Little England in the hills

Little England in the hills
View from the Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Nuwara Eliya’s only tea factory turned boutique hotel.

Away from the tropical heat of Sri Lanka's numerous beach towns and resorts, and a few hours east of the hustle and bustle of its capital city Colombo, lies the Sri Lankan hill station of Nuwara Eliya.

Blessed with a cool climate due to its elevation, the town is surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges, temperate forests and scenic waterfalls. It is a popular retreat for many Sri Lankans and many head there during the holiday seasons.

Age-old traditions that hark back to the days of Sri Lanka's British colonial heritage have been kept alive, earning the town the moniker "Little England". High tea continues to be served every day in the café of the Grand Hotel.

Tudor-style mansions with well-kept lawns overlook the calm and serene Lake Gregory, and landmark buildings such as the Post Office, the Queens Cottage, and the Hill Club add to the sense of nostalgia.

We stayed in a boutique hotel just a few kilometres away from Nuwara Eliya, renovated from the shell of an old disused tea factory.

The hotel still has a mini working tea factory, and the next morning, we plucked tea leaves, dressed in a sarong and sari.

We were then taken through the process of tea-making, from the drying of the leaves, fermentation and sorting. Thereafter, we tasted different teas, from the most delicate Flowery Pekoe teas, to the strongest Broken Orange Pekoes teas, usually used in English Breakfast varieties.

In the afternoon, we toured the town and its surroundings, stopping along the way to take pictures of the scenic mountain slopes that were lined with tea bushes, and neat rows of staples such as potato, carrot and cabbage.

We were fortunate to come across a group of tea pickers, and we stopped for a while to watch them go about their work.

We also stopped for pictures at a two-tiered waterfall, and took a leisurely stroll around Lake Gregory, where many locals were paddling around in swan-shaped boats.

After checking out, we were presented with two packets produced by the factory as a farewell gift - the fruits of our labour from the previous day, and a fitting souvenir to take home.

GETTING THERE

Nuwara Eliya is about a five-hour drive from the capital Colombo. It is best to arrange transport by road with a travel agent or with your chosen accommodation.

Direct services between Singapore and Colombo are operated by Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Sri Lankan Airlines.

TRAVELLER'S TIPS

Nuwara Eliya has cool climate, about 16 deg C, all year round. Bring warm clothing as it can be cold during the night and in the early morning.

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