There is city called Kandy and it is home to a sacred tooth. You can’t see the tooth because it belonged to Buddha and therefore is shrouded in seven golden stupa-shaped caskets. You can’t see the room that houses the stupas that hides the tooth because it is locked and there is an angry looking monk in front of the door. In fact you can barely see the monk blocking the door that hides the stupas that protect the tooth because of the hoardes of devotees and tourists that crowd the temple and elbow you in the neck. (When you’re short everyone elbows you in the neck.)

Everything in Kandy is shrouded in mystery, gold or rain. Often times all three. For centuries, the kingdom of Kandy was unknowable and unconquerable to the West, even as the bulk of Sri Lanka violently passed from Portuguese to Dutch to British colonization. It remains the proud, beating, cultural heart of Sri Lanka. This, at last, is the Sri Lanka of golden coins and childhood dreams.

In Kandy the king-made lake makes for a peaceful circumnavigatory stroll if you ignore both the driving rain and the tales that the king’s dissidensts were once impaled upon its banks. In Kandy you may be annoyed at your tuk tuk driver for making un unwanted stop at a drab and unassuming building, only to discover that he knows a monk who will open up a hidden shrine in the back housing a 50 foot reclining Buddha. In Kandy you will be looking for the bathroom at the Temple of the Tooth and accidentally find an international Buddha museum that both you and your four year old will declare as the best museum ever.

You will see fire walkers and copper artisans at work. You will see sneaky monkeys and monitor lizards. You will probably not see the bird that pooped on you and you will definitely not see the sun. But you will see Sri Lanka and you will love it.

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