Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is a very beautiful and scenic place.
It was the last capital of the ancient king’s era of Sri Lanka. The city is surrounded by green hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. It is both an administrative and religious city. It is also the capital of the Central Province. Kandy is the home of The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the holiest places for the Buddhist community of Sri Lanka and all around the world.
View of Kandy from our hotel
It was declared a world heritage site byUNESCO in 1988.
We arrive at Colombo Airport at 3 AM. We walk out of the airport and make a right at the road and reach Katunayaka South railway station. Local trains from Colombo ply on these railway tracks. If you take north bound train, you’d reach the scenic beach town of Negombo but we are going south towards Colombo railway station.
Mahaveli river
A beaten down train arrives at 5AM and we take it. Sun is rising and area is lush green. Empty train is getting filled up by commuters at each station. Coastal air has a taste of salt and water. We arrive at Colombo Fort station at 6AM.
View of Kandy
Intercity to Kandy leaves at seven so we have some time to buy tickets and walk around. We come out of the station and visit markets around the station. We fell like we are in just any typical coastal town of India. We go in a restaurant but food is different in Sri Lanka and in Sinhalese restaurants food is mostly served cold. On each table lies a big plate full of breads.
Temple procession in town
At the end waiter will count the breads and charge you for the ones you ate. They make dosa hoppers or cones here and these too are served mostly cold unless you catch someone cooking these and ask for the hot. As tissue papers they have pieces of newspapers cut in squares on the counter and people use these papers and then drop this right underneath their tables. I always find Sinhele food tasteless. We look in all restaurants but situation was the same. I have been to Sri Lanka three times and each time I struggle to find a Tamil restaurant to have hot meals.
Train arriving near Kandy Station
Sri Lanka’s railway system is old and in the need of some modernization. Most of the locomotives and train cars are British made of the colonial era.
The slow-moving, three-hour journey from Colombo to Kandy is one of the most fantastic train rides we’ve ever taken. The track leaves the smoggy metropolis quickly behind, and travels inland through regions of increasing beauty and altitude, until arriving at Sri Lanka’s hill jewel, Kandy. Throughout the ride, we were enthralled by the ever-changing landscape, and spent the trip poking our heads out open windows, or hanging carefree from the doors like in India.
The town, and the countryside around it, is lush and green and there are many pleasant walks in the town and further. The town centre, close to Kandy’s picturesque lake set in a bowl of hills, is a delightful muddle of old shops, antique and gemstone specialists, a bustling market and a very good and inexpensive hotels, guesthouses and restaurants.
In the temple courtyard
Kandy is particularly well known for the great Kandy Esala Perahera, held over 10 days leading up to the Nikini poya (full moon) at the end of the month of Esala (July/August), but has enough attractions to justify a visit at any time of year. Locally, Kandy is known as either Maha Nuwara (GreatCity) or just Nuwara (City), which is what some conductors on Kandy-bound buses call out.
On the train we smell pineapples all over because it is pineapple harvest time in the hills.
Pineapple grows well in the iron rich red soils. That is the main reason it grows in South India and Sri Lanka. It thrives very well on the iron ore. Even if the soil is 70% iron still after some years of harvest soluble iron is depleted so ferrous sulfate must be added in the soils for next healthy crops.
As train arrives in the small Kandy station, we come out in this serene city and outside heaps of ripe pineapples are being sold. We walk towards the town center, pass in the colorful main market street and come at the lake.
Kandy view from the top of the hill.
To our left side is the famous tooth temple. We are captivated by the beauty of this place so we sit on a bench along the lake.
A man comes and asks us to come to his hotel; we try to get rid of him. He is not really sticky and we can see disappointment on his face and he begs us to atleast see his hotel first. We try to get rid of him again telling that we first have to have a cup of tea.
Temple closeup
He arranges our tea there. He has a genuine gentle character that we see in all people in Sri Lanka so after the tea we follow him along the lake. He takes us a long way, we make a half circle around the lake and at the opposite of tooth temple, and we climb on the hill and arrive at a small neat hotel very close to the Consulate General of India. Hotel turns out very good and astonishingly cheap. Also the surrounding scenes are superb so we thank the man for bringing us here and take a room facing the lake.
Main street to Temple
After we have a hot water bath, we explore the market. We meet a Tamil gentleman and he tells us about a Tamil enclave in the market where we can have Tamilnadu food. We go to this area and see several Tamil restaurants. They don’t have elaborate South Indian menus but some main items like Dosa, Masala Dosa, Idlee, Vada and Utmap etc. We pick a restaurant and have our fill.
View of Temple from Consulate General of India
Although Sri Lankan currency is depressed but prices are still a bit higher than India. I have observed that Hotels are the most expansive in India; may be due to the high land value.
After meals, we visit the famous Buddha’s-Tooth temple. Temple compound hosts royal palace and a splendid museum. There are always a crowd of devotees in this temple.Visit to tooth temple is also rewarding. It is very serene and peaceful and story of Buddha and then tooth is inscribed on the wall in the pictures. The main problem in Sri Lanka is that they charge money form foreigners (including Indians) at just any instance. We were asked for 300 rupee entry fee at the tooth temple but we declined and just entered inside. Same thing is at all small parks in all towns, there you may find a man sitting with a receipt book to charge you entry fee as you are a foreigner. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present. The temple sustained damage from bombings at various times but was fully restored each time.
Tea gardens near Kandy
Visit to this temple is an exciting experience.
More about this temple can be read at:
http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Temple_of_the_Tooth
At the dinner time again we go to Tamil enclave. Our breakfast, lunch and dinners were always in the same Tamil enclave in the markets.
Next day we visit the famous Royal Botanical Garden.
Religious procession in the temple at night.
I love botanical gardens but this one is paramount. This one is a queen of all botanical gardens of the world. Also the temperate moist climate of this place is very inviting to many varieties of plants and flowers. Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya is situated about 5. 5 km to the west from the city of Kandy. It is famous for its collection of a variety of orchids.
Botanical Garden
It includes more than 300 varieties of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Attached to it is the National Herbarium. The total area of the botanical garden is 147 acres (0. 59 km2), at 460 meters above sea level, and with a 200-day annual rainfall. We spent half day there.
Monks walking in the Tooth Temple
This whole garden is girdled by a very scenic Mahaveli river. This river makes a circle around the whole Kandy town.
We returned to Kandy, we walked over the mountain behind the temple, in the city and found this river at the other side of mountain too, so we went there and had a bath along with children under the sun.
Tamil enclave of Kendy
Another thing that is Sri Lanka famous for is semi precious gemstones. People who knows about the quality and valuation of Sapphires, Emeralds and Rubies, they flock here to make their purchases. I know many travelers who visit Sri Lanka and buy gems and sell these in India and recover all their tourism expenditures. Kandy has a good gemstone market to make this purchase or one can visit Ratnapura where the gemstone mines are. Ratnapura is 3-4 hours from Kendy or Colombo. On my each trip I bough a couple of gemstone for family and friends and each time it turned out a good purchase for the value of money.
Same thing people do when they visit Thailand. There they purchase gold jewellery because jewelers are honest there and people recover travel cost just by bringing enough jewellery that they can genuinely wear to avoid custom duty.
Budha Statue on the hillock
After spending a week in Kandy we took a train to Nuwara Eliya. Broad Gauge train goes there. Sri Lanka has all broad guage railways. What is Ooty to South India; same is Nuware Eliya to Sri Lanka. It is a hill station midst tea plantations. Sri Lanka is also a major tea exporting country.
I will post that train experience in some other post.

1 comment:

  1. Kandy is the most beautiful place in Sri Lanka it is rated as the best tourist spot. I am pretty sure that people will enjoy their visit.


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