The first thing that struck me as I exited the Bandarnake International Airport in Colombo were the clean roads and the lack of blaring horns. Another thing that stood out for me was the polite and hospitable nature of the Sri Lankan cab driver who drove me from the airport to the city. I was in Sri Lanka for a week primarily to visit the country of my literary research and to attend an International Film Festival in Kandy. Colombo, which is the capital of the country doesn’t quite embody the paradisiacal island image of Sri Lanka but the main sites like the shopping streets of Pettah, the excellent national museum in the heart of leafy Viharamahadevi Park and a evening in the scenic Galle Face makes this city a good place to start or end a journey through Sri Lanka.
I personally enjoyed my stay in Kandy than my time in Colombo. The Hill Country capital of Kandy remains the Sinhalese cultural and spiritual centre for Sri Lankans. The town houses the ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’ in which a very important Buddhist relic — a tooth is preserved. This temple was damaged when a bomb was detonated by the LTTE in 1998. The scars have been now repaired but security remains high and there is significant screening for all visitors. While in Kandy, it is a good idea to stroll into one of the many monasteries to get a glimpse of life in a Buddhist monastery.
I visited the Malawatte Maha Vihara right across the lake from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which has a giant Buddha statue that seems to look down at the town of Kandy. The Kandy International Film Festival (KIFF) which I was an attendee had an interesting array of Sri Lankan films lined up. Particularly, the one by Vimukthi Jayasundara ‘Between Two Worlds’ stood out for its emphasis on the recent ethnic conflict.
My trip was obviously too short to appreciate the gorgeousness of the island but I hope to return sometime soon and explore places that I didn’t have the time to cover this time.
Kandy is the second-largest city of the island and the capital of Central Province of modern Sri Lanka. It was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which contains an area of tea plantations. Kandy is widely considered as one of the most scenic cities in Sri Lanka.
While in Colombo, it is a good idea to make a trip to Pettah, which is the shopping district. Make sure you bargain your way through buying souvenirs, or take a local along with you to avoid being fleeced. A souvenir that you must pick up is the miniature elephant showpiece. Available in wood or metal, these look real life-like and are sure to remind you of the elephant orphanage at all times.
The writer is a student at the National University of Singapore and enjoys travelling