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Feb 02 2016

Discovering Kandy

Discovering Kandy

The bus conductor told me we had arrived in Kandy, so I got off the bus after a four and a half hour rollercoaster ride from the airport.  To my surprise, I wasn’t at a bus station.  I was on a main road.  Since it was dark, I asked one of the tuk tuk drivers at the side of the road to take me to the guesthouse I had booked.  As it turned out, it wasn’t far.

When I arrived, I received a warm welcome from the family I was staying with.  They made me tea, gave me biscuits and a sweet-tasting, small banana as a snack.  I needed dinner, and, when I enquired about where to eat, I was told that I could eat there – perfect!  Some home-cooked Sri Lankan food would go down a treat on my first night.  The owner was really friendly and very helpful.  He helped me work out where to go the following day, which was useful considering I only realistically had a day.  After having my fill of some wonderful vegetarian Sri Lankan food, I had a cold shower (the first of many, as it turned out), and tucked myself up in the comfy bed, ready for a good night’s sleep in preparation for a busy day ahead of me.

This is what I discovered during my short visit to Kandy:

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth RelicThe Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is high on most traveller’s list when they go to Kandy, and it is a place of pilgrimage for buddhists.  I happened to be there when it was the full moon and it was Christmastime, so it was crazy!  There were people everywhere, pushing and shoving, fighting their way through the crowd.   Like the Taj Mahal, foreigners have to pay a lot more than the locals to enter the temple.  You have to remove your footwear, but you can keep your socks on, if you’re wearing socks, of course.  Men and women go through different entrances, bags are scanned, and bodies are searched before you can enter.  On the way in, you can buy flowers as an offering. When I eventually got inside the temple, I could hear music.  I don’t know if it was because of the full moon, but there were people playing instruments.  I wandered around the ground floor, listened to the music, and then followed the masses up the stairs.  There was a long table filled with flowers, which looked so pretty.  After that, I went back downstairs and outside.  I have a tendency to follow people if they look as if they know where they are going.  As I began to wander in to what looked like a greenhouse, I was overcome with the heat from all the oil burning candles.  It looked amazing, but it was far too hot for me to go in.  Lots of people did, but no foreigners ventured in as far as I could see.  I just watched from the entrance before wandering around the perimeter of the greenhouse, where I saw more oil burning candles outside, as well as incense.   After that, it was time to go.  I went back to where I had left my shoes, beside the cashier, and paid to get my shoes back.  

Kandy Lake

Wildlife in Kandy Lake

When I left the grounds of the temple, I walked just a few steps to the lake.  It’s an artificial lake, so I was surprised to see so much wildlife.  I spent ages there, taking photos.  There was a cute-looking baby that I smiled and waved at, and that was it.  The mum and her extended family started talking to me.  They were interested because I was a foreign woman, travelling on my own.  They were on holiday.    They told me that they were travelling around by bus.  I thought they were talking about the local buses I was taking.  Nope!  They, like many Sri Lankans, had hired a whole bus (coach) all to themselves and were travelling about in that.  That was a new one on me!  After that lovely encounter, I continued on around the lake, as the owner of the guesthouse had suggested.

Viewpoint

Viewpoint in KandyOn my list of things to do, from the guesthouse owner, was to go up to the viewpoint.  The thing is, it wasn’t signposted, and I couldn’t see where I was supposed to go.  I ended up asking a tuk tuk driver to take me.  Well, it was so hot, I was tired, it was Day One of my trip, and I had been on the go the whole time.  I was so glad I did because I would have been absolutely knackered if I had walked it.  At the top, I had a great view of Kandy, the lake, the temple, and the statue of Buddha.  I had some company up there – a monkey all on his lonesome, like me.  I can only assume his friends and family were somewhere close by.

Gem Museum

While I was at the viewpoint, I spotted a gem museum.  There are lots of these in Kandy.  As I was there and the tuk tuk driver was willing to wait, I went inside.  It was interesting.  I saw the workshop, a film about how they get the gems, and then had a look at the showroom.  I didn’t buy anything, but I was tempted.

Buddha Statue (Bahiravokanda Vihara)

Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue

There are actually two viewpoints in Kandy.  The other is at the Buddha statue, which is located high on a hill on the other side of the lake.  Having been to one viewpoint, I didn’t visit that one.  I did get a great view of it from afar, though.  If you have the time, it would probably be worth heading on up there.  It’s a sacred place for buddhists, so you have to remove your shoes there as well.

Location

I have located Kandy on the map, but I haven’t mapped out all the places mentioned above.  To be honest, it’s all pretty central, and you can always jump in a tuk tuk.  There is no shortage of tuk tuks in Kandy.

My accommodation

Accommodation in Kandy

This was the only accommodation I booked in advance while I was in Sri Lanka.  I normally do that for the first night.  I booked it based on the excellent reviews it had on Booking.com.  I would definitely recommend it because the family are fantastic, and it’s a lovely place to stay.  It’s clean, comfortable, and the home cooked food and juice are delicious.  Just make sure you ask about how to get the hot water working because I couldn’t fathom it out.

Have your say

Have you been to Kandy?  If so, is there anything else you have seen and done that you would recommend?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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