Delightful Sri Lanka and it’s….Drivers, Safaris, Buddhist Monks, Vegetable buns and Arrack……Part 3
Our first place to visit in Kandy is the Temple of the Tooth and Nisha explains the temple, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of ‘The Buddha’ himself, is possibly the most sacred Buddhist shrine in the world not only recognised by Buddhists here in Sri Lanka but also by Buddhists everywhere. I ask how did the buddha’s tooth end up in Kandy and I am told that Legend has it when the Buddha was cremated in 543 BC at Kushinagar in North India, various parts of his remains were rescued from the fire, including one of his teeth. The Tooth was then smuggled into Sri Lanka, hidden (according to legend) in the hair of a Orissan Princess……….all fascinating stuff !
The drive to the Temple is short,, this is a very busy city and is bustling with locals going about their daily routine, there is noise, bright colours and a buzz in the air and I soak up the atmosphere as we head towards the next port of call. The traffic is ‘chaotic’ and Nisha’s calm demeanour coupled with his experienced driving skills, instil a sense of confidence in his abilities to negotiate the roads. I reflect on my own experiences of driving whilst in Italy and the differences in how drivers react to each other in busy traffic. There is a lot of horn sounding here although not in an irritable ‘get out of my space’ way, more of a ‘hello just letting you know I am here’ way, which I find refreshing.
We find a parking space close to the temple and as we enter and pay, we are closely followed by a group of ‘female Buddhist monks’ which delights me and I am keen to observe them in this holy place. Nisha picks up on my excitement at seeing the monks and says that I am lucky to have seen the females as they are much rarer than the male monks here. He then slows his pace and turns to face the group as they walk towards us and asks if I would be able to have a photograph taken with them, they acknowledge the request and tell us to follow.
As we do, we head into a covered walk way where there are fewer people and as we exit the other end Nisha is told that this is where we can take a photograph, I am happy ! The picture is taken, I thank the monks and they carry on their way to the temple where I later see them meditating and spend a little time quietly observing, whilst they engage in this religious practise.
After completing our trip around the Temple we continue on our way and visit other places of interest in Kandy including several viewpoints and busy shopping streets. Nisha tells me that my original ‘driver’ (whose name I shall keep anonymous……….) had called, he would like to meet me later this evening to check that I am happy with Nisha’s service and (obviously) collect his ‘Regal Chivas’ along with half payment for the tour which is what we had agreed before I left the UK, with the rest to be paid on my return to the Airport at the end of my trip. At least he has made the effort to meet with me and not just asked for the ‘goods’ to be handed over to Nisha.
The last port of call for my first day in Sri Lanka is a visit to a traditional Kandy dance performance, which is where I am to hand over my hard-earned cash and whiskey. As we arrive at the venue the heavens open and I am treated to a short-lived, spectacular thunder-storm which clears the ‘muggy air’. As arranged I meet and hand over the ‘dollar and liquor’ to the ‘original driver’ and although I do want to highlight my discomfort felt in Dubai airport, where he messaged me to let me know he would not be picking me up, I am more than happy with Nisha’s services as my driver and so I hold my tongue, smile, hand over the goods, and say goodbye.
The heavens are still open and the rain is hammering down as both Nisha and I make our way to the hall where the performance is to take place and although this is only a minute away from the car, when we arrive at the entrance I am drenched…..Nisha directs me to where I should go and tells me he will be waiting outside at the end of the dance.
I take a programme and find a seat which is probably 10 rows from the front of the stage and sit patiently, hoping that the humidity in the hall, will soon dry me out. As I wait for the show to begin, I feel the demands of my journey from the UK, coupled with the very long day that I have had and I struggle to stop my head from dropping to the side as I slip in and out of sleep whilst sat upright in the chair.
I am aware that I resemble the ‘Churchill’s nodding dog’ but there is nothing that I can do to prevent the exhaustion from getting the better of me. The show begins and I am able to keep awake whilst the drums are beating and dancers perform, the show is fabulous, however I am pleased to reach the end, as I now know that I am heading to my first nights’ accommodation and bed!
Kandy Mount Hotel is a short drive away and I am welcomed by staff here and shown to my room, which I am more than happy with. There had been some conflicting reviews of this hotel on TripAdvisor, some showing photographs of unkempt parts of bedrooms and showers etc. This was not my experience at all and I would most definitely return here given the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka again.
I thank Nisha for my wonderful first day and he tells me that he will meet me in the hotel reception tomorrow morning at 9am. I unpack, shower and then sit on the balcony looking out into the darkness, listening to distant thunder and feeling the humidity of the evening, reflecting on the days activities. I WhatsApp the offspring who are all keen to know how my first day has gone and as I update them on the ‘driver issue’ at Dubai airport, followed by my first 19 hours in Sri Lanka, they are content that I am having a good time and that I am safe.