Da Budd-ha!!

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I got a local bus from Colombo direct to Kandy and met up with Reza who’s staying in the YMBA (Young Men’s Buddhist Assoc.), I just ask on arrival and I’m pointed in the right direction.  We manage a cheap deal on a room although we have to convince the staff we’re not ‘a couple’ as we are ‘not married’ before they let us share a room… it’s just cheaper.  We head up to watch sunset at the viewpoint above the YMBA, going past the YMMA (Muslim) next door to the top of the hill, the view looks over the whole town and takes in the lake, the Temple of the Tooth, the Buddha on the opposite hill and much, much more, it really is a beautiful place.  We meet a young American girl at the viewpoint and arrange to meet her at 5:30am the following morning to watch sunrise from the Buddha.
The Buddha is a good walk from the YMBA, we miss sunrise and end up having to get a tuk tuk to find our way because it definitely wasn’t as straightforward as we thought, but despite that we all managed to meet up and enjoy a few early morning hours of exploring together.  Although I managed to get a camera in Colombo I’ve not yet been able to charge it before use, so I’ve no photographs unfortunately, maybe next time!  Reza and I spend a couple of days exploring, going a walk round the Temple of the Tooth, a meditation centre he was looking for and the Ceylon tea museum which I’m delighted was founded by a fellow Scot James Taylor.  Although raised in Kincardinshire he arrived in Ceylon aged 17, James Taylor constructed the tea house five years later in 1876, and the ‘Duke of Argyll’ was the first ship to carry Ceylon Tea to London the following year, it’s nice to see such Scottish influence on the island. After our visit Reza and I part ways, he’s off to stay in a meditation place before heading to Colombo to apply for his visa for India, I wish him every success he’s such a nice young guy.
The Temple of the Tooth was built to house ‘Buddha’s Tooth’ and is the main attraction here in Kandy, the temple has an interior building which has a gold roof and the actual tooth is in a golden ‘casket’ type object which everyone has come to see.  It’s in the Royal Palace complex and museum, the architecture is quite impressive, and I enjoy taking in some of the culture of Sri Lanka.  The relic apparently is believed to play a role in politics in that whoever holds the relic is in government with Kandy being the last capital of Sri Lanka kings.  While at the temple I ended up having a wee job selling fruit which people buy and offer in the temple, it’s huge basket’s of fruit they buy with pineapple, watermelon, coconut, mango and lotus flowers which are a beautiful purple color, some of which they appear to take home with them.

The YMBA has a cultural show on every night with the Kandy dancers, drummers and fire walkers which is amazing, I have seen the Kandy dancers at the Beliatta festival while staying in Tangalle, and I loved them – they remind me a bit of the ‘Hakka’ but a bit more graceful.  After the show everyone goes outside for the fire walking and eating which is unbelievable, I’ve no idea how they do it but they ALL seem to be able to…   I ended up hanging out with Buddika, one of the drummers who kindly invited me out to his village the following day which was nearby, and into his home for lunch.  He met me at the YMBA and took a bus out, I felt really privileged to be invited and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  
Firstly I met his mum, dad and sister before we went down to the river until lunch was ready, it was down through the jungle which is full of banana, coconut, mango, papaya, star fruit plants growing everywhere, fields of rice, chili trees and much more, everything you could need really.  By the river there are a million butterflies and dragonflies of every color, and I enjoy sitting on the rocks just taking it all in before Buddika entertains me by taking a bath!  On the way back the women are washing their clothes then taking a bath themselves in the river, there are loads of them doing it!  
Once back we head in for lunch but it’s only Buddika and I that are dining, his parent’s bedroom has been set up with table and chairs and it has a hatch through to the kitchen, lunch is chicken curry, rice, dhal breads etc. and is delicious (although I find it funny because it’s too spicy for Buddika), there’s enough food to feed twice as many, they are so generous.  After lunch I sit with all the family, they have a computer in the living room and I find it funny when his dad puts on his specs and logs on, he’s sitting here in the jungle in his sarong then going online… it was hilarious and a great experience.

Buddika also invites me out to a wedding the following day in which the Kandy troop are doing their ‘welcome dance’, and I jump at the chance.  Once again I am met at the hostel and taken out to a remote village by bus where I get to meet everyone else in the company, and before anyone arrives I get some great photos of all their ‘costumes’ before meeting a group of young girls who will be singing a welcome song to the couple.  When they arrive the bride is stunning although her husband is a bit disheveled looking with his tie loose and top buttons undone, the Kandy dancers start the welcome dance and walk them into the hall to meet everyone before heading upstairs to light an oil lamp.  The young girls sing to the couple when they enter, and I enjoy the whole ritual of them being danced in and of seeing everyone in their best outfits… stunning.  I am once again fed and watered and welcomed into the occasion, all the ‘aunties’ smile at me and the ‘uncles’ nod, they’ve no idea who I am but they seem pleased to see me, they are so welcoming.
Next day I decided to head out to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela near Kandy which takes a couple of hours, the elephants leave the orphanage at set times during the day and are walked down to the river to bathe before being walked back up for feeding and it’s an impressive sight, seeing a herd of elephants coming directly towards you.  There must have been around forty of them, many with their young wandering slowly back up through the village and back into the orphanage, it was well worth the visit, they’re impressive.  On the way back I visited one of the many Spice Gardens which although the purpose is to sell goods was very educational, showing me plants and what remedies they made from them, I was then given an amazing massage with some of the oils which was well worth going… mmm.  Before going back to Kandy I also stopped in at Molagoda which is a pottery village, I spent hours wandering in these shops looking at traditional items and how things are made, glazes etc. before getting a bus back to Kandy, after a thoroughly enjoyable day.
I enjoy staying up at the YMBA, they look after you, watching when you’re in, asking where you are going but just making sure you are safe, they are very kind.  They have a cafeteria on site and the guy who runs it just tries to feed you all the time, it’s string hoppers for breakfast with chili and dhal, they also have parcels which seem to be stuffed with onion and chili or fish which I’m really not that keen on, dinner tends to rice and curry and there’s always far too much, the food here really is very spicy but I enjoy it. 

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