Monday, March 30, 2009

Dambulla and the Kandalama Hotel

From Kandy we headed north again towards our next hotel, just outside Dambulla.  En route, we passed by the headquarters of the Special Forces Regiment and, in amongst the additional road-blocks we had to navigate, there were cotton trees all along the road opposite, dropping puffy little cotton balls on to the road.  It seemed incongruous somehow.

Dambulla is known for its cave temple, created by a formerly deposed king as thanks for his regaining his kingdom.  There are a series of five caves high in a hillside, in which have been carved numerous statues of the Buddha.  In fact, to describe them as numerous is an understatement; in my view there were just too many.  One wonders what is the point of the repetition; many of them are identical.

On the climb to the cave temple, as well as a number of hawkers with postcards, wooden elephants and ‘secret’ boxes, we’d passed lots of monkeys sitting on the steps and in the surrounding trees eating fruit and larking around.  Apparently they used to be a real nuisance to the temple – sneaking in and eating the floral offerings.  The solution was to build a high fence and top it with electrification!  This allows the humans to control when the monkeys get their floral feast; instead of helping themselves, they now have to wait until a caretaker comes along with a bucket of old offerings, opens a gate in the fence and chucks them out…

We had arrived in the mid-afternoon which meant that the stones of the courtyard were quite hot underneath our bare feet – not to mention the occasional stretches of gravel to be navigated – so I was not sorry when the time came to move on to the hotel.  On our descent though, we could see the rock eruption that is Sigiriya on the horizon, lit by the evening sunlight.  Very pretty.

Our hotel, the Heritance Kandalama, is built on the side of a cliff face; all of the rooms look out over jungle to a large lake and the architecture of the hotel is arranged to make you feel a part of that jungle.  It is quite spectacular; you are high up, the only enclosed spaces in the hotel are the rooms and the dining room/main lounge.  The corridors and other public areas are all open to the jungle and built around the physical geography of the rock face.

In our room (which is again spacious and luxurious) the bed faces the floor-to-ceiling glass doors separating you from the balcony, looking out over the plain, edged with creepers and foliage and a regular haunt for the monkeys.  In the bathroom, the toilet likewise faces the view, but the real treat is the bath which occupies the width of the bathroom underneath the windows.  You can sit and relax in your jacuzzi right next to the glass with no fear of being overlooked (apart from by those monkeys, I suppose.)

You really feel a part of the jungle.  Everywhere you walk, there are tiny lizards scuttling over walls and ceilings.  Birds and bats fly through the corridors and swallows swoop beautifully in the evening out over the trees.  There is a herd of cattle that comes down to the lake towards dusk to drink before heading back into the jungle before the sun sets.

There is an infinity pool off the main lobby which looks out over the lake and during the day the waters seem to merge into a whole – creating some very odd perspectives when people swim out towards the far edge!  At night a solitary flautist sits and pipes above the pool before dinner.

All is not perfect in paradise however.  Upon arrival, and seeing the bathroom, I had the water flowing into the jacuzzi even before the luggage was delivered; what a way to wash away the grime of the day!  However, it the jacuzzi hadn’t been used in a while; as soon as I switched it on I got covered in flakes of brownish gunk.  Hmmm.

I took a shower instead.

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