SL Adv. Part V: Temples [Dambulla – Kandy, 12 Jun 2010]

Sri Lanka Adventure [10 – 18 June 2010]
Part I: Pre-Trip [Singapore, 10 Jun 2010]
Part II: The Long Shuttle [Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, 10 Jun 2010]
Part III: AK255 [KUL – CMB, 11 Jun 2010]
Part IV: A Slice of Cultural Triangle [CMB – Dambulla, 11 June 2010]
Part V: Temples [Dambulla – Kandy, 12 Jun 2010]
Part VI: Into the Hills [Kandy – Haputale, 13 Jun 2010]
Part VII: Trekking to World’s End [Horton’s Plains National Park, 14 Jun 2010]
Part VIII: Retracing the steps of Sir Thomas Lipton [Lipton’s Seat & Tea Factory, 15 Jun 2010]
Part IX: Leopard! Leopard! Leopard! [Haputale – Tissa, 16 Jun 2010]
Part X: Will this journey ever end? [Tissa – Negombo, 17 Jun 2010]
Part XI: Goodbye Serendib [CMB – KUL – Singapore, 18 Jun 2010]
Part XII: Epilogue

Despite the hotel being ‘full’, we hadn’t got a chance to meet any fellow guests. Our suspicions were further aroused during breakfast where we were the only ones in the restaurant. Where were they? Either the manager was lying the day before or the other guests were simply too elusive.

Only our tables was set up but we requested to be placed near the swimming pool instead.

Swimming Pool: Non-hotel guests have to pay 400 LKR for use

Breakfast menu

Lunch/dinner menu

I went for the Sri Lankan breakfast and was amazed by the amount of food being served. The only picture which I remembered to take was one of the bread and jam spread.

Bread and jam spread

After the heavy breakfast, Dambulla Cave Temple was next on our agenda. Unlike in India where autorickshaw drivers swarmed tourists with ride offers, we had to approach a stationary autorickshaw to get a ride. The driver got another friend over in order to ferry the six of us to the temple and we managed to bargain the cost down to 100 LKR per autorickshaw.

It began to drizzle on our way there and the skies opened up while we were paying for our tickets at the counter hidden in a rather obscure corner. Another expensive outlay at 10 USD or 1150 LKR.

After the rain stopped, we went up a rather steep flights of steps before reaching the entrance of the complex. Interestingly, a sign which stated that foreign visitors without tickets would not be allowed to enter the temples was only erected midway through the climb. I was pretty sure that there would be tourists who missed the ticket counter and walked up the steps first instead.

We left our shoes with the minders at the entrance to the cave temples (25 LKR per pair) and entered the complex barefooted.

Entrance to the cave temples

Like Sigiriya, we didn’t provide any business to the unsolicited guides and wandered around on our own. The complex consists of five temples of varying sizes with some grander and having more Buddha statues than the others.

First Cave

Inside the temples, statues and frescoes of Buddha in various poses could be seen.

Buddha statues

Recling Buddha

Standing Buddha

Sitting Buddha

The complex still functions as places of worship for the locals and in fact a Hindu ceremony was taking place in the cave nearest to the entrance while we were there.


Although photography was allowed, we were warned by a local guide not to pose for photographs with the statues. Several years ago, a female tourist was caught sitting on one of the statues’ lap posing for a photograph. Hence signs could be seen around the complex requesting the visitors to respect the religion.

'It is a good quality to respect all religions irrespective of the religion.'

Outside the caves, there was a pond with lotus flowers in bloom. Monkeys could be seen playing around the complex as well.


Monkey I

Monkey II

After the rain had cleared, vendors started to peddle the wares along the route which we climbed up earlier. We bought some really sweet mangoes (25 LKR each) and some of us tried out local ice-cream. We didn’t leave until we took the picture of the Golden Temple located at the foot of the cave temple complex.

Gold Buddha

We returned to our hotel the same way as we arrived. The autorickshaw drivers offered to drive us to Kandy for 25 USD per vehicle but we wanted to try out Sri Lanka’s public transportation system. While settling the charges of our night’s stay at the lobby, we learned a couple of Sinhala words from the manager.

Hello: Ayubowan
Thank you: Istudi
Goodbye: Cheerio

There terms were good enough to last us a week in Sri Lanka.

A persistent van owner followed us from the hotel to the bus stop in the hope of getting our business but we had to disappoint him. This was one of the hassles of traveling independently in less developed parts of the world and we had no choice but to bear with them.

Some locals pointed us the direction to the bus stop and it was nothing but a gathering of people by the roadside. Technically the public buses in Sri Lanka would stop anywhere along the road when being flagged down.

Kandy: 73.5km away from the bus stop

Route: Dambulla to Kandy
Distance: 73.5km
Time taken: Approx. 2h30m
Mode: Public bus
Cost: 73 LKR per person

The first bus was too crowded to be boarded but the second one arrived almost immediately after. We were lucky to get seats and the ride was an affordable 73 LKR. One rupee for every kilometer traveled.

Inside public bus

We got to talk to some locals on the local buses.

Friendly locals posing for us

One of the passengers happened to be a rugby coach who had been to Singapore before and was on his way to referee a match. He kindly told us to alight at Queen’s Hotel (nearer to our guesthouse) instead of Goods’ Shed bus station.

Arriving in Kandy - pilgrims boarding public bus

Kandy is the religious capital of Sri Lanka and center of Sinhalese culture. Its main claim to its status was due to Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic being located in the city. We would visit the temple later in the evening.

It was already mid afternoon when we arrived and we were all starving. An eating place near the bus stop where we alighted promised an extensive menu which prompted us to walk in.

Promising eating place

Despite the nice sign outside, only fried rice and noodles were available. We had our third meal of fried rice in less than two days in Sri Lanka. The food wasn’t exactly bad but we all had enough of fried rice. It really made us wonder about what the locals usually eat at home.

Our guest house, McLeod Inn, was within walking distance across Kandy Lake but it involved climbing up a hill. According to Lonely Planet, it boasted the highest view of Kandy Lake. We were glad to reach the clean and well-ran place after some serious walking.

Fat pelican in Kandy Lake

After settling down, we treated ourselves with fabulous views from McLeod Inn’s balcony.

Fabulous view from McLeod Inn's balcony

Tooth Relic Temple/Palace from our GH

The friendly guesthouse owner told us that there would be some religious ceremony going on at Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic around 6.30pm and we could try catching World Cup matches at restaurants in the vicinity. It meant walking down the hill, around the lake and back to where we alighted from the bus earlier in the day.

Queen's Hotel

We weren’t sure where the entrance to the temple was and went into a side street full of streets selling incense and flowers.

Stalls selling incense and flowers

After consulting a local, we knew where the entrance to the temple (one which we kept passing by) was. As a result of a deadly suicide attack by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1998, visitors have to go through two rounds of security check before being allowed into the compound. A ticket to the temple is 1000 LKR for foreigners with a CD given; there were two different counters to deposit shoes: one for locals and another for suckers foreigners.

Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic

The performance which the guesthouse owner was referring to was just some men beating the drums. It was kinda underwhelming in my experience.


We joined the queue and headed upstairs to have a peek of the sacred tooth relic (actually in a housing). It wasn’t a short queue and one would only have barely a few seconds to take a look at the housing through a window.

Pilgrims queuing

Blurry pic of the housing of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Devotees praying

There were other parts of the temple which were equally crowded.



A part of the temple was dedicated to the history of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the temple (complete with drawings and explanations). It was kinda hard (for me at least) to understand the story though.

Storyboard depicting the history of the temple and the relic

While retrieving the shoes, the shoe minder was not happy with the amount that we tipped (100 LKR) and wanted 2 USD. Although we paid up, this added to the poor experience at the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic. While it was no exorbitant amount, the amount of tips should be decided by the tipper. If there were more transparency with the fee expected were made known from the start, this incident could have been avoided.

Most of the shops were closed by 8pm on a Saturday night and we had some difficulties locating places to eat. We managed to spot a South Indian restaurant but decided to walk around to see if there were other alternatives.

We came across a stall selling chickpeas and bought some to try. Our cameras made us mini-celebrities among the locals.

Vendor preparing chickpeas

Even though some of us were tempted to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), we continued to walk and were rewarded just a few shopfronts down the road. A restaurant which served both Chinese and Indian cuisines was beaming the World Cup game between Nigeria and Argentina there and the choice was easy for us. No fried rice for us finally and what we ordered were essentially Chinese. Although they seemed forever to come, the food turned out to be quite good and the bill was still affordable at about 500 LKR each.

After the match ended (1-0 to Argentina), we went to the supermarket (Cargill Food City again) to stock up on our supplies of fruits and water. Some of us (I wondered how they did it) managed to find enough room in their stomach for another meal next door at KFC.

It began to rain when we decided to return; an autorickshaw driver agreed to take us up to our guest house for 150 LKR, 50 LKR lower than his initial asking price. He got his another friend in order to ferry all of us. The rain got heavier as we went up the dark mountain roads. The other driver weren’t too pleased when we paid the agreed price (his friend didn’t inform him beforehand) but nevertheless wished us goodnight after talking to his friend.

We chilled out at the balcony, chatting and eating our fruits. At almost 500m above sea level, night in Kandy could get kinda chilly. Before bed, I was lucky to shower first because the hot water ran out for Lewis later. I wasn’t masochist enough to shower with cold water at such a low temperature.


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