“The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation.”
― Michel de Montaigne, Montaigne: Essays: A Selection
Today, we had the whole day in Kandy with only three things on our agenda. First, we went on another walk along the streets, this one a bit longer, but we
then opted for a bus back towards the heart of Kandy. I’ll be posting a Sri Lankan Observations blog about some of the differences between India and Sri Lanka that I noticed. We went to the market where I swear they literally sell everything. We intended to buy a pineapple for later, but sadly forgot. I did buy some souvenirs and gifts though. Not quite sure how I’m going to fit everything in my bag back to India, but somehow it will work.
There was one part of the market that was on the roof and was a bunch of western clothing vendors. They had Hollister and Aeropostle shirts for very cheap. Makes me wonder how the vendors got the products in the first place…
We had sent a text to Aashish, saying we were planning on going to the Temple of the Tooth around 3 so we had some time to kill. We decided to go on a walk around the lake. It was absolutely gorgeous!!! We saw monkeys and Shan bought us a fresh mango from a street vendor. So delicious! I am really sad we missed mango season in India but excited I could experience it in Sri Lanka. Just enough further south, I guess. We also saw lots of monkeys, monitor lizards, turtles, and birds on our walk. About halfway around the lake, Shan asked us if we wanted to go see a cemetery. I personally love cemeteries, which I know may be a bit weird, but there are just so many stories in one place!
The cemetery we went to was from when the British ruled Sri Lanka, so all the graves were very old. We also only saw one or two gravestones for people over the age of thirty. Many were for infants or people in their twenties. One man was killed by a herd of wild elephants. The wife of the caretaker showed us some articles about the restoration of the cemetery, including a letter from Prince Charles (at least I think it was Charles not William) expressing his apologies for not being able to make the reopening due to a bombing. We didn’t find out until later that the bombing was at the Temple of the Tooth.
For lunch we decided to keep it simple and just had samosas and ice cream from a bakery. Shan took us to another gem place. He said this place was more expensive but we could go look at where they were cutting and polishing the stones. It turned out to be a very successful stop because we also got to watch a documentary on mining in Sri Lanka. So interesting! Very few machines used at all. Mostly just hand tools and manual labor.
We killed a bit more time and then went to the Temple of the Tooth. Absolutely amazing. Buddhist temples truly are extremely peaceful places. We walked around for about two hours. We sat and listened to some chanting, went to the museum and just wandered around the grounds. When we were in the museum, one of the guys who worked there took us through a door that led to a tiny little balcony. It was the highest part of the temple
you could go outside at. From there, we had a great view and he explained what a lot of the buildings in the surrounding area used to be and if we peered around the corner of the building we could see the golden roof. It was so cool! He offered to take our picture and we hesitated at first because often when that happens the person wants money, but he saw our hesitation and assured us it would be for free. Sometimes people are just being nice and it’s good to be reminded of that every once in a while.
And our day wasn’t over yet. Shan had told us about a cultural dance performance at the Kandy Culture Center that started at 5:30. We also knew Aashish and Samee were going to be there so when we arrived we found them and all sat together. It was really cool to see all the colorful and elaborate costumes. At the end, they also had people walking on coals and rubbing fire on their bodies. Pretty sweet to watch. Afterwards, we made plans to meet at the guesthouse where the two of them were staying after we had checked into ours.
Finding our guesthouse was a bit of an adventure but so worth it. We had to call twice to get directions and drove up a narrow, windy road to get there but the hospitality of the couple that owned the place was fantastic. And there was a
phenomenal lightning storm with one flash about every five seconds. The guesthouse was run by a British man and his Sri Lankan wife. Both were so nice! We told them of our plans to meet up with our friends and they called a tuk tuk for us since Shan had left to go stay somewhere else. They arranged to have the tuk tuk wait for us so we had a way to get home as well. While they were calling, Amanda and I were unsure if it was going to be worth all the trouble. We knew talking with Aashish and Samee would be great, but it was just proving more complicated than we had anticipated.
In the end, I’m glad we went through the hassle. We sat and talked with the two of them for two hours and only left because that’s what time we told the tuk tuk driver. Nothing beats good conversation.
One of the best things I’ve learned since coming to India is there are some incredible people in the world. I know that’s not something specific to India and it’s not that I didn’t think there were before coming here, but everyone I’ve met here knows so much about the world and has such fascinating views. Americans are rather narrow-minded (myself included) because we have everything we need in our own country, including diverse culture. I am glad I have the opportunity and will to travel.