Welcome to the Kandy Shop (Ceylon Chronicles, part 2)

This is a continuation of Ceylon Chronicles, part 1.

The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage.  

According to the locals, the most visited place in Sri Lanka is the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage near Kegalle on the way from Colombo to the Sacred UN Heritage City of Kandy. Not surprising because the first thing one gets to see at 9.15 sharp in the morning is several baby elephants being fed milk from XXL feeding bottles.

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After several Petabytes of high resolution Digital SLR snaps are taken by assorted, khaki-shorts wearing white people, everybody is directed to the river side where we are treated to an extraordinary public display of around 40 elephants having a bath.

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And once the elephants wash themselves clean, they proceed to the opposite bank of the river to roll in wet mud and dirty themselves for the next bath. For a change, I am not actually kidding.

As we turned back to leave, a large, informative poster told us that Elephas maximus maximus was not just a large member of a group of animals formerly known by a name that Captain Haddock used fairly frequently as a curse (Pachyderm) but also a living paper mill. Don’t believe me? See.

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And oh, a few other highlights from the orphanage. A 65 year old blind tusker, and a 3-legged elephant (named Sama) that lost one limb to a landmine explosion. Looking at her is one of those “Why does Homo Sapiens fight wars?” moments. But she joins the rest of gang at the communal bath though, and seems to have completely adjusted to moving a 5 ton body on 3 legs.

The Spice Garden 

Our next stop was the Kingston Spice Garden, where we were treated to a quick course on Ayurveda and the use of spices such as pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla by somebody who apparently graduated from the MISPWOSO. To be fair to him though, I don’t think he noticed our brown skin. He was way too used to talking about ancient herbs, traditional remedies and secret plant extracts set to ambient sitar music to Americans and Europeans and selling small bottles of honey for $19 and a vial of vanilla essence for $10. For South Indians who buy Dasanakaanthi Chooranam at Rs 7 a packet from the local Kottakkal Aryavaidyashaala, $19 for a bottle of honey is not just expensive. It’s downright hilarious. My advice to desi travelers – give this a miss.

After this, and a short visit to a nearby tea plantation, we reached Kandy. And I was surprised that I could not find a local chocolate shop that featured a bandana wearing rap star named Warnakulasooriya Curtis Ushantha Paddabedige “50 SL paisa”  Jackson singing “Welcome to the Kandy shop”.

The Botanical Gardens in Kandy

In my opinion, the finest botanical gardens I have seen so far. The orchid room alone is worth a visit even if you don’t see anything else. And what’s even better – this is Kandy’s prime Louwws Matter location. If somebody ever wrote a Clandestine Lovers’ Guide to Kandy, it would only consist of 2 words – Botanical Gardens.

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

Legend has it that somebody pulled out a tooth from the Buddha’s funeral pyre and set in motion, a chain of events that involved several wars, mystery, intrigue and robotic, time-traveling monks called Dharminators who allegedly went back in time to convince the living Buddha to brush twice daily to ensure that his teeth would remain healthy for 2500 years after his death. Ok. That probably didn’t happen, but hey, popular culture of 2500 years ago becomes myth today, and who is to say that popular culture of today wont become myth many years hence?

We spent the last day of the trip in Colombo, mostly indulging in a celebration of the INR-SLR exchange rate imbalance, a celebration that involves reckless shopping sprees for Van Heusen, Arrow and Louis Philippe shirts (for the XY) and skirts and tops (for the XX) that are priced at approximately INR 300 each. The one thing I don’t like about Colombo – the uncomfortably high density of loaded assault weapon toting Army guys looking around nervously for potential terrorists. In an already increasingly dangerous world, the word “potential” gives us no solace. Technically speaking, isn’t everybody is a “potential” terrorist?

Trip photos here