Here I am in Dambulla at 09:00 slowly melting into a sticky puddle – and I have been up since before 04:00! But more on that later, I have some catching up to do. I arrived in Kandy on Tuesday and my first impression was that it was both more familiar and more manageable than huge Colombo. It reminded me a little bit of Pokhara in Nepal.
Despite getting ripped off by my tuk tuk driver, I made it to my hostel in one piece and am pleased to report it was much more cosy than the previous one. After dropping off my stuff, I was about to head out for a wander when I bumped into two lovely German girls, Tina and Karen, who kindly invited me to attend a Kandyan dance show with them and go for dinner. So that is precisely what we did. The show was great fun and the firewalking at the end was quite something! Aiming to find food before dark, we saw the skies over Kandy lake turn pink and purple in an astonishing and rapid sunset. However, it turns out that dining out in Kandy is not the done thing. We found nothing open apart from one or two places out of our price range so ended up settling for lovely veggie snacks from the small shop next door.
The next morning, I was supposed to walk up to the giant white Buddha on top of a nearby hill but ended up spending a few hours desperately searching for a new camera charger. Turns out only bringing 2 out of my 3 charger cables was not as clever as I had initially thought. Anyway, once that was dealt with, I found a fabulous South Indian dosa canteen, full of locals on their lunch break, and then headed up to Helga’s Folly, a totally whacky hotel in the hills above the lake where surrealist art has taken over. It is rather impressive but I’m not sure I’d like to stay there! Back at the hostel, I met the wonderful Manon and Sander from Holland and we agreed to walk up to the Buddha together the next morning. The walk was somewhat steep and very hot but the views were totally worth it. I even bought some freshly cut jasmine flowers as an offering.
What I might have forgotten to mention is the beautiful pink and white sapphire ring that may or may not have distracted me the previous day… So I hurriedly went to pick it up, now that it was resized especially for me. I wasn’t sure about buying something so extravagant so early on but it’s just too pretty! Though I thought I was heading to the Ceylon Tea Museum that afternoon, my tuk tuk driver actually took me 12km out of town to the fantastic Giragama tea factory – lost in translation or commission, I’m not sure, but the ride was cheap, entry free and I was given a very informative (and free!) tour by a lovely smiling girl. I even got a free cuppa at the end!
After a couple of days and my initial relief, Kandy’a traffic and crazy pollution were starting to get to me but I couldn’t really leave without visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, in which it is claimed that Buddha’s tooth lies. A couple of people told me the high entry fee was not worth it but I went for morning pooja and the experience was incredible. Admittedly the temple itself was not all that awe-inspiring but the sheer spirituality that emanated from the hundreds of locals was simply stunning. Rice, fresh flowers, hampers – people clad in white carried their offerings with delicate care amid the near stampede of worshippers. On top of that, the ticket gives you free access to a bunch of other buildings including the rather large World Museum of Buddhism, where the favourite thing I read was: “In the world, hatred never ceases by hatred, it ceases by love alone. This is an eternal law.”