The Queen’s hotel obviously isn’t the place for guests who need absolute silence to sleep, but it’s only for two nights so I figure I will survive. And it has an oldfashioned charm. Breakfast is relaxed anyway as we’re meeting Rohan at 9 a.m. to visit the Temple of the Tooth. Crossing the busy road as a pedestrian is a challenge here, but somehow the crazy traffic stops now and then at the crosswalk (no traffic lights though).
The temple is situated on the lakeshore and houses the legendary Buddha’s tooth, which arrived here in the 16th century. There’s nothing left of the original temple building and the site has a dramatic history with a massive truck bomb exploding in 1998, but today it seems to be a peaceful place and the building was completely restored. No cars or trucks can come close though. Again, at the entrance they check whether our clothes are suitable for temple visit (actually Lesley got changed right after breakfast as Rohan suspected her knee length dress wouldn’t be appreciated, long trousers are the safer option), we take off our shoes and start our walk into the complex.
Every day at 5.30 a.m., 9.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. so called puja’s are held. It’s a ceremony with loud drumming. Most of the actual ceremony is performed behind closed doors. We witness a part of the ceremony and then walk up the stairs to catch a glimp of the golden casket containing the relic. It’s very crowded, people offer flowers and pray. It’s good to get out of the crowd again and have a look around the New Shrine Room where 21 paintings depict the story of the tooth relic. The floors above the shrine room are a museum, showing objects, photo’s, ... It shows just how important this place is for (Sri Lankan) buddhists.
Besides the temple, Kandy is also known for its gemstones and jewellery. So after the temple visit, Rohan takes us to a store. It’s rather posh and we fear we will disappointment the owners as we are not the big jewellery buyers. It’s just not calculated in the travel budget. The sales people have a system of showing you around a sort of museum, then taking you inside the workshop and ofcourse you cannot leave without sitting down at a desk and buying something. I end up buying a simple silver ring with a blue stone. Nothing posh, but good enough for me J
Next we’re up for lunch and we go to a rooftop restaurant, again with a variety of good Sri Lankan food. By the time we leave, school is out and there’s a huge traffic jam. Feels like home :-) It gives us some time to observe the shops and people again and we see a lot of advertisements for wedding dresses. Rohan explains to us that a Sri Lankan wedding takes two days and the bride needs a white dress for day 1, a red one for day 2. The wedding date is chosen through astrology. Even the bride and groom are put together according to their star signs. Parents will even put up ads in the paper looking for the perfect match for their son or daughter, based on detailed horoscopes. Rohan has two teenage daughters, so he knows what he’s in for :-)
We have a drive higher up around the central lake and visit a batik workshop. Batikwork is the art of using wax on fabric when dyeing in order to avoid dyeing a certain section of the fabric. As a result you get colourful creations, mostly on cotton.
A young lady shows us around. Very popular are the beachwear dresses. You can tie them in about 5 different ways. But I’m not really a beachwear girl and don’t see myself wearing this at home, so I don’t buy anything. Which should be fine I think. I don’t like being ‘forced’ to buy something.
It’s late afternoon, perfect time for a stroll around the lake. We sit on a bench for a while and some people approach us, one guy is obviously high but luckily walks on and then an older man asks for money because he can’t work. We say we won’t give him money, he wishes us a good long life anyway (must be the Buddhism again) and continues his walk in search of other people.
Meanwhile, Rohan is getting us tickets and good seats for a cultural dance performance. I tell him that after getting the tickets he should really take some time for himself, and he seems happy with that prospect. Being on the road driving and guiding for two weeks is really demanding! But he holds promise to arrange good seats for us at the cultural centre and for about 1,5 hour we see male and female dancers perform traditional dances in colourful outfits. The grand finale is firewalking (not the audience fortunately :-), just the dancers).
The sun sets as we walk back to the Queen’s hotel. New visitors go inside the temple of the Tooth for the 6.30 pm punja, but we are hungry and get ready for dinner. We end up at The Pub, a busy place, younger crowd and for the first time some Western dishes on the menu. I admit it’s nice to not have rice and curry today J We sit outside on the terrace of the upper floor, perfect place to observe the street. Kandy is definitely worth a visit, but we are looking forward to some more peace and quiet again after the busy city. And that is just what we will get as the next day a train will take us into the heart of the green highlands with its tea plantations.