After the eventful arrival to Sri Lanka, followed by a full day of relaxation, two new friends, and a full stomach from the buffet breakfast, I started my journey to Kandy, Sri Lanka with a stop at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Sri Lanka is a small island and Kandy is right in the middle.
This is part two in a series of posts about my trip to Sri Lanka.
When I had originally planned my locations (read: stared at pictures), I thought 2-3 days in Kandy would be great before heading down to the southern beaches. When I mentioned this to Roy, my new English friend, he said that Kandy is “cool but there are cooler things to see.” What he meant by “cooler” was the world famous train ride from Kandy to Ella and that being your purpose for a stop in Kandy. Since I didn’t reserve any hotels or guesthouses, I was able to go and do whatever I wanted.
Lucky picked me up and I left my little resort oasis to see the bustling streets of this vibrant country in the daylight. Had I done this without a private taxi via public bus or train, I would’ve saved a ton of money (it’s all relative) but my nerves and anxiety would’ve been out of control. The driving in Sri Lanka is the scariest thing I have EVER witnessed. So much honking, swerving, passing, slamming on the brakes, speeding head on towards a school bus to pass a giant truck with an Elephant eating on a flatbed. I think that’s enough for even the calmest person to break into a stress induced sweat. With Lucky, we listened to Akon and some of my favorite high school throwbacks while I stared out the window and watched old Sri Lankan men walk their goats like you walk your dog. Maybe that wasn’t the reason, but it looked like it.
Our first stop was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Without going into too much detail here, as there will be an entire post dedicated to this experience, I am disgusted and embarrassed to admit I was there. Paying an entrance fee was enough to make me sick to my stomach for showing my “support” for the most blatant display of animal cruelty. And this is coming from someone who lives in Thailand and sees Elephants walking down the busy street holding a bucket for tips from tourists. If you are in Sri Lanka, I beg you to NEVER go to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
After I fell into a decent funk, Lucky took me to lunch. Had I done more research, I wouldn’t have been so confused why there wasn’t a fork or spoon on the table. Sri Lankan’s eat with their right hand. This may seem like a really small, unimportant detail to my long story, but it was the one thing that I needed to do before I left. Eating with my hand in Thailand would not be deemed appropriate and this was my chance to showcase my survival skills if I found rice and curry stranded on an island. Survivor, watch out!!! However, I was handed a fork and spoon and put my cultural dreams to the side.
P.S. Sri Lankan food is unbelievable. I’ve already looked up how to make rice and curry for when I get back to the States.
Next stop: a traditional Spice & Herb Garden. Whether you believe in the powers of natural medicine or you like the taste of free herbal tea, I recommend a quick stop. The tours are free with the hopes you buy some cream that you rub on your feet to cure a sinus infection and eye drops to help with your weight-loss. (Not really, but there’s an herb for everything). I sipped on my tea and tried to get the perfect angle of the teacup and the greenery backdrop. Success. I didn’t buy anything and I quickly slipped out of the jungle and back to the car.
Eventually we arrived to my hotel and Lucky made the drive back to Negombo. I stayed at an incredible budget hotel that told me about the cultural show down at the Temple of the Tooth and how to buy a train ticket to Ella.
I made my way to the train station to find out trains were completely booked until the end of April – convenient. I went back to my hotel, talked to the front desk about my options to get to Ella and they assured me the train station staff are the least helpful people in Sri Lanka. They gave me directions where I would buy a standing only ticket for the morning train and as people got off the train at stops along the way, I could take their seat. Fingers crossed this worked, or Ella was not an option. Then I was on my way to cultural show and the Temple of the Tooth.
Quick history for the Temple of the Tooth: it is said to house the upper left canine tooth of the Lord Buddha. This dates back to 313 AD. You can read more here.
The temple itself is huge but the design is modest in comparison to some temples I’ve seen in Thailand. However, the interior was so detailed, flashy, and clean. The pictures make it hard to see the intricate design so you’ll have to make your way to Sri Lanka to see it yourself 😉 (TAKE ME WITH YOU!)
Like any cultural show, there was a lot of music and dancing. It was beautiful. It was an hour long and took place at the Red Cross Cultural Center. I highly recommend this low-cost event to anyone.
As I walked back to my hotel, I thought I could stay an extra day in Kandy to see the other sights such as the Botanical Garden, temple tours, etc. but my English friend Roy had me 100% set on the train ride to Ella.
I had an 8 hour travel day planned and I needed a good nights sleep. I wasn’t going to let my expert napping skills get in the way of the only reason I wasn’t spending the entire week on the beach. Well, let’s just say it was better than expected!