the hinata diaries

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 3 - Kandy

Our morning view from Villa Rosa. The road it’s on is definitely not an easy one, but now I understand why they went through all the effort to build a hotel here. Below is the Mahaweli River, Sri Lanka’s longest, and the town of Kandy.

Local mineral water – Dingle’s! But who is Dingle and how did he produce this water? Hopefully it’s not some kind of Sri Lankan Newater-type joke. Scary.

Morning was spent visiting the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, the private gardens of the last Sinhalese king until the British imprisoned him (no explanation why) and subsequently expanded the gardens.

What a nice leafy tree. Oh wait, those aren’t leaves, those are giant bats! Ooh. Garden stroll = haunted house of horrors.

Random shot of giant bamboo, just loved the burnt colour of the old leaves.

The evening saw the highlight of our trip to Kandy, the start of the annual Esala Perahera festival. The parade, which honours Kandy’s prized relic – a tooth of Buddha’s – is considered to be the world’s oldest parade and is celebrated with dancing, drumming, and the procession of numerous elephants, the last of which is tasked with carrying a replica of said tooth. The picture doesn’t show much, but you can just make out elephants covered in decorative cloths spotted with lightbulbs. Will try to post a video up when back in Singapore.

The parade was really very impressive. To attend the first day of the festival is considered particularly auspicious, and the main street of Kandy was lined with little old ladies sitting on makeshift mats since early afternoon. As it seems with most events in Sri Lanka, joy and celebration are always underpinned by security concerns given the country’s turbulent past (and indeed present), and we saw more than our fair share of the reported 7,000 armed police who had turned up to monitor the event. (Although this had probably to do with our vantage point as well - a makeshift spectator gallery outside Kandy's one and only Pizza Hut. A note: Sri Lankan Super Supreme is NASTY.)

The parade had a pretty simple structure – a group of musicians or dancers, followed by a troupe of elephants, repeat several times. But the atmosphere was certainly intense, the clash of tambourines or banging of drums filling the jungle sky, the throngs of locals and visitors alike pushing in for a closer look, the solemn eeriness of these majestic elephants swaying along in progress, their thoughts as they survey the magical scene a complete mystery.


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