Had ordered an early-ish breakfast so we could spend the day walking. Around the UNESCO town of Kandy. Ate a traditional Sri Lankan meal of Roti, daal and coconut sambol (crushed coconut and chilli). Clearly, the last few night of not sleeping properly had caught up on me as I also downed three cups of coffee! Invited Caroline and Shauna to walk down to town with us and along the way we saw a giant Buddha in the hills – something we would never have seen had we gotten a TukTuk. Arrived in town and went our separate ways – Caroline was meeting a friend for brunch, Shauna went to the train station to get her ticket to Ella and we headed to the bus station to work out how to get to Sigiriya tomorrow. The enquiry desk man was so lovely as he explained that it was far easier to go to Dambulla first and then get a second bus to Sigiriya. As we left the bus station, we bought some oranges and lychees. Started walking towards the lake which was artificially created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy. Apparently, a few people objected to it being made to work on the project so he ordered them to be put to death on stakes in the lake bed… A short walk around the lake and we entered the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – a golden roofed temple that houses the tooth of Lord Buddha that had been recovered from his funeral pyre in 483BC and brought to Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess for safe keeping. Constructed mainly under Kandyan Kings, the temple was constructed in two parts from 1687 to 1707 and from 1747 to 1782. Heavily guarded for most of the day, we were fortunate enough to be in time to see the gold casket shaped like a dagoba (stupa) which contains a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size. The hallway that the gold casket is in was jammed packed with tourists and locals trying to get a glimpse of the gold casket before it was shut away again for the day. There was a table lined with flower offerings from Buddhists and they were swarming with bees – that’s how fresh they were!!! Headed down the staircase and went back up the other side to try and get another chance at seeing ‘the tooth’ but it had already been sealed off by the time we got upstairs. Sat to one side of the hall, watched the offerings being given and listened to a family chant for about 10 minutes in prayer. Left the temple and entered the newer and larger three-storey – Alut Maligawa. Containing dozens of sitting Buddhas, it also told the story via about 21 paintings of why the tooth was so important and how many people had revered it whilst others also tried to destroy it. Walked through to the other side, missing out on the two museums in the complex (which you had to pay an additional fee for), heading instead to the audience Hall. Built in the 19-century, it is an open air pavilion. Notably, the stone columns that are carved to look like wooden pillars – and they really do!! A visit to the royal palace to see artefacts that had been recovered from the site during excavations. I visited the taxidermy of Rajah the Tusker, the revered elephant who died in 1988 after serving for over 50 years. The black and white photos on the right wall showed his life whilst the photos on the left wall showed how he was preserved and stuffed… No wonder it looked like he was crying!! Left the complex, crossing the moat where we spotted a water monitor lizard. Bumped into another traveller called Daniel and we all headed off to get a coffee. Had a nice long chat about our respective travel stories and proposed routes. Seems we are doing a similar route to Daniel although he has only just started his trip in Sri Lanka and has yet to visit India. Decided to walk up the hill towards the giant Buddha. Having made the way up the hill, Jayne and I refused to pay 200LKR to enter a holy site. Told Daniel we would wait for him but he joined us a minute later as the boy asking for money had no change!! Decided we had all had enough for one day so we said goodbye to Daniel, exchanging contact details and headed back to our hostel. Jumped in the pool when we got back – still freezing but after a hot day walking round town it was actually quite nice… For about a minute before I started turning blue!! Had a warm shower and sat on the balcony, drinking ginger beer, eating fruit and booking accommodation in Sigiriya. Got chatting to a lady who has been in Sri Lanka for nearly three weeks and got some tips on places to visit. Had a huge vegetable curry at the hostel and chatted with Shauna and Jenny about their favourite places in the world, weirdest things they’ve eaten etc. Also got talking to two ex-teachers who were volunteering in a turtle sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Headed to bed and literally passed out from walking around in the heat!
Saturday 30th January 2016