The Cities of Sri Lanka: Kandy + Colombo

Our last two stops in Sri Lanka were the cities of Kandy and Colombo. The drive to Kandy was relatively quick (only an hour and a half) from the Mandulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge. Despite how utterly relaxed we felt at the lodge, we were more than ready to move on to a city (and a new food scene!).

We didn’t have a lot on our list of things to do in Kandy. Mostly, we figured we’d relax at our hotel. We splurged for a luxury boutique and didn’t mind staying inside. That said, we spent more time than expected in the city itself.

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Kiri Muhuda (Kandy Lake) our first morning out as we made our way to Chandler’s number one destination in Kandy: The Buddhist Publication Society.

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Turns out we’d find ourselves at that bookshop more than once during our time in Kandy!

We also spent a morning at Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). Home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, the temple and city are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The relic has played an important role in local politics since ancient times. It is believed that whoever has the relic holds the governance of the country.

I can’t say that I had a high interest in the tooth itself, but the surrounding temple was beautiful. And much larger than I imagined!

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Apart from the temple itself, there were arches and a gazebo, a museum and garden area. You have to walk around most of the grounds barefoot, so we were happy to have gone on a sunny morning when it wasn’t too hot.

Inside the temple, we were surprised by the amount of detail in the wall paintings and Buddha statues. The place was absolutely stunning. We ended up spending a few hours exploring. By the time we left, the temple was really starting to get busy!

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The rest of our time in Kandy was spent eating. Some highly recommended restaurants for vegetarians are: Empire Cafe and Cafe Secret Alley.

Our next stop was Colombo. The cities are only 114 km (71 miles) apart, yet the drive took us 5 hours. We saw a lot of incredible sights in Sri Lanka, but drives like that are the reason it won’t be added to our short-list of countries we might move to in the future.

We only had a day and a half in Colombo before our flight, so just like Kandy, we didn’t plan to pack too much in. Our first night was New Year’s Eve and we split our time watching TV in bed and attending our hotel’s pool party. We absolutely adored our hotel in Kandy, but the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo wasn’t quite our style. Nice enough, but it felt a little soul-less, like a lot of hotels we’ve stayed at in the United States.

One thing I will say, they know how to throw a New Year’s Eve party, and they didn’t throw just one, they threw at least half a dozen.

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We spent our final day in Sri Lanka wandering around the neighborhood of Pettah. We’re not big on markets, which this area is famous for, but it also happens to be the home of both holy sites we wanted to visit.

We started at the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque (the Red Mosque). Completed in 1909, it is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo. It takes up a whole city block and we didn’t even realize until we left that we had visited without making our way to the “grand” entrance. We did, however, find our way to the “tourist” entrance, which let us enter the courtyard. Men are allowed throughout the complex, but visiting women are only allowed to see a small portion.

Still, it was incredible to behold. And not just because of its size – I also loved the candy cane coloring!

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As we walked through Pettah, we passed numerous brightly painted buildings, as well as tuk-tuks in every color imaginable. These little vehicles only came in blue in Ethiopia, so I had no idea how colorful they can be.

The streets were crowded with both people and vehicles, but nobody paid us a second glance. We were left to ourselves as we wove our way through the streets.

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After a ten-minute walk, we made it to our second destination: the Kathiresan Kovil (Hindu temple). Supposedly, there’s a new and old temple, we only happened to find one.

I loved the bright colors and statues decorating both the inside and outside of the temple, but what was most memorable was the incredible hospitality. I tried to be unassuming as I walked through but, obviously, I stood out. More than one person invited me to stay and join them for lunch.

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There were aspects of Sri Lanka that we absolutely loved (the hospitality & diversity of experiences we had), but there were also things we hated (the traffic & the traffic!). At the end of our trip, we were so grateful to have gotten to experience Sri Lanka, but we were also more than happy to be on our way back to Amman.

More than any other place since leaving Minnesota (eight years ago!), Amman feels like home. And that’s a nice feeling to have.

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