Leaving Habarana around 11am saw us get to Kandy a bit after 1pm. Kandy was definitely happening at a different pace to the sleepy town we had just left. Traffic fought to make headway in the clogged, narrow streets and the sound of busy city life came at us thick and fast.
We got off the bus at the depot in the city centre and checked our hostels location. It was 4km from the station and we couldn’t figure out the bus to take to get there, so resigned ourselves to a Tuk Tuk. By now we knew that a Tuk Tuk should be no more than 1aud per km (for cities, less in rural towns) so we bartered and got a Tuk Tuk for 400.
We dropped our luggage off and decided to head back into town and simply spend the afternoon wandering the streets.
The rain continued to trickle during the afternoon, so my awesome new 80’s umbrella got to make its first appearance (and it got some good looks too!) To get into town from our hostel we had to take a bus or walk about 4km around the lake. The lake in Kandy it manmade, but it is still impressive. We saw turtles, goannas, fish galore and and abundance of birds as we strolled leisurely. Young local couples used the lake as a chance to catch up with lovers and despite the maddening traffic buzzing on the roads encircling you, the lake gave the heart of this city a place of calm.
Once in town we walked the streets for a few hours, seeing nothing of much beauty of intrigue just shops selling all the usual items found in big cities. As dinner started to approach we found ourselves feeling disheartened as we had not yet seen somewhere to eat. We started to walk back towards the lake and on a tip from friends looked up ‘Slightly chill place’ and headed there for dinner.
After a few nights of cheap food we got there only to realise our money would not stretch far enough for two meals. Hungry and starting to feel anxious that this was yet again an expensive, not so nice city, we headed further towards home. Halfway home we found a burger bar that was 5aud for a meal with a drink, so we stopped there, too done with the day to bother trying to find anything that sold local cuisine.
Upon getting back to our rooms we met our room mates – two lovely young french Swiss girls. One of the girls (who’s name eludes me now and I feel terrible!) spoke fluent english and was most excited to let us in on all she had learnt about Sri Lanka. Thanks to her we found out that the best places for food was anywhere calling themselves a ‘Bakery’ as they did bake goods but also Kottu and rice and curry for around 2aud and were delicious. She also complained about the ‘expensive’ massage they got talked into and Stu and I both had to sit and nod our heads sheepishly as her massage had been not even a third of the price we paid! We all spoke for a while about ongoing travel plans and tried to get an early bed.
The next day saw more rain forecast, but only light rain for most of the day and one or two hours of heavy rain. We decided to venture out for the day anyway, making our plan to hit up the markets early morning, before stopping for coffee during the forecast downpour and finishing the day at the Tooth temple.
The markets were my first ever try at bartering. As it turned out, the guys who was selling the bag I wanted already offered fair prices, so I only got a few dollars off. Stu had to work a bit harder, choosing to get two linen shirts and a sarong, he was able to talk the price down quite a way. We left the markets as the clouds started to gather and went into the fancy hotel on the corner to take shelter and get a good coffee. As it turned out, the coffee was cheap, at 1aud each for a large pot and our timing was perfect. The heavens opened up as our coffee was served and we sat and watched the chaos outside as people scrambled for shelter. The coffee lasted us just over an hour and by that time the rain had eased, so we headed towards the Tooth temple.
The Tooth temple was beautiful. The paintings in this temple were the most intricate we had seen so far and the rich colours against the dark, carved wood gave it a luxurious feel. Pilgrims dressed head to toe in white found any space they could inside the temple to sit and pray, lost in their own chants and thoughts. The Tooth temple is named this way as it is believed to house one of Buddhas teeth, a tooth that preformed a miracle as a non believing king tried to destroy it, only for the tooth to remain unbroken and to hover in the sky.
The evening cleared and we decided a cheeky beer might be in order. ‘The Pub’ (one of only two pubs in the whole city) was only a block from the temple. The beers were 6aud for a litre, which was over priced but our options were limited. We settled into the whikker chairs and played some cards, interrupting our game anytime someone was willing to chat with us about their travels. Two beers and a few conversations later we headed to the Muslim bakery that was located on the same street as the Pub, just 20 metres down. We ordered multiple curries and rotti and for under 4aud we ate like kings that night.
The next day we designated as a planning and rest day. We walked around the lake, ate more delicious Curries, street treats and Kottu and planned our next move before an early bed.
Overall, Kandy was a city of cheap, delicious food on every corner (once we knew to look for Bakeries, thanks girls!) good markets and home to one very pretty temple. It was also just another city, and for me I found myself very ready to move on and back to the country by the end of our three days.