got damp from the humidity. I stored the towels in the bedroom.

My favorite Buddha

Not a Buddha

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