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All Things Kandy

All Things Kandy
The island’s cultural capital – and home to its last kings

Despite its weighty pull and reputation as the island’s second city, Kandy is actually smaller in population than Jaffna and Negombo and only a little larger than either Trincomalee, Kalmunai or Galle.

Nor is it, relatively speaking, especially old, post-dating many other island cities with a foundation somewhere around 1357–1374 AD. It did not gain its first kings until 1473. Today they have been long ago replaced with traffic that might snap the patience of an entombed pharaoh, facilities and shops that frustrate even moderate demands and a city plan that makes a bowl of spaghetti look ordered.

Even so, to nearly every Sri Lankan, Kandy is second only to Colombo, and in terms of culture and history, far most important. Undoubtedly the presence in the city of the sacred Tooth Relic has something to do with this. As has, the fact that the city Kingdom was the last Kingdom left standing when the colonists arrived in earnest - for it was from Kandy that the island’s resistance to foreign invaders was largely meted out.

Sitting more or less in the middle of the island, a gateway to the Central Highlands, rail and road lines reach up to it from all sides. At one thousand five hundred and twenty six feet above sea level, its climate is cooler and wetter than that of much of the country and so it presents a much more comfortable place to live.

Centred snugly within a rolling landscape of hills, it has a vast artificial lake in its centre, built in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, and on its western side, the Royal Peradeniya Gardens, Asia’s finest botanical garden.

Overridingly Buddhist, it nevertheless has a stunning mosque and kovil, and many churches and monasteries. It boasts over 20 large colleges and the island’s best university – the University of Peradeniya, plus a scream of hospitals, the better ones to the west in Peradeniya.

Home to the famous Temple of the Tooth, and a capacious lake, Kandy offers ample retail therapy, beauty salons, theatres for traditional dance and much more. Its crop of weary hotels such as the Suisse and the Queen’s is slowly being refreshed by a range of lovelier hotels that offer a safe refuge for visitors in need of recovering from the more dystopian aspects of city planning. But if these elude you, head for Slightly Chilled, a marvellous bar overlooking the lake, with snacks and food to infill between beer and cocktails.

Behind the facade of endless shops and restaurants lie the stucco structures of many a once grand mansion; and to many Sri Lankans, its preponderance of wealthy landed families have given it a reputation for being lazy and entitled.

Down its roads lurk an almost entire street of lawyers; another of fabric shops; and still another for hardware. In between are showrooms for white goods, gem stones and computers, mobiles, and shoes. There are even a few good bookshops; and a market that throbs with vendors promising the earth for little cash in return. And in the middle of it all rises Kandy City Centre, a fortress of a shopping mall, with escalators and air conditioning.

To arrange a visit please contact the Hotel Office.
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