We only spent 1 day in Kandy despite its status as a UNESCO world heritage site. One day felt long enough, especially due to the tight schedule we were on. Sri Lanka’s second-largest city is surrounded by hills and tea plantations in the centre of the island. The city is rich in history and was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. This is why it is often referred to as ‘Royal Kandy’.
We felt a bit uneasy as we roamed the deserted streets during our first night in Kandy (read more about that here). The next morning saw the hustle and bustle of a Sri Lankan city return but the cool evening air had vanished. By 9am I regretted bringing a jumper. Breakfast was eaten at the Devon Food Court, which is popular among locals and has a rather rich history too. Breakfast was a set menu and we chose string hoppers which came with dahl and milk tea. It was one of our spiciest breakfasts in Sri Lanka. My eyes and nose were streaming but alas, I survived to tell the tale.
Kandy is most famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a spectacular Buddhist temple located in the Royal Palace which is said to hold the tooth of the Buddha. Dating back to 543 BC (the death of Buddha), the tooth is so sacred that it continues to play a huge role in politics. It is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country.
There are three Puja’s (ceremonies) held daily so we made sure we were there at 9am ready for the 9:30 Puja. There were thousand’s of people lining up to place their offerings (food and fresh flowers), and catch a glimpse inside the main chamber where the tooth is held. Joining the crowds were lots of bees, obviously attracted to the fresh flowers and food! It was a truly spectacular sight and although there were many tourists around, it really felt very special.
After the ceremony, we took a walk around the temple complex which contained a number of interesting museums. We learnt of the bombings here in 1998. It seems everywhere we’ve visited in Sri Lanka had experienced some form of a terrorist attack! Our favourite was the Raja the Tusker museum which contained the actual Raja the Tusker elephant (now stuffed). Raja was considered a national treasure and after retiring from his ceremony duties, he became the King’s pet.
We took a walk around Kandy’s iconic lake mid-morning to spot its abundance of wildlife. We saw colourful birds, turtles and hundreds of bats! After our stroll, we headed to Slightly Chilled backpacker bar for a beer. It was midday and the staff were still half asleep. Both the atmosphere and service were somewhat lagging. We didn’t bother to return.
The main streets of Kandy were just as busy as Colombo with people buying and selling everywhere you looked. We had an Indian Thali (a mixture of many different dishes) for lunch at a local joint, which was rather disappointing.
Before retreating back to our hotel for a rest, we paid a visit to the big Buddha on top to the hill. It was a bit of a gnarly climb in the midday sun but we saw a large family of monkeys, including tiny babies, which broke up the walk nicely. Located in the Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya temple, the white Buddha statue is one of the tallest in Sri Lanka. It was pretty impressive and has good views out over the city.
Our hotel, Sevana City Hotel, was just on the edge of town in a converted family home with exceptionally friendly staff. It has comfortable cool rooms and a rooftop infinity pool which was a blessing, despite being a lot smaller than the photos made out! As we soaked up the afternoon sun, it started to rain. It was only the British who didn’t run for cover.
That evening we headed into town for some drinks and food. We found a local bar on the main road selling Lion Strong, a local 8.8% beer which is rich in flavour. I was the only woman, possibly ever, in the bar. I received some strange looks as I strolled up to the bar in my dress to order two pints of strong beer. We sat outside on the balcony looking down on the streets below. We couldn’t quite get over how many stray street dogs there were. They were all ever so well behaved and rarely barked.
Strangely enough, we REALLY fancied a curry. Not the Sri Lankan curry which we had been eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner since we arrived. We wanted a ‘proper’ Indian (Punjabi) curry – like the ones we get back home. I did a bit of research and found a nearby restaurant called Indian Summer, serving just that. Once again we hit the jackpot and it turned out to be one of the best meals of our trip! Afterwards, we returned to the local men’s bar for a nightcap but we were too full to finish our drinks. It was time to call it a night.
The next morning we were up early. This time we were not going to miss our train! We were about to take the train from Kandy to Ella, deemed one of the greatest train journeys in the world. Breakfast was at another little local joint with nothing much on the menu, we got what we were given – delicious roti and dahl. This time we arrived at the station in good time and at the right time on the ticket. It was time to board the #1005 train to Ella!