I’d read Kandy is the cultural city of Sri Lanka, the city which houses Buddha’s tooth relic, a city that wasn’t too far from Colombo, and the starting point for most tourists as they make their way around the country.One of the many streets in the city of Kandy
After an exhausting and challenging time in Colombo, just getting to our guesthouse in Kandy included six missions:
- Get a tuk tuk from the hotel to the Galle Fort train station without being ripped off too much
- Find the right platform for the train
- Get on the train
- Get off the train
- Find a tuk tuk to take us to our hotel without being ripped off royaly
- Get to our hotel
Sounds easy right? But one of the first things we noticed in Colombo was that everything is a complete mission in that city. People swarm at you like you have cash falling out of your pockets, constantly wanting money, wanting to rip you off, and hassle you like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve been to many countries before and endured this behaviour, but somehow I’d forgotten what it was like, and coming from Maldives where it was so calm and the local people were actually nice to us, here in Colombo, it was the opposite end of the spectrum.
How to get the train ticket for Kandy from Colombo
Waiting to get the tickets to Kandy
We turned up the day before to book train tickets at Galle Fort Station as I read the trains can be booked up in advance. We just got a tuk tuk there and paid 400R for it. When you turn up to the station, you’ll see a tourist centre. We didn’t go in purely because we actually thought it was a scam. So we went to a ticket counter and they sent us off down to Platform 17 ticket counter to line up for tickets. When we eventually got to the front of the line (because you know, locals like to push in and pretend you don’t exist which is incredibly rude and frustrating) we were told the first two trains were booked up so we had to wait until 15:30 for the train to get 2nd class. It cost something like 280R each.On the train to Kandy
But, we eventually completed those six missions and were utterly knackered even though the train ride was only 2.5 hours. The train ride itself was beautiful. Waiting for the train journey to start in Colombo
Finally, we saw glimpses of rolling hills, those cliched train shots that you see all over instagram with the doors wide open just like they are in India but more importantly, some real Sri Lankan life not only on the trains but whilst we passed through small towns and villages.
Capturing some locals on the opposite train from us
One thing I did learn along the way was this was the nicest train journey in terms of it wasn’t too crowded and not packed with tourists.
When we arrived in Kandy, we were once again bombarded with tuk tuk drivers. Our guest house, Kandy Waters specifically told us it wouldn’t cost no more than 250R to get to our hotel but as per usual the tuk tuk drivers wouldn’t take any less than 500R. Insane to think the train ride cost us 280R and the tuk tuk drivers wanted nearly double for a five minute drive to our guest house. It’s exhausting because we both knew it was wrong and played the whole, right we’ll walk away and wait for them to run after us, but to be honest, I was so over it all, that I just caved and agreed whatever price in the end.
So, here’s a guide to visiting Kandy Sri Lanka!
Where did we stay in Kandy
Our guest house, Kandy Waters was a little oasis up in the hills over-looking the city and only a few minutes in a tuk tuk into the city and cost just AU$40 a night. Turns out the majority of guest houses were on the hill too. Finally some peace, and actually nice local people working there so we were much happier than the previous day in Colombo.
Our accommodation in Kandy called Kandy Waters
Kandy Waters was lovely, we had our hideout from the noisy city and it was bliss. The breakfast was out of this world; fresh smoothies, a big plate full of fruit, toast, omelettes, you name it, we were filled up and it was amazing!! Even on our last day we were treated to a huge Sri Lankan breakfast of various rice and noodle dishes and local delicacies.Amazing breakfast at Kandy Waters
After our first night of paying extortionate prices (1100R) for a very small and underwhelming buffet at a tourist restaurant around the corner called The Mango Restaurant, we finally ventured into town the following morning, on what really felt like our first proper day in Sri Lanka.
The city is situated around Kandy lake
Now I must mention, for a city, Kandy is actually quite beautiful as it sits right next to a lake. Guest houses are built up on the hills and it is beautiful there.Our guesthouse was somewhere up in these hills
4 things to do in Kandy
1. Temple of the Tooth
Outside the Temple of the Tooth
We headed straight for the Temple of Tooth which houses Buddha’s tooth. After visiting a temple in Singapore which houses the same thing, we wondered, how many temples around the world hold Buddha’s teeth?Inside the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Unsurprisingly, again it was another mission to get into this temple. As per all of the temples we learnt along the way in Sri Lanka, shoes must be taken off before entering. So after leaving our shoes at the kiosk, we made the walk into the temple before being the only tourists stopped for not having a ticket. We didn’t quite understand why none of the other tourists were stopped but we followed orders to find the ticket office. When we eventually found the office, obviously they didn’t have change for my 5,000R note (approx AU$40) so they directed me to a perfectly positioned ATM. So, finally I paid the 1500R which is mad really as I’ve never paid to get into a temple before let alone the Singapore temple either. I’ve noticed since, it seems the norm here that tourists have to pay to get into temples in Sri Lanka.
Locals praying outside the room which hold Buddha’s tooth
2. Go to the pub
Afterwards, we quickly learnt that the town of Kandy, although it was beautiful being surrounded by a lake, was hectic, and no different to a town in India. So we went and found a gorgeous colonial pub called The Royal Hotel & Bar to have a drink.The Royal Hotel & Bar
3. The big Buddha on the hill
After a couple of drinks, we stopped by a small corner cafe and grabbed some samosas for 30R each and got another tuk tuk up to the big buddha on the hill.
At the top of the Big Buddha in Kandy
For the first time since we arrived in Sri Lanka, we found a great, calm energy at the Buddha temple. Apart from again, having to pay 500R to get in and then some more to put our shoes away, we absolutely loved this place where we could sit in peace and look out to the beautiful view of Kandy.The beautiful view overlooking Kandy city
That night, we found a lovely little tourist cafe serving local food for 550R just up the road from The Mango Restaurant.
4. Helga’s Folly
The next day I headed up to Helga’s Folly, the famous hotel known for quite literally being the anti-hotel to meet Helga herself because I was keen to learn of her family’s incredible history. Helga de Silva Blow Perrera was a model for Dior by the age of 17, her daughter in law was Isabella Blow, the famous magazine editor, responsible for the careers of Sophie Dahl and Alexander Mcqueen and her daughter Selina Blow was a fashion designer to the likes of Debbie Harry and Angelica Houston.
This hotel was amazing to visit and I strongly recommend if you don’t stay here to at least go and have a look around, because it is incredible.
Read my review of it below.
The one thing I do regret is not seeing The Botanical Gardens in near Kandy but we were so peed off with the tuk tuk drivers for constantly ripping us off and because it was so exhausting, we couldn’t be bothered at the time. With the constant haggling, noise and heat, it didn’t take us long to be knackered in Kandy.
Where to eat in Kandy
The Muslim Hotel
We ate at The Muslim Hotel because we just walked past and wanted to go to a local place not knowing beforehand it was in the Lonely Planet already. The food was excellent, cheap and we really enjoyed it.
Incredible ice cream at The Cool Corner
We read a blog here about Kandy and it recommended this fried ice cream shop so after gorging on the local food at The Muslim Hotel, we went to check it out. The bloggers mentioned it was the best ice cream they had ever had. I wasn’t expecting much but to be honest, it was amazing and I’d not had fried ice cream before. If you’re in Kandy, definitely check this place out. Prices range from 200R-700R for an ice cream.
So that was our two days, three nights in Kandy. If I were to do it again, I would have gone for the night and just gone to see the temple of tooth as soon as it opened in the morning as well as a visit to Helga’s Folly before heading up to Dambulla on the bus. FYI the bus to Dambulla goes every 30 minutes from The Good Shed bus station behind the train station.
Have you been to Kandy? What were your highlights?