Scenes from Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2012

After Colombo our first stop was Kandy, a small town in the middle of Sri Lanka with a long and storied history. We got to Kandy after a long (four hour) train ride from Colombo. We landed up staying in Kandy for three nights before moving on to Nuwara Eliya. Kandy itself has a number of tourist attractions including Kandy Lake, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandyan Dancing and the world famous botanical gardens. Day trips from Kandy to the elephant orphanage and places to ride elephants are also available as are trips to Srigiya and other places. We both felt that Kandy was beautiful but we were disappointed with the food and thought it has really become overrun with tourists. The guest house we stayed at in Kandy was the best one of the whole trip and our hosts were amazing. We had fun in Kandy but felt the best part of it was visiting the elephants and the lake.

Kandy Lake
Kandy Lake

Scenes from Kandy

Scenes from Kandy are shown in the video below. Highlights include the lake, the streets and the markets.

Beautiful Kandy

One of the main reasons I (Paul) wanted to go to Kandy was because I knew it was a beautiful place. I remember watching a cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka on TV way back in the early 1990s. The game was washed out so every time I looked at the TV they had sweeping scenes of the beautiful trees and mountains that surrounded the cricket stadium. I remember thinking then that Kandy would be an amazing place to visit, and the memory of those scenes was one of the motivating reasons to go to Sri Lanka. Needless to say, when we were on the train to Kandy, I was really looking forward to it. After all, it is is something I have wanted to do for more than a decade.

Freedom Lodge

Freedom Lodge Owners Sarath and Nalini , Kandy
Nalini and Sarath, Freedom Lodge Proprietors

One of the highlights of our trip to Kandy was staying in the beautiful Freedom Lodge located on a hill just above the lake. We booked the lodge in Colombo and were incredibly happy with the random choice of this place. The owners, Sarath and Nalini, were incredibly friendly, prepared awesome breakfasts and can prepare a traditional Sri Lankan dinner if you order ahead. The Freedom Lodge is open and all the lodgers hangout and chat with each other and Sarath is also more than willing to discuss anything from politics to itineraries with anyone. Our room was the cheaper room and we were more than happy with the room. Freedom Lodge is one of the oldest guest houses in Kandy and, according to what Sarath told us, has been open since the early 1990s. It is a tremendous place to stay and we highly recommend it.

Breakfast Area at Freedom Lodge, Kandy
Breakfast Area of the Freedom Lodge

Kandy Lake

Beautiful Kandy Lake
Kandy Lake

Kandy Lake is the most distinctive feature in Kandy. As soon as you get into Kandy you see this man made lake right in the middle. It is surrounded by hills and the the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic sits on the shores of this beautiful lake. According to Wikipedia "is a manmade lake created in 1807 by the last Sinhalese king of Kandy, using forced labor" and the lake has a perimeter of 2.1 miles.

The great thing about the lake was the cool breeze that came off the water. It was an incredible contrast to the hot, sticky, dusty climate on Colombo. In the middle of the lake was a fountain and at particular times of the day you could see a rainbow through the water.

Kandy Lake Fountain
Kandy Lake Fountain

Around the lake there are usually people hanging out with their families and just relaxing. On the Sunday morning we were there, there were a few families out having a picnic together. We thought that was awesome. There were also a few vendors around the lake selling fruit and vegetables and other snacks and drinks. Despite the people, most parts of the lake are empty enough to enjoy in solitude and every point of the lake has tremendous views.

Picnic on Lake Kandy  (by Queenie)
Family Picnic (by Queenie)

On the Shores of Kandy Lake
Relaxing on the Edge (by Queenie)

Fruit Sellers on Lake Kandy  (by Queenie)
Lake Vendors (by Queenie)

Nature Around the Lake

As you can no doubt imagine there is a lot of nature around the lake. One of the most ominous creatures we saw were the Water Monitors. Who would have thought? Apparently there are a lot of these reptiles in the lake and as I have since read, they have no natural enemies since there flesh is poisonous. The locals are also respectful of them as they say they have vicious bites and are poisonous. I am not sure if the bite is poisonous. It should be noted however, since these lizards are cold blooded, all they really want to do is bask in the sun and stay warm. No real interest in eating or attacking people.

Water Monitors in Kandy Lake
Water Monitors (by Queenie)

Water Monitors in Kandy Lake  (by Queenie)
Water Monitor (by Queenie)

Of course, since it is a lake, there is a lot of bird life around the lake. There are the completely intolerable crows, there were storks, ducks and other birds that we couldn't identify. The crows were the most irritating and their squawking often kept us awake or just gave us headaches.

Stork on the Lake (by Queenie)
White Stork (by Queenie)

Relaxing next to Kandy Lake
Feeding the Ducks

The other part of the beauty around the lake is the incredible vegetation and all the trees that have grown up around the lake. The hills in the background also provide a spectacular frame for the lake. The trees around the lake themselves provide beautiful, natural frames for the sunset and provide cool shade for people who are relaxing around the lake.

Tree on Kandy Lake
Old Tree on Lake Kandy

Fallen Tree on Kandy Lake  (by Queenie)
Fallen Tree (by Queenie)

Tree Branches on Lake Kandy  (by Queenie)
Tree Branches (by Queenie)

Sunset on Kandy Lake  (by Queenie)
Beautiful Sunset (by Queenie)

Not quite next to the lake, but close to our hotel, was a big open garbage dump that attracted stray dogs and some really big monkeys. The garbage dump was a terrible scar in this beautiful town and does show the country still has a long way to go. However, there were always lots of monkeys running around the place and on the road.

Monkey in Kandy  (by Queenie)
Monkey (by Queenie)

The Streets of Kandy

The Streets of Kandy
The Streets of Kandy (by Queenie)

The main city center in Kandy were typical of most towns in Sri Lanka: busy with tuk-tuks, buses, cars and motorcycles. Lots of shops too. The difference between other towns was the number of tourist oriented restaurants that sold pretty awful Chinese food. It was really difficult to find any restaurant that sold real, authentic Sri Lankan food. The streets in Kandy however were interesting and lots of fun to be in. We found this clothes market on the roof top of a parking lot that was very noisy and a lot of fun to be in. We love walking into markets like these but they were hot and stuffy and we soon had to get out of there.

Clothes Market in Kandy  (by Queenie)
Clothes Market (by Queenie)

Profiles and People in Kandy

When we were in Kandy Queenie managed to take some awesome profile pictures of the people around the lake and in the town. The people in Kandy right from our hosts at the Freedom Lodge to the vendors and the towns folk were all incredibly friendly. It was absolutely pleasurable meeting everyone.

Portrait in Kandy - Sri Lanka - 2012 (by Queenie)
Kandy Profile

Portrait in Kandy - Sri Lanka - 2012 (by Queenie)
Kandy Profile

Clothes Vendor in Kandy  (by Queenie)
Kandy Vendor Profile

While I was walking through the town on one occasion I bumped into a guy wearing a South African rugby supporters jersey. I was later to learn that rugby was actually a pretty big sport in Sri Lanka and later on bumped into a rugby team. There were also a lot of people wearing South African cricket supporter shirts and when I spoke with them they actually supported South Africa as a second team.

Rugby Supporter  (by Queenie)
South African Rugby Supporter in Kandy

Kandy - Final Verdict

Queenie and I loved being in Kandy, we loved staying in Freedom Lodge, we loved meeting the people, we loved the lake, we loved the weather and we loved walking through the streets. We also enjoyed its proximity to the elephant orphanage and the elephant riding destination.

What we didn't like was that it is a very popular tourist spot (too many tourists I would say) and I think I got there 10 years too late. Too many tourists meant that everywhere we went there was a tout trying to persuade us to buy a tour or go into a restaurant or buy something. It gets irritating quickly. They would always start with the question - "Where are you from?" and then move on from there. After two days of incessant pushiness it just became overly irritating. The other disappointing thing about Kandy was the food. There was no, and I mean no, Sri Lankan food available in any of the restaurants. We did manage to get one curry lunch but for the rest they only sold really bad Chinese food (noodles) and some pastries that were not too delicious. We did have one great Sri Lankan meal at our Lodge but apart from that, the food here was disappointing.

Despite these negatives, we would recommend a trip there and would go back again if we went to Sri Lanka again. The good outweighs the bad and overall it was a wonderful experience.

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