I had a good sleep after the relaxing Ayurveda treatment, only this morning I can’t seem to properly wash away the oil from my hair. I wash, rinse, wash again, rinse, wash again, ... but can’t get rid of all the oil. So it looks like I will walk around with a unique ‘wet’ look today, as I don’t have more time to wash it out. We need to go. The golden buddha temple and caves are waiting for us, and our day will eventually end in the city of Kandy.
Dambulla itself is a rather little town, but it’s famous for its cave temples: five dimly lit grottoes crammed with statues and decorated with murals. We’ll have to do some climbing up steps again. And at the bottom of the steps stands the bizarre Golden Temple, a shamelessly kitsch building topped by a 30 meter seated golden Buddha. We see boys and girls in white uniforms running around, it’s Sunday buddhist school, half a day. We start the steep climb up to the caves and visit all 5. The biggest cave measures over 50 m long and 7 m high, quite impressive. It’s a barefoot visit again, but we’re used to it by now.
We’re not the only ones visiting today. What keeps on amazing (not to say ‘annoying’ us) are the hords of Chinese tourists. They are loud and rude and manage to spoil the special atmosphere.
We walk back down to the golden temple and see the kids at the buddhist school. Especially the girls look really smart in a white blouse and skirt. I make some portrait photos and then the teacher calls them back into the class room.
We hit the road again and on our way we get to know Jack fruit. Rohan buys a portion at one of the many fruit stalls by the side of the road. It’s yellow, not so juicy, but it tastes good. Never even heard of it before. It’s a small snack before lunch. We go to a big place close to the herb garden we will visit and we see loads of busses with one group of Chinese after the other entering. The funny thing is that the owners of the restaurant lead them into a seperate area away from the other guests :-) So where we are it’s pretty quiet and we enjoy some more Sri Lankan dishes and have ‘curd’ as dessert. This is a sort of custard eaten with honey, lots of honey, one of Rohan’s favorites so we had to try it.
We’re ready to cross the road – slightly risking our lives – and visiting the Ranwelli spice garden. Our guide is called Ruhan, almost the same as Rohan, and he does an excellent job showing us around and telling us about the herbs and fruits.
It’s all about Ayurveda again and he is very critical of Western medicines as they “don’t treat the causes but the symptoms”. It turns out to be an interactive tour as at one point we get some ointment on the pressure points of our head (it does relieve at once) and a short shoulder and neck massage again. Heavenly, I could get used to this!!
You don’t pay an entrance fee for the garden but the point is ofcourse that you buy something in the herbal shop. We go for sandal wood oil and aloe vera creme, perfect against ‘wrinkles and pimples’.
We thank Ruhan and then continue the roadtrip to Kandy.
The roads get a bit more winding, going higher up. Although it’s Sunday it’s quite busy and in the little towns the shops are open. We have a stop at a large Hindu temple. It’s very kitschy, blue, ... and there’s a local ceremony going on in a nearby hall. Kids and their families are gathered here and some kind of diploma’s are handed out. They are dressed beautifully and we are allowed to enter the hall and have a look around. It’s these kind of unexpected things along the way that make me love roadtrips so much. A little girl comes up to me and shakes hands.
Closer to Kandy the traffic gets even more frantic, with the eternal honking. I keep the thinking the Belgian roads will seem really quiet and organised when I get back home. Kandy is situated at the heart of the island, in the green hills. It’s the second largest city and the cultural capital, home to the Temple of the Tooth where every buddhist in Sri Lanka is supposed to go to at least once in their lives. It is also known for its colonial buildings, which gives it a little bit of an aristocratic look.
At least our home for two nights, the historic Queens hotel, right in the centre, overlooking the lake and just a step away from the temple, is full of colonial character. It dates back to the 1860s and as we enter the hotel lobby I can imagine Victorian ladies and gentlemen walking around here. We get a room on the second floor and although we feel the hotel could use a renovation, it seems like a nice place to stay. Nice, but noisy! As we enter the room it feels like we are standing right in the middle of the road next to the hotel. Trucks and cars are speeding, honking, ... and I can only hope it gets a bit more quiet during the night.
After the long drive we take some time to chill in our noisy room and at dinner time Rohan advises us to go to the “White House”. The owner leads us into a quiet corner, away from the crowds. “It’s noisy tonight,” and it’s clear he means a bunch of Chinese (yes, they are everywhere!) tourists. We enjoy a spicy chicken Tikka Massala and then walk back to our hotel. We sit down in the chairs downstairs in the lobby to do some people watching, but it’s quiet so we soon go up to the room. It’s no use switching of the light too early because of the noise. In the hallway some parents let their kids run up and down untill 11 p.m. I put my ear plugs in, which blocks out a bit of the noise and somehow get through the night.