Sugarfree Kandy

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 15, 2012

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We checked into a little hotel at the very top of the hill above the town of Kandy on the south side of town. Kandy is a famous place in Sri Lanka, known for its Buddhist temples and its overall beauty, as it is tucked up in the jungle-clad mountains in the center of the country. However, the place has received more attention than it deserves and has gotten congested to the point of gridlock at certain times of the day, and the infrastructure set up by the government has not helped it at all. After school ends the entire town comes to a traffic stand still until after four or so, and getting around in any kind of transport, even a motorcycle, is just a waste of time. There are no school buses here so the entire city is cluttered with cars, each picking up one or two kids.

The city is cradled between several jungle clad hills that rise up on all sides from the large lake and the temples of the city. The city looks better from a distance than it looks up close, like most third world cities, and the quaint nature of Kandy has morphed into a congested and confused tourist trap in recent times. Without some government intervention or at least strong guidance, this place will be a mess as the tourist market takes a better grip in future years.

I made the mistake of booking a place out of town, at the top of one of the hills overlooking the town. But when I had booked it I figured that we would be able to easily drift between town and the other sights around Kandy, but I was wrong. Just getting a car to take us to town cost us about 8 bucks each way, and had to be arranged beforehand. The drive is a white knuckler, and one time it took us three attempts to climb up a paved road, requiring the driver to roll backwards into traffic between each attempt. The roads are very narrow and not maintained in the slightest, and encountering a car coming head on at an inopportune time will cause one of you to back down a hill to look for a slightly wider spot in the road. The manager, Dilip, told me that he goes through a clutch a month and many brake pads each year when trying to climb and descend this hill several times a day. I took a one-kilometer hike down the hill once to get some supplies and then back up, but that was to a small supermarket along the highway. A slog to town would have taken a 2.5 kilometer hike.

We arrived from Colombo with the understanding that we would be socked in with rain for the week, but when I told Dilip that he told me that no, there would be no rain, this isn't the season for it. He told me that the weather forecasts are notoriously wrong, and not to depend on them. But my sailor’s eye looked up in the sky and I told him that I can see the signs that the weather forecast is right. We had planned for the girls to catch up on school work during this time, and just admire the view along the way. The following day we got our first spitting of rain, and then the following few days the skies opened up. We found ourselves in something that looked like monsoonal rains, outside of the monsoon season. The weather report said 'scattered thunderstorms’ and we watched the lightning flash for much of that time, usually after lunch, and the torrent we listened to on the tin roof was deafening. Luckily, we had a good menu, and although the chef was not good, we were able to eat decent meals while there. I got up early, about six each morning, to take some time lapse photography of the sun rising over the city and valley. This is something that Chris Bonga had taught me, with the aid of the velometer I had purchased in Bangkok. I am hoping to put together a one-hour film of our entire trip after returning back home, and to use some of these time lapses to highlight the most picturesque destinations. The perch up on top of this hill gave us a commanding view of the countryside and the town of Kandy, and as I said before, the scenery looks better from far away than it looks up close. I loved Kandy from a distance. Up close it stinks, the honking traffic will make you jumpy and irritable and desperate to keep an eye on all your kids as you move between the prison in the center of town and the food stalls that stick out into traffic lanes. The slippery bat guano that coats the sidewalks will land you on your ass more times than not.

Other than that, the place was great.
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John Bartlett on

Bette Midler? Seriously? You probably used a doily as a bookmark for Heart of Darkness.

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