Buddha's Tooth and an Elephant Orphanage

Trip Start May 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, March 20, 2009

    Catching a bus then train to Kandy (a city) turned out to be a fairly simple affair.  Once again the train was packed and I ended up standing for most of the 4 hour ride.   One thing that sticks out in Sri Lanka is the willingness of people to give up their seats to a foreigner.  I was standing in the 3rd class compartment when a fellow motion for me to take his seat.  Normally I would decline because I feel the locals deserve a seat far more than me but after standing for 2 hours I accepted.  I sat down next to a couple with a crying baby.  The parents repeatedly pointed me out to the baby to make it stop crying.  It actually kinda worked!  After some time had passed a terrible stench filled the compartment.   The baby had shit itself and I had front row seats!  This baby only had a cotton underwear, no diapers here!  The couple then held half the baby out of the moving train and washed its ass with water and their hand. Delightful!  Once they finished the cleaning they threw the soiled underwear out the window!  Imagine if that hit you in the face while you waiting for the train to go past!  No less than 10 minuets later the baby shit itself again.... I took this as my cue to leave! 
    Kandy is Sri Lanka's second biggest city and it's famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth of Buddha . According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha passed away, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre in India and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre.  Since then it has been given to kings, stolen by invaders, smashed with a hammer and fought over.  People come from far and wide to pay their respects to the tooth!   The temple itself was mildly interesting especially the ceremony where monks beat drums, played an oboe sounding thing and brought flowers and incense to the tooth.   This is done so the tooth does not get lonely.
       I wondered around the temple with about 200 school kids.  I  have heard this is the time of year when all of Sri Lankan schools go on field trips.   The temple also had a photo exhibition documenting the suicide truck bombing of 1998.  The LTTE blew up a part of the temple and with it a little bit of history.  There were also temple elephants chained to random parts of the temples.. These elephants are used in special ceremonies or festivals.  In the mean time they just hang out.  
      There is a nice picturesque lake in the middle of Kandy that many people stroll around as it gets late in the day.   Luckily I scored a guest house that over looked the lake and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth.   Kandy is busseling with people during the day but the moment it gets dark the place clears out.   I went into a internet cafe close to dusk and when I came out the streets were totally empty!  I thought a bomb had gone off or something.  I had to ask at my hotel to make sure everything was OK.

   The next day I decided to check out an elephant orphanage.  This is a place were outcasts like an elephant named Raja, an old blind elephant who was wounded by hunters can  live on a farm. An elephant rumored to have killed more than a dozen people is also housed here (but I didn't see him). The orphans arrive from across the country, rescued from remote villages where they have lost their mothers to quarry accidents, shootings or lynch mobs. At the Elephant Orphanage motherless calves are raised by human foster parents who ply them with bottled milk five times a day and give them an occasional swig of beer in an effort to help preserve Asia's dwindling wild-elephant population. There was even one elephant who had stepped on a land mine and had 3 legs!   It was an interesting place but the handlers looked as thought they ruled by fear.  They used sharp metal gaffs to stick the elephants to make them obey.  I'm still not sure how I feel about this...  Twice a day the elephants are led down to a river where they can splash around and cool off.   I could tell this was their favorite part of their day!   A couple of the elephants had to be chained to rocks in the river because a couple females were in heat.    Do not get in the way of a horny elephant!  
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Paul on

Great blog you have. Easy to read, informative, not longwinded like so many are, and quite funny at times too. Cheers and happy travels!

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