Yes, we have monkeys; a little bit of monkey business never hurt anybody. You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Sri Lanka. I’m Alex. I’m Marko. We’re the Vagabrothers, brothers, vagabonds, and your go-to guides for travel tips, inspiration, and vlogs on YouTube. In this series, we’re discovering the best of Sri Lanka: ancient cities, stunning nature, rich culture, and delicious food. Welcome back to Vagabrothers. In this video we’re exploring the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, some of the oldest and most important sites in the country, and we’re starting off with Sigiriya, the Lion Fortress, one of the most iconic places in Sri Lanka and the most likely to pop up in your Instagram feed. Sigiriya is an Unesco World Heritage site, one of eight here in Sri Lanka. But this, quite literally, towers above the rest. It’s a 200 meter or 650 foot tall rock cropping that dominates the entire landscape But at the top of it are mysterious ruins. No one is entirely sure why they were built.. So who built them? Why were they built and why were they so important? To find out we’re going to climb to the top. Let’s go. First impressions feels a lot like…. some of the Central American sites like…. Chichen itzá or Machu Picchu where you have these large kind of city structures/ urban planning but not a lot of actual buildings left, just kind of the foundations. I love places like this where it’s not really sure what the origin is. It kind of comes from that time of history where people have a mythical explanation. There’s also a historical explanation, and hopefully by the time we get the top figure out a bit more about this story. We just walk through the Royal Gardens. There’s all of these tanks, which are basically water collection ponds where they take the monsoon rain. They can be used for bathing or rituals, and there’s also a moat that we went by that has lotus flowers on top now, but historically has been full of crocodiles. One of the main questions people have about this place is: Was it a fortress? Was it something religious? Hopefully by the time we get to the top, we find out. We still have a lot of stairs. But what an impressive structure. Also there’s a lot of warnings for animals, including wasps All right, so now we are officially at the base of the rock fortress, but we’re in quite a long line. That’s one of the realities. At least we have monkeys to kind of distract us a little bit.. a little bit of monkey business. It never hurt anybody. If you have a fear of heights, this may not be the excursion for you. Or claustrophobia, really. Okay, so we just saw the frescoes. There used to be thousands. There’re only about 20 remaining now All the frescoes are of beautiful women. We, unfortunately, weren’t allowed to film there. We’re almost at the top. You can see why they call it the Lion Fortress because this is the lion gate. You have the two lion paws, and according to legend, or according to our archaeologist, there used to be a lion’s face on the top as well, but that’s been eroded from the elements. It’s amazing we just saw a group of extremely elderly ladies mobbing it up here, barefoot. Badass. Good job. We made it.. so hot, so high. But definitely worth it. This view is incredible. Made it.. an hour later, made it to the top. Now let’s talk about the different theories about this place. Number one is mythical It’s believed that it was the kingdom of Ravana, a very ancient king who captured Sita from India and got into a bunch of fights with a bunch of Indian gods in which he was eventually killed. Number two is that this was a monastery. There’s definite evidence that monks did live here up to 1500 years ago, but way more interesting and more fun story Is that of King Kassapa. He asked his father, who was the king while he was a prince, I want to be king. Daddy said,” no.” So King Kassapa killed his father by burying him alive in a wall. Some serious Edgar Allan Poe stuff right there. Then fearing retribution from his brother, he fled; he built this fortress. He brought 500 concubines because when you’re king, why have five, why have one when you can have 500? He brought 5,000 troops with him, held down the fort until his half-brother came, invaded, and conquered his army leaving the king to commit suicide. A sad ending for a tragic, yet very interesting story. And then last but not least, number four: aliens There is that theory, it’s just kind of a joke. But it is pretty incredible to see that there’s basically four acres or two hectares of buildings here. They were abandoned around the 12th century. No one’s really sure why. One theory is potentially mosquitoes and some sort of disease that killed off people, but the place was abandoned for almost 1000 years until like we said it was discovered about a hundred years ago by the British And all these theories have still yet to be fully confirmed. Interesting fact, though. They believe, scientists believe that water, because we’re at the top of a rock, there is no water up here, but they figured out a way to use wind to bring the water up from 650 feet below us. But for me the fact that we’re on this giant rock monolith in the middle of a completely flat plain, there are mountains around us, but they’re very far off in the distance. This rock just feels like it was just dropped right into the middle of this plain. It is a really cool spot, and it does remind you of a couple other places. I mean the lion aspect makes you think of the Sphinx from Egypt. The location here.. how it just sticks up from the jungle.. is like Cobá in the Yucatan, Peninsula And it does remind you of Machu Picchu, especially the story of the discovery and all these terraces on a very remote place. Whether it was a monastery or a kingdom or a place of myth, you can see how it could fit any of those places. And maybe it was really all of those places in one. I think it’s interesting that the king killed his father. He stayed here. And even though he had this peaceful spot, he was obviously wracked by guilt. It was kind of like story of Prince Hamlet. I mean he committed the crime; he took power, but then he really couldn’t get rid of his guilt. So apparently that’s why he got these frescoes painted down below which had 500 pictures of beautiful women. This was supposed to comfort him when he was feeling down and guilty for killing his dad. You know, probably should have. Now we’re going to go back to the place where this king originally lived, the ancient city of Anuradhapura We’ve driven a few hours north to Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was the first capital of Sri Lanka. It plays a central role in the story of this island. Sri Lanka was founded in the 5th century BC by Indo-Aryans from Northern India. According to legend, they were led by an exiled Indian prince who arrived here on the same day that the Buddha gained enlightenment. Within a century of their arrival, they founded this city, which grew into a kingdom that became the political, economic, and cultural heart of the island for over a thousand years. Anuradhapura grew into one of the most important cities of the ancient world and one of the longest continuously inhabited cities on earth. And that golden age was sparked by a visitor with a very important message, the message of the Buddha This bell-shaped building is a stupa, known locally as a dagobah. But this dagobah is extremely important because it houses the remains of the Lord Buddha himself. That’s because when the Buddha passed, his remains were divided into eight parts and sent to kingdoms across Asia, including Sri Lanka. Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka through an unlikely candidate, a bloodthirsty and power-hungry king from India named Ashoka who upon conquering all his enemies on the battlefield felt unfulfilled. He saw a monk walking through the ruins of the battlefield and realized that he lacked what the monk had… spiritual fulfillment. He converted to Buddhism and dedicated his life to spreading the faith. His son Mahinda arrived here in Sri Lanka and converted the royal family to Buddhism and his daughter came carrying a bow of the Bodhi tree where the Buddha gained enlightenment She planted it here, and it remains the oldest tree planted by a human on earth. This is pretty incredible. We’re underneath a 2500 year old Bodhi tree that was planted from a branch under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. This is a very special place. It’s a very spiritual place. There are people sitting in meditation and concentration, making offerings to the Buddha. But underneath a tree that’s over 2000 years old….. that’s a pretty mind-boggling statistic. 2,000 years ago is when Jesus was born, but this is even older than that. It has been quite an incredible day exploring the cultural legacy of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. I think that I always had this image of what I thought this place would be like . But coming here, experiencing it for myself and ending it here in Anuradhapura has just been such an eye-opening experience, especially watching the procession of worshippers coming in to the stupa and paying their respects to the Lord Buddha This is just a really interesting part of the world because the history here goes back so long. It could be kind of hard to understand it all, for us try to know it well enough to summarize it for all you guys watching on YouTube. But if you are able to wrap your brain around it and listen and pay attention and pay respect to the culture I think you’re really rewarded. This is a beautiful place. This city is gigantic. There are stupas everywhere and It’s kind of really beautiful to see the aesthetic. It’s very very minimal. There’s no ornamentation. It’s very austere, and I think that really speaks to the message of the Buddha. Going further back going to Sigiriya, which was way more touristy – an incredible sight in its own right, but full of people from around the world. But then ending it here where quite literally I didn’t see one other foreigner this entire afternoon. No, more like worshippers coming here. There are people here, but they’re coming here to pay respect to the temples because there’re such holy places and there’re some of the holiest places on the island. And if you do come to Sri Lanka, we highly recommend that you visit this city. There’re eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today we knocked out two, and eight is quite a lot for 22 million people. I think that there’s a lot of culture here in Sri Lanka and that’s what we explored today. If you guys enjoyed this video, make sure you give it a thumbs- up; subscribe to Vagabrothers so you get the rest of this series, get to know all of our other travel tips videos, and share this video with your travel buddies. As always remember: stay curious, keep exploring, and we will see you on the road. Peace.