From Colombo (sort of but not really the capital) we took a train up to Kandy, the last capital of Sri Lanka in the reign of the kings, i.e., before the British took over. The city is pretty much in the middle of the island, up amongst the hills of the Kandy plateau. Thus it’s a bit cooler up there and very pretty with lush green hills all around.
We rode up on the train, a beautiful ride that took a bit under three hours. Sadly, we were in 2nd Class as the presumably more comfortable 1st Class seats are all sold out long ahead of time. Always. In the world that I used to live in that would be a signal to add more 1st Class cars but apparently that logic doesn’t prevail here. To be fair, though, the 2nd Class car was perfectly pleasant (I still have fears of India in my brain) and at about $4.07 each it was quite the bargain.
So far, at least, the glow of Sri Lanka hasn’t worn off. Kandy is centered around a very pretty lake that just begs to be walked around, again and again. The big site to see there is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, allegedly a tooth of the Buddha’s that was salvaged from his funeral pyre. Housed in the old royal palace, this is supposed to be one of the holiest places for Buddhists. Moreover, the belief grew that whoever had possession of the sacred relic was meant to rule over that land and for many centuries control of the relic has been a big deal. During the recent civil war that Tamil Tigers bombed the palace where it is held on multiple occasions but ultimately the relic was always saved.
It’s probably worth noting that if you Google “Buddha tooth relic” you will discover that there are a number of the Buddha’s teeth still allegedly in existence. Count me a skeptic even if UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.
Mostly, then, this was just a wonderfully calm, gentle stop. Between walks around the lake and some nice hiking up in the 250-acre Royal Forest Park Udawattakele above the old royal palace a very pleasant place indeed. Food, sadly, isn’t Kandy’s strong suit but we did discover a Chinese restaurant run by a British/Chinese couple that had good food, good drinks, good prices, and a great view over the lake. Of course it was packed every night and we’d have to wait for sometimes a fair bit for a table to open. In the world where I used to live that would be a signal that someone should open something similar but alas, as with train seats, those market signals don’t seem to work so well here. As long as there’s one good restaurant, though, we’re good.
From here we’re off to the true highlands up in Ceylon tea land.