The Kandy House
Kandy, Sri Lanka
(71/18 Dodanwela Passage, Asgiriya; +94 (0)81 221 5556), overlooking Mahaweli River, is like a house in Capri. Your host Volker serves up curry that won’t destroy the taste buds, doesn't mind if you loiter till sundown for arrack on the rocks and will happily direct you to a suspension footbridge slung 70 feet over the fast-flowing ganga
(river) for cool views and a taste of Indiana Jones broohaha. Or choose a table on the terrace of Theva
(11/B5, 10–1 6th lane, off Upper Tank Road, Circular 2 Road, Hantana; +94 (0)81 738 8296/8299). This family home is perched high on Hantana hill for spectacular vistas over the city, especially at night. Enjoy the adventurous list of cocktails, well-presented imported salmon and lamb, and the hospitable service.
Kandy is like the Vatican City for Buddhists, so alcohol consumption is officially frowned on within earshot of temple bells. However, a G&T at the Queen’s Hotel
bar (Queen’s Hotel, 45 Dalada Veediya; +94 (0)81 223 3026) should provide the chance to hobnob with eccentric locals. Elizabeth II slept upstairs on her 1954 Coronation Tour when mammoth blocks of ice and manually operated punkawallah’s fans were the only way to keep cool. Come sundown, chill out at the riverside pavilion at Chaaya Citadel Kandy
(+94 (0)81 11 230 6600), which faces a thick ribbon of river hemmed by rainforest. The drinks list may not be the most exciting, but the view more than compensates – as long as the dopey ‘Mexican’ hotel minstrel trio don’t land in your lap strumming La Bamba
Need to quench a thirst for macchiato, lassi or fresh juice? The restored colonial White House (21 Dalada Veediya; +94 (0)81 223 2865) should do the trick. Don't miss the lamprais baked in plantain leaf, a Dutch-influenced dish of stock-flavoured rice with curry and meatballs. Upstairs, on the spacious first floor, an Indian chef tosses tandoori breads and jhingha (prawns). If you don’t feel you’ve seen a country until you've tasted its street food, then kottu roti (a spicy Sri Lankan pancake served with meat, veg and egg) is a must. Seek it out at road stalls after dark – the cleanest and most reliable is the stall in front of the Arpico Supermarket on Peradeniya Road, where you can watch cellophane noodle strips, julienned vegetables and chicken and fish get spliced and diced: cabaret and fast food in one.
You may not consider a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
(+94 (0)81 223 4226; www.sridaladamaligawa.lk) ‘nightlife,’ but the best time to see the famous gold-leaf ceiling lit up and catch the atmospherics of the drums and chanting is the evening puja
(a daily prayer ceremony that starts at 6.30pm). You'll find the temple just north of Kandy Lake, off main drag Dalada Vidiya. The bizarre bazaar of Helga’s Folly
(at 70 Frederick E deSilva Mawatha, Kandy; +94 (0)81 223 4571; www.helgasfolly.com) is a quaint stop for a nightcap over the lake. Black-and-white movies are shown in its home cinema at no cost to those dining. Enjoying an unbeatable location, Hotel Casamara
(12 Kotugodella Vidiya; +94 (0)81 222 4688; www.casamarahotel.com) has a roof-terrace bar with open-air box-seats for a crow's-eye view of town. It's one of the coolest spots to watch elephants go past during the Perahera festival.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year shuts up the island for a week, from 12 April, as workers may only begin their jobs when astrology permits! Visitors may find it a bit of a quiet time. May
Vesak is the prettiest of all festivals, celebrating the triple-whammy of Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment. The entire island becomes an origami haven of glowing paper lanterns. Cars are flagged down by devotees offering sweets to passersby. June KIFF
is the very first film festival inaugurated in Kandy (www.kandyinternationalfilmfestival.com). July–August
Kandy Perahera brings mayhem for 10 days when Buddha’s tooth relic is paraded by robed elephants in a centuries-old religious ritual that can easily compete with Rio carnival. Book well in advance, and expect hotel rooms to be at a premium. December–March
During this season, pilgrims of four faiths scale the dizzy heights of holy Sri Pada (Adam's Peak). Its summit is apparently imprinted with the footprint of Buddha – or the Prophet, Lord Shiva or Adam – depending on your persuasion. Sri Lanka's most sacred mountain is located in the southern Hill Country, south of Kandy. If you make a night ascent, you can catch the phenomenonal ‘shadow-of-the-peak' at sunrise.
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