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Kandy Travel Blog

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the sri lankan trains...

According to Sinhalese accounts, crime and banishment led to their settlement in Sri Lanka, around 6th century BCE. Banished from India and adrift on the high seas, meant to die, they meandered south and came to land on the west coast (apparantly the same day BUddha attained enlightenment...convenient).

Buddhism became prominent in SL (especially with the grand arrival of his famed tooth) and Sinhalese leaders sought to make it SLs duty to protect and foster Buddhism. This upset the Hindu Tamils (from India), and in the 1970s they began fighting for an independent Tamil state, Eelam ("precious land") and formed the famed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE waged a violent war against the SL Military for control of land in the north and east of the country.

random goats playing along the tracks
Eventually turning into the SL Civil War, the armed fighting lasted from 1976 until May 2009, when the LTTE was defeated by the SL Military. The LTTE were notorious for recruiting child soldiers, causing civilian massacres, and they developed the "suicide belt" and made popular the use of suicide bombing (with women as well) as a method of attack. In 2003, the US listed the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

And then came 26 December, 2004. Killing 30,000 people, the tsunami left much of the coasts devastated and many homeless. Riding along the west coast one can see many buildings that remain as just bare structures, abandoned, standing as a reminder. Poverty is prominent along the coast...tin roofed shacks stand as houses, interspersed with mud and wooden structures, and dotted with cinderblock roofless and windowless frames.

a fisherman in Hikkaduwa
Showers are oftentimes a bare metal hose out back, sometimes across the railway tracks; sometimes with a makeshift curtain, sometimes not.

Streets are lined with army-clad officers chatting casually, guns slung over their shoulders. Over the shoulder is OK, that I can handle. It didn't seem violent, just rather (overly) protective. Furthing into town my uneasiness grew as I watched uncomfortably from the back seat of the taxi (and later from the train window). Men, huddled behind an actual sand-bag barracade on the road, guns raised and pointed towards traffic. Nothing casual about it, they were ready and waiting to shoot. As the taxi honked and swerved its way past buses and three wheeling tuk-tuks toward the train station, I suddenly secretly wanted to leave. My excitement to visit this exotic, far-off land momntarily evaporated (for a few hours) as I briefly experienced Colombo through the window.

outside the tooth relic temple
What seemed like a managable city via guide book maps was really, through my eyes, a concrete, dirty, chaotic, and potentially violent place. I crossed it off my list.

Sliding out of the taxi at Colombo's busy Fort St train station I was relieved to see a tourist center. An hour to wait for the next train south to Hikkaduwa, I brushed off touts as I ate a bizarre muffin-type pastry wrapped in a leaf and then experienced the most disgusting squatting experience.

This ain't Kansas and the trains ain't Amtrak (or even close to Metro-North). A rank smelling puff of steam was expelled from the front car as the train jerked into motion. Not long after rolling out of town the beach appeared outside the permanently propped door.

the buddhist flags flying high
The tracks seem to literally cut through the towns it passes. People sitting on their doorstep are oftentimes not more than 5 feet from the track. People waslk on and along the tracks as if a sidewalk, and it is oftentimes a man wth a red or green flag that dictates the train traffic. Two hours Later we rolled out way into the (very) quiet beachside town of Hikkaduwa. After a much needed shower (it seems the dirt floating around attaches itself to me via my constantly sweaty skin), I stepped out of the guesthouse and onto the sand for the remainder of the week.

Itching to be around people after a rather solitary few days down south, I followed the tuk-tuks passing by my guesthouse (of which I was one of two guests) to the next door Sharon Inn. I booked in for the next four nights and spent the first night in the dinning room eating the lovingly prepared Sri Lankan buffet and chatting to a Brit until midnight.

the Kandy elephant hanging out around the temple
Clean bathrooms, TV, and a balcony (and evil monkeys that steal your biscuits). The TV ( I know, I know, shame on me) comes in handy. While it is nice to be in a "city," along with the increase in population also comes an increase in attention. Kandy is beautiful, if not rudely chaotic, but the harassment is relentless. Shopkeepers I can deal with, but it's a whole other breed in SL. It becomes an invasion of personal space and borders on sexual harassment more times than not. It is a shame too because there's a lot to see around Kandy but the men here ruin their city. Tragic. It is exhausting and annoying and I spent two days sitting on my balcony reading because of it (although no complaints, it was lovely in the shade).
care for a boat trip?: Hikkaduwa

Usually one to shove off "guides," I let one scam me through the Tooth Relic temple (Sri Dalada Maligawa) just to stop others from coming up to me. The temple houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic...his tooth! Smuggled into SL during the 4th century AD from the flames of Buddha's funeral pyre, in the hair of a princess no less. The tooth eventually ended up in Kandy after a few travels and a brief stint in India. Whoever has custody of the tooth has the right to rule the land...so naturally plans to steal it were constantly being made. Rumor has it that the Sinhalese have made a replica tooth, which is what sits in the temple, while the real tooth is scretly hiddlen someplace else. Only Thai and Japanese tourists are allowed into the golden roofed shrine room to catch a closer glimpse (due to their respective countries donations).

random housing along the west coast

While travel is cheap (less than US$2 for a three hour train ride...although a tuk-tuk ride of 3 minutes costs the same to get to your guesthouse FROM the train), accommodation and food is rather expensive based on other SE Asian countries. My quickly dwindling bank account (thanks to student loans especially) is excited to get back to Malaysia and then take a break in Thailand. My figure, however, slightly enjoys the less frequent intake of food!

 

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the sri lankan trains...
the sri lankan trains...
random goats playing along the tra…
random goats playing along the tr…
a fisherman in Hikkaduwa
a fisherman in Hikkaduwa
outside the tooth relic temple
outside the tooth relic temple
the buddhist flags flying high
the buddhist flags flying high
the Kandy elephant hanging out aro…
the Kandy elephant hanging out ar…
care for a boat trip?: Hikkaduwa
care for a boat trip?: Hikkaduwa
random housing along the west coast
random housing along the west coast
Hikkaduwa beach
Hikkaduwa beach
Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa
the main road in Hikkaduwa that ru…
the main road in Hikkaduwa that r…
heading up the coast and out to Ka…
heading up the coast and out to K…
trains in the hill country
trains in the hill country
some sort of irrigation im assumi…
some sort of irrigation i'm assum…
random shots from the Kandy train
random shots from the Kandy train
climbing the hills!
climbing the hills!
Kandy lake and town
Kandy lake and town
pictures inside the Good Luck temp…
pictures inside the Good Luck tem…
a reclining buddha
a reclining buddha
apparantly his tooth resides insid…
apparantly his tooth resides insi…
statues around the inside of a pra…
statues around the inside of a pr…
you try and read it...
you try and read it...
a giant buddha on a hill
a giant buddha on a hill
random sign on a roof, while climb…
random sign on a roof, while clim…
another smaller temple off the lake
another smaller temple off the lake
the golden top of the shrine which…
the golden top of the shrine whic…
Kandy
photo by: halilee