Kandy: The city of pomp and pageantry
Tucked away in the Central Highlands is the city of Kandy, embraced by hill-country breezes, busy streets, colonial buildings and its rich religious and cultural heritage. Once the last capital of the Sinhalese kingdom which fell to the British in 1815, today it is the city of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. From shopping malls to various other restaurants and hotel chains finding potential ground in this heritage city, Kandy has transformed itself in to another ‘must-visit’ destination.
During this episode of Loafer’s Diary, we visited some exciting eateries in the Kandy city while also exploring many places of historical, religious and cultural significance.
Places to eat at
WorldSpice @ KCC
The newest addition to the Kandy City Centre is WorldSpice, a restaurant which offers a unique fine-dining experience for its guests. Moving away from the traditional walk-in, this particular restaurant runs on an automated card system where guests are given a card at the entrance. Giving much emphasis to its name, this restaurant consists of different counters which prepare food unique to different countries. As such you could taste food made from Indian, Thai, Chinese and Italian recipes. In addition to that it also has a beverage and a desserts and snack counter. One could get anything from fresh juices to smoothies, mocktails, tea, coffee and even detoxifying options such as iced tea at the beverage counter.
Choosing off menus is quite challenging at WorldSpice as there is quite a list of items to choose from.
While at Worldspice we decided to have their Coconut Kiss (Rs. 400), Ginger Crush (Rs. 250) and Very Berry smoothie (Rs. 480) as beverages. The Very Berry for example was quite refreshing as it had a good balance of fruits and sugar.
For mains we had their Thai flat noodles with shrimps and eggs (Rs. 700) prepared by the expert hands of its in-house Thai chef.
We also had the WorldSpice special spicy rice noodles with chicken and shrimps (Rs. 700) and Fettucine marinara (Rs. 700). The food was up to standard and the portions were quite filling. What is quite unique about the food at WorldSpice is that they are prepared as and when the order is placed and everything from vegetables to meat is freshly picked.
To wrap up our meal we had a blueberry cheesecake (Rs. 350), hazelnut mousse (Rs. 370) and strawberry panna cotta (Rs. 270) which once again didn’t fail to satisfy our taste buds.
WorldSpice can accommodate up to 400 guests and it’s recommended for those who like to experience a unique fine-dining experience while in Kandy.
Address: Kandy City Centre, Level 4
Phone: 081 2 202844
Hours: 10:00AM - 9:30PM
Cool Corner Fried Ice Cream Parlour
Situated along the Peradeniya Road is a cosy-looking ice cream parlour popularly known as Cool Corner Fried Ice Cream Parlour which is frequented by tourists and locals. What is quite unique about this venue is that it offers a unique range of ice cream and this is not the usual ice cream but is ‘fried’. The mastermind behind this concept, Romesh Perera says that this was one of his dreams. “I used to do a promotion about fried ice cream at the KCC and eventually people were interested in the concept. I then started off this venture and very soon I will be opening up another branch in the Kandy town itself. The ice creams made here are freshly prepared and I do not use any brands.”
While at this venue we tried three types of ice creams namely the Cool Corner ‘Chocolate Crispy Nut’ ice cream (Rs. 270), Plum Pudding ice cream rolls (Rs. 300) and a healthier option, the Curry Leaves ice cream (Rs. 300). At first we didn’t have much hope on the curry leaves-flavoured ice cream but it turned out to be the best out of the three. The menu consists of an attractive range of ice creams and sometimes you would find yourself trying to buy more than one.
If one wants a recommendation of the place they could simply glance up the walls which are scribbled with various comments from locals and foreigners.
Address: 114, Peradeniya Rd, Kandy
Phone: 081 2 205218
Hours: 10:00AM - 7:00PM
Buono - food for life
Hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city is Buono, a brightly lit café that serves food and beverages at quite attractive prices while contributing to a worthy cause. Expressing his views about this concept, Tishan Wijesooriya said that 40% of the profits of the café are dedicated to a non-profit titled ‘Child Action Lanka’. “Child Action Lanka is an organisation that looks in to the needs of street children and gives them a hand in transforming their lives to face a brighter future. I used to look after children in this NGO for some time and worked as a counsellor there. This venue used to be the baby centre of Child Action Lanka and later on they relocated at another place. I anyway had an interest for baking since I was small and I wanted to make use of this interest to make it a commercial project. So I slowly transformed this space to what it is today.”
Buono offers breakfast, snacks, drinks and good coffee and while on our visit we decided to have their Chocolate Doughnut Cake (Rs. 50), Iced Tea (Rs. 150) and Strawberry Mojito (Rs. 190). As you could see, the prices are extremely cheaper than other venues and they taste absolutely fantastic.
On your next visit to Kandy, don’t forget to drop in to Buono to enjoy a cup of coffee and contribute to this worthy cause.
Address: 12, Lamagaraya Rd, Kandy
Phone: 076 669 0041
Hours: 9:00AM - 8:00PM
Licensed to Grill
Set up by 3 friends, Licensed to Grill is a pop up street food joint in Kandy that serves up grilled meat, wraps and burgers at very competitive rates. Easily found thanks to their now well recognised red canopy, they set up at George E de Silva Park mid-afternoon. The layout is simple, a few tables and stools provide limited seating. The food is prepared on the spot, so service is fast, unless there’s a crowd (and there’s always a constant stream of visitors to the stall).
We tried the Tuna Wrap and Chicken Wrap (Rs. 280 and Rs. 200 respectively). The wraps were filled with succulent meat, veggies and were full of flavour. And for the price, we couldn't have asked for better.
The service is friendly and fast, the food is served hot and for the quantity and quality you get, the price is unbeatable. So we're not surprised they regularly top the TripAdvisor list for top eateries in the area. Definitely check this place out when you're in Kandy.
Address: George E de Silva Park, Dalada Veediya, Kandy
Phone: 077 855 0639
Hours: 5:30PM - 10:00PM
Natural Coffee is of one of the most popular coffee shops in the area, and is a well-known hangout for tourists. The fact that it's just a hop, step and a jump away from the Temple of the Tooth Relic certainly helps. The coffee used here is home-grown Sri Lankan arabica coffee, which they also supply to a number of hotels in the country.
We tried their Natural Coffee (Rs. 350), Iced Latte (Rs. 450) and their Frappuccino (Rs. 550). The Iced Latte was pretty bitter and needed quite a bit of sugar sachets and kithul honey combined to make it palatable for me. The Natural Coffee and the Frappucino were both bitter too. Definitely an acquired taste (nothing that can't be solved with a few spoonfuls of sugar), but what can't be denied is the quality of the coffee. If you aren't in the mood for coffee though, they do have other options such as tea, sandwiches and desserts.
What's pretty cool about Natural Coffee is that they employ only women in all their ventures, from the coffee production process to their cafe.
Address: 5, Temple Street, Kandy
Phone: 081 2 200145
Hours: 8.30AM - 8.00PM
Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar
Formerly known as Bamboo Garden (some still use this name), the Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar is, true to its name, a chilled out place. Currently owned by British expat Michael Richardson, they continue to cook up Chinese fare (continuing from their Bamboo Garden days) with American and Italian cuisine added to the menu.
We started off with Orange Juice (Rs. 500) and Mango (Rs. 350) to sate our thirst courtesy of the unbearably hot weather. The drinks came without any sugar, so we requested for some sugar syrup. This works though, because you can alter the sweetness according to your preferences or just have it as is.
Their menu has a decent variety that left us wondering what we should order, and the staff were nice enough to recommend some items off the menu for us.
Their Spring Rolls Rs. 750 (L) were crispy, tasty and we couldn’t stop eating them!
For mains we had the Seafood Fried Rice Rs. 850 (L), the Hot Butter Cuttlefish Rs 1400 (L) and Clay Pot Golden Fried Eggplant Rs. 600. The fried rice was very flavourful, the cuttlefish was yummy (although a tad too tough) and the eggplant consisted of very subtle flavours.
Recommended by Michael himself were the Spaghetti Pesto Rs. 850 and the Spaghetti Neapolitan Rs. 800, both vegetarian dishes. The Spaghetti Neapolitan was tomato based and tasted great.
While we definitely loved the Neapolitan and would have it again, the real winner for us was the Spaghetti Pesto - drizzled with fresh parmesan - which was hands down one of the tastiest we had ever eaten.
Michael offered us pancakes with ice cream and a hint of lime in it. A perfect option to cool off in this warm weather.
The Slightly Chilled Lounge may not be a high end eatery, but it definitely has great food, nice views of the Kandy town and - as its name implies - a chilled out vibe. We’d definitely recommend this place. Especially if you're craving Spaghetti Pesto!
Address: 29A, Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, Kandy
Phone: 081 2 238267
Hours: 11.00AM - 11:00PM
Places of religious and historical significance
Sri Dalada Maligawa
The Temple of the Tooth Relic or the Sri Dalada Maligawa stands magnificently overlooking the crowded Kandy city. It is here that the Sacred Tooth of The Buddha reside drawing in devotees and foreigners from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this Sacred treasure. The Dalada Maligawa consists of several locations which contribute to its magnificent outlook.
The Relic Shrine is approached by a large draw-bridge over the moat through a beautifully decorated frontispiece. A tunnel, known as ‘ambarawa’ leads to the main shrine complex with a central courtyard surrounded by storied structures. The two-storied open-pillared hall in front constitutes the area where visitors and devotees gather. On either side are the Pallemale Viharaya constructed by King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha and the Octagon (Pattirippuva) built by the last King Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe along with a small stupa on the other side. The storied structures to the right and left of the shrine includes the residence quarters of the monks engaged during the daily service also known as ‘Tevava’, the conference hall, library and the office of the Diyawadana Nilame.
Address : Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy
Known for its wood work and carvings, the Embekka Devalaya dates back to the Gampola Era and was built by King Vikramabahu III. The devalaya is dedicated to its incumbent deity, God Katharagama while a local deity by the name Devatha Bandara is also worshipped here. The initial structure of the devalaya consisted of three sections namely the ‘Sanctum of Garagha’, the ‘Digge’ or the ‘Dancing Hall’ and the ‘Hewisi Mandapaya’ also known as the ‘Drummers’ Hall.’ Today what is left to see is the ‘Drummers’ Hall’ which still has several wood work and carvings on its ornate pillars.
The carvings which adorn these pillars are some of the best examples of Sinhalese art. The roof too has significant features where the rafters all slant from above towards the incoming visitor and are kept together by a ‘Madol Kurupawa’ – a kind of a giant catch-pin which cannot be seen elsewhere. Today this once historical and religious place of worship has become yet another abandoned structure which has not been maintained for years.
Address: Pilimatalawa Road, Embekka
Hindagala Rajamaha Viharaya
A drive through the beautifully landscaped lawns of the University of Peradeniya always brings peace of mind to the passers-by. Situated a few blocks away from the university premises along the Galaha Road is this ancient temple which dates back to the third century B.C. A tiring ascent along an uneven flight of rocky stairs would lead you to this abandoned yet historic temple premises which is known for its inscriptions and paintings.
The two rock inscriptions at the site date back to the 7th century A.D. The older inscription is datable to the 6th century A.D. to the construction of the Bodhigara (Bodhi-house). The other inscription is unfortunately fragmentary and is datable to the 7th century on palaeographical evidence, embodying the words ‘Vataka-Vahara’, indicating the ancient name of the monastery.
Address: Galaha Road, Hindagala
Slated as the most magnificent architectural edifice created during the Gampola era, Lankatilaka Viharaya, situated in Udunuwara, Kandy is built entirely upon uneven rock surface. Supplementing the aesthetics of the temple are the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Said to be built during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV, the temple was designed by South Indian architect Sathapati Rayar, who in turn drew inspiration from the Sinhalese architecture of the Polonnaruwa era, amalgamated with Dravidian and Indo Chinese elements.
Address: Gadaladeniya Road, Kandy
Situated a short drive away from the Lankatilaka Temple is the Gadaladeniya Viharaya, widely regarded to be one of the largest rock temples in the country. Also constructed under the patronage of King Bhuvanekabahu, the temple was built by another South Indian architect, Ganesvarachari. The Dravidian elements the architect was inspired by are thus quite discernible. Worth mentioning is that the central temple is built entirely of sculptured granite.
Incidentally, the temple fell into neglect and was abandoned until it was handed over to Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero whose pupils continued to look after the temple.
The temple wasn’t crowded when we visited, except for a few devotees quietly milling about. Visitors to the temple can soak up the history, the atmosphere and admire the impeccable craftsmanship of this remarkable work of architecture.
Address: Gadaladeniya Junction, Daulagala-Pilimathalawa Road
International Buddhist Museum
The world’s first ever International Buddhist Museum will leave you engaged and awed as you take in the history and the architecture through the eyes of all the countries with ties to Buddhism. The IBM was established with the contributions of 18 countries including Sri Lanka, such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bhutan, Central Asia and Afghanistan.
The Museum is beautifully laid out and the space is well utilised; arrows guide visitors through the impressive exhibits of the 18 countries. If available - and if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands - definitely entrust the help of one of the guides at the Museum. They will captivate you with interesting stories and tidbits that will leave you engrossed and educated.
Note: If you’ve already purchased a ticket to the Temple of the Tooth, the same ticket should get you in here for free.
Address: Temple of the Tooth, Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy
Kandy Garrison Cemetery
Tucked away in close proximity to the Temple of the Tooth Relic is the Kandy Garrison Cemetery, also known as the British Garrison Cemetery. The cemetery does not get as much love or attention as the other sites in Kandy: It is hauntingly serene, its silence only disturbed by the chirping of the birds. The experience is certainly melancholic but also fascinating.
We met with the charming and eloquent Charles Carmichael, a caretaker of the cemetery, who regaled us with tales of the cemetery’s notable British populace. Many of the cemetery’s inhabitants seemed to have succumbed to tropical diseases such as malaria and cholera. Others seemed to have died due to heat strokes or were killed by elephants or impaled. All monuments and gravestones in this cemetery were carved and brought down from England.
Address: Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Kandy City Centre
Standing tall at the heart of the Kandy city is the Kandy City Centre (KCC) which offers breathtaking views of the lake beyond it. The KCC offers a one-stop shopping experience for all its visitors and hence it is equipped with stores selling everything from clothes to shoes, electronic appliances, groceries and many other items. The banks and a few other commercial stalls are situated at the ground floor and the second and the third floors are dedicated for electronic appliances and clothing respectively. The food court and the children’s play area are situated in the fourth floor of this shopping complex.
Address: Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe Mawatha, Kandy
TEXT by Kamanthi Wickramasinghe and Rihaab Mowlana
VIDEO & PHOTOGRAPHS by Zeeshan Akram Jabeer