December 20, 2011

Day 4: Ella – Nuwara Eliya - Kandy

We wanted to take the scenic train ride from Ella to Nanu Oya @ Nuwara Eliya.  There was a train at 6.45am and another at 9.45am.  Since we’ve had few early start, we decided to take it easy and opted for the 9.45am train.  Anyhow, I woke up early enough to catch a spectacular sunrise right from the balcony of our room.  

After breakfast and checking out, we headed to the train station only to be informed that the train would be delayed by two hours.  We decided to forego the train ride and drove to Nuwara Eliya instead, as we didn’t want to waste all that time waiting, with no guarantee that the train would not be further delayed.  Yiu Yiu was hugely disappointed!

It was a torturous 2hr drive to Nuwara Eliya – parts of the road were unpaved road and with sharp bends and turns ever so often.  Mum and I started to feel unwell, but luckily we were already near Nuwara Eliya, a quaint hill resort with a remarkably English atmosphere – after all, Nuwara Eliya was originally constructed as the British up-country retreat, and famously known by its moniker “The Little England”.  The town, at 1890m above sea level, still boasts of fine colonial hotels, along with scattered atmospheric villas & guest houses.  There is also an 18-hole golf course, the first ever post-office in Sri Lanka housed in a Victorian style old building and a race course.  Most charming are numerous houses with mock Tudor half-timbering & hedges, with extensive private gardens scattered around the town.

We took a walk near the edge of Gregory’s Lake, before stopping at the turf club where Yiu Yiu rode on a horse, and took a walk around the town and its Central Market.  Lunch was at a local restaurant where we had fried rice and Singapore fried noodles (which turned out surprisingly delicious, if only a little salty, as with most food we’ve had so far) with chicken chop suey and sweet & sour chicken.

 After lunch, it was time to descent the mountain to Kandy.  This was a much pleasant drive with good roads and views of valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery. 

As the world's largest exporters of tea, the finest tea is cultivated & processed in Sri Lankam with Nuwara Eliya as the capital of the tea country of highlands of Sri Lanka.  There are vast tracts of tea plantations along the way, the majority of which belongs to Mackwoods Labookele Tea Estate.  We also visited the Labookelle tea center which offers free guided tours of the factory.  We were also served with tea and a slice of chocolate butter cake each at the restaurant at no charge.

At the Mackwoods factory

The lovely English garden where visitors can enjoy a complimentary pot of tea with chocolate cake

Further along, we stopped for a Kodak moment at the Ramboda Ella (Falls).

Stairways to heaven? 

Then, in an unexpected move, the driver stopped by the road for a car wash, with the operator running his car wash business using the natural mountain stream.  The water pressure was so high there was no need for any pump!  It was certainly a novel experience for us!

Just before reaching Kandy, we drove past the Peradeniya campus of Sri Lanka University, built in the old Kandyan style in an impressive setting of a large park with the River Mahaweli running through it & the surrounding hillocks.

We reached Kandy at about 6.30pm and checked into Serene Garden Hotel.  We were joined by our guide, Shakeer, who had an earlier tour with another family which ended the day before.  Dinner was typical hotel buffet, a departure from the earlier home cooked meals of the smaller resorts we stayed.

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