Today we awoke to more rain. Getting used to the tropical nature of Sri Lanka and so different to the weather we had in the Maldives. Despite this, it’s not cold and the rain is casually quite refreshing. Breakfast was a buffet including western food – strangely here the Sri Lankan section didn’t seem to be that popular – must have something to do with the fact that every tourist we have seen in this hotel is white.
We departed at 8am and were promptly told that we need to have long pants on, oops missed that memo.
We arrived at Dambulla cave temple and dug out the long pants from the bag, quickly changing in the back of the car. In front of us was a giant golden Buddha soaring up into the sky with the back drop of a giant mountain behind it. Here at Dambulla, which is a World Heritage listed site, we then had to climb a large number of steps in long pants and thongs… oops missed the other memo about needing to wear shoes. Walking the steps was like walking to the head of the Buddha except that there were only a number of times where you could see it. When we got to the top, we handed in our shoes (thongs) to the little man who was earning 25 cents per pair looking after them and then entered through a white arched opening. In front of us was a large long rock with a rendered white building attached to the underside of it. All this was soaring some 160 metres above the ground and so the view from this point was impressive. The building contained five different rooms within the cave, all with various pagodas and statues of Buddhas inside (153 in total). The Buddha itself was lying down within the cave given the length of it, whilst other statues were in the typical buddha poses around the walls of the rooms. Looking up at the roof it was covered with a multitude of frescos and there was a distinct smell of incense burning. If there was no giant Buddha at the base of the mountain, this place could easily be unnoticed.
It was quite impressive to think that elephants had pulled up this limestone rock and created these figures at the top of the mountain some hundred of years ago.
After visiting the caves we made our way to Kandy a couple of hours drive away. The terrain became significantly more hilly, forested and green. Claire said it reminded her of the towns outside of Noosa such as Montville and Maleny but maybe this was even more lush and tropical. Mist hung on the tops of the mountains and the only flat land had cuts in it where crops would be grown. The road wound its way up and over mountains and the traffic became decidedly more busy as we got closer to Kandy town. This was the home of our guide, Keeth who was very excited at the prospect of us being in his backyard and him showing us around.
We arrived in time for lunch and were taken to a restaurant with a fabulous view overlooking the city of Kandy. Now it appears that Keeth has worked out that we aren’t really into hot curries as this place had a mixture of Chinese style dishes with a little pasta and of course curry if you were inclined (we weren’t). It was also the chance to finally taste a ice cold straight from the can Diet Coke…oh how I have missed you.
Kandy is situated in the valley of a mountain range. In the centre of town is a giant man made lake with an edging around it constructed of white triangular rock. Near the lake is a massive Buddhist temple complex and in the mountain perched high, looking over the town is a white Buddha statue. Apart from the town itself and the lake filling up the basin of the area, the rest of the view is dense green terrain. It is quite a contrast to other areas we have visited, including a significant drop in temperature due to the height of the town and its location within Sri Lanka.
After eating a very enjoyable lunch including a huge serving of banana fritters and ice cream, we were taken to the ‘gem and jewellery’ pitch at a nearby store which we politely listened to and then left. Every tour has the stop at the shop whether you want it or not. You know it’s coming you just don’t know when!
After that we had asked Keeth to take us to the Kandy cricket ground. Now this is where the Aussies play when they come to town. It is overseen by the Trinity school, who we are reliably told can do what they want. Well the ground itself can only be described as quaint and the complete antithesis of the MCG. There was a small seated area in front of the building that would house the two teams, the scoreboard was so old that schools like Scotch and Xavier would have torn it down long ago and erected a new electronic one. The side screen was made up of white panels some of which had fallen off and on one side was a white building which could easily have been reached with a small six hit by David Warner. Yep quaint it was but a space that would really need to be described to any new Aussie cricketer just for how different it is to what they play on each day.
After seeing the cricket ground, we decided to enquire as to how we could get to sample the chocolate that Keeth’s wife makes at her place of employment. With minutes the ‘Kandy man’ had pulled into a supermarket and was showing us the brand to buy making sure we didn’t buy the opposition chocolate.
At around 3pm, we were then taken to our hotel some distance out of town. The Melheim was not as flash as the hotel yesterday but still very nice. We were given 45 minutes to freshen up before heading out again. This time we made our way to the massive temple complex that we had seen in the valley earlier today. This place was extremely busy both with tourists and also Buddhists who had come to pray. This is apparently the place where the tooth of Buddha himself is kept and as such a prominent place of worship for those of this faith. It was an interesting place to visit however the time was relatively short and the number of people hardly made for the relaxing or reflective space that I think it is intended to be.
Following the visit to ‘The temple of the tooth’, we then made our way to Keeth’s house for a cup of tea and ultimately to drop Keeth off for the night. Now we’ve mentioned before about the lemon filled biscuits, well out come one of the other two options – Ginger biscuits. The tea was ok if you like tea and helpful in washing down the taste of the biscuit but it was nice to meet his family including his mother who lives at the house. His wife also told us how to make ‘sting hoppers’ which is a kind of noodle that we thought was bought from a supermarket but is in actual fact made at home and then steamed for around 20 minutes. Eaten with vegetable Dahl they are a nice fresh accompaniment and change from the standard rice option.
Finally at around 8pm we made it back to the hotel given some excellent navigation by our driver who had only ever been to Keeth’s house and this hotel once and not in the dark. A quick bite to eat and then in bed ready for a 7am start tomorrow.