Livin’ La Vida Lanka: Nuwara Eliya and Colombo 3/3

Hooray, I didn’t wait after 10 years before publishing this entry! Haha! I am writing and publishing this now so I won’t forget and I can move on from our 2013 out-of-the-country trips. I have so many other travels within the Philippines that I want to share to you and our foreigner friends so The Pink Tarha can do its part in the It’s More Fun in the Philippines campaign launched in Riyadh last December.
Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah… after the “I thought I’m gonna die!” episode in Sigiriya and the National Geographic-like action (feeling lang naman, hehe) in Minneriya, my friend and I were ready to slow down and relax on our next destination (after all, this is supposed to be a recharging vacation not death-defying tsk! haha), the alluring Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka’s central district. This hilly place dubbed as “Little England” is the perfect place to chillax after our heart-pumping, muscle-tearing adventures. It is also home to the famed Ceylon tea. So off we go!
We left Thilanka Resort early and traveled 6 hours to the picturesque landscape and temperate climate of the “city of plain” aka “city of light”. Nuwara Eliya is located at an altitude of 1,868 meters. It’s the best place for tea plantations. It is the best place in Sri Lanka! Think Baguio, only colder and cleaner!

The tuktuk and the men in sarongs.
Light at the end of the only tunnel we passed through on our way to Nuwara Eliya
Before lunch, we arrived in the misty hills of Nuwara Eliya. You know how I end up always being lost for words on the travels I go to? Yup, this is one of those moments. But then again, I have my duty to write for you so I will try my best to find my voice again. Ahem, ahem… 

Nuwara Eliya was like a dream: it’s quite easy to get lost in it. It has a mystical allure that made us wish we had more days to spend in Sri Lanka. Its mountains are covered with carpets of lush, velvety green tea shrubs. It was built entirely during the 19th century and its a little English country town in the middle of tropical Sri Lanka (how did this happen?! haha!).Our guide/driver told us to take photos of the sceneries. Well, he didn’t need to tell us! We wanted to fly above the tea hills! But since we can’t fly, we just got out of the car, took off, and relished the cold weather and view. We inhaled the wonderful tea scent in the air. So, so refreshing! I didn’t want to leave the place. It’s the first time in months that I didn’t choke on dust and sand. Haha!

Ahhhh Nuwara Eliya, I LOVE YOU! 
Tourists taking photos of the tea pluckers… hey, they beat us to it!
The hills are alive…
… with the sound of waterfalls.
Nuwara Eliya is home to a dozen or so tea plantations that welcome visitors to a tour of their tea factory. Our driver took us to the Glenloch Tea Factory because it’s one of the first factories on the road to Nuwara Eliya’s town proper. The factory is over a hundred years old and their building looks really scary and old (we like creeping out ourselves). A lady in a Sri Lankan sari met us and took us around the factory; she showed us how they process the tea leaves and how the flavored ones come about (they mix dried fruits). The aroma of the tea being dried was quite strong and overwhelming.
The tea factory

The problem with having over a hundred visitors each day, the guides tend to be too tired already and just ramble on and on like a machine. So the tour around the factory doesn’t seem personalized anymore. I can read the guide’s thought bubble: “Let’s just get this over with! Come buy our tea!!!” Haha! I couldn’t even interrupt for a question so I just took photos thinking maybe I can Google it when I write about it.

It all starts with freshly-plucked tea…
Measuring the tea leaves
They sort out the tea leaves and leave them to dry.
Yes, we can touch them just for the sake of it. 🙂
Nearing its packaging state
Heady and strong scent
All packed!

After that, they gave us a cup of their freshly-brewed golden tips. Honestly, I am not a tea aficionado so I’m not sure if fresh and light are the perfect words to describe their tea but it tasted like that to me. However, I can’t find any difference between the teas I’ve drank ever since. Maybe I’m too used to the commercial Lipton which they say uses the leftover tea leaves. I’m not sure if that’s true so don’t quote me on that.

The golden liquid
The tea souvenir center

There was a small shop where visitors can buy tea in boxes, packs, and bags. There’s an adjoining restaurant where we had an impromptu lunch. Soooo hungry by this time. It has a good view of the tea fields on the other side of the road.

Sri Lanka spaghetti
So famished!

After our quick trip to Glenloch, we proceeded to the town’s centre to pick up my friend and former officemate in the Philippines, Diane, who is in Sri Lanka volunteering for one year for a non-government organization for women empowerment (woot, so proud of her!). She was on a holiday in Nuwara Eliya and we  agreed to meet up. Before reaching the town proper, the drizzle became heavier  and turned into a full-pledge rain. The weather became cooler. Love it! (I miss the rain!!!)

We then went back to the road to look for our home for that night… the Misty View Cottage. This homestay was a bit hard to find and hard to reach because it is located high above a little hill and nestled in between villas for rent. It’s 200 meters away from the highway. However, this proved to be one of the best accommodations I’ve ever had in all of my travels. Everything was personalised (we even have our own butler!). Mr. Dammika, our host, was welcoming and gracious. For the price we spent, it was well-worth it!

We  have a room to ourselves that has a beautiful view of the Kikiliyamana and Pidurutalagala mountain ranges. We can use the cozy living room and we had the best meal in the warm dining area. We even have floral necklaces as a welcome treat! Haha!

How calming is this scenery?
Waking up to this! PRICELESS!

After an hour of rest, we decided to check out another tea factory. We went to Mackwoods  but again, the drizzle won’t stop! The factory was also closed for a reason I couldn’t remember now (another reason why I should write our experiences immediately after getting back from the trip!). We just went around the souvenir shop and bought a few boxes of teas. Their packaging is much better than Glenloch’s. But again, I have no extraordinary tastebud when it comes to tea. I cannot differentiate the taste of one brand from the other. Haha!

The Mackwoods tea factory
The Mackwoods tea

Just outside the Mackwoods tea factory is this splendid view…

Mother nature, you are great!

Since the rain wasn’t stopping, we decided to head back to the cottage. The fog was also getting thicker and driving with them on the road makes it difficult for our driver. The weather is getting colder too and we’re happier in the comforts of the inn’s cozy interiors than outside even though all I wanted was to savor Nuwara Eliya’s wonderful climate and fresh air. Hayyyy.

Don’t you just want to stay in this cozy corner all day?
Cozy dining area

We were treated to a scrumptious dinner by our host.

The best tomato soup everrrr!

And on the following day, a tasty breakfast too:

What a simple yet lovely morning fare
Heavenly scrambled eggs delicately placed on top of bread

After a heavy breakfast, we were headed back to Colombo. It was an 8-hour road trip so we decided to go early and pass through sights and scenes on the roads, especially tea plantations. Our first stop though as was a little strawberry farm called Adma Agro. When they mentioned strawberry farm, I immediately thought of the strawberry farms in La Trinidad, Philippines. So I was kind of disappointed that their “farm” was just a few rows of plants at the back of a snack house. That’s it?! Haha! However, on the brighter side, there is a waterfall at the back too!

Water fall in their backyard
A sweet pizza!

We had the intriguing strawberry pizza at the Adma Agro cafe and was pleasantly surprised. The pizza was a dessert! Pizza dough topped with cream, strawberry slices, and drizzles of chocolates. It was delicious! The little cafe on the road also offers ice cream and crepes. We continued on our way until we spotted a tea plantation with its workers up ahead the road side.

Tea pluckers ready to sell their pick for the day.

Most of the tea pluckers in Sri Lanka are women. And so a few of them approached me and were handing me tea leaves. I took it from one of them, took a photo, and that’s when it got slightly traumatic… they started asking for money. Like everyone of them! In a Filipino’s term, that would be “kuyog” where a group of people surrounds and hounds you for something. It can get physical especially if you did something wrong. However, I didn’t do anything to them and my friend just told me to hand back the branch of tea to the lady and walk away from them. They kept on chanting “money, money, money!”

Some of them are friendly and ready with their warm smiles.

Good thing, their supervisor arrived and saw them harassing a tourist so he shooed them away and told them to get back to work. I have no idea that when I take a photo with them, they would ask me for money! Even when they got back to work, some of them were still putting out their palms at us asking for money. Whew! But most of them are friendly. Other tea pickers would ignore you when you take their photos but I guess it became profitable for some. This didn’t stop me from loving Nuwara Eliya though.

On the way to Colombo

Anyway, other places you ought to visit in Nuwara Eliya is Hatton’s Plains and Adam’s Peak. We didnt have the chance to go because our time was limited and our energy was already drained by Dambulla and Sigiriya. Haha!

We took a few photos of the tea plantation and went back to the car and into Colombo. We stopped for one of the many spice gardens along the way. It wasn’t that interesting because we have most of their spices in the Philippines. After almost 10 hours on the road (because we stopped by for food… of course we have to eat, hahaha!!!)… we reached Colombo and our hotel for the night… The Kingsbury.

COLOMBO!

Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city. I thought it was the capital but apparently, the official capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. Like most developing cities, Colombo is a mixture of the old and the new. It is busy and vibrant with modern and colonial buildings dotting its scenic land- and seascape.

Upon checking in The Kingsbury, it’s the only time I realized I made good choices in our accommodations for our Sri Lanka trip. A resort, a home stay cottage, and finally, a hotel… they were diverse, offering different experiences at varied prices, but all in one trip! We loved our stay in The Kingsbury. All the amenities of a good hotel are there plus we loved their roof deck bar. And I love the Bulgari toiletries. So bango!

The hotel lobby
Infinity pool!

We also went around the area to look for last minute souvenirs. It’s also great that even though we did not go to any of Sri Lanka’s wonderful beaches, we saw the sea in our window and also from the hotel’s hallway.

The view from our  hotel window
Maldives, are you somewhere there?! Haha! (Part of the Indian Ocean)
Sri Lanka’s architecture and design
They have a “bay walk” too! 😛

The following morning, we visited a church and stopped for a few photos with a tuktuk, Sri Lanka’s famous tricycle, and a few landmarks in Colombo. We returned to the hotel, packed our bags, and met our driver to take us to the airport which is around an hour away from Colombo. On the roads to the Bandaranayke International Airport, we saw very interesting scenes.

An important building (okay, I forgot the name!)

Sri Lankans are mostly Buddhists but some of the districts have groups of Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. What I love about this diversity is that all these religious co-exist harmoniously in one country (why can’t it be done in Saudi Arabia?! Okay, okay taboo topic!). For most of our road trips to Dambulla and Nuwara Eliya, we saw huge Buddha altars on the road sides. From Nuwara Eliya to Colombo, we encountered mosques. From Colombo to Negombo, we saw Christian altars and grottos outside the houses. Our driver is Roman Catholic, we are Roman Catholics but we visited mostly Buddhist temples. 🙂

So long, Sri Lanka!

Oh, Sri Lanka! We love Sri Lanka for its magnificent sceneries and sites. It’s such a good thing that they opened to the whole world already because their country is worth seeing! We love it too because we see the Philippines in it. The tropical climate, the natural blessings it has, the friendly people… we’re liken a sister country!

And so, I have to end our Sri Lanka adventure with this third and final entry. Even though it took me a lot of time (4 months!!!) to finish all three and I was quite very talkative in all the posts and I bombard you with lots of photos, I hope you enjoyed reading the travel entries and you become inspired to go and make your own adventure too. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. GO!!! 🙂 ~ Sundrenched


Expenses:
*no fees in going to tea factory tours
2 days/1 night stay at the Misty Hill Cottage: $80 (approx. SR 300)
2 days/ 1 night stay at the Kingsbury: $130 (approx SR 488)

P.S. I would like to thank our friend, Diane, for touring us around Colombo. It was so nice seeing you in, of all places, Sri Lanka! Haha! And again, thanks to my travel buddy Jou for the photos I used in the Sri Lanka series.

Outside KSA Sri Lanka Travel

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Janelle
Janelle

The Editor-in-Chief speaks 7 languages: Filipino, English, Wit, Sarcasm, Truth, Creativity, and The Pink Tarha.

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