Our day in the bustling city of Kandy marked the start of our journey into the cooler hill country of Sri Lanka, moving away from the dry zone. It’s still hot, but there’s a noticeable difference.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
This grand temple in the centre of Kandy houses the relic of Gautama Buddha’s tooth, the most important relic in Sri Lanka. Our driver recommended that we visit in the morning, where we were able to see into the room where the tooth relic is kept. Every morning they open this room for pilgrims to be able to look into, and there are drums and trumpets playing during this hour.
The temple is beautiful and there are lots of rooms to have a look at, including one with a series of paintings telling the journey of the tooth relic. It was believed that whoever possessed the tooth relic would have the right to rule the country, so of course everyone wanted it! The museum is worth a look too.
Every August, the Esala Perahera festival lights up the city with a parade of elephants, acrobats and dancers. They march through the streets of Kandy to celebrate the tooth relic and carry a replica of the casket containing the tooth relic itself.
Kandy’s Botanical Gardens are a short drive out of Kandy and are home to the famous palm avenues that you see in all the pictures. Most people take their time walking through the gardens and drinking in that peaceful atmosphere. If you don’t have that much time, you can hire a buggy and get driven around! The great thing about getting the buggy is that you have a personal guide who can tell you about the plants and wildlife that you see.
Don’t miss the orchid house where you can see a huge variety of these beautiful flowers.
If you look up into the trees you can see hundreds of fruit bats and you can hear them chirping all around the gardens.
There’s a saying that you don’t find Kandy’s spice market, the spice market finds you…ok I lied, there is no saying, but it’s still true! We wanted to have a look around the market and started ambling in the right direction, but it didn’t take long for someone to clock us and lead the way, making a beeline for their friend’s market stall. It was quite useful really!
We talked spices with a chap selling all sorts of wonderful stuff from cinnamon and mustard seeds, to spice mixes and curry powders, to ayurvedic remedies. We oggled at the fruit and veg stalls that we wished we could raid to stock up our kitchen back home as well as the mounds of rambutan fruits (similar to lychees). There were plenty of souvenir stalls too if you’re looking for your wood carving or elephant pants.
We finished our day with a burst of excitement at a Kandyan dance performance where we saw everything from an elegant tea plucker’s dance, to fire eating and fire walking! It was certainly an energy-filled evening and the dancers were having a great time! The colourful and ornate costumes should get a special mention too.
Places to eat
We went to the Muslim Hotel for lunch which is a very basic canteen-style eatery serving delicious Sri Lankan food. You get given a menu, but we found that they weren’t serving everything. They just bring round platefuls of food that you can pick from and at the end you pay for what you’ve eaten. I did order a delicious avocado milkshake!
The Old Empire cafe is great if you’re after lunch or an afternoon snack. It’s a kitsch little tea-room where you can get great fusion food, like their chai and jaggery ice-cream or their toastie with egg, cheese and sweet onion seeni sambol. I loved everything about this cafe!
Has anyone been to Kandy? What were your best bits?