Sri Lanka trip / Day 1 : Kandy Treasures

After my flight from Bangkok to Colombo, the renowned “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” with Malindo Air’s convenient layover in Kuala Lumpur, I arrived at Colombo International Airport around 1AM local time (with a delay of approximately 1.5 hours). I then hopped into a taxi immediately and headed to my pre-booked accommodation near the Negombo bus station to get a good 5-6 hours of rest before waking up early in the morning to catch a bus to the ancient capital of Sri Lanka known as “Kandy” (technically, the airport is not located in Colombo but in the town of Negombo, about 40 kilometers away). I chose to stay in Negombo because it was close to the airport, taking less than 15 minutes to travel, and it had a main bus station from where I could catch a direct bus to Kandy the next day, making my onward journey convenient.

My first night’s accommodation after disembarking was at “Mazz Homestay,” located just 300 meters away from the regular bus station in Negombo. It was a comfortable walk. This homestay felt like a single-floor house divided into separate rooms for guests. My room was a simple fan-cooled space with a single bed and a small table. There was one shared bathroom and a shared kitchen. The cost of the accommodation was only 10 USD per night. As soon as I arrived, I wasted no time, quickly taking a refreshing shower and diving straight into bed. I had to wake up at 7AM to catch the bus to Kandy, so there was no time to lose.


Mazz Homestay where I did short stay for napping before catching the bus to Kandy


When I woke up at seven in the morning, the weather was incredibly clear and sunny. I quickly took a shower and headed straight to the bus station in Negombo. I arrived around 7.45AM, and it was crowded with people rushing to work. Finding the bus labeled “Kandy” wasn’t difficult at all. If I couldn’t locate it, I could simply ask someone nearby. Almost everyone here spoke English, so communication was a breeze. I inquired with the driver and checked the bus schedule, and it turned out that the bus departed at 8AM. This gave me 15 minutes to find something to eat for breakfast around the bus station. The station had a charming provincial feel, with parking spaces and small shops selling snacks. I grabbed a box of UHT coffee and another piece of bread, which cost me a total of 120 LKR (around 1 USD). I boarded the bus, which was a fan-cooled (non-air-conditioned) one, and the atmosphere inside was vibrant and lively. It was truly a “adventure” experience.


Negombo Bus Station


In front of Negombo Bus Station


The people were waiting for the bus in rush hour


The sign at the platform of the bus


My bus to Kandy !



The bus departed right on time at eight o’clock, and about 75% of the seats were occupied (it seemed likely that we would make additional stops to pick up more passengers along the way). Just five minutes after the bus started, the conductor came around to collect the fare. They asked me where I was getting off and then wrote down the price on a ticket, tearing off my portion. It reminded me of the local bus at my hometown, about ten years ago. After approximately 20 minutes on the road, we made a stop at a bus station near the airport to pick up more passengers before finally hitting the outskirts of the capital city.


The atmosphere inside the bus 🚌

After the bus started moving out of the city and began ascending the hills, I started witnessing the beauty of nature in Sri Lanka. The atmosphere inside the bus became serene as we slowly made our way up the steep and winding road. As I gazed out the window, the scenery reminded me of the times when I used to accompany my father on his delivery trips to customers in Sakon Nakhon province (leaving from Kalasin). We had to drive through mountain passes, with intricate and majestic hills separating Kalasin and Sakon Nakhon. The people from that region surely knew the beauty of those mountainous landscapes very well. The ambiance on the way to Kandy was reminiscent of those journeys to the mountains. It brought back memories of the good old days when time seemed to stand still for me, and it provided a genuine sense of happiness.







After a three-hour bus ride, I finally arrived at my destination, Kandy Bus Station. Kandy, located atop a hill, stands at an elevation of 500 meters above sea level. It is the cultural heritage city of Sri Lanka. This city used to be the last stronghold of King Sinhale before ceding the territory to the British Empire in 1815, after a three-century-long resistance against the Portuguese and Dutch colonizers. Originally known as “Sri Vadhanan-Kurunegala” or “Sinhapura,” the city of Kandy was referred to as “Kanda” by the locals, which means “hill” or “mountain.” When foreigners took over the city, “Kanda” was anglicized to “Kandy.”

The Kandy Bus Station was bustling, rivaling the energy of Negombo city itself. Kandy, being the central hub of Sri Lanka, offered multiple transportation options to various destinations, making it a popular tourist city. After disembarking from the bus, I had to navigate through the crowds to catch a breath of fresh air and make my way to the pre-booked hotel. I had made a reservation at Charlton Kandy Rest, located approximately 1.5 kilometers from the bus station. It seemed like a reasonable distance, and I wanted to explore the city along the way (one of the perks of being a Lite Traveler is that all you need is a small backpack, making walking convenient). During my journey, I encountered several intriguing sights that were unfamiliar to me. There were diverse shops selling various items, including restaurants, dessert shops, cakes, ice cream, and traditional clothing stores. I saw schoolchildren returning home, and people busy seeking their meals. It was all quite fascinating. I must say, the people of Sri Lanka, in every city, are incredibly charming. If you smile at them, they will respond with genuine warmth and kindness. Sometimes, when they realize you’re a tourist, they will offer the most heartfelt smiles. It’s safe to say that Sri Lankan people have an exceptional hospitality that can win over anyone (DO NOT SMILE TO SRI LANKAN PEOPLES IF YOU DO NOT WANT THEM TO REFLEX YOU WITH MORE FRIENDLY SMILE).


The fruit shop neat to Kandy Bus Station


Kandy City Center at Noon


Upon arriving at Charlton Kandy Rest Hotel around noon, I managed to check in, store my belongings, and grab a quick bite before venturing into the heart of Kandy. While sitting in the lobby during check-in, I struck up a conversation with a man who happened to be the owner of the hotel. He mentioned that he had visited Thailand several times and absolutely loved it. In fact, most Sri Lankans have a fondness for Thailand, but not many Thai people tend to visit Sri Lanka as frequently. This made it all the more surprising for him to see Thai tourists staying at his hotel. He kindly recommended exploring the small city of Kandy on foot, as it was easy to navigate and offered pleasant surroundings. Since I had an afternoon to spare in Kandy, he suggested visiting the Sri Mahabodhi Maha Viharaya Temple, located about 1.5 kilometers away from the hotel, before strolling around the serene Kandy Lake in the evening and attending the enchanting ceremony at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, during dusk. He even handed me a map with marked points of interest to guide me on my exploration. With the map in hand, I bid farewell and immediately set off on my journey.

It took me about 20 minutes to reach the Sri Mahabodhi Maha Viharaya Temple, and even though the distance wasn’t far, the temple was situated on a moderately steep hill. I had to climb up a rather steep path. The temple is located atop a hill, standing at a height of 850 feet, and its main attraction is an impressive 88-feet height Buddha statue, facing towards the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The fascinating thing is that you can spot this Buddha statue from the heart of Kandy itself. The entrance fee to the temple was 200 LKR (approximately 1.50 USD), and I had to leave my shoes and socks in the provided storage boxes for a small fee or donate them to the donation box. Unfortunately, when I visited, I was a bit disappointed because the main Buddha statue was undergoing restoration, so I couldn’t see it in its full glory. However, it didn’t dampen my visit as there was still a breathtaking viewpoint at the top of the shrine. From there, I could capture a panoramic view of Kandy, almost like a bird’s-eye view, which made the trip totally worthwhile.
















Before heading back, while I was leisurely exploring, a temple’s caretaker approached me and asked, “Are you from China?” I quickly replied, “No, I’m from Thailand.” Intrigued, he glanced at the small monk locket hanging around my neck and curiously inquired, “Which monk is depicted in the locket?” I wasn’t quite sure how to explain, so I simply said, “This is a small monk locket, modeled after a famous Thai monk who has passed away.” He requested to have a closer look, examining it meticulously (just like our local temple experts would). Then he said, “Well, regardless of where we come from, we are all Buddhists. By the way, the Buddha statue here is currently under renovation. Would you like to contribute and make merit by donating?” I immediately agreed, and the monk promptly issued me a donation receipt, confirming my act of merit.


The donation certificate 😇


I spent about an hour at the temple, and it was time to descend the hill and walk through the heart of Kandy to see Kandy Lake. However, it was already 2.15PM. I suddenly realized that all I had consumed since morning was just a box of coffee and a piece of bread. I had been so engrossed in exploring that I had forgotten about hunger. But now, the realization hit me, and I had to walk through the bustling streets of Kandy with the opportunity to find something to eat along the way.

As I wandered, I stumbled upon a Sri Lankan-style restaurant. The front of the shop displayed cakes and pastries, but the interior seemed like a proper dining place. I decided to step inside and explore the dishes showcased in a cabinet, similar to the home-cooked curries in Thailand. Upon reaching the vendor, he promptly greeted me with, “Nǐ Hǎo (Hello in Chinese Language)”, perhaps my appearance made him assume I was Chinese, as people here tend to think that way 🙂 I quickly clarified that I wasn’t Chinese and that I was from Thailand. He then agreed to converse in English and began introducing the local specialties, pointing towards a wrapped lotus leaf placed in a basket near the food display. He explained that it was baked rice with chicken and spices. It seemed intriguing, and when I inquired about the price, it turned out to be quite affordable, around 200 LKR (1.75 USD). So, I decided to give it a try.

After the vendor heated it up and served it to me, I unwrapped it to reveal a dish resembling spicy chicken biryani. The rice and chicken were flavorful, spicy, and fragrant with a harmonious blend of spices. I must admit it was quite spicy (when I asked if it was spicy, he said it wasn’t that spicy… a total understatement). But it was undeniably delicious. The portion was generous, and I finished it all, despite sweating and tears streaming down my face due to the spiciness. I asked for the bill and walked to the front of the shop to find something to soothe the heat immediately (I’m not sure if that’s the real reason they sell desserts there, but who knows :-P).

As I glanced at the cake display, nothing really caught my eye. However, I noticed an ice cream shop nearby, offering scoops for only 40 LKR (around 0.35 USD) each. Without hesitation, I ordered a chocolate ice cream to extinguish the fire caused by the intense spices of Sri Lankan cuisine. It was a true respite.





After a satisfying meal, around 4PM, I decided to take a leisurely stroll along the shores of Kandy Lake. It was just a 10-minute walk from the restaurant where I had just eaten. Kandy Lake was adjacent to the revered Temple of the Tooth, and it served as a tranquil retreat for the city dwellers. The surrounding area of the lake was dotted with small food stalls and had occasional street performances, like snake charmers along the way. Some spots were occupied by people relaxing and enjoying the scenery. It felt like time moved slower here than in the bustling city. The peaceful ambiance of the late afternoon by the lake made me reflect on various stories and experiences from my life. It helped calm my mind significantly.



After leisurely wandering and enjoying the lakeside for about an hour, it was around five in the evening when I decided to visit the highlight and main attraction of my day: the “Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.” This prestigious temple symbolized the essence of Kandy. What made it even more special was its location, right by the edge of Kandy Lake. It took me less than 5 minutes to walk there, allowing me easy access to this magnificent temple.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was open for visitors every day from 5.30AM until 8PM. However, the recommended time to visit was during the evening, especially after sunset. This was because the temple would be beautifully illuminated, and one could witness the mesmerizing lights shining through the windows. For international visitors like myself, there was an admission fee of 1,000 LKR (approximately 9 USD).



The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was constructed during the reign of King Wimalasuriya, who invited Monks to be ordained in Kandy. Without a monastery, they practiced their ordination on an island in the middle of the majestic Mahaweli River. Hundreds of people became ordained monks during that time. However, as time passed, subsequent kings neglected the temple, and it fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the reign of King Sri Wijaya Rajasingha that a diplomatic envoy was sent to request monks from the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in Thailand. This was due to the unfortunate situation in Buddhism where there were no monks left. The king of Ayutthaya learned from a Dutch merchant that there were still monks in the city of Ayutthaya, so he appointed an envoy to request the monks to come and reestablish Buddhism in the Kingdom of Siam. Finally, His Majesty King Boromakot had the honor of bestowing the Thai Sangha community, consisting of Upasakas and Ariyamuni, to offer ordination to the people of Sri Lanka.



One notable feature inside the temple is the intricately carved stone doors and walls. They are the masterpieces created by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the last king of the Kandyan dynasty. The outer doors bear engraved images of elephants, believed to have been brought from a section of the Royal Palace in Narendrasinha, located in the city of Kandy. As you enter the inner sanctum, there are exquisite murals depicting the procession of the sacred relic, accompanied by a majestic elephant parade. On the ceiling, there are intricate paintings on plaster depicting various realms in Buddhist cosmology, showcasing the artistic craftsmanship of the Kandyan era.





The octagonal-shaped shrine hall was built by the last king of the Kandyan dynasty, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, on the original site where the sacred Tooth Relic, known as the Dalada Maligawa, was originally housed. The two-story building featured a magnificent upper floor that housed the shrine of the Tooth Relic. The doors leading to the chamber were adorned with valuable ornaments, such as silver and elephant tusks. Beyond the narrow chamber, which could accommodate no more than twenty people, was a secure room. It had thick golden curtains that remained closed, allowing no one to enter without permission. This room housed the pedestal of the Tooth Relic. Inside the room, there was a large altar in front of a glass case. Within the case stood a golden stupa adorned with golden chains and precious gemstones, offerings brought from various countries. The golden stupa had seven tiers, and each tier was made of gold and precious gems such as rubies and sapphires. The final tier featured an elephant-shaped pinnacle, resembling the wrapping of the sacred Tooth Relic inside.















On the side, there were rooms for storing palm-leaf manuscripts and several meditation rooms. The temple housed a large number of Buddha statues, including replicas of famous ones and other revered figures from around the world. Besides the octagonal building, there were other structures as well, such as stupas and pavilions, each with its own purpose. The fact that the Temple of the Tooth contained the spiritual essence of Buddhists made it a target of numerous attempts to destroy or possess this precious relic. One such incident occurred in 1998 when a terrorist group attempted to bomb the temple using a truck, but fortunately, it did not cause significant damage. Currently, the temple is under strict security and every visitor undergoes thorough inspections, including body and bag checks. Every day, tens of thousands of devotees, including both local Sri Lankans and Buddhists from around the world, come to pay homage to the Tooth Relic. During the twilight and dawn hours, the temple is filled with solemn rituals, chanting, and the sound of drums. Each day, people queue up tightly to participate in the veneration of the sacred relic, and there is a constant flow of devotees entering the temple premises throughout the day.


The opening ceremony of the ritualistic homage to the sacred relics at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka is taking place.






I stayed at this Temple of the Tooth until it closed around 8PM., and it was time for me to make my way back to the nearby accommodation, which was only 500 meters away from the temple. During my walk back, while in our city of Bangkok people would still be out on the streets or commuting back home, here in Kandy, the city was eerily quiet. Shops and houses were all closed. But this tranquility was accompanied by the peacefulness of people’s lives, devoid of excessive lights and colors. It made this city another delightful place to be.

After returning to the hotel, I immediately took care of bathing and relaxing because I had to wake up early tomorrow to continue my journey to another city that was my destination in this trip. As a tea lover, I was excited to visit a city located at an elevation of 2,200 meters above sea level called “Nuwara Eliya,” known for its tea plantations.

Today, throughout the day, I encountered many fascinating and eye-catching things in the land of this vibrant Asian city, which holds a strong reverence for Buddhism. I opened my horizons to new ideas and images of this country that I had heard or read about from various sources. However, today I got to see, experience, and truly understand it for myself. It felt more extraordinary than the wildest imaginations I had ever conjured because I always believed that “the world has endless things for us to discover.” ……… It was another day of peaceful and contented sleep, the kind where you don’t even dream 🙂





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