Sri Lanka days 3-5: culture capital of Kandy + Buddhist ceremonies + cultural dance show (including a video!)

After a beachy start in Negombo, I headed to Kandy, known as the “culture capital” of Sri Lanka. While Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, it’s nestled in the mountains, so there is ample nature and cooler temperatures too. Aside from some heart rate-pumping moments in the busy downtown, I’ve been able to find some peace here while also gaining a deeper appreciation for the people/culture of Sri Lanka. 

Day 3: traveling to Kandy by local bus

Getting to Kandy from Negombo was quite the adventure. My guest house host recommended taking the local bus, and without doing any research, I just went with it. Boy was it an experience! For $1 USD, I hopped along what basically was a colorfully decorated school bus. It was definitely a local experience as I was the only westerner on the entire bus. 

Overall, I’m glad I did it once and saved some money, but I’m not very keen on riding the bus again as it was pretty uncomfortable and LONG! Transport is an area where I realized I’m willing to spend a little more for comfort/efficiency.

Surprisingly, despite the 95 degree weather, no air con, bus delays, smell of bus exhaust, everyone’s bodies touching one another, and even some people standing in the aisles for hours…no person on the bus showed any sign of impatience of grouchiness. I was really impressed by the local’s positive attitudes. A huge contrast to taking the bus in SF, where any delay or traffic would cause everyone to moan and groan. 😛 

After a 7-hour journey door-to-door, I was pooped! I stayed at Nature Walk Resort, and spent the rest of the day resting up. I went with a hotel this time because the hostel options in Kandy seemed a bit expensive for what you got. My hotel was just lovely – for $14/night I got a private room, private bathroom, and a balcony with amazing views. I loved that my hotel was on top of the hill and away from the busy downtown area; the hotel was a big reason I found peace during my time in Kandy. 

Day 4: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic + traditional Theva ceremony + Kandy Lake + bustling downtown 

After 10 hours of sleep, I was ready to explore! The plan was to see the main sights in the city of Kandy by foot. After breakfast at my hotel and mapping out my day, I headed out.

Walking down the hill from my hotel gave me good vibes. I saw beautiful buildings nestled in the lush mountains – it reminded me of Medellín, Colombia. 

As I reached the bottom of the hill, the vibe quickly intensified as I emerged into the bustling big city. Lots of street vendors, beggars, crazy traffic, and tuk tuks honking at you to get your business.

My first stop was the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This temple is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, and it attracts thousands of devotees per day. The temple carries a lot of value to Buddhists all over the world as it houses the left Canine tooth of Gautama Buddha which is regarded as the living Lord Buddha.

The temple itself was absolutely beautiful. Despite the crowds of people, there was a sense of inner peace during my entire visit. The temple had ample greenery, space to walk and reflect, and nice-smelling incense.

Three times a day, the temple performs a traditional Theva ceremony, and I attended the mid-day one. Hundreds of people (mostly locals) waited in line to attend the ceremony. 

The ceremony was essentially a daily meal offered to Lord Buddha via flowers. One by one, people offered a variety of flowers to the Sacred Tooth Relic. 

The entire ceremony took place under ceremonial drumming sounds, which provided a meditative vibe. The whole ritual was just beautiful. It was my first time taking part in any Buddhist ceremony which made this visit extra special.

Afterwards, my entrance fee to the temple also got me a free admission to the Buddhist Museum next door, so I strolled through it fairly quickly.

Then I spent some time walking around Kandy Lake. The lake is situated right in the city center – I appreciated this lake as it gave everyone some peace in the busiest part of the city. 

After a full morning of sightseeing, I got lunch in the city and then headed back to my hotel for the rest of the day. 

Day 5: Big Buddha + cultural heritage show 

The next day was day 2 of sightseeing. A lot of people combine these two days into one via tuk tuk, but I wanted to go by foot to see more of the city, so I broke it up into two days. 

My morning started off running errands in town, and then I headed up the mountain to see the Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha statue (nicknamed “Big Buddha”). I got to the top and turned out the buddha was under construction, womp.

Luckily there were gorgeous views of Kandy below, and I enjoyed the peaceful vibes on the mountain. There was also a service going on for the full moon, and the city was bustling with special services at Buddhist temples.  

After spending time at Big Buddha, I headed down the mountain and got some lunch in town. Then I attempted to do some shopping at a market, but I only lasted 10 minutes and left with double my resting heart-rate. 😛 Big crowds + aggressive sales people are not for me! 

In the afternoon, I relaxed back at the hotel, drinking tea and working on blog stuff. Have I mentioned how much I loved my hotel? 😉 

In the evening, I was excited for a special event…a cultural dance show at the Kandy Lake Club! I found out about the show after hearing its music from my room, and fortunately I got the scoop from the hotel manager. The show was $5 USD and lasted one hour. It was honestly one of the best things I’ve done on this trip so far. The dancers were SO good, and I’m pretty sure I was smiling the whole time. I so appreciated watching these traditional Kandyan dances, and it reminded me of my childhood when I was part of a traditional Chinese dance troop. 🙂 I put together a little video with some clips I took — hope you enjoy!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friends!!

4 thoughts on “Sri Lanka days 3-5: culture capital of Kandy + Buddhist ceremonies + cultural dance show (including a video!)

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