Day seven: Visit temple cave/spice garden/historic Kandy
In the morning after early breakfast visit Dambulla Cave Temple. It would be an amazing experience of you could spot the beautiful scenery of morning sunrise from the top of the rock. Dambulla has the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. It has been treasured by many kings since the 1st century BC. The rock towers 160 metres over the surrounding plains and houses five cave temples with some of the most unique and significant historical drawings. The murals cover an area of 2100 square metres and depict the temptation of the demon, Mara, and Buddha’s first sermon.
Afterwards you will visit the Matale Spice Garden enroute to Kandy.
Then proceed toward Kandy, the capital of the last Sinhalese Kingdom. It’s set on a plateau surrounded by mountains, which are home to tea plantations and bio diverse rainforests. Kandy is also famous for its sacred Buddhist sites, including the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The other main attractions are the Royal Botanical Garden, Bahirawa Kanda view point, the fruit and vegetable market, the lake and the city centre.
In the evening you will enjoy a Cultural Dance Show, which is inspired by Sri Lankan arts and cultural heritage and it is a must-see for any traveller who visits the historical city of Kandy. The Kandy Lake Club Dance started with the idea of having a cultural dance performance bringing together all Sri Lankan dance types to one platform. It has become a tourist attract for many people visiting the country and keen on discovering its rich cultural heritage.
I’m quite excited about visiting Kandy, as it’s famous for its British-style architecture. It should also be a welcome relief from the villages and provide us the opportunity to get out and explore on foot. The modest 90 kilometres should have us in the city in plenty of time, as we’ve decided to skip the cave temple option and continue directly to Matale to the spice garden.
Being Sunday, there isn’t a lot of traffic on the road so far, which is fine by me. In one of the villages, I notice that the Catholic Church gates are locked, guards are patrolling outside, and the parishioners are inside: locked in. Why? We’ve visited Buddhist and Hindu temples, passed Muslim mosques and none are under armed guard, yet a small Catholic Church in the depths of the country is under heavy guard. Apparently, since last year’s attacks on churches, they are all now under armed guard during mass times. Additionally, in many rural areas, road blocks have been erected, slowing traffic and stopping those under suspicion. I do feel a lot more comfortable knowing that there are people out there protecting the lives of others, especially Christians. Ironically, or not, all over the country decorations and lights celebrate Christmas, yet at the same time Christians must be protected from attacks. I do not understand!
We arrive at one of the spice gardens in Matale. As the car comes to a stop, a local guide steps out and introduces himself. He will conduct the tour around the spice gardens. This is the first place that we’ve actually had a local guide, which is a concept that must be alien to our driver, but common practice in every other country in the world. We could have done with local guides in many of the places we’ve seen over the past week. This is worth discussing, not with the driver, but with the tour company.
Our guide has excellent English and he steers us around a lovely garden, neat and clean. As he describes the various plants, he lets us smell and touch the fruits, leaves, berries, bark, and so on. Although his descriptions of the various health qualities of the plants are dubious, especially when many of them are cures for cancer, it is interesting, despite having to take some information with a grain of salt. Although we do buy a couple of products, within days they are thrown out because they either leak or they are not what they are cracked out to be. There should be a ‘buyer beware’ attached to visits to these places.
We continue to Kandy, arriving well after 3pm. Our hotel, the Topaz, is located in a wonderful location right at the top of a mountain. Again, the hotel is gated with an armed guard at the entry point. Although it’s close to other hotels and private homes, it is a long way from the centre of the city. Today, we ask for a room with a good view. I've had some suspicions that we are being stuck in rooms that are not the quality we’ve actually paid for. Also because our dinners are included in many hotels, it is less likely we’ll leave the premises.
We have just an hour before being collected for the cultural show. Perhaps we will be able to organise some time to visit the city to see the different architectural styles after the cultural show.
We arrive at the venue of the show and find our way into the showroom. We are shown to our seats, but ask to be placed closer to the front of the room. All chairs are at the same level, making it difficult to see the front of the room. We are refused, although there are only two of us. As time goes on, the room fills with tour groups and visitors from all over the world. The programme starts and, despite out limited view, we are mesmerised by the dancers and their performances, all the while being accompanied by beating drums.
When the dance programme is complete, we walk to strategic positions on the balconies overlooking the carpark, where a fire-eater and fire-walker perform. All in all, the hour’s performance is excellent and provides us with an idea of the traditional music and dance of Sri Lanka.
Apparently, we don’t have time to visit the city today, and we are returned to the hotel. The one trade-off for our return to the hotel is the stunning sunset.
TOUR: Across the Best Sites of Sri Lanka - Capital Lanka Tours
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 91 kms
ACCOMMODATION: Topaz, Kandy, Sri Lanka. https://hotel-topaz-kandy-sri-lanka-en.ww.lk/index.html Room 416 (good)