Before heading to Kandy, I’d heard it was hectic, dirty and not worth spending much time there and although I agree that two days is more than enough time there, I actually really enjoyed what the city had to offer.
Perhaps it was our escape in the hills, high above Kandy, that made the place seem more positive than what I’d been told but after spending some time in Colombo, I don’t think anywhere would compare to the craziness experienced there (saying that I’m yet to see Bangkok…). Our guesthouse, Hill Glance View, was absolutely beautiful and I would recommend staying there if you like to get away from the hustle and bustle of a city after spending a day exploring.
We arrived in Kandy from Dambulla in the early afternoon and were picked up by our host from the train station. The journey to the guest house was impressive with the roads winding left and right as we watched the city disappear behind us. We eventually ventured back into the city in the search of pizza (I’d had a dicky belly for a few days and I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating another curry). The rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent wandering aimlessly around the city streets being collared by various shop owners to come and see what they had to offer us.
At one point we were directed through Central Market which I can honestly say has scarred me a little after seeing and unfortunately smelling, an obscene amount of dried fish and raw meat. We swiftly found out that there was absolutely no need to put ourselves through that hell as you can just as easily walk around the outskirts of the market, which was the route we continued to use from then on.
As we exited the market, the sky turned black and the streets echoed of bird calls. It was unbelievable. I think every crow in Sri Lanka decided to fly over that one spot at that single moment in time. I’d never seen anything like it! Thousands of birds swooping down in clans to grab any scraps left over from the day’s trading. Following the ordeal at the market, we settled down at a fairy lit pub with a Lion Beer before heading back up to our green haven in the hills.
The morning started with an amazing breakfast cooked by our hosts on a balcony overlooking their garden which set us up for a day of sightseeing and “no thank you’s” to various vendors. We decided to be proper tourists and visit both The Kandy Botanical Gardens (1500 LKR/ ~£7.50 per person) and The Temple of the Tooth (again, 1500 LKR/ ~£7.50 per person).
The Kandy Botanical Gardens
I feel like such an old person for saying this but I actually really enjoyed the Botanical Gardens (clearly my quarter life crisis is continuing whilst I’m away). It was so nice to walk around and see so many different plants and trees from all over the world! There were even monkeys wandering around trying to be cheeky and grab some flowers to munch on!
We spent a good few hours here and would definitely recommend a visit if, again, you like to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Our guest house host drove us down there however we did get the bus back to Kandy from outside of the gardens which cost us 17 LKR, about 8 pence, so a trip there from the city isn’t exactly a bank breaker!
The Temple of the Tooth
The Temple of the Tooth is the current safe-hold in Sri Lanka for one of Buddha’s teeth. The story of how the Tooth came to Kandy is remarkable and is laid out on hanging gold plaques from the ceiling of a central building. It is understood that according to Sri Lankan legend, when the Buddha died, his body was cremated and his left canine tooth was retrieved by his disciple. The Tooth has been moved several times as a result of threats of foreign invasions and with each move, a new palace was built to enshrine the relic. The Tooth eventually landed in Kandy, which is where it remains currently. The Temple itself sits three storeys high and the Tooth is located within a shrine, on a wooden mezzanine, used for prayers.
For me, The Temple of the Tooth was probably one of the best value sightseeing trips we’ve done so far. There are a number of museums located within the newly built fortress, following the 1998 bombing of the Temple, including the only taxidermy elephant in the world (!!!) and The World Buddhist Museum. We unfortunately didn’t get chance to do every building as George was melting after putting on his long trousers, needed when entering any Temple in Sri Lanka, over his shorts but we still spent a solid two hours exploring the history of Buddhism in the buildings we did get chance to spend time in!
Overall, I really enjoyed Kandy for the two days we were there. Two days was more than enough as the city is often used as a stop over place for people travelling to Ella, like we did, or further south. I guess the lesson learnt there was don’t always listen to other people’s opinions and allow yourself to explore a place with an open mind!