In the last article we posted about our travels around Sri Lanka, we blogged about our decision not to visit the Pinnawalla elephant orphanage However, we really did want to see some Sri Lankan elephants so set out in search of some around Kandy. As part of our self-made day tour, we visited a Ceylon tea plantation and took a wonderful tuk-tuk ride through the villages surrounding Kandy.
On the morning of our elephant tour we awoke early to an almighty row, between a solo German guest and the family run hotel owners, regarding his struggle to get fed breakfast, and a list of other minor issues. He was swearing quite eloquently in English about his lack of service and frankly it was a disgrace. Although some of what he was saying had some merit, his over the top aggressive method of communication was just not necessary. He like us was staying in one of the budget rooms for less than 10 dollars per night and seemed to expect the staff to be fussing over him.
What can I say, if you want 5 star service, stay in a luxury hotel! We nicknamed him Arnie, and this was not his only annoying habit. He would insist on leaving his room door open and laying on his bed naked, apart from some bikini like briefs that struggled to contain his overhanging belly. So whenever either of us popped outside, we’d be met with the most unappealing sight we’ve both come across in quite some time.
We stayed at the Star Light Guest house and there is a great little cafe on the same road, Saranankara Road (one of the main backpacker areas is Kandy) that serves a great omelette and coffee and fruit breakfast for 280 LKR which you cannot grumble at. I would love to name it but it doesn’t have one, you can find it opposite the garden view guest house. Well worth a trip, we ate the Sri Lankan curry four vegetable lunch there too and this was great value. Just order one between two unless you are super hungry it’s enough.
We were going to get the bus to Pinnawala elephant orphanage, but had read some mixed reviews by visitors there of extra charges for cameras and food and essential tipping of the mahouts to get anywhere near the elephants. Instead our new ‘Gang of Four’ Dutch and English group negotiated with a tuk tuk driver to squeeze into the rickshaw and take us to an alternative place, including a visit to a special temple and a tea plantation for 1000 LKR, so we decided to take a chance.
The tour proved to be as good value as it seemed. It was a giggle squeezing four of us into the tuk tuk for the 25km journey to the elephants park but we stopped along the way to admire the views over the hills and swap the seat lap sitting positions. We also needed to stock up on 2kg of bananas to feed the elephants for our trek.
Kandy Elephants with the Locals
The elephant ride consisted of a short wander down to a river where the elephant used her trunk to completely drench you with water, then a quick trek through the nearby jungle forest. It was great fun and the staff will take your camera and snap photos of you getting wet and trying to hold on as the elephant lumbers around the track holding up its trunk to grab the banana treats we had purchased earlier. While the trip was short the ride was fun and we spent fifteen minutes afterwards watching as the elephant lounged in the river spraying themselves, wonderful to watch.
The elephants here all looked in very good condition and while they had small chains on them, there were no signs of any scars or mahout spike injuries so we decided on the whole these animals were well cared for here. The chains were the exact same ones used at the elephant rescue centre we visited in Chiang Mai some years ago. The ride cost us 2000 LKR each which we thought expensive, and you should have probably negotiated a cheaper deal, but you can’t grumble at this experience for $15 US.
On the return journey we stopped at a spice and herbal medicine centre where we were treated to a tour around the various plants and an introduction to the medicinal benefits and treatments on offer here. It was all good fun and we got a mini head and back massage each, and of course the opportunity to buy some of the products at tourist rates. While the sandalwood cream smelt divine it perhaps wasn’t worth the $20 price tag… Again our driver probably made a little commission (but as I mentioned earlier the full day hire of the tuk tuk was extremely cheap) and nobody purchased anything from the “medical” centre, but we got a free tour which was fun, informative and we all smelt wonderful afterwards, despite spending the morning riding elephants.
The second stop was at a tea factory and a plantation which was again free and interesting to see. This tour was much more informative and close up to the process than the tour we got at the Boh factory in the Cameron highlands. You were treated to a free cup of quality tea which was lovely and we opted to buy a yummy slice of chocolate cake on offer. We looked at the speciality teas for sale, but again they were priced much higher than you can get in any of the local supermarkets in town, so we passed on that shopping opportunity too.
All in all a really packed fun day out with tea tasting, chocolate cakes, elephant riding, bathing and feeding and even a mini massage with a view of some of the towns and villages surrounding Kandy thrown in for good measure. Total cost per person 2500LKR or $18 including driver.
We had a lovely 100LKR vegetable fried rice for dinner, in a small local restaurant in the centre of Kandy town, and then bought a few beers to take back to the hotel so we could sit at the guest house for final night with Djai and Frank, before they left for Ella the next day. A great day and one that ticks virtually all of the travel boxes in the space of 24 hours.