Tag Archives: kandy

Leaving kandy for Dambulla

Getting out of kandy was pretty tiring, and my patience has been tested a little. Breakfast was a wood apple lassi, a vegetable bun and a jam bun, both eaten on the bus later. I buy some local cardamon and am surprised by the price. There is a bull cart delivering vegetables, like something from the Middle Ages.
There is a scruffy tiring road where scruffy crowded buses are filling up. None of them have a sign for my chosen destination. Many in fact only have signs in singhalese, which I look at blankly. An elderly tuk tuk driver badgers me about going with him. I really don’t fancy a bumpy dusty smokey ride in a three wheeler being nudged constantly aside by the streams of buses. Plus I find buses interesting, mixing and watching locals, also they are cheaper. After 15 minutes he finally realises he won’t get me and offers to show me where my bus leaves from. The cheek of it, I leave him brusquely. The us station is. A nightmare of beaten up private white buses, beaten up state red ones and slightly less beaten up mini buses. There is no apparent order, no nice clear departure boards or helpful uniformed helpers. An anyway it’s not so bad, and I do find a minibus, where I have to jam myself in, rucksack on lap. Even the aisle of the mini bus is taken up with fold down seats. A couple with a new born sit in these rather dodgy looking places. The baby is cradled by the mother unsure her red and white flowery sarong, and doesn’t cry once. The minibus is considerably more expensive than a us but it’s quick. This due to the fact it. Rarely stops and is also more able to overtake quickly on the arrow windy roads.
Asana side I found out from the guys atthe hotel in kandy about buses and why they are. Driven the way that they are, ie fast, dangerously fast, impetuously overtaking and ramming passengers in, so they are hanging out of the door. The state bus drivers receive a salary, the private ones work on a percentage of fares, so they area,ways trying to get ahead of the state buses to pinch the waiting passengers. Apparently if they manage to reach their target, any extra fares go straight in the pocket of driver and conductor.

Digression.
Dambulla isn’t much more than a dusty road going past the golden temple, a kitsch monstrosity of an enormous gild Buddha sitting atop the Buddhist museum, this decorated with teeth, the doorway a mouth, it looks like something at a funfare: welcome to the horror house. I get a tuk tuk driver to show me some guest houses and take the most comfortable. It’s on a dusty track off the main road and has a rooftop terrace, which would be great if there was more life here than just me and my beer. But, actually I will be able to get back into my book now. Finding the guesthouse after dusk was pretty hard and I was beginning to panic a bit. There are no street lights here, houses are set back behind trees, there are a few basic stealers selling snacks and soft drinks. It’s too dark to see the face of the few people who do pass me. Yes I get lost. Before going out I took a photo of the sign of the guest house. The picture is a bit confusing as the name is partially obscured, and also I’m afraid that my camera battery is about to die. When I do try and use the picture, the guy I show it too doesn’t really catch my drift and walks me to another place. I’m looking for a road which, I remember, has a couple of dismantled tuk tuks. That would be hard to explain to a local with rudimentary English. In the end I do get my bearings and feel pretty relieved.
My late afternoon at the golden temple and cave temples was nice. At the bottom is a muddy batterered monastery. I get quite enthused to see orange robed young monks playing cricket. I know this is breaking their code of conduct…is this why they are slightly hostile to me taking photos?
The caves are at the top of a 10 minute climb up steps. The entrance fee is disproportionately high, as with all the monuments here. Is this money going into government funds? I hope not. There are 5 temples of varied size, the first one just containing a reclining Buddha. The second one is the most engaging with beautiful painted ceiling and a myriad of Buddhas in all manner of poses. There is a mix of locals, independent westerners and groups guided by loud locals. Unfortunately there is no hush, lots of loud voices, and too many flashes. I pace things and wait for more quiet moments to return to the temples and enjoy them much more. It’s is the end of the afternoon and dusk is falling. The sunset perched on the top of the rock is colourful, awesome, orange slowly faded over a lake rows of mountains and jungle stretching far and away. Red faced monkeys frollick and tumble.ive seen a lot of them everywhere today, starting with the rubbish piles in kandy.
The guesthouse peace is blown apart by returning guests. Shouting Italian parents and equally loud young kids.

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Sacred tooth etc

Back into town late afternoon. Kingfishers And storks by the lake. I bump into ralf who has no memory of his performance last night. He goes shopping and I look for a wood apple juice, meanwhile scoring a samosa and visiting a medicinal herb shop. Would love to buy something but I have no idea what they are or how to use them. Parked outsi are some gaudily decorated chromed wood panelled trucks. I can see, and discover that eating after 4 here is tricky. The restaurants have extensive, but not vege menus. Rice and curry is only for lunch. The other choice is masala dosa. Later I do and sit in a restaurant but leave after an unsuccessful 15 minute wait to order.
I thought visiting the sacred tooth temple in the veining would less busy. Not really. The place is not especially overwhelming, crowded, a bit hectic, not really anywhere to pause and soak up any magic. There is a museum of the holy tooth on site too. Another poor attempt at exhibiting history. Not much signage, cases full of jewellery, bowls, ceremonial faded stuff. When I returned to the tooth chamber for the second time a ceremony was going on, drumming and some monks disappearing into the tooth room to do something holy. I reckon this is for tourists as the locals don’t linger and visiting monks don’t even pause. Outside is more interesting. The rows of candles and buring oil at dusk. Drumming, a call for the podia at the naga temple. This has started at the other one. Priest collecting notes on a tray, intoning some prayers then dotting the praying groups foreheads with red paint. Further on is the boddi tree high on a crenalated platform. There are two levels. One lower one where visitors buy bowls of holy water, incense and flowers, and are blessed by a chanting woman. The devotees then circulate the first level bowing at the alter then climb to the second level where they make 3 revolutions with their water and incense. The tree trunk is be robed in an orange cloth. It’s lower branches bedecked with lines of prayer flags, fluttering in the dolling night breeze. I sit in peace for 40 minutes.

Kandy

I deliberate at length about whether I should go to Adams peak or not. For a number of reasons I decide against it. Weather, knees, energy level and time to go anywhere else afterwards. Sp I’m on the kandy train and spend the first hour next to a railway security officer. Actually we would call him a guard. He is wearing a khaki uniform that doesn’t fit his skinny body too well. And is very tatty. His cap is oversize and black with a red badge. Yellow stained teeth. It seems a moustache is a prerequisite for the job.

Kandy seems like a metropolis compared with the hill country. Traffic, traffic jams, people, modern shops, a mall, a KFC. The centre is a lake, reminding me of Hanoi with the sacred holy tooth temple across the water, the chants of the monks atmospherically amplified bouncing around the hills. My guesthouse has a view of the place from the balcony which i nearly fell off so rickety is it.

Everyone is slowly re emerging from last nights drinking party. Which involved guesthouse staff, tik tuk drivers and travellers from disparate parts. Ralf tells a joke about Latin grammar then gets stuck into his first arrack experience. This takes him through many mood changes culminating in a mock hitler speech including gestures from the balcony. Unfortunately he cannot rise to the challenge of doing a papal address in Latin the the style of hitler. Maybe I set the bar too high.

Sleep is peppered with dreams of re visited pasts, alternative realities, seemingly centred around bath, captain bobs. Lee, again. 3 times I. Have dreamt about him since his death. I think there is some guilt or regret that I didn’t see him again, nor go to his funeral. Sleep is also punctured by a variety of crazy soundscapes: a dog fight and a drunken drumming an d singing party.

The morning has blue sky and intense sun. Fran and I go to the Muslim hotel restauarnt for breakfast. Fran complains about salty food and sweet drinks. Men pouring tea from cup to saucera nd sipping from the latter. I guess it cools it.

The town is busy, probably because it’s Sunday.small people pushing past with umbrellas against the sun. At the entrance to the temple of the tooth there are security checks and hoarders of locals.the queues are long and I don’t fancy the crowd, so I explore the surrounding buildings. A reclining Buddha temple, a boddi tree, a chelli, intermingled with some older crumbling Hindu temples. Most people are dressed in white. Grannies in saris, young boys in white polo shirts leading them into the temple. There is an elderly elephant draped in chains posing for photos. The usual burning of incense, lighting of candles. Monks a refew and far between.

Man circles the Hindu shrine 5 times clockwise with a coconut, at each complete revolution he kneels holds it to his heada nd bows. On completion he smashes it on second attempt in a cage in front of the shrine.

It’s actually too hot for me. I do a quick once around the town then a loop of the lake where I buy a holographic poster of the holy tooth shrine.at least I guess that’s it!