Notes from the road - edition 11: First impressions from Sri Lanka
What. A. Place.
Sri Lanka has completely blown me away. The people, the culture, the food, the landscape. Everything.
After an extremely rough twelve-hour transit from Bali, still trying to recover from my sickness, I arrived at about 1 am on Wednesday morning and got myself to my hostel.
Still very much unwell, I jumped straight on the train from Colombo to Kandy. I was not expecting the intensity of the other passengers in boarding the train. There were old women who looked just about ready to start swinging if it meant they would get a seat.
The journey was supposed to take three hours but took five, and so, crammed in-between several other passengers and our luggage, I tried not to feel too sorry for myself, always coming back to the fact that I was at the start of yet another adventure.
A good night’s sleep in Kandy seemed to finally bring me back from the brink. And the following morning I managed to eat, finding a restaurant by accident that my friends Mark and Mim from The Common Wanderer had recommended.
Having not eaten proper food for four days, the plain dosa I had tasted anything but plain. It will go down in my memory as one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
I then made my way to Sigiriya by bus and climbed the famed Lion’s Rock for sunset. I can see why this is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. 200-metres of rock that juts straight up from the earth. It commands a powerful view of the surrounding country, and at sunset it was a truly beautiful sight to behold.
The following morning, I was up well before the sun. I rode my borrowed and very shoddy bicycle through the dark to the base of Pidurangala, a smaller, but no less impressive, rock that sits next to Sigiriya. From its top, I watched the sun rise over Sigiriya itself and the surrounding landscape along with about a hundred other travellers and tourists.
After enjoying the morning views, it was time to head back to Kandy, but first, a quick stop in Dambulla to see the cave temple complex.
And to finish the day, a sunset walk around Kandy Lake. What a day.
Saturday was one of those days where I felt like a true traveller. I rose in the morning and went for my first run since recovering from being sick. Then, armed only with my camera and a very rough agenda of what I wanted to do and see, I headed to the Central Markets.
Here I met Bada. Bada let me sample the fruit from his stall; four different types of mango, two different types of banana, grapes, and THE freshest passionfruit I have ever tasted. Naturally I bought as much fruit as I could carry.
From there I wandered through the Old Town Markets, a collection of alleyways and side streets bustling with stores of all kinds.
It is Sinahlese and Tamil New Year this weekend, and so the whole city is alive with activity. all day long, no matter where you are in the city, the sound of fireworks can be heard, set off by those who get just a little bit too excited.
After the Old Town Markets, I headed to Kandy’s main attraction, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. This temple holds what is believed to be one of Buddha’s teeth, brought to the island in the 4th century.
The intricately decorated halls are filled with locals come to pay their respects and fellow travellers like myself come to experience such a unique piece of culture.
Having had a morning full of city wanderings, I made my way toward Udawatte Kele Forest Sanctuary. 104 hectares of pure forest that was once the pleasure garden of the Kandyan kings.
To finish the day, sunset at the ‘Big Buddha’ statue that overlooks Kandy.
Today is the official day of celebration for New Years, so most of the city is closed down. Tomorrow I head south to climb Sri Pada, or, Adam’s Peak, and from there on to Ella.
Until then, happy voyaging!