This is Kandy, the last royal capital city of Sri Lanka. Thanks to its spellbinding rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, this is by far one of my favourite countries to visit – with an oasis of wilderness, lush green and stunning scenery of rolling hills and valley between tree covered hill ranges, lingering smell of salivating spices, on the main road filled with hooting tuk tuks, British designed Lanka Ashok Leyland buses and colourful trucks zooming past. Goodness me. This is Kandy. This is Sri Lanka.
I can’t imagine it was a once a peaceful country and turned into a civil war nightmare overtaken over by the gurellia organisation, Tamil Tigers. After 26 years military campaign, the Sri Lanka military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the civil war to an end. In 7 short years this stunning little island became a thriving country relies heavily on tourism, resulting as one of the ultimate travel destinations. What more could a traveller want?
To bring this trip to light, here are my visual moments highlighting the sightseeing places during the 2 day visit starting with Kandy.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
It has always been my dream to visit an elephant sanctuary in Asia, a place where they are protected from harm and outside influence, ethical and cruelty-free, and gentler elephant tourism, sometimes it’s not always the case depending where you go to. I visited the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which houses over 80 wild elephants, it was a lovely experience to see the majestic creatures up close and watching the happy elephants bathe in the river exhibiting their natural behaviours. Thankfully it was quiet (large tour groups arrived later at peak hour) so I was able to watch the elephants munching on food, playing in the mud, scratch their behind from a rock stump, I did not see any mistreatment from the handlers. But given how this elephant orphanage is one of the hotlists for tourist attraction and the opportunity to see and bottle-feed the baby elephants, it was too commercial for my liking, but watching the elephants bathing in the river and roaming freely in the open field was the highlight of the visit. It’s worth a visit, but be prepared it’s a tourist attraction.
Bathalegala Kanda, known as Bible Rock during the colonial period, it resemble’s an open book, it is being used as a Buddhist place of worship. Visible in the distance and when you journey through Kadugannawa by train on the Colombo – Kandy line, it is indeed a spectacle sight. Bible Rock is located in the Kegalle district.
Giragama Tea Factory
A quick visit to the Giragama Tea Factory in Pilimatalawa one late afternoon. The factory and tea plantation was established in the 1903 and manufactures Low Grown and Long Leaf tea. A tour inside the factory and observed the whole tea making process including the exhibits are; a hand operated tea roller, hot bulb engine, tea dryer, followed by sampling a cup of Ceylon tea. Lastly, a mad dash through the tea fields to catch a glimpse of the tea pickers harvesting tea leaves before the end of the working hours.
Temple of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa)
This is one of the most delightful Buddhist temples I’ve ever been to (apart from the newly opened Tsz Shan Buddshist Monastery in HK), the atmosphere was very lively, there were crowds of barefooted tourists and worshippers brought their offerings to the temple, pretty garlands of flowers and lotus blossoms left delicately on the shrine. The temple also houses the sacred tooth of the Buddha, you don’t get to see the actual tooth, it’s kept in a gold egg-shaped casket. I couldn’t help but marvel the beautiful architecture, decorative motifs and the handcrafted ornate canopy above the ceiling of the temple. It’s an unexpected gem.
Where to stay:
I stayed at the chic new modern hotel located in the picturesque Kandyan hill, OZO Kandy, a 2 nights stay, courtesy of the OZO Kandy. The hotel is incredibly located, 15 minutes walk from Temple of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic. Stunning views over the lush green mountains, old colonial buildings and Kandy Lake. Opened since May 2015, the first international hotel to open in 20 years, OZO Kandy boasts 122 cosy rooms, a gym, a rooftop pool and eatery. There’s technologically-advance modern service – iPad fast track check-in system at the reception, free wifi, a cool interactive web bar ”Lectern”, features city guides, weather forecast and other information on digital touch screens. Breakfast bar offers energising and healthy delights and Boost juice to you buzzing in the morning. Ready yourself for a day of sightseeing with a quick bite, like mini pack lunch, from EAT2GO Grab and Go station, the and for the evening with doze-off treats with herbal teas and other warm drinks help you to get a good night’s sleep. Black-out curtains and the best bedding I have slept in, despite waking up super early from the chanting sounds from the temple, with the calming effect, I was able to go back to sleep without complaint. Speaking of sleep, OZO focuses on sleep, energy and connectivity, and there’s one motto; ‘sleep tight and wake bright.’ It’s amazing, simple luxury and affordable accommodation, OZO has to offer. I really enjoyed my stay there and wish I stayed longer.
Stay tuned for part 2, featuring my trip to Colombo!
Kit Lee was a guest of OZO Kandy and ONYX Hospitality Group.