I held hands with a Sri Lankan guy about my height and slimmer. And had to pay him after. Keke!
This was at the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Very impressive, and nicely restored. And the men offering their hands were well-informed of unfit tourists needing assistance to scale the 1300+ blocks of stones they know to be steps leading to the peak of the once glorious hideout of a prince conniving to steal the crown from his father.
There were so many darn teeny tiny slippery steps you had to climb almost vertically upwards I was surprised I wasn’t lying flat on my back after. Only after a lot of heavy panting and overcoming somewhat sheer drops (to me), we came to the base of the all-important peak. You had to climb some ridiculous contraptions to get to the top – that’s where my will failed and I gave up.
(Disclaimer: There are holes you can see right through all the way down and down – there was just no way I was going to be able stand straight up there! That said, I was teased by some old Chinese lady for not being able to do what she could do. Nyeh!)
We decided to do Asia this December and headed to the Gem of the Indian Ocean – the sapphire-shaped Sri Lanka. We successfully traversed the west, south and central regions in approximately 10 days from wildlife to tea estates to archaeological finds, non the worse for wear. Except perhaps stings from eager mosquitoes and achy muscles from the last bit of heroic ascension to heavenly kingdoms in the cultural triangle.
We loved the morning safari at the Yala National Park – spotted leopards, deers, elephants, water buffaloes, mongooses, crocodiles and vain peacocks. Our driver, I thought, was more excited than us when we saw our first leopard it was amusing. It seemed we were pretty lucky to have seen 3 leopards, and the other varieties of animals. I was a little wary of the leopards cos I didn’t wish to lose any body parts to them. But they were docile and couldn’t wait to get away from the annoying jeeps chasing and screeching to a sudden halt around them. A tremendously bumpy but exhilarating ride!
It is a beautiful place – still unspoiled, bountiful, religious, and its people warm and hospitable. There is so much potential to be better – particularly its infrastructure and water hygiene. Case in point: We were recommended the Ayurvedic treatment in a highly regarded place known as Arthreya Spa in a small village in the jungle. Rustic and original would be the best way to describe it; Obscure, remote and a tad frightening would be my other thoughts. The way in was via an elusive and winding route of sandy trail and odd turns. The reception was a little hut that could barely fit 5 adults. The guy at the reception was a smarmy fella who seemed to charge a minimum of USD30 and above for all services. But they have lockers, accept credit cards and a sauna. OMG. Though the spa turned out pretty good, I felt like I was going to a drug deal instead of a herbal massage! Depending on one’s risk appetite, the impression such an experience can leave behind straggles both ends of the extreme.
So there. Only pictures can show what words cannot fully express.
[First published: 12 Dec 2013]