The idea of visiting this island country was never really on my radar until early last year when my wife stated her intention to go there. That set me off and I bought the guidebook, started planning and soon became very interested in the place. However, for one reason or another we didn’t go as planned to Sri Lanka last June instead opting for the far closer and easier Taiwan. 12 months on though and we finally got there though albeit on the back of three hours of terrible turbulence at the end of the nine hour flight. I thought my failed flight to Glasgow in Scotland a few years back was awful (and indeed it was) but that was akin to riding the same roller coaster consecutively a few times. This was a never-ending theme park ride and my wife was sick a couple of times and she had racked up half a dozen chunder’s by the time we’d arrived in Kandy following a three hour taxi ride direct from Colombo Airport.
On top of all that, the place we’d booked to stay at was far from impressive on first viewing. We could really have done with a bit of luxury after such an epic journey but thankfully when we woke the next morning things began to fall in place and we soon settled into the local way of life. First up was the Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic which was just ten minutes walk away from our lodgings and an incredibly popular place with worshippers and tourists alike.
The tooth was snatched from the flames of Buddha’s funeral and smuggled into the country where it has moved around a bit. There are rumours that it’s not even the real one which I obviously can’t substantiate as you don’t even get to see it as it’s kept in a gold casket which can only be briefly seen (assuming you even know such information beforehand which we didn’t!!) from the doorway amidst a non-stop procession of hundreds and hundreds of people.
Whilst I wasn’t too fond of the crowds (we went at the special ‘puja‘ respect and prayer time (9:30 – 11am everyday) I could appreciate the buildings and the architecture which were nice to look at, especially as some of it was damaged by a bomb in 1998. I’m really not sure why the place offered free wifi when there were many signs saying not to use your phone!
As we wandered to the city centre we saw some colonial buildings but certainly didn’t expect to see a very old London double decker bus in use! The rain began to fall as we briefly looked around the main market before sampling some local food for lunch nearby.
As we were driving into Kandy the night before I noticed a giant buddha statue in the hills looking down over Kandy Lake and the rest of the city. It is officially called Asgiriya Maha Vihara and the ascend up to the statue helped burn off our lunch as well as the many breakfast meat and vegetable curry patties we’d had earlier that morning.
The views over the city were just as impressive as the white buddha itself. My wife enjoyed it too but was more taken back by some of the dogs living on site!
Back in the city centre we hopped on the most local of buses (15 LKR) to go six kilometres to the splendid Peradeniya Botanic Gardens (1500 LKR entry) which are Sri Lanka’s largest. The highlight for me had to be the Palm Avenues leading to the suspension bridge (only a few people can walk on it at any one time) as well as the leaning trees and quite simply the all-round serenity of the place.
A couple of days later we stopped briefly at an observation viewpoint en-route to the Hantana Ceylon Tea Museum which my wife went to whilst I searched in vain for some locations used in ‘Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom‘ (1984).
Due to its location in the heart of the country, we decided to make Kandy our base for our six nights as it was just as cheap to book the flight and hotel combo rather than doing all separately. The idea was always to spend a couple of nights away elsewhere which we eventually did. Whilst Umaya Holiday Inn wasn’t the cleanest or most comfortable, the location was good and hotelier Rath did all he could to make our stay as pleasant as possible.
His family were all very nice and friendly and spending some time with them was one of the highlights of our stay.
Click here to read ‘Sri Lanka 2017 Pt II: Polonnaruwa’