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Published: July 14th 2009
After breakfast, we wanted to take a stroll along Galle Face Green, so we walked towards the coast. After passing through a security check and walking past the World Trade Centre, we arrived at the coast, only to be turned away by a soldier. We were disappointed, because the victory parade had already ended on the previous day and the Galle Face Green should be reopened by then. But, the soldier refused to let us through, citing security concerns. Do my mum and I look like terrorists who will blow up something on the seaside promenade? (Even if we want to blow something up, there's nothing we can blow up along the promenade, except for a flag-mast...)
Since our train to Kandy would only leave at 3:35pm, we still had a lot of time to spare in Colombo. In the end, we decided to go to the Sri Subramania Kovil temple - one of Colombo's most interesting Hindu temples. Despite seeing numerous Hindu temples in Singapore, I had never entered one, so this visit was my first to a Hindu temple. Like many Hindu temples I've seen, this temple had a tall "gopuram" (a monumental tower filled with statues and
decorations) above the entrance. Inside the temple, there were numerous shrines dedicated to the different Hindu gods, including Buddha. In the centre stood the main shrine. We only looked at the exterior of the main shrine and didn't enter, because only men were allowed (and men had to take their shift off before entering...) There was a man who kept following us and claimed to be a janitor of the temple. He kept talking about the architecture and the history of the temple, and he even put a dot of red mud on our forehead, despite my mum's refusal. As expected, he asked for a tip when we were about to leave. Since we had a habit of leaving a donation at every temple/church that we visited, my mum gave him some money. When we were leaving, another janitor asked for money, claiming that he was looking after our shoes throughout our visit. We were rather irritated, so we ignored the 2nd janitor. (This temple was the only place of worship in Sri Lanka where people asked us for money. For other places of worship, nobody asked us for money and we donated money willingly.)
From Sri Subramania Kovil
temple, we decided to head for the coast again and "try our luck" to get to the Galle Face Green. This time, we managed to reach the Galle Face Hotel (a grand hotel at the southern end of Galle Face Green) without anyone stopping us. The Galle Face Hotel reminded me of Singapore's Raffles Hotel or Hong Kong's Peninsular Hotel - colonial architecture, staffs in formal attires, limousines parking in front of the entrance, etc... (This is definitely one hotel that I won't be able to afford...) After using the hotel's toilet and roaming along the hotel's corridors, we decided to go back to the Fort District via the Galle Face Green. This time, nobody stopped us from going to the seaside. We walked along the entire length of the seaside promenade, enjoying the gentle sea breeze and the wonderful sunshine. I just didn't understand why the soldier turned us away in the morning. I didn't see anything that could cause a security concern...
Returning to the Fort district, we had lunch at KFC (inside Cargills department store). As we had a heavy breakfast, we only had a sundae for lunch. There were not many people in KFC, probably
because not many Sri Lankans can afford the prices (which is more or less the same as the KFC in the states...) After lunch, we went back to our hotel, collected our luggage, and made our way to Fort Railway Station. We were early for our train, so we went into the platform area. As expected, we were surrounded by a group of touts/hustlers. My mum was so irritated that she went into the station-master's office to complain. The station-master told us to wait for the train in the single-sex waiting rooms. My mum went into the female waiting room and had a peaceful time. I went into the male waiting room, and I was pestered by a man who kept talking about package tours. After a 40-minute wait, our train finally arrived. I was rather disappointed when I saw our train. Firstly, the train had no air-con. (We bought 1st-class tickets and I expected air-con.) Secondly, there's no space for luggage storage. So we had no choice but to put our 2 bulky suitcases along the corridor. The train windows were open, so there were hustlers pestering us through the window. Things only started to improve when the train
The train ride to Kandy took us almost 3 hours. In the 1st class train carriage, all the seats were facing backwards, and there was a huge window at the end of the car. Our seat was the 2nd row from the end, so we could see the view out of the huge window. There was actually nothing much to see from the huge window, as it was raining heavily during the 1st half of the journey and the sun was shining so brightly during the 2nd half of the journey that the passengers at the 1st row closed the curtains. (The train was heading east, the sun was heading west, and our seats faced the west. You get the idea...)
Upon arrival at Kandy, we decided to walk to our hotel, since it's just half a km. (More importantly, we read about the notorious dishonesty of Kandy's tuk-tuk drivers and we wanted to avoid being ripped off.) We stayed at the Queens Hotel, a place full of colonial charm and grandeur. (The prices were quite affordable for such a posh place.) Our room faced the famous Tooth Relic Temple and we could also see Kandy Lake.
The weather in Kandy was much cooler than Colombo, as Kandy is 500m above sea level. The whole region reminds me of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, which also enjoys a cooler weather thanks to higher altitudes. After unpacking our luggage, we went to a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner. In this restaurant, we encounter this man named Bala, who claimed that he could offer us a day-trip around the region for only 3800 rupees (around USD33). He also offered to help us get tickets for the Kandyan dances show for 500 rupees per person. Seeing his sincerity, we agreed the deal. (On the next day we would discover his true side, but I will leave that to next day's blog...)
After dinner, we returned to our posh hotel, took a shower and slept.
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