Jan 15-18, 2001: Kandy came as a bit of a surprise – bigger, noisier and more crowded than I had expected, but I liked it anyway, not least because I finally had dry, sunny weather. I recently read “A Covert Affair”, by Jenner Conant, supposedly about Paul and Julia Child’s wartime service in the O.S.S., but actually centered on one of their friends, later found guilty of espionage. Although I thought the cover and the reviews misrepresented the book, I did appreciate the descriptions of life in Kandy in the 1940s, at a time when my father would have visited. Much had changed!
I enjoyed strolling round the central lake (although not being accosted while doing so), but my favorite spot was the Botanical Gardens further out. I happily spent several hours wandering around, admiring the formal gardens, checking out the flock of fruit bats, and lunching with a view of the huge lawn. The next day I made a pilgrimage to the iconic Temple of the Tooth (Buddha’s tooth), along with plenty of local devotees. I got no spiritual vibe from the place, but did enjoy the buildings. That evening I attended one of the dreaded “cultural shows” along with a large roomful of other western tourists. I thought the dancers looked bored and under-rehearsed, but had to admit being impressed by the fire walkers.
Unfortunately I was less pleased with my hotel. In fact, I was so little pleased that I spent one morning driving around Kandy looking for an alternative. I didn’t find another place to stay, but I did get to see plenty of Kandy and its serpentine streets, including lots of good views from the hills surrounding the lake. I liked the look of the Serene Garden enough to make a reservation for dinner, although the resulting buffet didn’t live up to the building.
So, what was wrong with the Serendip Stone Bungalow? First, for me it was too far out of town. In fact it’s in a place called Kundasale, not Kandy. Presumably the people giving it rave reviews on Tripadvisor just wanted to chill out by the very small pool, or on the verandah overlooking the river, but I both wanted and needed to get into town. Needed to because the hotel only served vegan food, and that wasn’t enough protein to last me. Add in the lack of AC, the lack of driver accommodation, and the five minute wait for hot water (only available from the shower head) and I thought the place way overpriced.