Winter Break #8: Kandy

Kandy is sometimes included in the Cultural Triangle to its north and sometimes included in the hill country to its south because it lies right between the two. It’s the second largest city in Sri Lanka and was the capitol of the Sinhalese kingdom until conquered by the British in 1815. At its center is a large and beautiful lake made in 1807 with a gruesome history as workers who objected to working on it were killed on spikes at its center. There’s no evidence of that today, though!

After checking in to our lovely hotel with a balcony overlooking the lake, we headed out in hopes of getting ice cream from a place Melissa read about. Sadly, it was closed, as were many establishments because this was the first full moon of the year, an important holiday in the Buddhist tradition. We settled for inferior gelato at the mall, but it was fine. We very much enjoyed wandering through the market full of beautiful produce and then walking along the 3-mile path all the way around the lake. Along the way, we walked past the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which apparently holds Buddha’s tooth, rescued from his funeral pyre. A number of temples in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa had previously made a similar claim because possession of the tooth was an indication of power. The tooth is kept inside a box inside a box inside another box, so people really just line up to the see the box, and many suggest that it actually holds a decoy with the real tooth safeguarded elsewhere. Still, white-clad pilgrims filled the grounds with reverence.

For dinner, we made our way to a delicious hotel restaurant called Cafe Mango Garden. They specialize in a “buffet” that they bring to the table. It really seemed to be the Sri Lankan version of an Indian thali with a variety of complementary dishes, all of them very tasty, but none of them featuring mango. After dinner, we went across the street to a hotel with a rooftop bar, where we learned that alcohol was not served today, again thanks to the Poya (full moon). We settled for fruit juices and then went home.

The next morning, we were greeted at breakfast with plain eggs (too runny for Melissa to eat) and plain white bread. Yup, we forgot to say that we didn’t want the boring white people food. How many times will we have to learn that lesson?!

There was no point in lingering over breakfast so we decided on two stops before heading out of town. First, we returned to the market where we bought pineapples, limes, mangoes, passion fruit, mandarins, and cashews for our stay at an Airbnb in Hikkaduwa. Then we went back to the ice cream place that was closed the day before. Sure it was only 10:30, but we were primed for this ice cream! TripAdvisor rates Cool Corner as the top rated restaurant in Kandy – how could we skip it? They make “fried” ice cream, which really means that they mix together the ingredients of your choice and then spread the liquid over a frozen platter that looks like a frying surface. This rapidly transforms your liquid into ice cream while you watch them scraping it over the surface. It’s fun to watch and very tasty, but not a great option with five people since they are made one at a time. Rachel got hers first and was done by the time the third was made. Our driver’s came last, and we all just kind of awkwardly watched him eat it. Still, it was hard to regret such a tasty treat.

We then piled into the car for the 4-hour drive to the beach community of Hikkaduwa.