A golden temple, magic plants and a sacred tooth

Because this was our first big trip without Ella in years, and because Sri Lanka was an add-on to our trip to the Maldives, Katy put together a pretty packed itinerary. In our 5 days we are covering what most would typically do in two weeks.

Having travelled from Negombo (outside Colombo) to Dambulla – the most northern point of our trip – on our first day, our second day saw us go south toward Kandy.

Our hotel was a massive, beautiful property with it’s own plantation and rice paddy which inspired an early morning run. Thanks to our jetlag, we were up with plenty of time before we had to meet Jerry. Unfortunately I made it about 5 minutes before twisting my ankle and having to limp my way back to the hotel for ice.

Back up we go

Our second day started much like the day before had ended, climbing stairs to a visit at World Heritage Site.

This time it was to visit the Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple. The site is located in a rock that stands 160m high and features 5 caves adorned with murals and filled with statues of Buddha.

Impressive as the statues and murals were, the number of statues in some of the caves did give it a kind of Buddha warehouse feel.

As it’s also the holiday season here, the site was busy with both foreign and local tourists, not to mention the usual contingent of monkeys.

Climbing back down a different staircase from the one we’d gone up brought us to the giant Golden Buddha.

Some tasty home cooking

Our next stop was a visit to the village of Madurivel. This wasn’t just visiting a village though, this was a village safari and included three modes of transportation: a bull cart, a boat and a TukTuk. Perhaps a Sri Lankan sequel to Plains, Trains and Automobiles…

As fun as the modes of transportation were, the highlight was learning how to prepare (by which I mean watching Anusha, our kind host, make) coconut sambola and millet roti.

It was interesting to see the process from harvested grains to ready-to-eat and the result was delicious.

How did science miss all this?

Back on the road to Kandy, we stopped at an herb garden where we learned two things: 1) we are terrible at identifying things we consume regularly (chocolate, coffee, tumeric) in their natural state, and 2) science is really missing some wondrous things that can be done with the simple application or consumption of the right herbs. For instance, one simple herbal cocktail taken for three months will clear your system right up and have you lose 10 kgs. And, if you drink lime juice afterwards the weight will never come back. Another will give you youthful, blemish-free skin.

Needless to say, scientist Katy was a little skeptical, especially as this message was coming from a slightly overweight man who looked every day of his 50 some years.

Ayurveda may be popular in Sri Lanka, but we’ll be sticking with prescriptions supported by the scientific method over advice from a roadside garden.

Back on the road to Kandy we made one last quick stop to visit a Hindu temple. This is noteworthy mostly because it’s the first time I’ve bought a ticket to look at the outside of a building. The temple was closed so the more expensive tickets to see the inside weren’t an option.

Kandy dancing and a famous tooth

After a long day on the road we made it to Kandy, which is of course a World Heritage Site. There we made a quick stop at the hotel to drop off our bags and made our way down to see the famous Kandy dancing. Despite what it sounds like it, this is not a description of what a stipper does, it’s a combination of drumming and multiple dance styles that are native to the Kandy area.

The show was packed with tourists. In fact, so many of the seats were reserved by big tour groups that we had a hard time finding two, despite having tickets. Fortunately, the seats were just plastic chairs. So, our trusty driver/guide/fixer Jerry took matters into his own hands and moved two seats into the centre aisle for us. Problem solved.

The show itself was interesting and included, drumming, dancing, some plate spinning, fire eating and a little fire walking at the end. Despite this, we were both fighting the jet lag by the end of the show and were happy to get back on our feet and moving around when it ended.

Our last stop of the night was The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. As the name would suggest, the temple is known for being the home to the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Long story short, when the Buddha died, he was cremated and someone grabbed a tooth from the pyre. It was passed around a bit but has spent much of its time in Kandy, the last seat of Sri Lankan Kings. It was said that he who had the tooth was ruler of Sri Lanka.

During Puja (offerings or prayers) the room that houses the tooth is opened which allows devotees and tourists alike a glimpse of the golden casket that holds the tooth. Let me tell you, this draws a crowd. It was so busy that I wish we hadn’t been there so there was more room for buddhists for whom this would be much more important. Alternatively there must be a crowd management system that doesn’t rely on cramming as many people as possible in a room and pushing.

By the time we left, we were sweaty and exhausted. We dragged ourselves back up the hill to the hotel and made our way to bed as quickly as we could. We needed to get some sleep as our next day would be almost as busy.

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