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Up in the mountains of central Sri Lanka is the ancient city of Kandy, as important now as the second city of Sri Lanka, as it was back when known as the Kingdom of Kandy. Set amongst the hills around the edge of Bogambara lake, the city is a draw for its scenery and history, including the Temple of the Tooth, one of Buddhism's most revered sites.

Upon arrival at Negombo airport for Colombo, I jumped straight in a minibus and we chugged our way up the mountain roads to Kandy a few hours away. I stayed in a small hotel/hostel on a hill to the south east of the lake, which served a multi-course curry on its rooftop terrace. Getting back to Colombo was by the 6am train, and seated in the observation car at the back there were great views over the jungle and mountains as the sun came up.

Bible Rock

Bible Rock or Batalegala as it is correctly known, dominates the skyline on the way up to Kandy.

We stopped at this colourful fruit stall on the way up the mountain road.

Fruit stall on the way to Kandy

Pretty Kandy hillside houses

The view from the top of my hotel, the appropriately named "Kandy View Hotel". It was borderline hostel but like everywhere in Sri Lanka, served excellent food.

The city is built around Bogambara Lake, with the Temple of the Tooth to the south, and a very rectangular island in the middle. It was very pleasant to walk around on the relatively quiet footpaths.

Bogambara Lake

Local orange monk

A local monk on his way home from the temple.

The Queen's Hotel is the city's grand old dame, previously the private residence of the British Governor, and now one of the most splendid and historic hotels in town.

The Queen's Hotel

Busy Kandy street

The road next to the Queen's Hotel was as frantically busy as the other side of the lake was quiet.

Heading towards the Temple of the Tooth. Within is a relic of the tooth of the Buddha, after which the temple is called.

Approach to the Temple of the Tooth

Elephant head detail

A detail of an elephant's head carving on the path towards the temple.

The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka, yet was subject to terrorist attacks on more than one occasion. In 1998 the octagonal tower and facade were extensively damaged by a truck bomb.

Temple of the Tooth

The devoted

Inside the temple, it was clear the reverence that the site holds for worshippers.

Detail of a Buddha carving inside the temple.

Buddha carving

Raja the elephant

The temple was also home to Raja the Elephant, a "tusker" who served for over fifty years. Such was his influence on the local community that his remains were preserved for posterity.

Back in the city I wandered through some very impressive fruit stalls before heading for a curry at Kandy Muslim Hotel, delicious.

Kandy fruit stall

Buddha on the way into town

On the main road heading into town is a large seated Buddha.

The following day I was up at ridiculous o'clock to get myself a seat in the Observation Car at the back of the train heading down to Colombo. Although very slow, it was perfectly comfortable and not too hot on board.

Observation car on the train to Colombo

Jungle railway track

The railway track snaked through the jungle on the way down to the coast.

There were very atmsopheric views of mist covered hilltops as we descended the line to Colombo.

Misty mountains in the morning

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2013