Chance meetings and coincidences play a big part in our sailing lives!
So it was for our second excursion. We had a chance encounter with a tuk tuk driver, Sanju, on the roundabout outside the quay at Trinco (where else?!), who we had met the previous day whilst he was helping another yachtie. Sanju also runs a tour company, is reliable, knowledgeable and has a great sense of humour. For more information about his range of offerings click on his Facebook site.
It turned out that he had been booked by another UK couple who were holidaying in the area to drive them to Kandy, so we were able to negotiate a really good price for the journey. Far more comfortable than the local buses, and in air conditioned luxury of a saloon car as well! We left early, and after stops for curd (very tasty with palm syrup), donations to a roadside Buddha, a wood carving workshop and a herbal garden, we arrived in Kandy in the late afternoon.
At our small hotel, the Kandy Hills Resort with its views across the valley above the lake, we received a great welcome and were extremely well looked after. The staff could not have been more helpful.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, Kandy nestles inland in hills 500m above sea level and enjoys a cooler, therefore more relaxing climate than coastal areas. After Colombo, it is the second largest city in Sri Lanka with a population of about 125,000. Sights, smells, traffic and noise abound.
Created in 1807 the lake is artificial. The central island was used by the last ruler of Kandy as his personal harem and after the city became a British protectorate in 1815 it was used as an ammunitions store!
Having seen so much Buddhist culture recently, in Thailand, Myanmar, Indochina, and here in Dambulla, we gave the famed Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic a miss, and instead visited the Ceylon Tea Museum by tuk-tuk in the morning. Set in the old Hantane tea factory in the hills above Kandy, it explained the history of tea. With exhibits about Thomas Lipton and James Taylor, two of the most famous pioneers, the processes of tea making were described, and machinery used in the 18th and 19th centuries displayed.
We then used the same tuk-tuk driver to take us to spend the afternoon at The Royal Peradenyia Botanical Gardens, which were an oasis of calm with interesting and exotic plants and trees. Dating back to the early 19th century and covering 60 hectares, at one time they were the preserve of Kandyan royalty. Now we commoners are admitted to admire the impressive collections. The Flower Garden, Great Lawn with its huge Java Fig Tree and drunken looking Cooks Pine and Palm Avenues are all striking. Our highlight was the Orchid House. We thought we had been lucky to see the fruit bats roosting in Tonga, but on this occasion there were several hundred of them, many taking a daylight flight.
We also came across this beautiful flower and plaque bringing back memories of our recent visit to Burma (Myanmar) ...
Returning to our hotel in the late afternoon, we enjoyed delicious Sri Lankan curry dining on the balcony and watching the lights twinkling across the valley.
So impressed were we with the Kandy Hills Resort, we booked in for a further night to break our journey back from Nuwara Eliya to Trincomalee.