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Published: November 4th 2016
Breakfast was not buffet today, and I think i missed it really, not as much choice and my scrambled egg came on a soggy piece of white bread. It was simply that there werent enough people at the hotel to make it worth while. Not an elephant in sight to brighten the day, as we packed up our cases.
The first stop was unscheduled, and we had mixed feelings about doing it, but our thoughts were that if you don't support these things sometimes, the suffering as a result is worse. An elephant eats 250 kilos of food a day, so at least the entry fee was going to help with what must be a considerable bill! We called at an elephant safari place and waited for a big group to return to we could take a turn. Getting on the elephant was as much a challenge as anything, sliding down to sit side saddle on its back in a sort of cage. We relinqshed one of the cameras to a man to take pictures of us on the way round, and whilst the mahoot shouted at the elephant instructions, he didn't actually use his stick and
prod. The Elephant was called Waasana, a 20 year old male. Part of the way round, we bought a couple of bags of fruit to feed him. He knew, immediately put his trunk up to grab the melon and corn we had bought. It is only when in such close proximity to these beautiful animals that you remember how hairy they actually are, and how they use their trunks for everything, including smell - after we had finished the fruit he continued to smell the air, and us and blow down his trunk at us.
Our next stop was Dambulla, and the cave temple complex. Sited on a gigantic granite outcrop over 160m above the surrounding land, there are 5 caves temples in all. At the bottom of the hill, there is the largest golden Buddha in the dhamma chakka pose, at over 30m. This is a relatively rich temple, as they also have their own radio station, TV channel and newspaper. The climb upto the caves is approx 600 steps, with the usual accompaniment of monkeys along the way. Each of the caves contained an astounding number of Buddha, some in the sleeping pose (eyes open, toes at
the same level) together with elaborate painted ceilings. We have seen a number of statues on our travels, and I can say that we were quite impressed with the caves and their contents. After a much needed water stop on the way back to the car, we continued our journey. We also tried the ginger beer, which is very refreshing and good for the Digestion.
The area that we were driving through was famed for its herb and spice production for both cookery and medicinal purposes. We stopped at Luckgrove, one of the producers, and were given a tour of the various plan that they cultivate, together with some samples. We were then given the opportunity to purchase some of the products, before going through to lunch. It wasn't the best we had had, as there were no label on anything and a swarm of Chinese devoured most of the buffet in one swoop, with little regard for anyone else.
We headed to Kandy and to our hotel where we needed to change for the evening activities. Indy had booked us seats at the Cultural Show, and then we were to go to the Temple of the Sacred
Tooth. In keeping with the sacred nature of the temple we had been asked to wear white, so I dug out my India tunic and trousers. We got to the show a little early, so had a small amount of free time to look at some of the handicrafts on sale. We even had a demonstration of brass working in record time where the man made us a small elephant. We then went to take our seats, Indy had secured ones on the front row, as the show began. It was the usual fare of drumming, dancing in various costumes, although they confused us by switching two of the dances on the sheet, and acrobatics. At the very end of the show, the piece de resistance was fire walking.
We then walked along to the Temple (Dalada Maligawa), where there remains a tight security presence, the remnants of a Tamil Tiger attack 20 years ago, and after removing our shoes went inside. Firstly there was drumming and trumpet/ flute blowing from 3 men, and the monks appeared with the key to the staircase which they can go up to the relic. Although the wrong thing to think, imagine Indiana
Jones and you wouldn't be far wrong! Normal people take the stairs. Indy then ushered us past the queuew that had formed to the upper level and we took up a position directly opposite the door whiCh would open to reveal the casket. The alternative was to queue with everyone else to walk past the casket, but they weren't allowed to take photos and we were. After a short wait, the door opened and a very shiny golden casket was revealed and then covered by people walking passed it - "I can see wonderful things".
We went downstairs into a hall where the story of the tooth relic is displayed on large plaques around the room - the short version is Buddha was born in India, could immediately walk, achieved enlightenment, died, was cremated at which point a monk removed a tooth, It was taken to Sri Lanka, and then back and forth to India, someone tried to destroy it, and returned to Sri Lanka. The British tried to ban Buddhism, admitted defeat and the tooth relic was kept in its present temple. That is the shortened version!
We returned to the hotel, changed and Indy took us
out for dinner. The city is built round a lake, and as we looked over and up into the hillside, we would see a Buddha that was illuminated, but it was too hazy to get a photo. The restaurant Senani was up the hillside, and the food was excellent. We avoided the plinky plonkers, and sent them to another table where their rendition of "Take me home country road" bore no resemblance to any version we had ever heard. We returned to the Hotel Suisse - the former residence of Lord Mountbatten, for drinks in the bar. It has that colonial feel, with a billiard room And wood panneliing, and looking through to the dining room, I'm expecting great things at breakfast. The only reservation has to be the quality of the artiste we were treated to whilst people were finishing dinner, a strangled cat was more tuneful!
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