Our hotel manager had suggested we take a boat ride out on to Kandalama Lake in Dambulla to do some bird watching and to watch the sun rise so we were down at the dock at 6.30am. The boat was more raft than boat so I couldn’t help but feel like Huckleberry Finn as we rowed out.
Fortunately the lake was very still and it was stunning to watch the sunrise over the mountains. Amaya Lake Hotel, home for us for two nights, sits right on the lake so we didn’t have to wander far to get on the raft. The only other boats out that early were the odd local fishermen.
The birdlife was abundant at Dambulla, though perhaps not the great variety that I had expected. Still the trip was worth it for the sense of calm and serenity on the water. We watched as the local fishermen made their way out on to the water, dwarfed by the surrounding mountains.
We were due to leave Amaya Lake the following day and while I was looking forward to heading to Passekudah – which is meant to be stunning – I could have done with spending another couple of days here in Dambulla.
The hotel was stunning with vast grounds to wander through and a lake to sit and ponder by. The two swimming pools were very inviting – you could easily stay at the hotel and just relax for days. But we were there to experience some of the cultural heart of Sri Lanka and not just the hotel and Dambulla.
I have mixed feelings about the way we are travelling this time. It’s fabulous having our own driver and having the hotel organise everything for us, but I can’t help but feel you get a slightly sanitised experience of the country; will we experience the true Sri Lanka in the way we did India? I’m not convinced we will. It will be a far different experience, no worse, no better, just different.
The people are lovely and it is a far more relaxing way to travel, but we do like to experience the local culture, to immerse ourselves in our surroundings as much as we can – that can be challenging and confronting, but in the end, for us, it is a more authentic experience of a country and that feeling of being outside your comfort zone is one of the things that makes travel so rewarding.