When in Kandy, you are spoilt with choices of excursions between temples, tea factories, Buddha statues and relics, and on this morning, we opted for the Botanic Gardens. A short tuk-tuk drive from the city takes us to the monumental entrance. To our dismay, several tour buses are already parked outside, and we manage to buy our tickets before the hordes arrive and quickly walk away from the entrance once we are inside. These gardens are enormous, so we plan a tour around it in anti-clockwise direction, trying to include as many special specimen that appeal to us. After walking through a greenhouse full of cacti, some curiously shaped like the Chain Cactus, we find several Palm Avenues where palm trees tower high above us. They are all neatly planted in lines, and especially the Cabbage Palm Avenue makes for a photogenic part of the Botanic Garden. Even though it is still quite early, we already see several young local couples sitting in the grass at the feet of the giant trees. These gardens certainly make for a perfect hideaway for young lovers.
While we are watching the trees, we hear and see a black cloud of flying foxes arriving by air, circling the blue sky, and landing in a nearby tree. We walk towards the west now, and meandering through the park, we arrive at the Royal Palm Avenue and then at the Great Circle. This is a circular lawn, and we find some trees that have been donated by foreign dignitaries. Continuing west, we walk past the Great Lawn, see the unique double coconut palms from the Seychelles and several other noteworthy trees until we walk the Cook Pine Avenue south. We see water plants in a small pond, and a medicinal garden with lots of different medicines before we reach the Bamboo collection, with a rich variety of bamboo. Passing wild bananas and the pandan collection, we return to the entrance, but pass it in order to see some of the things we missed.
We first walk through the spice garden, with nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves among others - the very spices that attracted foreign powers to these lands. The Orchid House has an outstanding collection of the elegant and diverse flowers. Close by, behind a small circular pool, we find the flower garden. In a couple of hours, we have seen a lot, but not the 4000 species that are cultivated on these grounds. These Botanic Gardens have their origins in the 14th century: in 1371, King Wickramabahu III rose to power and established himself here in Peradeniya. The gardens developed into Royal Gardens, and eventually, over the centuries, the gardens were extended and turned into the largest and certainly most impressive Botanic Gardens of Sri Lanka. From there, we take another tuk-tuk up to the Tea Museum where we learn more about probably the most famous shrub of the country.
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