The second biggest city in Sri Lanka (after Colombo), and at least my second biggest disappointment of the trip (although I’m not actually sure of what was my biggest disappointment, so maybe it was my first). It was just underwhelming; definitely not somewhere where you would want to spend several days. The train trip to Kandy (from Ella) is definitely a good enough reason to want to make the journey though, but I would recommend just spending a single night here. Arriving late afternoon and leaving mid-morning the next day would be ample.
Kandy is really loud, smelly and dirty. You get to experience these sensations up close and personal because Kandy is such a walkable city. It is definitely worth walking around all of the streets; there are loads of bakeries (I recommend Bueno), an indoor market and heaps of shops. The lake is really cute; it is 3.4km long so takes probably about an hour to amble around it. The lake was inserted back in 1807, and has reduced in size of the years. Once upon a time it was a local water source for the city, but since about 1960 the pollution has been too bad. The whole way around the lake you can see the Temple of the Tooth; probably Kandy’s most famous structure (and a tourist attraction which would make a list of the world’s most over-rated!).
The Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple which houses the relic tooth of Buddha. Supposedly it plays a huge role in Sri Lankan politics, because whoever holds the tooth holds the governance of the country. There are three rituals daily – at dawn, noon and evening. I’m not sure if I would recommend going at the same time as a ceremony, just because the crowds are at the absolute worst, but I think the rituals are the only time you are able to see the tooth.
Before we went into the temple we watched a traditional Kandyan drum and dance show (approximately $10 for a one hour show). I recommend getting a programme (they are free) which describes each of the dances – it makes the show a lot more interesting. After the show we walked straight to the temple for the 6pm ceremony. There were so many (pushy) people I was completely taken aback – everyone was hustled through the place like sheep on speed. For 1500R I barely even know what I saw, and I’m almost certain I didn’t get to see the tooth. On the plus side, there is a delicious and quirky eatery called Empire Cafe positioned right by the entrance to the temple. Due to its location the menu was pretty pricey, but at least the food was good.