The train from Hatton to Kandy was pretty uneventful, though it was standing room only and having been up since 1:30am and with the last remnants of my cold, it was a tiring 3 hour journey. I didn’t do anything but watch a movie on my first night in Kandy. And thanks to the Samahan (an Ayurvedic tea) the locals kept giving me, my cold was gone by the next day.
Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and the cultural center at a population of only 109,000. I chose a homestay up in the hills away from city center and with monkeys outside my window, it didn’t feel like I was in a city at all. On my first day, I visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, where the Buddha’s tooth relic is apparently stored – no one is quite sure if it is the real one or a replica. Three times per day there is a puja where devotees line up to see the gold casket the tooth is kept in. I decided to skip the mayhem and visit at a quieter time where I could make offerings outside the room where the tooth is held without having to queue for hours. There are several museums and temples within the complex and I easily spent several hours there.
Unfortunately the unseasonal rain was still blanketing down so my urge to explore Kandy’s parks and outdoor spaces was minimal. This brought me to the shopping mall. Modern and no doubt, overpriced, I felt a sense of culture shock as the bright lights, air conditioning, and consumerism slapped me in the face. I found a curry buffet and a proper latte and planned my next move. I walked around Kandy lake, a man made lake which is sacred, so it’s actually full of fish (since you’re not allowed to fish) and huge water monitors. I was even offered some marijuana on my little rainy adventure – um, no thanks.
That night I went to a Kandyan dance show that was quite entertaining at only $12 for the show and a beer. The only reason I stayed three nights in Kandy was so I could go to a nearby yoga and meditation center and go on a hike to the non-touristy Knuckles Range. Sadly the yoga classes cost $25USD, which I refuse to pay. The hike is quite remote so you definitely need a guide. I was prepared to pay the $75 USD for a day of hiking, but after being in the rain all day, I changed my mind. Normally rain doesn’t bother me, but this is not like Victoria rain, it is like Alberta rain, coming down in sheets. Plus with rain, comes leeches – tons of them. So yes, I cancelled because I’m a wuss when it comes to the little black bloodsuckers.
I also considered going to the elephant orphanage, but that would have cost me about $60 and I question their ethical practices anyway, so it was probably best that I skipped it. In case you haven’t realized it yet, nothing is free in Sri Lanka, nor is it cheap. I’m hemorrhaging money at a fast rate. That said, I was happy that I chose a nicer place to stay because other than going out for lunch on day 3, I stayed in my room all day. The rain not only literally dampened me, it also started to dampen my spirits and I was actually quite sore from my hike up Adam’s Peak. So I moped about with a general feeling of malaise and no motivation to do anything. There were no other travelers at the homestay and for the first time in my travels I felt bored and lonely. Because of the isolated location of the homestay, it wasn’t convenient to go out.
Up until a few days prior, I had been scheming on how I could extend my leave to visit friends in Thailand or perhaps make it over to the Maldives. But now, with my money quickly dwindling and feeling a bit done, I am happy that I’ll be home in a month. Besides, I have a very privileged dog to get home to.
The next day, the money I saved on hiking, yoga, and elephants was spent on a $50 tuk tuk ride to Sigiriya. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the public bus in the pouring rain. Other than the unsolicited 2 hour detour to a waterfall on a bumpy road while having to pee (a special kind of torture) which then cost 1000 rupees to see (I declined), it was an okay ride. Due to the detour, I skipped seeing the massive Hindu temple in Matale, but I did stop at a nice organic spice farm and the Dambulla Cave Temples, which were great and wait for it… FREE!