|We stayed near the tiny town of Sigiriya (around 1000 people) and decided to hire a non-AC car and driver the next day since it was the only practical way to see all the sights we wanted to get to in our all-to-limited time.
First thing in the morning we headed for the world heritage sight of Sigiriya - which is also called Lion rock. It was a monastery dating from the 3rd century and was built on top of a massive magma plug (quite a scary climb up). The rock monastery is surrounded by ancient plant, water and boulder gardens (we could really appreciate the scale and symmetry from the rock's summit). On the climb up, you pass by some impressive frescoes painted into cliffs and a wall that has graffiti dating back 1000 years. Sturdy stairways have been built into the side of the cliff leading up to the summit. Scary, sheer drops were a bit terrifying for Christy who is no fan of heights, but it was worth the trip. The amazing thing is to contemplate how monks would have scaled the rock face hundreds of years ago. I shudder to think!
After Siligiri, we drove a few hours to Polonnaruwa (pop 106,000). Another world heritage city, this was the second capital after Anaradhapura and is 1000 years old. Here, we visited a really well-done archaeological museum and wondered around the extensive ruins. It poured with rain during the afternoon (so not as many pictures as we would have wanted), but luckily we'd brought rain jackets along so carried on undeterred. To us, the highlight of the ruins were the incredibly beautiful Buddhas cut from stone at Gal Vihara. The grain of the stone running across the faces and bodies of the large statues and the serenity of their expressions were really moving.
On our drive back to our guesthouse we were lucky enough to see several wild elephants grazing in the nearby fields. This was a relief because on our way to Polonnaruwa we had passed an elephant that had been hit and killed by a train (this happens 20+ times every year) being buried by locals. Much nicer to see the live ones in the wild!