The Bus Journey to Kandy
We had to get from Dambulla to Kandy by bus to complete the final peak of our cultural triangle tour, exploring the city and going in search of some Sri Lanka elephants.
Kandy lies about 70km south of Dambulla. We hopped on an early morning bus bound for Kandy. The first bus to arrive, appeared to be packed as the conductor urged us and our two Dutch friends to board the bus. Somehow he managed to produce seats, by rearranging some of the already seated locals, so within about half a mile from the start of our journey and we all had seats.
We are getting used to Sri Lankan bus driving skills which involve pedal to the floor, get the ageing diesel engine to scream and avoid any oncoming traffic as best you can. This one proved to be our most exciting.
The driver managed the get the bus up to a frightening speed on the road out of Dambulla at an engine resonance that made the whole bus rattle. Thankfully we entered some more hilly country not soon after and he was forced to slow down for the corners. He did manage one final flurry before the end of the journey by taking a speed bump at about 60kmph and sending us four, who had occupied the back seats, high into the air.
We made it safely to Kandy, although there was no way I could get the laptop out to do any work – it would have ended up in pieces. In any case this journey is one to be savoured and the scenery through the villages and views when you get up into the hills is not to be missed. We asked the conductor the best place to get off our bus and he dropped right by the lake in Kandy town. The bus conductor also helped us extract our backpacks and luggage from under the seats, a great service even if the driving was a little scary and all for just under 100LKR each.
We’re becoming fans of the local transport system here, it is always busy, but the buses we have needed have been frequent, the staff that operate them and the locals that use them could not be friendlier and will make sure you get on the right bus and more importantly get off at the right stop when you need it. It is these kind of things that set some countries apart as travel destinations because no amount of tourism board promotion or restoring of historical sights can make up for the warmth and hospitality of the local people. Sri Lankan’s really do help to make this place a special destination.
In Search of a Kandy Hotel Bed and Train Tickets
We ended up on a little thirty minute hunt, with our Dutch compatriots, to find a decent room. We had found such a nice place in Dambulla for just LKR 1500 we wanted to see if we could repeat the experiment and hunted together to improve our negotiating skills. We tried out five located on the south of the Kandy lake and reluctantly settled on the Star Light Guest House with very basic rooms, a very grumpy owner that needs to go on some hospitality training, but hot water and even wifi. He refused to supply toilet paper and soap due to the price we were paying. The next day, he turned out to be a very nice and interesting chap, and apologised for his behaviour on our arrival. Respect! He also gave us some free soap and toilet paper.
Our next destination will be Ella which you can reach by a very scenic train ride, which we did not want to miss. We trudged off the main train station in Kandy to try and get our hands on the prime 1st class observation car seats. Sadly none of us managed it, we are staying here a day extra than Djai and Frank and we all had to pay for the Luxury first class private Rajhadani with aircon, but we did get window seats. The price of this ticket is more than double the observation car, setting us back 1,100 LKR each still not bad for a six hour scenic train journey.
We left Djai and Frank and went our own way, starting a wander thought the city centre, first to the local Kandy market bustling with life and food and feasted on the fruit and as many snacks as your stomach can take from the short order stalls that line the place. After food we made our way to the lake to watch the world go by allowing our food to digest before taking a tour of Kandy’s main cultural attraction. The temple of the tooth.
The Temple of the Tooth
The Sri Dalada Maligawa, to give it its proper name, is the current home of the tooth relic said to be rescued from the funeral pyre of Lord Buddha in 543BC. The legend of the relic is that whoever holds the object will hold the divine right to rule the land of Sri Lanka. The relic has been moved about the country over the centuries as different rulers have ruled and various invaders have tried to plunder this most ancient artefact. Is resides here in Kandy and three times a day the casket in which it is kept is revealed to worshippers as part of a Buddhist ceremony.
The temple also houses a Buddhist museum for which you will pay and additional 500 LKR to enter and another (ticket included) museum depicting the story of Buddha in a beautifully ornate room with wonderful paintings which accompany the story. There is also some Sri Lankan artefacts and a pictoral history of the damage and restoration work done after the temple was bombed by the Tamil Tigers in 1998 . The entrance fee to the temple and these included displays is 1000 LKR.
Things to Do in Kandy Town
Kandy town centre is full of places to eat, you will find plenty of local restaurants and cafes and even a KFC in the main street. Many cater for western palates if you have had your fill of Sri Lankan food.
There are quite a few colonial buildings restored and in use around town, many of which are now banks or the more upmarket hotels serving the increasing number of international tourists visiting Sri Lanka. There are also other temples dotted about town and a Tea Museum and Kandy botanical gardens on the outskirts if you need further entertainment while here. We however were happy with a spot of people watching and wandering around the lake until we were ready to find some elephants to play with.
Directions to Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage by Bus
We had originally planned to make a trip from here to Pinawalla to see the elephant orphanage. However, after reading some rather luke warm blogs, speaking with a few people and seeing reviews we decided to give it a miss and look for a local alternative. More about that in our next blog.
If you decide you do want to visit Pinnawalla under your own steam then take a bus to Kegalle from Kandy. Ask to get off at the turn for Pinawalla, which is 6km away from the orphanage, then take local bus for the last few kilometres. The bathing and feeding takes place twice a day at 10.30 and 2pm and the entrance fee is 2000LKR plus additional costs/tips for feeding, petting and use of cameras and video equipment.