A bit of history and culture before we go back to the beach...
Kandy is the second biggest town in Sri Lanka and is in the middle of the hill country so we travelled from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy on the train to enjoy the tea plantation views. The views are stunning and well worth the early start as you see the local Tamil tea pickers hard at work on the landscape. You get to hang out of the carriage doors to take photos and wave to the Tamil people along the way, plus we paid for first class and I got to have a lovely snooze.
We had already seen a lot of the scenery of the hill country on the train journey and in Ella, therefore we decided to only spend a couple of hours in Kandy seeing the main attraction, the Sacred Tooth Relic, and so left our big bags at the train station's luggage office. At first we weren't sure whether to like Kandy Town as it was so busy, polluted, everybody in a rush or trying to rip you off (I guess we have been spoilt by the friendly locals we've met so far). I gather that as soon as you get into the out skirts of Kandy it gets a lot more pretty and secluded in the hill country.
You have to pay tourist prices at the main attraction sites so we paid 1500 rupees for a ticket each, plus an extra 500 ruppes for a half an hour guide around the Sacred Tooth Relic (our old guide claimed to have shown the Queen and Prince Charles around the site). The tooth is said to be that of the Buddhas and was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. You can only see a replica of it for 3hours a day, which unfortately we were late for , and the original tooth can only be seen by the general public every 5years. It was definitely worth seeing; gold guilded Buddha statues, glorious temples, crowds of Buddhists making offerings to the Buddha and our best bit was seeing Rajah, the Maligawa tusker elephant, that died in 1998. Rajah was said to be the most impressive tusked elephant ever to walk on earth and took part in Sri Lankan processions for tens of years and so to honour him the Sri Lankan government paid to have him taxidermed. And he really was HUGE,very impressive.
It was a long day. After our quick stop in Kandy we got on a hot and sweaty bus to Dambulla and rested our heads ready for another packed day.
Dambulla was a base for us to see Sigiriya Rock and the cave temples. Sigiriya Rock is truely amazing. It juts out of the landscape as a magnificent mass formation, which is the magma plug of an extinct volcano. Archeological findings suggest it served as a monks monastery in 3rd century BC and later a palace for royalty, where they landscaped gardens and moats around the rock, which can still be seen today. In order to get to the top we had to firstly pose for photographs for locals visiting the rock (as don't think they'd seen a ginger person before), then go up some rickety spiral stairs and then squeeze down a wall of mirror rock, before reaching the summit past thousands of wasps/bees/hornets (not sure what they were, but they were massive things that sting). The views at the top were spectacular. Dad, not sure you'd have managed this, we know how you were with scaling heights in New York.
We quickly hopped on a local bus and visited the Rock Temple Caves in Dambulla. At the foot of the mountain is a new huge golden Buddha and then you have to climb to the top to reach the caves themselves. There are a series of 5 caves that are ornately decorated with various statues and beautiful frescoe paintings from floor to ceiling. Various Kings have lived in the caves, the earliest being King Valagamba in the first century BC. Jason thinks they went OTT with the decorating and thought one cave would have been enough. He also became a little obsessed with monkeys that looked like they were wearing a wig.
After a hectic couple of days, with early starts, busy public transport, the heat, I am writing these last couple of blog entries from my sun lounger on a picture perfect beach in Trincomalee...