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Published: January 9th 2015
The train to Kandy was pretty painless and more or less on time. We didn't actually go all the way there hoping off instead at nearby Peradeniya. We had arranged a couch surfing host somewhere in the middle of nowhere and Benjamin had arranged for a tuk tuk driver to meet us there and deliver us to our did for the night. The tuk tuk had a puncture and we had to walk the last hundred yards or so. Benjamin lives in a beautiful location deep in the hills a few miles outside of Kandy. He was working when we arrived so we were met by his mother who treated us to a delicious chicken curry lunch.
After a rest (travelling is so tiring!) the tuk tuk reappeared and took us into town just in time to catch a "cultural show". There are three of these going on in town and all of them suddenly doubled their prices on 1 January, much to everyone's surprise. It seems no hotels or hosts were aware of this at all judging by the confusion at the ticket office. We had some time to kill before the show and walked down to the lake.
By the time we got back the auditorium was full to bursting even though there were still 15 minutes to go. We got two seats together near the back but even latecomers got seated somehow. Quite how they expected to be anywhere near the front though is a mystery!
The show was 45 minutes of chanting, drumming, dancing and plate spinning, plus a bit of fire breathing and walking on hot coals outside. We thought the one in Cambodia was better but it's definitely worth doing. Get there early if you want a better view!!
Benjamin met us after the show and we walked down to the famous Tooth temple which houses one of the Buddha's teeth. It was the night of the full moon so it was packed with worshippers and tourist alike. Benjamin advised us not to go to the main temple but to look at the four smaller temples instead. That proved to be excellent advice. The monks chanting was hypnotic, the heavy scent of incense filled the air and wandering around the site was a very moving experience. Afterwards we saw Benjamin again but he had to go back to work so the tuk
tuk took us back to the house where a feast of Sri Lankan curries awaited. Benjamin then arrived just as we were going to bed.
The next morning we were up for an 8am breakfast of tea and hoppers. Hoppers are bowl shaped crispy coconut pancakes and can be eaten by themselves, with delicious homemade jam, or messily with a freshly fried egg inside. Soon enough the usual tuk tuk driver arrived and Benjamin joined us for our excursion to see the elephants. It took just over an hour to reach our destination, the Millennium Elephant Foundation,
who rescue working elephants and give them veterinarian services and an easier life in return for them giving rides to tourists. A fair trade or not? It's still a controversial subject but our thoughts are that the elephants are treated far better than in their previous working environment judging by the pictures we saw. It was a real treat to see the elephant and its mamut working together.
Next door to the foundation we were given a tour of Mr Ellie Poo,
a small factory which turns elephant dung into paper products. The process was pretty much as we had expected but a revelation was
that they alter the diet of the elephant to produce different colours. It's perhaps not a surprise that a diet rich in banana produces yellow paper. Where diet cannot produce the desired effect, natural dyes from flowers and plants are used.
Benjamin had had to dash back to Kandy on business so it was just the two of us with the tuk tuk driver. He took us to the gates of the elephant orphanage where we watched as the whole herd paraded home after a bath in the nearby river. Setting the babies was really nice.
On the way back to Kandy we made two stops. The first was at a spice garden where we are shown all manner of plants which are used for cooking and/or medicine. The idea was that you got a free tour in return for buying some of their products but we intend to do our shopping at the end of the holiday. The second stop was a tea factory where we saw the whole process before having a complimentary cup of tea. Again we didn't buy anything but we felt rested and refreshed!
Back at the house Benjamin's mum showed Russ
how to cook a wonderful aubergine curry which we look forward to trying when we get back to Spain. Our stay had been short but sweet, and after lunch we said our goodbyes before making our way to Kandy's hectic, manic bus station. We then had a great trip to Dambulla which you will be able to read about soon.
Two days later we were back in Kandy having stood up for two and a half hours on a bus packed to the gunwales. We stayed two nights at the lovely Green Villa
in a peaceful location overlooking nothing but trees, yet easy walking distance to the centre. It was really nice to see what a vibrant city Kandy is at night as we feasted on Indian curry before a spot of decadence with a chilled beer in the bar at the Queens Hotel.
The next day was election day in Sri Lanka and we didn't know if it would be disruptive at all. It all went off very peacefully. Not that we would have known anything else as we were in the Botanical gardens
most of the day. We took a train out to Peradeniya where we had about
half an hour to walk to the gardens. Based loosely on the famous gardens at Kew, we really enjoyed chilling out amongst the trees, plants and flowers. As well as the botanical aspect we also enjoyed seeing lots of different birds and once again the flying foxes (fruit bats) were numerous in the trees. What it must be like to see a squadron of those in flight! We made our way back to Kandy on a local bus and would really recommend doing this day trip precisely the way we did it rather than in a comparatively expensive tuk tuk.
Back in town we had a look around the central market and bought some fresh fruit before going back to the villa. Later on when we returned to find some dinner we found an eerie silence with almost everything closed down for the election. It was a bit like Tunisia during the revolution curfews, but without the sporadic gunfire! We did find somewhere to eat but the Devon wasn't a patch on the previous nights offerings. All bars were closed and we couldn't even find an old colonial bar for a nightcap. Instead we had an early night and
watched some Sri Lankan TV coverage about the election as it was in English!!
The next morning we travelled by tuk tuk to the train station to make our way up to tea country. The streets were deserted despite an election result having been declared. It seems people had been up all night waiting for confirmation of their change of government. The station was packed mostly with foreign tourists, and most were getting on the same train as we were.
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The Kandy Man!
How lovely to stay with a Kandy Man couchsurfer! It sounds as if his mom was a fab cook, and he was a sweet, hardworking, fellow. I love the Mr. Ellie Poo business--how great to turn this into something useful though I'm surprised the people there don't use the poo for cooking fires. Fine holiday!
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Glad you are getting around to see some off the beaten track places.
I loved reading about your experience guys. The cultural show and factory recycling elephant dung sounds like a must visit
Thanks Alan. Sri Lanka has exceeded our expectations!