Kandy : A sweet stop for city kids in Sri Lanka
Every backpacker knows Kandy, maybe because it sounds like “Candy” so everyone wants to visit somewhere sweet.
We chose Kandy to be our last stop before flying back to Singapore.
Kandy is positioned as the capital of the central province and hill country. It is quite impressive as a city as it is the central hub of Hill Country, where most buses and trains go through Kandy.
This contributes to the sprawling mess of the bus station, but also the energy and vibe to the city. There are many restaurants, food places, a growing number of cafes and a better infrastructure built in Kandy as compared to the other areas in Hill Country. The comparison with Dambulla is stark contrast despite Dambulla having naturally stronger attractions.
Kandy is also host to its own UNESCO Heritage site, the “Temple of the Tooth Relic” (also known as (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world.
Getting to Kandy
Kandy has basically one main bus station, weirdly termed “The Goods Shed”. It serves as the transit hub for all the longer inter-city buses, within walking distance from the Kandy Clock Tower or the Lake and definitely tuk-tuk distance. There are a number of other bus stops located around the clock tower.
Most people travel to Kandy via the train from Colombo, making it their first stop in the hill country.
It is also accessible by bus. Here is a list of some popular destinations to Kandy.
Buses leave to most of the destinations below every half an hour from 5am till 8.30pm:
|Route||Transport||Journey Time||Approx. Price (one-way)|
|Colombo – Kandy||CTB Buses||3½ hr.||0.5$ (Rs. 70)|
|Colombo – Kandy||Ordinary private buses||3 hr.||0.6$ to 1$ (Rs. 80 to Rs. 120)|
|Colombo – Kandy||Air-con intercity express buses||2½ to 3 hr.||1$ (Rs. 140)|
|Negombo – Kandy||CTB Buses||3 to 3½ hr.||0.5$ (Rs. 64)|
|Negombo – Kandy||Air-con intercity express buses||3 to 3½ hr.||1$ (Rs 140)|
|Nuwara Eliya – Hatton – Kandy
||Air-con intercity express buses||2½ to 4 hr.||1$ (Rs. 125)|
|Anuradhapura – Kandy||Air-con intercity express buses||3 hr.||1.1$ (Rs 150)|
|Anuradhapura – Kandy||Ordinary private buses||3½ hr.||0.6$ (Rs 75)|
|Polonnaruwa – Kandy
|Ordinary private buses (1 change in Dambulla)||3 hr.||0.7$ (Rs 90)|
|Polonnaruwa – Kandy||Air-con intercity express buses||3 hr.||1.1$ (Rs 150)|
|Dambulla – Kandy||Ordinary private buses||2 hr.||0.3$ (Rs. 40)|
|Sigiriya – Kandy||Ordinary private buses||2½ hr.||0.4$ (Rs 52)|
We took a bus from Dambulla and arrived in Kandy in the afternoon. We initially were waiting for the express buses at the main bus station of Dmabulla, but the express bus did not stop for us! So we gave up and took one of the many ordinary buses that ply the route from Dambulla to Kandy, which was way cheaper. It wasn’t too crowded as there were many buses and we had seats.
What to do in Kandy?
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Opening hours: 05.30 – 20.00 hours
Admission fee (for foreigners) : 1,500 LKR per person
Shoe Rack : 100 rs per person
Tip: It is mandatory to remove your footwear before entering the temple. The shoes are stored at the entrance and handed back on departure. It is permissible to wear socks, which might be a good idea because the ground can be very hot during the day. If you do not wish to pay 100 rs, you can leave your shoes outside the temple like the locals and have faith in humanity that it will still remain there when you leave the temple.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, also known as the Sri Dalada Maligawa is one of the most famous attractions in Kandy, being UNESCO Heritage site. It is an important Buddhist temple which supposedly houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Located in the heart of the city centre, it is extremely accessible with the tourist centre as well as the Kandy lake right next to it.
According to some locals, the temple is also of a strong religious significance to the government and maybe to Kandy itself. I can’t help but notice the amount of emphasis placed on maintaining its image in Kandy, as compared to other temples in Sri Lanka. There are some security measures at the entrance and you will need to dress appropriately to enter the temple. Entering with short skirts and sleeveless shirts are generally a no-no, like to get to most temples.
The temple is extremely crowded in the morning, with many pilgrims queuing to view the procession and pay their respects. We spent some time trying to find the queue for the shoe rack. There are queues for tourists and locals for the shoe rack, so in order not to be queueing up for nothing, simply ask the guard and they will guide you.
We spent the next 15 minutes squeezing our way into the main temple.
Naturally, we were pushed forward by the flowing stream of visitors, like a river flowing to an outlet. Many people, were wearing white and carried garlands, frangipani or the lotus flowers as offerings. Although it was squeezy, the whole complex was scented with blossoms and incense. The flowers and offerings can be purchased from vendors beside the temple gates or before at the entrance.
Before we knew it, we were led to the main halls where we heard some drums and music. There were also several monks entering the shrines with various items.
Apparently, this was part of the procession of “Tevava”. There are also several rituals or processions which are conducted throughout the day. “Tevava” is one of the service rituals.
he Time Allocated for Thevavas or Service of Offerings
|Morning Thevava (Alms offered in the Morning- Breakfast)||5.30 a.m. – 7.00 a.m.|
|Ninth hour Poojava (Alms offered before Mid day – lunch)||9.30 a.m – 11.00 a.m.|
|Evening Thevava (gilanpasa pooja Offered in the evening)||6.30 p.m. – 8.00 p.m.|
Nobody really gets to see the actual relic, only the shrine/casket where it is stored. The relic of the tooth is kept in a two-story inner shrine fronted by two large elephant tusks, encased in jeweled caskets which sits on a throne.
We simply went with the flow, as the devotees continued filing up the the halls into the second level and going past the relic.
Other than the relic, it is interesting to see the interiors of the temple buildings which are quite elaborately carved and decorated with inlaid woods, ivory and lacquer. The royal palace, the white stone walls and audience hall are other places to visit. It might be worthwhile to get a guide to maximize the experience, if not you could always refer to these websites while walking through the area.
Honestly, was it spectacular or mindblowing?
It was however interesting to see and experience one of the places of religious fervor in Kandy and Sri Lanka. I can’t help but notice how much money and effort was poured into this temple. As it was way too crowded, our pace there was almost dictated by the crowd pushing you through the sites. The whole place doesn’t take too long and we were exhausted by at the end of it. It makes a good morning visit to fill up your day in Kandy, but nothing more than 3 hours for it.
Compared to the other places in Hill Country, Kandy is like the paradise for food. There are a lot more restaurants and eateries located in Kandy for both the local tourists and foreign tourists. We spent most of our time in Kandy looking for some comfort food at the end of our trip. There are also some decent cafes to visit!
Buono Cafe is a small and pleasant looking cafe located in between the Kandy Clock tower and central market.
It might be a good place to try some string or egg hoppers and drink tea in the morning! However, as I looked through the menu, some of the food was overpriced so be careful. I saw the main meals had really huge portions, typical of Sri Lankan Standards.
Down the street from Midlands Deli is Natural Coffee Cafe! It is a Japanese-Sri lankan cafe collaboration, with free wifi, air-conditioning and clean toilets! It made a great break from the city, just sitting on the second level and watching people walk by. Prices are slightly steeper than normal, the food was passable but the coffee and matcha were quite good. They also had discounts on certain days so do check it out.
Bakehouse is another famous place with its chain of shops all around Kandy, something like a “Breadtalk” in Kandy. Although it had a huge selection of tarts and cakes, I was never one with the sweet tooth. We only stopped by to buy its diverse types of bread which were still extremely affordable! It is great for backpackers or people who wish to keep moving instead of waiting 1 hour for someone to cook you a Sri Lankan lunch.
It has a huge restaurant but we did not visit so you can rely on the tripadvisor to see if it was worth.
Kandy Lake and Viewpoint
Kandy Lake is actually an artificial lake and is also known as “Kiri Muhuda” or “Sea of Milk”. One can take a nice slow walk around the lake, looking at the ducks and the tranquil waters in contrast to the speeding vehicles and honking buses which surround the lake. It takes around an hour to walk around it. You can spy the conspicuous Elephant Tooth Temple from across the lake. There is a viewpoint of Kandy city which you can take a tuk-tuk or you can walk there, but we never got a chance to visit due to the lack of time.
Kandy is a good stop for people who miss civilization. It has restaurants, cafes, a nice lake to walk around and is easy to access from other main cities. It serves as the transit hub within Hill Country, but if you ask me, 2 days is more than enough as most of the Sri Lanka’s highlights lie outside of Kandy.