Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kandy and Colombo, Sri Lanka 16-18 Jan 2014

Sri Lanka Train Ride
2nd Class carriage
The train from Nuwara Eliya left on time. We've got a seat reserved in Class 2. Normally we can pay much cheaper for a non reserved seat but that will not guarantee a window seat or any seat. Since the journey takes 4 hours and we want to enjoy the scenic view to Kandy, we decided to spend the money. Class 2 is non air conditioned but we don't need it anyway with the cool air in the hill country. The seats are spacious and the carriage is clean. The Class S12 train is a diesel multiple-unit (DMU), built for Sri Lanka Railways by China's CSR Corporation. They were brought in in August 2012. 


Tea plantation

The first 2 hours of the ride brought us through the hill country. We pass through numerous tunnels, bridges, tea plantations that cover the hills like carpets, locals waving to us while the train pass through their villages and scenic view of mountains and valley beneath. It is definitely a sight not to be miss in Sri Lanka. 

Kandy lake
We arrived at Kandy around 4:30pm, the train continue to Colombo. It was raining again and we were hungry, so we found a small restaurant near by to eat and to check where we should go for accommodation. It seems the nearest guesthouse is by the lake side. The traffic was bad, everyone getting off work and heading home. We found our way to Saranankara Road. It was about 1.5 km from the train station. There are many guesthouses along the road going uphill. We finally found our room at Mango Garden. There was a construction right opposite, we chose a room at the back, away from the main building but it was nice a quiet. We decided to eat in the hotel that night. Too tired to walk to town. The food was delicious but more expensive than outside restaurant. 

After a good night sleep, we headed out early. The weather was nice and sunny. The short 1.5km walk along the lake took us 40 minutes, as we discovered varieties of birds and monitor lizards by the lake. The town was bustling with cars, buses and tuk tuk. It was quite easy to navigate by foot. After a big breakfast, we head to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic. 

Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic
Daily Thewawa session
The Buddhist Temple houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It was believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country and Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. The daily praying session is scheduled at 5:30am, 9:30am and 6:30pm. We were just in time for the 9:30am session. The drums were beating, we followed the crowd up stairs to the praying hall. The sacred tooth relic is kept in a room in a gold casket shape of a stupa. We queue for our turn to offer flowers and have a quick glance at the Tooth Relic from the little window. No chance of taking any photos. The locals dressed in all white line up with their offering and got their turn to go into the room where the Tooth Relic was kept. The long table line up outside was full of flowers offered from the devotees.

Around the temple, there is the Paththirippuwa (Octogan shape building), new Royal Palace, Audience Hall, the old palace which is now preserved as an archaeological museum and the Elephant Museum. Then we stroll to town and found a souvenir shops, we were suppose to head to the Ceylon Tea Museum but we found this shop selling many varieties of tea at a good price. Did our shopping and then head to the local market. The local market is always an interesting place to visit. There are lots of spice stalls, vegetables stalls, fruits stalls and grocery stalls. Tropical fruits are same as what we have in Malaysia like papaya, pineapple, banana, watermelon, coconut and mango but we didn't find any durian. 

Local market
Local market

We finished our evening by a slow walk around the lake, it was a great site for bird watching. There were Indian Cormorant, White Egret Crane, Asian Openbill, Wood Stork, Pelican, Lesser Whistling Duck, White-Throated Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Stork-billed Kingfisher and hundreds of fruit bats hanging on the tree. We met a group of youngster who were playing musics and singing, they invited us to join them. We hung out for a while, and noticed that other foreigner tried to ignore them and walk away. I guess sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the genuine nice people and people with hidden agenda.  

White Egret Crane
Asian Openbill
Indian Pond Heron
Stork-billed Kingfisher

Black-crowned Night Heron
Fruit bat

Indian Cormorant
Royal Botanic Garden
Our last day in Kandy and Sri Lanka, we visited the Royal Botanic Garden. We were looking forward to the Orchid Garden, but we were really disappointed, there were not many orchids and the orchid plants are lack of maintenance. Don't waste your time there. The Botanic Garden itself is impressive, it covers about 147 acres, with many type of plants. The walk around it was nice with display of varieties of palm trees, flower garden, bamboo, and others. My favorite was the huge Giant Java Almond tree. My least favorite was the thousands of fruit bats hanging on the stretch of trees on the western side of the park. That ends our visit in Kandy. The rest of the afternoon was spent travelling on bus to Colombo, and from Colombo to airport for our flight back to Singapore.

Giant Java Almond tree
Many people thought Sri Lanka is dangerous, didn't know what is there to see and thought it is just like India but that is a wrong conception. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer. The people are the gems. The country is clean and I fully respect the government to ban public smoking. Something an advanced country like Singapore or Malaysia are not able to do. If you are looking for beach, mountain, culture, wildlife and the nation of smiling people. Sri Lanka is the place! :-)

Friendly Staff of Hotel Mango Garden
Hotel Mango Garden – 2300rp per room/night with fan, attached toilet with hot water and wifi.

Local bus from Royal Botanic Garden - 70rp pp (2 way)
Local bus to Colombo - 160rp pp
Aircon shuttle bus to Airport - 200rp pp

Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic entrance fee - 1000rps
Royal Botanic Garden entrance fee - 1100rps