Surviving the Perahera

Kandy, 14-17 August

We’re waking up before dawn to catch the 6.39 train from Ella to Kandy. The 7 hour train ride is described as one of the most beautiful in the world, but today is the final night of the Perahera, or Festival of the Tooth, and everyone is trying to get to Kandy in time for the procession. It turns into a pretty taxing ride as we’re stuck in the aisle for most of it and we’re missing all the pretty scenery. Can it get any worse you say? A group of tone deaf teenagers inside our carriage sing and play bongo throughout the entire journey.. But hey, at least we’re not in work right now and we (eventually) make it to Kandy!

The accommodation has been good so far, so naturally I’m feeling pretty smug. All of that is about to end when we check in to Lodge in 611.. The hotel sign says ‘luxury rooms available’. Well they’re not quite completed yet. As I’m typing this, someone is going mad on a power drill in the unfinished room above us. Our bathroom doubles as a breeding ground for flies and most days we find our resident hotel manager, wearing nothing but a sarong, lurking outside our door. Pretty disturbing stuff, although granted it is tops off weather.. Today is his day off and guess who’s suddenly wearing a shirt!

So much then for the bad stuff, because Kandy really is a nice place to visit. It’s the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka dating back to 500 BC, and home of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world: The Temple of the Tooth.

And of course we’re also here for the Perahera, a historical procession paying homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic (Buddha’s very own denture) which is kept in Kandy. In the afternoon we pass elephants headed towards the temple grounds, a sight that is both amazing and appaling.

When we make it to the temple at 5pm the place is already heaving. In the next three hours waiting for the festivities to start, all our combined experiences dealing with groups of people in Sri Lanka will be severely put to the test. So we’ve mastered local buses with our big gear on, survived a crazy canyon ride, and literally fought our way out of the train in Kandy, yet this is all child’s play next to the Perahera. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving going on, people are falling over, feet are getting crushed, elbows flying everywhere, pretty much like being in a mosh pit. We’re locking arms with the people standing next to us and at some point I find myself almost pulling the jumper off of the boy to my right to keep us all on our feet, total carnage! About an hour into the procession we finally admit defeat, we’ve been pressed up against people for over ten hours today and our legs have had enough. We survived (some of) the Perahera! (We’ll get a lousy t-shirt later).

The next morning we do feel a bit disappointed not to have seen more of the festivity and then learn there is a Perahera encore, a final day procession and we’re doing it in style this time! Lauren finds us a spot on the balcony of a pub with a perfect view, comfy seats and cold drinks, yas Laur, you wee genius!

Perahera? Nailed it! We spend the rest of our time in Kandy visiting a few more sights. First up is climbing the big Buddha statue overlooking the city. Ever wonder what’s inside a giant Buddha? The answer is lots of smaller Buddhas!

Nearby Udawattakele Forest Park is perfect after the noisy and chaotic streets of Kandy, and has monkeys which is always a win.

We run into the same guy from Dubai twice (the one that looks like a pirate) and together we end up partying our Saturday night away. See ya later Kandy, we’re off to see Habarana!


One thought on “Surviving the Perahera

  1. Wow! that was hectic to say the least but you are seeing the most amazing things.
    Shame about the elephants though – bet they’re not having a great time!
    Look forward to reading more about your adventure.
    Take care!
    Love from us both.


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