Colombo Fort station is pretty busy, and there is one screen showing platform departures, and surprisingly the train turned up early, the first=class observation car was connected, and our seats were there and there was oodles of room! More surprisingly, the train left bang on time and swiftly headed to Kandy. Fast and bouncy at first (don’t have fizzy drinks!) and slower up the mountainous parts, but overall simple enough. Really good and interesting views for most of the journey, and really can’t complain.
Kandy station was equally chaotic but out homestay pick-up was there waiting for us, and hence easy journey to our homestay midway up a hill about 2km from the centre. A pretty good and genuine homestay with clean and reasonable room and good meals provided – though at what cost remains to be seen! Also simple enough to throw in laundry.
Walking down to Kandy, and the main centre is quite compact and very busy but easy enough to walk around in. The bus station is manic but the rest is as expected. Sadly, not many “wow” restaurants to pick but some nice bakeries for snacks and lunch. The views down into and around Kandy are really pretty, and you can easily imagine the British sitting around, admiring the view drinking tea and giving out the orders. The homestay children are taught about the history and say the Brits were both good and bad in the days of the colonies, we gave rail, roads and an education system and Lion beer!
Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth where there is a tooth of Buddah. Religion aside, tourists pay stupid prices to get in compared to locals, 1500 LKR each – but overall it was interesting enough. Not as much bling as Thai temples but interesting nevertheless, with access to other museums on site and an area giving the tooths history. Worth seeing but not a must see. The walk to Arthurs Seat viewpoint was worth it to see great views over Kandy, and the Royal Palace Gardens (100LKR) was worth a walk around and rest in the shade. Seems every local dating couple was occupying a bench! (Turns out, public displays of affection are frowned upon and police can get grouchy, so the parks are dubbed “lovers parks”…)
To get a tuktuk up to the homestay, the owner said could be up to 300LKR. Other guests paid 200 LKR – but as usual you get the tuktuk hassles. We installed PickMe app on the phones, and its like Uber for tuktuks! Say where you are, where you are going, and it gives a rough price and “Book”. You can then see your driver on the map, picks you up and takes you to the place by following the map. Quoted price about 120LKR.
Would’ve been fine, except on first use the didn’t know where we were going (and it is up a weird path), and the nav said “turn right” at a funny junction and it was straight on, so had to do a loop of the one way system, then we guided him wrong. Oops. He was very apologetic and you know its genuine as you rate the driver and route each time – so its not in their interest to add bits on. Even so, with the extra mileage the price was 160LKR – so well worth it. He told us the name of the street for future reference! But great app, and hassle free.
Pickme worked again perfectly taking us to the station the following morning, for 107LKR – easier not to get lost to the station. We heard the tickets for the Kandy to Ella train were full, so we guessed when we’d need them (7 days ahead) and tried to buy some but even that train had no reservable seats. In Sri Lanka, that means you get there 1hr before and you will be sold a ticket and its up to you to squeeze into an unreserved car… We’ll see what happens in a week, but not looking forward to it!
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