travel diary: sri lanka

Kandy-land: Cultural Heart of Sri Lanka

20130210-151926.jpgOriginally I had planned to skip Kandy when planning me & Sandra’s epic Sri Lanka adventure, as a friend had told me that she thought the place was less than spectacular-it’s the cultural heart of the city, she said–but honestly, there’s not much to do. 

Nevertheless, we decided to make a stop in Kandy to break up the long, long journey from the Cultural Triangle Area (where Sigiriya and Anuradhapura are) to the Hill Country, full of lush, green tea plantations where the famous Ceylon Tea is produced. We arrived in the afternoon after a long, winding bus ride up the mountains. I don’t know what I was expecting of Kandy; but a lakeside village nestled in the heart of the Sri Lankan mountains hadn’t occurred to me.

Sandra & Jordan fell in love with it as soon as we got off the bus and saw the wide expanse of the lake, with Kandy’s most famous attraction; the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple–glistening on one side. We hadn’t booked any places to stay, so we decided to go with the classic strategy of “go to the first place in Lonely Planet and roll with it”–however, there was no need, as we were met with a tout (a local that leads tourists like us to guesthouses in exchange for a commission; you see them everywhere in Sri Lanka. If you already have a place, say firmly and confidently that you don’t need a place; or else you’ll be heckled the entire way over) that led us up the hill where the guesthouses are located.

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20130210-152003.jpgAfter a bit of an adventure with an already-full guesthouse; we clambered up the mountain more and secured a room at a little guesthouse with a killer view of the lake.

We went into town for dinner (walking up and down the hill in the dark was not fun; and certain places are quite…smelly, even by Sri Lankan standards)–since Kandy is a “sacred city”, there’s not much of anything to do at night except buy a few beers (which is a story in itself; see my note at the end) and relax on your wonderful balcony, which is just what we did. I wouldn’t recommend walking around at night, particularly if you’re travelling alone. Head back to your guesthouse and wait for the morning. 

The next morning, Sandra and I decided that we were ultimately going to skip the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple; I forgot how much it was to go in (maybe $10-15 USD?) but to us, it wasn’t worth it; even though it’s one of the main attractions of Sri Lanka. At that point, we’d seen enough of Buddhist temples; and the Buddha’s tooth? Doesn’t even come out except on certain sacred days. 

And, at the sake of sounding irreverent: it’s just a guy’s tooth. 

So we decided that a pastry and a coffee (so cheap; around $1.50 for 2 pastries and a juice; get them at one of the many bakeries in town) around the lake & a trip to the vegetable and fabric market (note: two separate markets) was infinitely more interesting than a tooth.

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