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Embedded Photos: 1.Train, Sri Lanka 2-3.Kandy, Sri Lanka 4.Temple, Kandy, Sri Lanka 5-6.Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka 7.Main Hall, Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka 8.Window, Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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November 1 - 5. KANDY "The Buddha's Tooth is Stuck in Kandy" We had a van pick us up and take us to the train station early so we would be sure to get seats in the first class car to Kandy, not that the line meant much since the localTrain, Sri Lanka people just kept cutting in front of us.  Fortunately we did get seats in the "observation car" and this time the car was a more modern rendition with fitted seats and fans that actually worked.  We were still riding backwards but it was a much more comfortable ride, except for the kids that were running up and down the aisles, bumping into us as the train lurched from side to side.  Kandy was only about four hours to the north of Nuwara Eliya, on the far edge of the mountains at an altitude of 500m.  It stood just a few kilometers off of the tracks that ran from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya.  The final destination of our train was Kandy but, for some reason, the carriage attendant rousted us from our seats early so we could prepare to disembark.  It didn't make any sense but at the time we thought the train might have been going farther than Kandy and that we had just misunderstood.  So, we stood with our packs on for about five minutes while the train tossed us back and forth, banging us against the walls and any randomly protruding objects.  But, when we arrived in Kandy the train stopped and that was the end of the line.  By then we were pretty good and pissed at the carriage attendant and still didn't know why he had told us to get ready to disembark.  Perhaps he was planning hook us up with someone for lodginTemple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lankag or a tour so he could get a kickback.  That was about the only thing that made sense but when the carriage door opened there was nobody on the platform.  The only benefit to being the first ones off of the train was that we were first to the one and only payphone inside the station. We called ahead and booked a room before getting into a taxi.  

Our guesthouse, the McLeod Inn, turned out to be the best place we had stayed in Sri Lanka.  It was perched on the hill overlooking Kandy Lake and the famous Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the (Buddha's) Tooth.  Combined with the surrounding green hills, the views were stunning. The rooms themselves were simple but comfortable and very clean.  They all opened up onto the common area with floor to ceiling windows, where meals were served. A balcony stretched the length of the common room and was the perfect place for afternoon tea.  We got their last room which was in  the back near the front door. The two front rooms had views so we put in a request to change when one became available.  We had dinner at the guesthouse which served up some of the best curry we'd eaten in Sri Lanka.  The man who ran the guesthouse lived downstairs and was a great host.    

Kandy was the only other major city in Sri Lanka with a population of just 120,000.  And, as it turned out, it hKandy, Sri Lankaad its own Indian Consulate.  If we had known that we would have submitted our visa application in Kandy, a much nicer place to be held up than Colombo! The climate was cooler than Colombo but a bit warmer than Nuwara Eliya and the scenery was more beautiful than both.  Kandy was the last Sinhalese (the native Sri Lankan people) kingdom.  It held up to invasions by the Portugese and Dutch for three hundred years until it eventually fell to the British in 1815.  The British were the only colonial power to hold the entire island of Sri Lanka.  

The highlight of Kandy was the Sri Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth.  The temple claims to have a relic of the Buddha himself, a tooth snatched right from his funeral pyre in 543BC.  The tooth survived the ups and downs of a tumultuous Sri Lankan history before being stolen and taken back to India in 1283.  Sri Lankan King Parakramabahu III recovered the tooth and it now rests in Kandy.  Much legend and lore surrounds the tooth.  The original was supposedly destroyed by the Portugese but the Sinhalese claim it was saved.  Some think the tooth is just a buffalos tooth but the faithful believe it to be the actual Buddha's tooth and people come throughout the day to pay homage to the relic.  From the balcony of our guesthouse, as the sun went down, we could see the temple come to life with light and sound.  The golden rooftop that sheltered the famous tooth and glistened in the midday sun began to glow in the evening lights.  Speakers were set up around the lake and as the sky got dark we could hear the gentle hum of the live chanting and the rigorous beating of drums that were coming from inside the temple.  Pujas were held three times a day, at 6am, 10am and 6pm.  At 6pm the chanting was atmospheric but at 6am it was was less atmospheric.  Temple, Kandy, Sri LankaWe changed our minds about wanting a front facing room and just enjoyed the experience from our guesthouse balcony. 

One evening we attended the 6pm puja at the Temple of the Tooth.  We went early to visit the museum inside the temple before the start of the ceremony.  With the steady stream of visitors there was a shoe check booth at the entrance as well as a security check, in 1998 the temple suffered damage from a bomb that was detonated near the main entrance.  Entering the complex we crossed a moat and climbed a flight of stairs to reach the main courtyard where the shrine holding Buddha's tooth stood, protected under the golden roof that was suspended above the courtyard.  A larger hall stood at the back of the courtyard and housed a large statue of the Buddha at one end and had a series of images depicting the life of Buddha along the walls.  It was all fairly new and not particularly interesting but above the hall was the temple museum which was well worth a look for its collection of reliquaries and temple gifts.  

The museum closed at 5pm so we actually left and came back for the puja at 6:00.  By the time we returned a number of tourists were starting to pool up in the courtyard.  A rope cordoned off the middle area in front of the shrine entrance, a door covered in an orange tapestry and flanked by two sets of large elephant tusks.  Three shirtless drummers wearing long white pants and white head wraps stood ready to start the puja.  Then suddenly, without notice, a sharp twang exploded from the drums, giving everyone a good jolt.  The sharp sounding drums continued, methodically, while some activity went on within the shrine.  We couldn't actually see anything but eventually we noticed people were filing up the nearby stairs.  We followed and joined the growing queue to view the tooth.  Once the line started moving it went quickly.  They didn't let anyone pause very long to really look at the reliquary, an ornate golden stupa that stood within a small enclosure.  You couldn't actually see the tooth.  It was inside the reliquary, under more layers of caskets and containers.  There was speculation about whether the tooth, whateverTemple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka tooth it was, was actually there at all.  Some believed it was hidden somewhere secure and what was inside the reliquary was just a fake.  Either way it drew a sizable crowd of devotees, as well as far too many tourists.  As we each passed the window there was strong encouragement to leave a donation for the tooth.  A donation was certainly appropriate but their gestures were rather demanding.  In the end, it all went by so quickly that we went for a second look before moving back down stairs.  Two small shrines stood off of the landing, one with a statue of the Buddha and the other housing some scriptures.  At this point the tourist aspect of the experience was becoming rather off-putting.  One French-speaking tour group was so busy chatting with each other as they filed through the scripture room that their guide was nearly yelling to keep their attention.  Their behavior would have been rude if we had been in a museum but it was downright appalling inside an active place of worship.  We escaped the chaos by going out into the gardens and enjoying some serenity before finally heading back to our guesthouse.  

For all of Kandy's appeal in so many ways it was turned out to be the most challenging place we'd been for tourist hassles.  All in all, Sri Lanka had been rather easy in that regard but that changed in Kandy.  We prided ourselves on having rather keen instincts when it came to touts and hustlers, which made it all the more irritating when we were duped by one.  The guy that got us in Kandy was an older well-dressed man. We were looking for the tourist office and were completely lost.  He looked like he was just passing by when he stopped to help us.  Initially we were a bit suspicious but relaxed when he started talking about people he knew from the US.  He even had cards of his friends and family overseas, which should have been a clue to us (who randomly carries business cards with them everywhere they go?).  But we really justTemple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka wanted him to be a nice guy.  We didn't want to be so constantly suspicious and jaded that we didn't trust anyone, especially someone who was genuinely being nice.  So we decided to follow him for a couple of blocks.  Then it happened.  He started asking us if we'd bought any souvenirs in Sri Lanka and offering his advice on what was the best value.  Don't buy the Sri Lankan cloth, he told us, we could do better in Thailand, and so on.  But if we really wanted something special we should look at gems, of course!  But not at the government shops. Oh, no!  It just so happened that he knew of a good shop and, it just happened that we were walking right past it!  Rob and I looked at each other with knowing stares but, for some reason, we still went to take a look.  This man had such a nice face and was so convincing.  We just wanted him to be giving us some friendly advice.  We had absolutely no intention of buying gems but we decided to put the salesman to work taking out some of their star sapphires.  The shop was on a second story and while Rob was finished with the sapphires I glanced down the stairs and could see our "friend's" sandaled feet pacing back and forth in front of the door.  When we emerged with nothing in hand he was was still very pleasant but suddenly lost interest in helping us find the tourist office, which, it turned out, was in a completely different direction!  Damn, we should have seen that coming from a mile away!  

To reduce our tuk-tuk expenses we walked into town from our guesthouse.  One route took us down some stairs to a street packed with guesthouses before dumping us out along the lake.  A handful of people were always lingering along the lakeside, pining for tourists.  One afternoon we went Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka in search of an Auyurvedic massage place and made a wrong turn.  We had just walked up the driveway and were talking a couple of guys about directions when this older man came swooping up off of the street to offer his help.  He pointed down the street so we nodded and started on our way, but he followed.  He was going to take us all the way to the Auyurvedic massage place.  Maybe he was hoping for a tip or maybe he was hoping for a kickback from the massage place.  Either way I didn't like the guy and since I was the one interested in Auyurvedic massage in the first place I just decided to change my mind.  I suddenly decided we should go later and that I wanted to do something else first.  I waived Rob back and said to just forget it.  The little old man was beside himself waiving us ahead.  I shook my head and started to turn back.  When it was clear that we weren't going to keep going he threw a little fit and made a face at me with his eyes bulging and his pointy tongue sticking out, almost serpentine looking.  I don't think he planned it.  It just sort of grew out of his frustration.  Anyway, it was creepy.  He was creepy.  He was a little guy so we didn't feel threatened but he was definitely creepy.  After his little outburst we just stopped and let him go ahead.  He kept looking back so we made faces at him.  We were so annoyed that we decided to continue on our way to the Auyurvedic massage place just to piss him off even more!  But when we reached the entrance to the massage place another guy started to follow us.  That was it!  Rob told the guy to leave us alone, that we were tired of people hassling us.  He kept following us so we just left but, looking back, I think he may have worked for the Auyurvedic Clinic.  Ooops.  We continued walking around the lake and stopped at a Buddhist bookshop to cool off a bit.  Where are those books on compassion and undersTemple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lankatanding when you need them!? We eventually just started walking another way to reach downtown and we always took a tuk-tuk back up the hill. By the end of our stay we had a regular tuk-tuk driver that we searched out on the same corner.  

Not all of the touts in Kandy were bad.  There was one poor guy who tried relentlessly to sell us some little painted elephants. He was persistent but always nice.  We very nearly gave in until we found out that we couldn't mail all of the stuff we'd bought and couldn't stand to think of carrying anything else!  Along the lake was the worst area and we almost always picked up some sort of tout if we were walking around the lake.  There were other kinds of hassles as well.  I had one guy just stare at the side of my head for what seemed like forever.  Rob had gone to buy a lottery ticket from a man who sat in a wheelchair all day long trying to hawk the tickets.  He was only gone a few minutes but a guy standing next to me turned and just stared at the side of my face.  When I moved away he followed and kept staring.  Not even when Rob came back and yelled at him did he even flinch.  Maybe there was something wrong with him but it is more likely that he just thought it was okay to treat a foreign woman that way, like the guy that passed by us repeatedly in Colombo until he finally brushed my hand.  It was creepy.  I always dressed conservatively to avoid unwanted attention but it didn't always help.  The tacky and inappropriate dress of many foreign women didn't help either.

SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)