Our first destination in Sri Lanka was Kandy. Kandy is located in the middle of the country and is considered the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. It is the second largest city in the country just after Colombo and has a population of just over 100,000. It serves as a gateway to what is known as the Hill Country, the mountainous core of the island which is dotted with tea plantations and towns which still preserve the remnants of their British Colonial legacy.
Sanford and I really enjoyed Kandy. It was an easy city to get around, there was a large choice of restaurants, and there were a number of good sites in the area. Our hotel was located up a hill but was close to Kandy Lake which was in the centre of the city. We always started our days walking along the lake in one direction or another and it was really nice. The lake was full of a large variety of birds, fish, plants and even monitor lizards.
We spent 4 nights here and took in a number of sites.
Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth, the most sacred Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka. This temple houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, the Buddha’s tooth, which legend says was gotten from the Buddha’s cremated remains in 543 BC. The tooth relic has been located in various temples around Sri Lanka over the centuries but has remained in Kandy since its arrival in 1592. The tooth itself is not on display but said to be kept in a bejewelled gold casket shaped like a stupa.
Above the Tooth Temple is Udawattakele Royal Forest Park. We did the 4km circuit walk past a small lake and through lush green forest along unsealed roads named after British colonists’ wives. Even though there was a very light rain most of the way, it was still a pleasant walk. Except of course for the leeches. Both Sanford and I got a leach attached to us – ugh!!
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens were originally laid out as a pleasure garden for the Kandyan royalty in 1371. When the British dethroned the last Kandyan King in 1815, the royal park was turned into a botanical garden. This was one of Sanford’s most favourite places that we visited. It was a large, beautifully laid out, and maintained garden with sections for each type of plant, connecting
walkways, open areas, palm-lined avenues and everything fit together aesthetically. Of special interest were the palm trees, figs, orchids, cacti and ferns. Wonderful.
The Bahiravakanda Buddha is a modern, white, seated Buddha statue in the lotus position perched on a hill to the west of town. It was about a 2 – 3 km walk through town to get to the hill and then another kilometer or so up the road to the shrine. There are steps up the back of the statue to its base, from which there were good views of the city and lake. At the base of the statue is a temple with monks in residence.
We took in a classical dance performance at the Cultural Centre. It was a good, but not great, performance of various types of Sri Lankan dance and music, with drums, shell horns, elaborate costumes and fire walking. It was one of the things we wanted to see while in the country and is now off the list.
The above are just a few of the sites we took in, we also went to several temples, a tea factory, and did lots of exploring around the town.
We had an interesting encounter with wildlife while there. Early one morning just after sunrise, I was already up and on my computer, and Sanford was still sleeping. Suddenly a monkey appeared in our open window, which was on the third floor of the hotel. It was about to boldly enter our room and was starting to reach for some of my possessions that were just below the window. I shouted at Sanford “Sanford, Sanford! There’s a monkey in the window! He’s coming in!” Sanford quickly jumped up and shouted at the monkey and started to advance towards him. The monkey eyed him cautiously and thankfully was intimidated by Sanford and left out the window before stealing anything. It was an interesting situation. I would never have expected a monkey to come into our room, especially on the third floor. I wondered if we wouldn’t have been there what would he have taken. Would it have been the toothpaste or my shiny new jewelry? I also wondered how often the hotel people were suspected of stealing things when all the while it might have been a monkey. That monkey came back several times during our stay. We were always careful to only leave the window open when we were awake in the room so that we could be on top of any monkey business!! I now affectionately refer to my partner as Sanford the Brave.
Speaking of monkeys, they are everywhere. They seem to be just part of the landscape and no one pays much attention to them. While in Kandy it was the Tamil New Year and a national holiday. We wandered around that day and visited many shrines. In one Hindu shrine there were a lot of worshippers celebrating the New Year by making a flower offering to their god. Flowers were placed on an outside alter and on top of the alter was a monkey, who would immediately rip apart each flower offering and eat the meaty centre of the flower. Other monkeys would come and try and get on top of the alter to get at the flowers and the one on top would have nothing to do with sharing, so every now and then, monkey war would break out. No one seemed to mind and no one attempted to chase the monkeys away.
As much trouble as they are, I think I’m going to miss the monkeys most once I am gone from Sri Lanka. They are always interesting to watch.