When you are going to Sri Lanka you want to experience the cultural, religious and spiritual heritage in some way – maybe your way.
That’s the essence of these 3 days I spent in Kandy and Dambulla, deliciously complemented by a deep dive into the colonial heritage of coffee and tea.
Arriving at Kandy, you believe it is a special day: a lot of people dressed in their best clothes – mostly white – street vendors, kids eating ice cream…
Then you realize it is only a normal day in Kandy: they are coming to the Tooth Temple, the most important Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. And it’s like that every single day.
The Teeth Temple
So, here I go, joining the crowd and their modus operandis:
- First step: cover your legs and shoulders when approaching the place;
- Second step: leave your shoes and backpack in these “locker”;
- Third step: join the looooooong queue, slowly moving from the outside, through steps, corridors, and finally getting into the temple.
Everyone carrying flowers to honour Buddha; getting closer you find people praying, being thankful or maybe asking for some cause; security won’t let you stay long looking at the death relics, so you have to keep moving. A remarkable experience, even if you’re not religious.
Out of the temple, moving around to sightseeing, you’ll see a lot of families with their picnic, children playing. You continue to walk around the lake, feeling refreshed and observing the families on their free time.
Not far from the temple, I found a traditional tea house… the walls are covered by colourful boxes of tea. On the first floor, you can enjoy a tea made at the moment and feel transported to some hundred years ago. Inspired by the boxes illustrations, you can imagine a romantic view of the tea plantations or the couples having tea on their Sunday clothes.
I love markets, so here I go finding the local one: I love the colours, the diversity, all that is different from what I have in our daily life. Of course, a lot of what happens in these traditional markets are dissonant from your concepts and beliefs, but it’s the place where you see real-life happening and learn more about people and habits.
If you’re a coffee fan don’t hesitate to visit Natural Coffee. If you’re not, be tempted, as they have much more to offer (snacks, drinks, waffles, ice cream…). It is a welcoming place, with thematic decoration, a good place to rest for a while and restore energy. As fair-trade promoters, they contribute to a better coffee chain and create more value for local communities. Try it!
Beautiful and engaging handcraft store
Under the same trade principles, next to the Coffee store, I discovered a nice and purposeful handcraft store: nice design, diversity and handmade by women – the concept is “craft to empower” – all materials done by women, from home, allowing them to have an income and be independent. Don’t miss it and contribute!
Enjoy a colourful dance show
At the city center, in the Cultural Center, you can experience a Traditional Music and Dance Show. If you are short on time, book in advance so you don’t miss it. The audience is a good mix of locals (people coming to visit the temple, I believe) and tourists.
The room is full and excited, with an eclectic audience enjoying the lively clothes, the joyful music and, in the end, walking on embers – yes, it is for real!
When the brave dancers enter the room, you hold your breath…maybe close your eyes for a while. And then it happens, and you can’t believe what your eyes are witnessing!
You leave the room in excitement, facing the lake again. In our case by sunset, the red sky reflected the water, creating a breathtaking landscape that you want to last forever!
Dambulla Cave Temples – UNESCO World Heritage
Before reaching the cave, a big climb is waiting for you.
Dambulla is a small town ~70km in the north of Kandy. Things move slower here, so you have a slow-motion feeling.
The beautifully painted cave temples of Dambulla were designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1991 and are really worth seeing.
The highlight here is a 14m (46-ft) long reclining Buddha, but all the statues and paintings are impressive and well kept. It is hard to believe it was sculpted inside the giant stone that is still their home.
After 3 days of experiencing the rituals and temples at slow pace, you’re ready to proceed to the promised best train travel ever 🙂
Join us on the next post!