A relatively short hop South from the small sedate town of Sigirya lies the economic centre of Dambulla. It lies on a crossroad that links each part of the country. The town hums with activity.
I cycled around a large food depot off the main road where fresh produce was being transferred from truck to truck.
A little beyond the main town are the famous Golden Temple caves carved in the rock high above the road. Below is a large golden Buddha, round golden stupa and Buddhist radio station (Rangiri Sri Lanka Radio). I had a chat with a security guard on the gate and then went to find accommodation directly opposite the entrance and detailed in the Lonely Planet guide.
I was surprised to find that I was the only guest at the hostel which is owned by an elderly widower. Her home was excellent with brightly painted walls and basic but very authentic accommodation. Despite the rustic conditions it was very comfortable and an ideal place to stay. Cheap too! I considered staying a few days and using it as a base to explore the wider region.
The entrance fee to the caves was 1500 SL rupees (@£7). Reasonable I thought. Before entering the cave complex there is a shoe stand to leave shoes for 20 rupees prior to entering the sacred area.
The caves contained an incredible number of Buddha statues including three huge reclining Buddhas. The artwork including wall paintings is superb. Most of the caves had been one large cave but had been separated over time by artificial walls. The caves date back to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Having uncovered the caves the British created a covered wooden walkway during the 1930s between the caves. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and undoubtedly one of the most important and best preserved buddhist sites in Sri Lanka.
I found the whole experience very moving. I sat and ate my lunch by the shoe stand as it began to rain.