Kandy, although the name sounds like a Las Vegas exotic dancer or one of the lesser known Kardashians, is actually a culture-rich town in the middle of Sri Lanka.
Perched in the hills and encircling the idyllic Kandy Lake, Kandy is most famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which curates a tooth of Buddha himself. As a result, the temple is one of the most holy sites in the Buddhist world.
I arrived at my guesthouse minutes before sunset to the news that a ceremony of the relic was starting in 15 minutes. I rushed east, into town, as the sun rushed west (figuratively speaking. “As the earth rotated on its axis until the sun was out of sight.” is less poetic). This meant that, as I reached the temple by the lake, the sun had draped a layer of golden gossamer across the wind-dappled waters of the lake.
I arrived at the temple as the ceremony was beginning, left my shoes in a locker and rushed inside. Although there are three ceremonies per day, the place was packed to the lofty, gilded rafters.
After some initial blessings (I presume) downstairs, the homogenous mass of humanity flowed towards the stairs. Politely queuing tourists were elbowed violently out of the way as peaceful Buddhist parents peacefully pushed their bewildered children towards the front, dropping a peaceful shoulder to make peaceful progress wherever they met with resistance.
Why the rush I couldn’t work out. There was seemingly no time limit and, eventually, we all shuffled past a window offering a view of the relic. I couldn’t see a thing so, having been trampled by herds of aggressively peaceful parents, I felt it was something of an anticlimax.
Dinner was a meal if kottu, a delectable mix of chopped paratha and meat or veg in one scrambled heap.
Gastronomically content, I surrendered myself to the realm of Morpheus (no, not The Matrix – Morpheus was also the Greek god of dreams).
On the agenda the next morning was a drive to Ella, a hill station with some excellent hiking options, however, the Royal Botanical Gardens were very near to Kandy, so I went there on a quick detour first.
If my experience of botanical gardens in Ooty had been below par, this experience more than made up for it. Immaculately kept and with an astonishing diversity of species, these gardens were a tour de force.
Halfway through my tryst with Nature, a cacophony made me look skyward. There was a dark cloud of large birds, circling, swooping and screeching. Wait! Those aren’t birds! They’re bats!
And they were. Vast numbers of the biggest bats I have ever seen filled the skies, and the branches of all the nearby trees were laden with bat-shaped fruit.
If you have a fear of bats it would have been terrifying, but I see them more as mouse-angels so found it adorable.
The orchidarium was a kaleidoscope of scent and colour, each delicate petal a many-splendered thing.
I returned to my car uplifted, refreshed and with a subconscious urge to rescue the people of Gotham.