Kandy is a magical city. Situated in the heart of Sri Lanka, with lush and verdant green valleys encircling it, Kandy is the base for many a backpacker’s foray northwards up to the cultural triangle or southwards to the Nuwara Eliya highlands. Many of these attractions can be done as daytrips from Kandy, though let us not forget Kandy has its own fair share of things to keep us interested!
I had spent one night in Colombo before a morning train journey with ExpoRail to Kandy. I arrived in Kandy just after 9.30am, which meant I had the whole day really to explore what the little city had to offer. The ExpoRail “first class” carriage is actually bolted on to the rear of the rest of the train, which I did not know when I got there. However, after a few mumblings to myself I just sat back in the air conditioned carriage and enjoyed the views. First class on Sri Lankan railways is not what you would be accustomed to in the UK or in Japan, for example, but nonetheless it meant staying out of cattle class, and having a guaranteed seat reservation, with drinks and snacks thrown in for good measure. The first class return fare from Colombo to Kandy cost me just £13.30 in the typical exchange rates of 2013, and I thought this was great value!
The cultural aspect of Kandy was amazing, and I spent too long perusing the markets. I think the locals were annoyed that I didn’t want to buy anything, but I was insistent that I was only ‘window-shopping’! This was, after all, still my first afternoon in Kandy after having arrived from Colombo earlier that day, and I was very wet from the tropical monsoon that had just ensued. Luckily, it dried up later on in the day and I enjoyed a nice refreshing walk beside the Mahaweli River before heading back to the hotel empty-handed – much to the disgruntlement of the Sri Lankan market traders!
The Temple of the Tooth is very expensive and slightly overrated World Heritage Site. I feel that there are many superior Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka to this one. However, situated in the Royal Complex of the former Kandy Kingdom, the Temple of the Tooth remains one of the highlights of the city and is usually bursting at the seams with tourists and locals alike. The temple is so-called because it supposedly houses a relic of the tooth of Buddha. The interior is fantastic with not only grandiose ceiling murals, but also with elephants depicted in stone on the walls.
I do not always agree with keeping animals in captivity even in the best of conditions, but some of the elephants here at Pinnawala were showing signs of wear and tear. I learned that the elephants arrived here like this and that the orphanage was there to look after them and help them get better, albeit with no chance of ever being returned to the wild. They term the orphanage as a “captive breeding centre” which is spread over 25 acres of land. As you can see from my photo above, it was cool to stand on the riverbank within the orphanage and watch the elephants bath and play with each other socially. This is a great sight and I admittedly was very happy to observe these elephants seemingly having fun. It is claimed that 100% of the admission to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is put back into the cause to continue to help the specimens here – whether that is true or not, I don’t know.
One of the most incredible places I visited near Kandy was the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya. The landscaping there is awesome, especially its orchid collection, and gives a good insight to the kind of flora and fauna in this neck of the woods. I saw many monkeys and peacocks, but was happy not to have sighted a leopard that are known to stalk prey in these parts.