I spent a full day exploring what is known as the ‘Temple Loop’ to the southwest of Kandy. This area starts at the Botanical Gardens about 6km from the city. When I arrived I was reminded of a girl I met in Myanmar who lamented the fact that everything in Sri Lanka has doubled in price. I understood on this day exactly what she was talking about. The cost of everything I wanted to visit was twice what it was four years prior and it irked me because it is only the tourists who have to pay these inflated prices. Locals get in for little or nothing.
|Kandy Botanical Gardens|
Anyway, that aside the gardens are the biggest in Sri Lanka and are superb. They are surrounded by a river on three sides and cover an area of 60 hectares. It’s in various sections with good signage along the way. From there I got a bus to a small village to the south and began a 10km hike through narrow country roads that led past three temples. The main interest of these temples is their fusion of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths but the insight into Sri Lankan culture and rural life was equally good.
|Embekke Devale, renowned for it's wooden carvings|
In fact, fed up with the increase in prices I decided not to go into any of the temples. One of them had actually trebled in price so I was quite content with admiring them from the outside. I’ve visited so many temples on this trip alone that I really didn’t feel I was missing much. Instead, I enjoyed the pretty scenery of lush green plants, paddy fields, coconut palms and banana trees while also observing the daily life of the friendly people I encountered along the way.
Before I left I paid a visit to the National Museum (I’m not sure how the country comes to have two ‘National’ museums) which had a relatively small, but has a fine array of exhibits of royal regalia and reminders of life before the Europeans arrived. I was then on a bus to the small village of Dalhousie. I had to change buses in a town called Hatton and the second part of my journey was exceptionally pretty. The Sri Lankan hill country is a symphony of green made up of tea plantations, banana palms, lush bush and sub-alpine trees.
|Meeting the locals on the Temple Loop|
Dalhousie sits at the base of Adam’s Peak and is where pilgrims and tourists stay before climbing to the top. As my bus negotiated its way along narrow winding roads I noticed a few spots of rain starting to fall. When we actually arrived it was pouring! All I could do was run from the bus to the shelter of a nearby shop and wait. Once I’d composed myself I noticed how many people were in town. It was Saturday and Sri Lankans had come in their droves. As I waited for the rain to ease I watched a man selling ponchos and umbrellas. He’d never had it so good!
The lofty mountain that soars to 2,243m has sparked the imagination of pilgrims here for centuries. It is variously known as Adam’s Peak (the place where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven) Sri Pada (sacred footprint left by the Buddha as he headed towards paradise) or Samanalakande (meaning Butterfly Mountain). Some even believe that the huge ‘footprint’ that crowns the peak to be that of St Thomas who I wrote about previously. Reaching the summit of this peak would prove to be one heck of an adventure...