I arrived in Kandy before lunchtime. I’ve learnt that despite my guesthouse looking nice and close to the lake in Kandy (and it is), that the hills around Kandy are steep. I settled into my room, which is the smallest one yet and the worst bathroom layout (so far all bathroom have been big wet rooms, this one is a lot smaller and a shower means everything in the room gets wet). The room has great views looking towards the train station. There is also a relatively quick walking shortcut own to the lake and even walking backup has not been too bad.
Rain delayed my departure for lunch, but eventually subdues long enough for a raincoat to be sufficient. The rain coat was the only thing with long sleeves I packed for this trip! The lake was manmade over 200 years ok and looking across to the Queens Hotel and the various religious temples provides a pleasant view.
I’ve been a bit jaded by the white guy syndrome on this trip. I was hoping for more from the Sri Lankan people, but in Kandy there are still plenty of people wanting to make money out of me. As a traveler you just grin and bear it, after all I’m the one that lives a life full of privilege, but me buying things and giving cash to beggars doesn’t help fix a country and it just keeps perpetuating the issue.
Another thing that has surprised me is the actual lack of english spoken. I read it was widely spoken, but you soon find out that if its taught in schools then only those who get an education speak decent english. I guess as I’m staying in guesthouses, I’m mixing with the locals who actually have a lower level of education, but most have accrued some wealth as seen by the fact they have a newish car for example. Kandy is probably the city in Sri Lanka, that has some of that english colonial charm still, combined with the hectic pace of the modern day Sri Lanka. The streets are packed during business hours, but pitch black and empty after 8pm.
Today I arose to go see the number one site in all of Kandy, the temple of the tooth. Inside the temple is reportedly one of Buddhas teeth. I got waived through the preliminary security check, not sure what it was for, but most foreigners just got waived through and walked through some lovely gardens towards the main temple complex. I’ve given Buddha a lot of money over the years starting in Vietnam when Buddha through our guide suggested that my mate Darryl and I should give Buddha ten thousand Vietnamese dong. To this day Darryl and I have no idea if the guide pocketed the money or put it in the donation box. Today Buddha wanted 1500 rupees ($12) for me to visit the temple, so I paid my money and went and dropped my shoes at the shoe minding place.
Today was some kind of special day as many people mostly buddhists with a splattering of foreigners cramming into the building. As I entered there were some men playing drums and a horn. All very loud and people were hustling upstairs to the chamber the tooth sits. I joined the queue of mostly devote buddhists looking to give away a few days pay and some flowers. Clearly its a moving experience for many of these people and I guess the music helps them along. The tooth is of course not visible. I just have to trust that its encased in the Golden cask that I got a glimpse of as I past the window and was moved along as the queue of worshippers was long. Apparently its normally not this busy but today was special for some reason.
After the tooth chamber I visited the Octagon, which is a tower visible from outside and not surprisingly octagon shaped. It appeared to be the temples library. Alas all the books were locked away from prying eyes, but was handed a handful of flowers to prayer to Buddha. I asked him if he had enough of my money yet and to give me a sign, but got no response so moved on.
I also visited the curtained off room, which was also some kind of holy room, but not sure what for. I got the impression the curtain was so people couldn’t see from the outside, but there was a small buddha statue and not much else. My enlightenment for today was over, but stopped at the Museum of the Tusk to see the monks pet elephant stuffed literally. Not as big and impressive as the one in the Smithsonian Natural History museum in DC, and it almost looks as if the elephant is crying. One thing I’ve learnt is that elephant rides are bad. Its because to tame an elephant into submission, they literally beat the elephant to obey its master/handler/mahout. Animal welfare groups now say not to go on elephant rides etc for this reason as many see it as a way to make cash from tourists.
I visited the Queens hotel next and while its out of my price range, the building looks lovely and in good condition. Not as grand as say Raffles, but a piece of colonial history kept sparkly white in Sri Lanka. I visited the Queens pastry shop and had an average pastry and a good pot of tea. It was surprisingly cheap at about $2.
Tomorrow I’m off on what I hope is a scenic train trip to Ella where I hope to hike around the the hills and tea plantations a little.