When I booked my few nights’ stay in Kandy, I was planning to use this city as a base to explore central Sri Lanka and especially the “postcard-ready” tea plantations. You can imagine my disappointment when I realised that the distances involved were a little too much for this poor plan…
Still keen on making the most of my time there, I visited the local tourist office to see what the nearby area had to offer.
The following morning at 7:30am I got picked up at my guesthouse, having arranged a half day tuk tuk tour (Rs 3,000) aimed at covering some of the main tourist destinations (or should I call them “tourist traps”?) located within easy reach from Kandy.
So this is where I went:
#Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
I was given a choice between this orphanage, about 40Km from Kandy, and the Elephant Millenium Foundation located nearby. I chose the former for no particular reason. But while this was once an orphanage, I gather that nowadays all new elephants are born on site. The whole thing seems to have become mainly an expensive tourist attraction (Rs 2,500 the entrance fee for foreigners).
The bottle feeding of the baby elephants is similar to what you see in zoos, feeding fruits to the adult elephants cost you extra money. The walk to the river and the opportunity to watch the elephants bathing were more interesting, though. And on the way back to the car park I stopped in one of the shops and learnt how elephant dung can be turned into paper (of course they then tried and sell me souvenirs made of “elephant paper”…).
#Geragama Tea Factory and Plantations
As a surrogate for a visit to the main tea plantations of Sri Lanka, which I didn’t have time to reach, I went to see this tea factory and annexed plantations. The tour of the factory showed us the various machines involved in the process of turning tea leaves into the little bits that end up in our tea cups. I was surprised to learn about the differences between the various types/grades of Ceylon black tea. Golden tips and silver tips being the best ones, apparently. The tour finished with a free cup of tea and the opportunity to buy some freshly packaged tea, something that my tuk tuk driver didn’t miss out on.
There are dozens of these dotted along the road between Kandy and Pinnawala. Guides will show you around the garden, give you some information on the health benefits of various plants and herbs (“this is like natural insulin”, “this plant is good for headaches when you work on a computer all day” and so on), then sit you down and start their sales pitch. It all ends in the shop where you can buy some of the products derived from plants. While it’s certainly interesting, I found the whole thing once again mainly a tourist trap. But I bought some chilli powder as souvenir.
Despite my general comment on the sights above being a bit of tourist traps, it was still good to get out of Kandy and see more of the country!