Kandy is really a brilliant city, worth coming to visit and with such a lot to do. As you may have noticed from the previous Sri Lanka Blogs we do not have a very large budget so we decided not to take a tour as most people seem to do, but instead we explored this amazing city ourselves and met some lovely people on the way. First stop, Kandy Tooth Temple.
Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth)
The temple of the tooth is one of the most important sites in Sri Lanka. The tooth itself is supposed to be that of Buddha himself and holds a lot importance to the Sri Lankan people as it is said that the holder of the tooth has the right to rule the country of Sri Lanka.
Getting to the Temple from “The Best Hostel” was relatively straightforward, weaving through the diesel fumes of buses and the tuk-tuk drivers waiting on street corners to offer a friendly “hello” down the hill. The first thing to know is everyone must dress respectfully. This includes men and women covering knees and shoulders and removing shoes before entering the complex.
The charge for tourists to enter is 1500 LKR (~6 GBP) which is pretty reasonable and they have automated kiosks which makes the process very simple. They even have free shoe storage, but we preferred to keep our flip flops in our bags with us.
Entering the Temple
The entrance to the temple is more like entering a fortress, over a moat, through a gate house and past thick rock walls. As in many parts of Sri Lanka, there seemed to be a huge number of school children all in their uniforms coming in to look around, but the most noticeable aspect upon entering the fortress was the noise of distant drums and horn playing from within the building.
When you enter you can be somewhat overwhelmed by strong scent of incense and the noise of drums and other instruments whilst throngs of tourists and locals a-like drive forward to get a view and then move upstairs to the relic room. This is where the real atmosphere is, with two different queues depending on whether you wished to get within five metres or 10 metres of the relic cask. We took the latter, less crowded and still very pleasant option. You can see from the main hall area into the casket room where the gold casket sits, unfortunately photographing this is very difficult.
Once you leave the hustle and bustle of the temple of the relic, there are a few other shrines and rooms to look around and then you can exit the temple out into the bright sunshine, with views of the crystal clear Kandy lake, and soak it all in.
Curry on a banana leaf
Associating India with curry has meant we also associate Sri Lanka with Curry. However, in Sri Lanka there does not seem to be much curry on offer and when it is, it is only available at lunchtime. Luckily it was lunchtime and we were in the mood for some curry.
We found a cute cafe on one of the main roads where they served us a huge pile of rice surrounded by different curries of vegetables all served on a banana leaf. On the side they also served us a bowl with some curried chicken pieces. One of the offerings was a dahl… we love dahl (if you are a family member you will know that we cooked about 10 litres of dahl for a family party for 30 people… and were eating it for the next week)! We ate all our curry which was delicious, washed it down with a soft drink and paid the ridiculously cheap price of 500 LKR (~ 2 GBP). We were stuffed 🙂
After lunch we needed to burn off our lunch so we started the long walk around the Lake in Kandy. This lake, although man made is really quite beautiful, surrounded by the temple on one side and steep hills around the other sides. The only drawback to this lovely walk is the constant risk of being pooed on by birds in the trees, being swooped down on by bats or being choked by diesel fumes. We even managed to catch a glimpse of a monitor lizard basking in the sun, but it managed to get away before we could capture a photo. After this great walk we got back to our hostel and decided to chill.
But wait, something came over us, and after already having walked for over an hour in baking 35°C heat and visited the temple we decided to visit the botanical gardens as well!
Only a short way out of Kandy is the “Royal Botanical Gardens”. We took a tuk-tuk for the 30 minute drive, again booking through the “pick-me” app for less than 300 ruppees (<2 GBP).
The gardens are massive, set over 147 acres and house lily pads, bromeliad gardens, lakes and a huge array of orchids. We arrived in the afternoon and paid the 1500 LKR entrance fee each (<7 GBP). We spent the next few hours wandering around and taking in all the different plants, water features and decorations. We spent 2 hours there, but we could have easily spent many more if we weren’t already so tired.
A quick tip: there is a cafe/restaurant in the middle of the gardens near the great lawn, this looks OK, but is very expensive, so move further onto the lawn and you will see next door an oblong building with a hatch selling water and snacks at much more reasonable prices.
The only downside to our trip to the gardens was the huge number of school children, whether it is because we are foreigners or because I am so tall (nearly 2m) every child wanted to stop and say “hi”. More frequently though they would say “bye”. This is very cute, and at first we revelled in the attention. However, after a few hours of hundreds of children screeching at you it gets a bit tiring to answer the “how are you”s and “what is your name”s. As I said though, it is sweet and it is a genuine sign of how friendly Sri Lankan people are.
Back to town and off to bed
After another long day of being out and about in Kandy we were absolutely exhausted. We made our way back into the city by bus, less than 50p this time. Then we walked into town and found a great (and recommended everywhere) restaurant called the Kandyan Muslim Hotel. We were able to soak up the atmosphere of the city while eating some great food.
A must have dish (though they seem to sell it everywhere) is called kottu. Essentially this is a dish of fried meat or veg with onions, spices and other vegetables all in a roti or similar bread. This bread and filling is then all cut up into very small pieces, almost like noodles, on a griddle pan, this makes them a crispy and delicious. We had a beef kottu which was incredibly tasty (if a bit spicy).
In addition to this we had a Masala Kabool (Masala = spicy potatoes) which was also delicious. Kabool is a naan bread-like dish which is stuffed with whatever you choose. As always in Sri Lanka, all breaded items arrive with some chutneys and curries on the side.
This was our first full day in Kandy, and already we could tell Sri Lanka was growing on us. Tomorrow we are off to the big Buddha on the hill.
See you tomorrow!
R & J