Cruising leisurely from Colombo, sipping the delicious king coconut or thambili (as it’s locally called) at a roadside shack, we found ourselves at a hilltop boutique hotel with a spectacular view of the town. Yes, we are in Kandy, situated at the heart of Sri Lanka. Being a hill station, the nip in the air is refreshing.
Buddhism, which is the major religion of Sri Lanka, is more visible in Kandy than many parts of the country. Home to the Temple of the Tooth (Palace of the tooth relic) or locally called Sri Dalada Maligawa, the building houses the left upper canine tooth of the Buddha. As we approach the Dalada Maligawa, the imposing edifice is a striking embodiment of religion, culture and history. It is evening time, devotees armed with flowers and incense, line up to pay homage to the relic. From there, the Church of St Paul’s, a stone’s throw away from the Temple of the Tooth, comes into view. Its decaying yellow stones bear unmistakable testimony to a century-old past.
Next morning, we feast on a delectable breakfast spread that includes idiyappam (string hoppers) and appams served with chicken gravy or coconut milk, kottu roti, idli, and a wide array of bread and cereal, fresh tropical fruits and fresh juices. The spread also had accompaniments like pol sambol (coconut relish), seeni sambol (caramelised onion with dried fish and spice), etc.
We then set out to explore the areas around the famous lake at the city centre. Known as the Sea of Milk or Kiri Muhuda, this man-made lake was built by the last king of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. We ambled along its banks admiring the heritage buildings amidst giant sprawling Mara trees and spotting birds such as the Indian cormorant, white egret, wood stork and pelican.
Sheathed in blue-green hills, Kandy provides for a scenic drive through the quaint meandering mountain roads or adjacent to the Mahaweli Ganga that flows through the town. Spotting a traditional Sri Lankan restaurant, we hopped in to savour Sri lankan meal, which consists of rice and the distinctive fish dish of ambul thiyal along with lotus root or nelum ala curry, and a whole range of fiery condiments topped up by sweets and Ceylone Black Tea.
After the meal, It was time to head to the horseshoe-shaped Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya, which is a treasure trove of flora. Home to over 4,000 species of indigenous and foreign plants, the Royal Botanic Gardens is segmented into areas including the Flower Garden, the Spice Garden, the Lake, the Orchid House as well as a collection of bamboo and palms. The Flower Garden is a profusion of colour, with its neatly trimmed beds, the picturesque Japanese Garden and a conservatory shaped like a two-tiered cake. For those historically-inclined, many memorial trees planted by visiting royalty and statesmen adorn around the well-maintained lawn. With a smorgasbord of plants and fruits, it is only natural that a wide gamut of bird species live in and visit the Gardens.
Though for shopping Colombo is preferred, yet those fond of buying gems can find Kandy to be a good place. Coveted by all, Sri Lanka’s blue sapphires are part of a precious bounty that nature has bestowed on this surreal Island nation. And if you have enough money, buying a small blue sapphire is a good option. It will remind you of your memorable trip to Kandy.