Kandy 14th Oct - 18th Oct 2016
We survived our first Sri Lankan bus ride and after being thrown from side to side for 4 hours whilst we drove up through the mountains past some magnificent views of jungles and forests we reached the city of Kandy. A city located at the heart of the island nestled away in the cool cloudy air of the mountains that make up most of central Sri Lanka.
We used Airbnb and stayed with a guy called Ifti, a wonderfully friendly man who bombarded us with more local information than we knew what to do with. His place was a 10p bus ride out of the city and for 10gbp per night we got way more than we bargained for. We figured we were getting a room in a house/flat as was usually the case but here we ended up with an entire apartment to ourselves. A big double bedroom with ensuite, a living room and dining room with flat screen tv and a kitchen, a whole actual kitchen. How we'd missed being able to cook rather having to rely on restaurants and cafes. Being able to cook for ourselves was another reason why we didn't each much Sri Lankan food during our first weeks in the country. We found the flat to be so nice that despite having seen everything we wanted to see in Kandy within the first day or two we requested an extra day just so we could stay in the apartment and hang out there.
|A nice visual juxtaposition: Buddhism and Christianity|
Ifti was an excellent host but his advice was perhaps a bit hit and miss. He insisted we went to two places, a cultural dance show and a gem factory, because like everywhere you go everything is famous for something and Kandy is apparently famous of gems and dances. The gem factory started out very interesting, it began with a video showing how they were found and collected from the earth, sorted and cut then as soon as the credits rolled we were whisked away to a room displaying more information about how the gems are cut and cleaned which could have been quite interesting except for the fact we had all of a minute to look around it before we were dragged to the shop floor. As soon as we were on the shop floor they were then more than happy for us to take our time and look for as long as we wanted. The various salesmen and Ifti himself were very insistent on us buying something, even something very small. How about this ring, very cheap, only 500gbp. HA!!!! Good one. Fed up, it was our turn to be insistent and so we left.
The cultural dance show, another very popular attraction in Kandy, was 10gbp a ticket each which as I have discussed was a lot of money of us but we still trusted Ifti's judgement on the subject and believing it to be a genuine local event we happily went along with it. It turned out to be absolute trash. We were sat down in a small village hall style theatre while the rest of the room filled with other tourists and their tour guides (goddamn it we'd been duped, WE TRUSTED YOU IFTI!). The following hour was filled with various dances with zero explanation to the cultural or historical significance, zero narration and zero exposition. The performers didn't appear to like what they were doing and there were definitely a few performers who literally had no idea what they were doing and if that was obvious to a foreigner who knows nothing of dance than who knows what that looked like a local with some sort of appreciation for Kandyan cultural history. To make it worse before we were able to leave they all lined up with buckets nearly blockading the exit asking for tips. Since travelling we have been so careful not to waste our money - there was even been a time when we debated whether to buy more water or not because doing so would cost money (stupid I know) - so this waste of our funds understandably annoyed us.
|Buddhas to the left of me, Buddhas to my right|
HOWEVER. We did have a kitchen so Kandy wasn't all bad. We made sooo much french toast!
And on a more positive note we took a day trip to Dambulla a few hours north of Kandy on a deathtrap of a bus to visit an impressive cave temple. Upon arrival we were met with the tranquil stares of a giant golden buddha which loomed overhead and after a long hike up a rocky hill there was a series of cave all of which contained various sized, shaped and positioned buddhas, a few of which were even carved straight out of the mountain. You did have to be barefoot though which made walking incredibly difficult as the rock floor was reaching near scolding temperatures after being heated up the sun all day. It had the effect of the locals walking around casually looking at the statues and imagery whilst all the tourists hopped unceremoniously from one spot of shade to the next like a bunch of children playing 'the floor is lava' which I suppose if the rock had been any hotter would have been a reality. It was a fun day out especially because entrance was free.
|Hey there big guy|
As I write my thoughts down it sounds as if our experience in Kandy was entirely negative but it really wasn't. For all its faults Kandy was a nice enough city but it didn't have a huge amount to offer us. The city was fairly modern with malls and nice new restaurants but these things don't really interest us so much. If it hadn't have been for Ifti and his amazing apartment we wouldn't have stayed for as long as we did. Being blunt I believe this was probably the low point of our 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, not because it was bad but rather because the rest of the trip got increasingly better.
We packed up and headed on the next bus to Anuradhapura.
|The morning commute in beautiful Kandy|