All the guidebooks say that the train journey between Ella and Kandy is the most beautiful in the world. “I’ll be the judge of that,” was my initial thought. Then I got anxious. I was worried I wouldn’t find it beautiful enough. I had the same kind of anxiety before we visited the Taj Mahal. I had an image of myself saying “Oh wow!” and thinking “Oh it just looks like the Brighton Pavillion but bigger”. Fortunately that was not the case then and my worries that I would be underwhelmed by the train ride dissipated about 5 minutes after we left the station.
We sat in third class because they were the only tickets we were able to get hold of. We had read online that we would have “limited facilities” and figured we would just have to not drink anything. There is an art to dehydrating oneself enough to not pee but not enough to faint. We were however, pleasantly surprised to find a clean, spacious carriage with huge windows and fans. The toilet was a hole in the floor, beneath which you could see the tracks, but when I finally succumbed to the cries of my bladder, it wasn’t too bad.
The doors to the carriage were left open so we could enjoy the views by hanging out and pretending it wasn’t scary. Because we were in the last carriage, we had the company of the train conductor who was too adorable. He didn’t want us to miss anything so often hurried over to us pointing at waterfalls and beckoning us into his booth to get a better view.
Every now and then we would pass a man who would blow a whistle. There were no railway signals save for real life men who would wave either a red flag or a green flag at various intervals and at stations, where peanut and vada (amazing savoury donut things) sellers would hop onboard.
The landscape was otherworldly and ever-changing. Lush green tea fields suddenly became forests which transformed into farmland, which morphed into gushing waterfalls flowing down the mountains. In all honesty, I shed a few tears at the sheer beauty of it all.
We only stayed one night in Kandy, at a lovely house called Resort Beem, which we found on booking.com. During our time there we took a walk around the city centre and around the lake, visited the temple of the tooth and visited The Soya Centre. Twice.
By day, Kandy is an extremely busy city with a lot of traffic and a lot of life. By night, it is the same, except there are thousands of crows flying and shitting all over the place. We liked being in Kandy as we enjoy the hustle and bustle of big cities. It would seem you can buy absolutely anything in one of the many shops and market stalls. Anything, except tampons. Word of warning to any ladies planning a trip to Sri Lanka, tampons aren’t a thing. Our lovely new friend Sarah was in the market for some of these little life savers and you should have seen the looks on people’s faces when we inquired about them. Due to the language barrier, Sarah’s chosen method was to brandish one of the few tampons she had left at the unsuspecting shopkeepers. One man attempted to smoke it and another two tried to open it as they thought it was a lip balm. Another man dismissed us like we had asked for crack. As a method of feminine hygiene, tampons are not widely culturally accepted in many parts of the world, so it’s always best to plan ahead.
The Temple of the tooth was very lovely to walk around when we were inside. Unfortunately a lot of the time we had to be outside bare foot and this meant burning the crap out of our feet. If you plan to go to the Temple of the Tooth during the hot season, early morning or early evening would be the clever time to go.
Although Kandy has a lot to offer in terms of tourism, the absolute highlight for us was The Soya Centre which does wonderful vegan ice cream as well as a whole range of other delicious soya based food! We pretty much got off the train in Kandy, dumped our bags at our homestay and legged it to the ice creams.
On our first visit, we met the charming owner of the business and decided to come back the following day to interview him and make a video about him and his company. Here it is:
We didn’t feel we needed any more time in Kandy and when asked by a number of tuktuk drivers how long we were staying, the common response was “ah yes one night is enough”. It is however a good launchpad for getting to other places of interest.