After a Sri Lankan breakfast comprising string hoppers & 3 curries (dahl, coconut & chicken ), and a small pot of coffee I strolled about 800m north to the Golden Temple - not to be confused with the one in Amritsar in India! - and the Rock or Cave Temple complex (entry fee 1500Rp or AUD $15; no charge for Sri Lankans). The Golden Temple, completed in 2000, is a kitsch structure with a gigantic seated golden Buddha sitting on top - purported, sadly, on an attached plaque to be "the World's Largest Buddha Statue". Once past the Golden Temple, after climbing the hillside and checking your shoes in to be minded (cost = 25Rp), you reach the five cave temples. The caves contain 100s of superb Buddha statues and paintings, some of which are apparently more than 2000 years old. The view from the caves across the surrounding countryside is excellent.
I also took the opportunity to visit the nearby Dambulla Museum (260 Rp - 13 times what the locals are charged) which displayed, in a number of rooms, the history of painting in Sri Lanka - from cave painting to 18th century art work. To be honest, I could have quite happily given it a miss. The guidebook suggested that staff were "keen to show you around" - well, not on my visit. The ticket-seller on the front desk, who rushed inside from doing something in the museum grounds, seemed surprised when I arrived, just after midday, and I had the strong sense that I was the first visitor for the day, if not the month. The museum attendant, who did get up to turn the lights on when I arrived, didn't say anything other than to point the way out when I asked if there was anything else to be seen. I felt I was somehow interrupting her peace and quiet.
The Golden Buddha
The garish Golden Temple
Statues of monks lining up outside the Golden Temple
View from the Cave Temples
The Cave or Rock Temple complex
inside one of the temples