KANDY & SIGIRIYA
Getting to Kandy from Colombo airport should be a 90 minute trip. However there is no highway (yet) so you are weaving in and out of traffic round bendy corners and trying not to crash into oncoming traffic. We stopped half way through for lunch, a buffet and drink for about $8 which was similar price to KL. The chicken was very spicy which is kind of what we expected but very nice none-the-less. The views along the way are beautiful and about an hour outside of Kandy we stopped at an Elephant Sanctuary where they treat sick and injured elephants.
There are over 6000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka but only 8 here at the Sanctuary. When we arrived you are given 4 options, you can just go inside but not ride an elephant, or you can also ride one for 6, 9 or 12 minutes. The price varies for each. I foolishly paid for us both for 6 minutes even though I knew I didn’t want to ride ($16 each) as I’d done it twice before and never really enjoyed the experience. When we got in we could see 4 elephants lying in the stream (actually all looked dead) and the other 4 tied up which I really don’t like to see. The guide told us by law they had to keep them locked up but either way, I don’t find it pleasant to see. We went in the water where we found out that they actually where just sleeping. As in Thailand we got to bathe them and then Aida got to jump on top and go for a ride on a 35 year old female. Also in the Sanctuary was a 60+ year old elephant, which they had rescued from a nearby village. It was very skinny and lanky and was in need of some TLC.
As usual in SL, everyone seems to want tips and its quite annoying especially when they ask for it. I told them to split my additional entrance fee between them and we headed off to our accommodation for the next three nights ‘Camarin Residence’.
The room was very basic and location near to the city (no toiletries though which meant we had to go out and buy some shampoo and shower gel). The weather by now was wet wet wet so luckily we had come prepared, Aida had bought a rain jacket and I’d bought an umbrella as both where required. As it was a Sunday evening most places where closed so we found the only restaurant open and ate in there. It was to prove a good option as both our meals where delicious and the price was reasonable for a sit down restaurant.
Day 2 started with a visit to the most sacred place in Sri Lanka ‘The Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic’. As with all temples it was pretty impressive, but never before have we seen a huge elephant wondering through the grounds. The story of the tooth is pretty far fetched but the locals flock from far and wide to visit. The grounds are pretty large and the entrance fee is about $7.50 each. From here we headed to a few local shops, firstly a silk shop and secondly a gem shop. Personally I hate going into these places as I always feel uncomfortable and under pressure to buy something. The silk shop was fine as we got to try on some traditional dress but haggling on paintings wasn’t like in other parts of Asia and what we liked was a little expensive for what it was.
The gem shop was interesting as we saw (via DVD) how they located the gems and then had a guide take us around. I certainly didn’t feel under pressure to buy anything here as most things were well outside our budget or even bank accounts budget.
As usual lunch was somewhere were our guide could eat free. No problems with that other than they are usually over priced for what you get. The restaurant was on the roof so had a good view of the hills. The food was ok but there are cheaper options in Kandy I’d assume serving better food.
From here we headed to the Botanical Gardens where the monkeys roam free and unlike in Malaysia they don’t pester you. The gardens and trees are impressive and walking round will take you between an hour and 90 mins, depending on how much of the gardens you wish to visit. Watch out for the local lovers fondling in Cooks Pine Avenue!!
We finished just in time as the rain came down again so we headed back to the hotel to relax.
On the evening we went into the ‘city’ centre (more like a very small town) to have a wander around. The streets are still very much like they were in the photos at our hotel circa 1895. It was about a 15 minute walk to the river where most of the action is. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed, there is very little to do and see, we did see one or two bars but thought better and headed back for an early night.
Day 3 (Sigiriya)
Up at 6.30am on vacation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but we had a date with Sigiraya, 3 hours north of Kandy. Sigiraya or The Lion Rock is a unique landscape city created in the 5th century and is well worth the visit ($30 entry though!). I had been in 2009 and although it was quite out of the way I felt it was essential Aida visited. The day started off poorly as it was raining heavily, not what you require when visiting a UNISCO site. Weaving through the roads to the north, dodging dogs and tut tuts was another experience but we arrived safely, the rain eased off and we set off on the trail, which takes about an hour to the top depending on how busy it is. Stuck behind the Chinese hampered our progress especially as they wanted photos taken every 5 steps.
Taking over was attempted but we were soon caught up and every photo of ours was as predicted interrupted as they walked into view without a thought for anyone other than themselves. Anyway, the views were as impressive as my first visit and the lack of sun was a blessing as previously it had been far too hot. The walk down is pretty quick in comparison and our guide Bandu was waiting for us at the bottom along with all the guys selling everything other than their grandmothers. We headed off for lunch, another buffet and I finished off another book on the way back in the car (Gordy’s Tales by Gordon Tallis), which I’d only started the night before.