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Kandy: Gateway to Sri Lanka’s hill country


The monkeys scarpered across Kandy’s purple sky, supported by the swaying telephone cable.

A torrent raged below them, not just the rain but from the relentless flow of trucks and busses, those screaming machines that owned the road the monkeys were crossing.

Monkeys climbing wire

Monkeys climbing wire

A slip was fatal, but the monkeys were fearless. They bounced across the cable, silhouetted by the lightning flashes. One nearly fell, the troop hollering as it dangled by its tail. Jason and I continued up the road and found our accommodation – a guesthouse for pilgrims.

The guesthouse was run by a monk who looked at me like I’d just asked to sleep with his mother. He scowled as I handed over the cash, and we followed him down a dark corridor. We passed through a courtyard inhabited by a family of turtles. I wondered what they were paying to stay here.

Turtles eating

The room was spartan, having two beds and nothing else. Jason asked about WiFi and the monk simply shut the door. With nothing to do, we said goodnight and fell asleep. 

I woke the next morning to a truly ridiculous sight. Jason was squirting hand sanitiser into his eye. “Conjunctivitis”, he explained. Avoid contact with eyes and see a doctor read the label. Fearing that it was contagious, I left the room to explore Kandy before the idiocy spread to me. 

Kandy lake


Kandy is the gateway to the hill-country, Sri Lanka’s famous tea-growing region. Set between mountains and thick forest, Kandy’s streets were crammed with tuk-tuks and an incessant blaring at-odds with the relaxed Sri Lankan psyche. I wandered around the central lake, ending up at the Temple of the Tooth. It contains a relic that’s supposedly Buddha’s tooth, making this one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist sites.

Temple of the Tooth

I didn’t go inside, preferring instead to look around the grounds at the Sri Lankan familes praying, dressed immaculately in white garb. The women were beautiful, clutching colourful flowers and playing with their children. I rounded a corner and ended up helping clean an elephant, scrubbing its leathery skin with a coconut shell.

Flowers purple

Man washing elephant

Jason had messaged, asking my whereabouts. I told him to meet me at the temple gate, and to wear long pants. It’s forbidden to enter Buddhist temples with your legs showing, so men wore trousers or sarongs.

Monks with umbrellas

Jason arrived as the sun was setting, in shorts and carrying a floral bed sheet from the guesthouse. We walked to entrance, Jason wearing the lurid sheet as a rudimentary skirt. The temple guard simply shook his head as I burst into laughter. A small consolation, but Jason’s eye seemed better.

One comment

  1. Gma says:

    Loved everything about this post Dan. How we would love a pet Monkey! Thanks for sending.

    Much love and safe travels. Gma xx

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