I was excited to start my Sri Lankan journey with a train trip to Kandy. Kandy is located in the middle of the island by lush forests and mountains. I had booked the “Observation” car for this trip. I had images of an air conditioned car with large comfy seats in a glass dome to watch the world go by, but of course this was not the case at all!! The car had little fans stuck to the roof that did a small rotation, but mostly the air flow as coming from the open windows. We were in the last car, sitting backwards, facing a large grubby window, watching what we were leaving behind. It wasn’t too bad, but we were bouncing around like bobble heads for 3 hours. I was sat next to a lovely lady from India. I mentioned I was travelling around and I had been to India. I get nervous when people ask me what I think of India, especially when it is their home country, because I cannot lie to save my life but I don’t want to come straight out and tell them my real thoughts. I simple state, “ I am glad I went, but I won’t be going back”. That’s diplomatic enough right?
The real scenic ride is from Kandy to Ella and wasn’t for a few more days, so as our chat came to a natural finish and we settled in, I decided to sleep this one out.
We pulled into Kandy station. I found a driver and off we headed to the hotel. I had arrived during Vesak, a festival celebrating Buddha’s birth. Everyone dresses in white and visits the temples. They also set up little stands on the side of the road and give away food and tea for free. For example I saw they were giving away ice cream and cups of tea. On the way to the hotel, my driver stopped and we were handed a banana leaf with a spicy chickpea mix. It was actually quite tasty. I also received a bag when I went walking through the town later that day, which contained a bread roll with a similar spicy onion filling and a vanilla milk pouch.
I though I had booked a hotel by the lake….it was in fact by the river and about a 10 minute drive out-of-town. When we pulled up, there was no one on the front desk. I called out a few times but no one arrived. I then had to go looking for the staff and came across a boy in his late teens making up a room. He then went and found the owner. It was a little odd, I didn’t have to make payment or register, I was just given a key! I went to my room and it was great. I had a beautiful view of the forest. I turned on the TV and couldn’t believe I had found an Australian channel and it was broadcasting the Western Derby between West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers. I actually sat and watched the game and surprised myself that I was into it! I must have felt a little homesick.
After the game I managed to get a tuk tuk into town. It was packed by all the locals celebrating. The festival went for 2 days and this was day one. I wanted to visit the Sacred Tooth temple but best thought I would leave this until the festivities had finished. I had walked around the town and went in and out of shops. I couldn’t really find anywhere to have lunch. There either seemed to be a lack in places to eat or they must have been shut. Then the heavens opened up and it started to pour. I pulled out my poncho to try to keep myself a little dry. I found a KFC, and with no other options thought I might get a feed. I love going into fast food chains in other countries to see how they do things. Even though it is franchised, the menus always reflect the local culture, like McDonald’s in India do not serve any beef burgers (not even a Big Mac!). KFC in South Carolina didn’t come with hot chips, you had to order wedges, but the meals came with a biscuit. So KFC Sri Lanka, the chicken does not come in original or hot n spicy, it comes just as spicy and hot chips were not a thing either. It was alright. It was food, it was hot and I didn’t get sick, so to me It was a success.
Back in the rain, I walked around the beautiful lake and made my way back to the hotel. I kept getting asked If I wanted to go to the cultural dance show. It seemed to me that if a local brought you to the show they would get a commission because everyone was hell-bent on telling you about it! I had googled it when I got back to the hotel in case it was something I wanted to do the next night, but the reviews were not that good. A lot of tourists said it was alright but bit of a waste of time. By the 6th person I stopped, faced them and said “NO I don’t want to go to the cultural dance show. I have no interest in it what so ever!!”
I was a little disappointed in myself for not doing proper research on what to do in Kandy. I was sort of flying blind and not enjoying it. I jumped online and saw there was an elephant orphanage that you could visit. It came up under a search “things to do in Kandy”. The trusty internet also told me that it was a 40 minute drive away. Perfect little day trip. So I get the hotel guy to get me a tuk tuk and off I went. The hotel guy asked if I wanted a car instead of a tuk tuk for more comfort. I declined as I found the tuk tuks more fun. I am so glad I did, or I think I would still be stuck in the traffic! It was day 2 of Vesak and the streets were jammed badly. Luckily the tuk tuk could weave in and out of the traffic and keep moving. We drove and we drove. It was not 40 minutes away but 2.5 hours EACH WAY!!! I was half way back to Colombo!
When I arrived at the orphanage, it was really hot. I scouted out an icy pole and went looking for elephants. I watch some eating, but the still had chains around their feet which made me sad. A guide tapped me on the shoulder and told me he would take me to the river to see them bathing. I followed him and though it was a bit weird that we were leaving the grounds, crossing the road and heading down some back streets. But my internal gut instinct said it was alright, there were no alarms as such. Next thing I know I am sitting under an umbrella watching 30-40 elephants bath and frolic around in this massive river!! It was so amazing to see! I was captivated by 3 elephants that loved laying in the water, completely submerged with their trunks out like snorkels. They were loving the water, while some tentatively just stood there, not really that into it. After half an hour of watching, they were herded up and out of the water and walked back to the sanctuary grounds. They walked right past us, like a parade. In my head I had them walking to the song from the cartoon, Dumbo, ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’. Nothing could have topped that for the day, so it was time to make the long trip back to the hotel.
It was dark by the time I arrived back at the hotel. Due to the lack of eating options in town and the remoteness of the hotel, I decided to eat in. There was only one other family. It was starting to feel a little creepy at how empty the property was. So far I was not getting the vibe I was hoping for in Sri Lanka, and thoughts starting to creep in, like do I want to keep travelling? Am I lonely? I kept telling myself to give it one more day. I had one more day in Kandy and then I was off to Ella. In Ella I was staying in a hostel with a more of a social vibe, so hopefully it will be different.
On my last day in Kandy, I had a slower start. Watched a movie and worked on the blog in the morning. In the afternoon I headed back into town to go the Sacred Tooth Temple. It was named this as it is believed that a tooth from Buddha is kept here. Kind of gross when you think about it. I hired a guide to take me around. It was a lovely temple. It was interesting learning about how Sri Lankans practise Buddhism. I had been learning a lot about Buddhism from India and Nepal as well as my time in China last year, I visited the world largest Buddhist statue.
Coming into town this time, I had done some research on places to eat. I had picked a grill joint and saved it in my offline maps. After the temple I was starving and couldn’t wait to eat. I followed the directions and walked up and down this loooooong street. I couldn’t find this place, nor again any place to eat. The only place I found was a Pizza Hut. With a heavy sigh I entered. I settled on some garlic bread and a barberque chicken pizza. The garlic bread was amazing and I was so happy. I couldn’t wait for my main. Then it came out and I was so disappointed. My chicken was covered in pepper, which I hate. I picked around it and ate my crusts. The food at the hotel was worse so eating more there was not really an option.
I went back to the hotel and sorted my bag out for tomorrow mornings journey to Ella. I was getting excited as this train journey is rated as one of the most scenic in the world! Bag packed, batteries for the camera charged. I’m ready to leave Kandy.