Nuwara Eliya, Srilanka: Nuwara Eliya means City of Lights. It is also called the Little England of Srilanka. Situated at 2000 m above sea-level, the old colonial hill retreat still smells of the delicate perfumes that the young, poised English ladies used to adorn themselves with as they strutted along in their white laces and pearls, roaming around in horse carriages as their men tried to replicate their homeland by building golf courses and leisure clubs or the beautiful colonial-styled bungalows in the cool climate of Nuwara Eliya – a far far escape from the sweltering heat of the plains!
Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Nuwara Eliya, Srilanka
Unique Hotel; Luxurious Eco-lodging; On the mountains (Has won 26 Awards for its architecture, heritage, environmental policies)
Official Website of Heritance Tea Factory Hotel
After an elaborate traditional welcome by the hotel staff wearing traditional Kandyan costume (heralding from the famous hill town Kandy) we sat down in the comfortable sofas in the hotel reception lounge, sipping in delicious organic tea grown in the hotel’s tea estates. The welcoming garland made us feel like modern day royals. We stepped out to see where exactly were we. We referring to S, my husband and I, with our baggage of 2 little brats – the Z-SISTERS.
‘Attention! You may encounter the wild buffalo and the boar after 8 pm!’ cried the writing on a milestone just outside the Tea Factory Hotel. The hotel was indeed situated at ‘the top of the world’, exactly as advertised and I would say, in the midst of dancing clouds. We did find out later that the clouds did have their performance timings – 3pm: The Pale Blue Clouds; 4pm: The Orange Clouds; 5pm: The Grey Clouds; 5:30pm: The last show with the very deep, almost invisible black and grey clouds!
Needless to say that all the performances were absolutely breath-taking!
There were milestones all around us where the distances of Nuwara Eliya from the various cities/towns in Srilanka were written. While one proclaimed ‘Bentota 258 kms’ (from where we came), the other proclaimed ‘Colombo 180 kms’ (to where we shall have to go to take a plane back home!)… suddenly a fast slideshow of flashes of visions a la Danny Boyle’s cinematography popped in-front – Trincomalee, Sirigiya, Ratnapura, Galle etc were all hundreds and hundreds of miles away.
Then I saw the last mile stone.
We were standing, staying & going to be sleeping for the next 2 nights in a ‘Silent Zone’! I pressed the panic button.
We are absolutely unfamiliar with the word ‘silence’. Hence, I was really not sure whether we were in the right place. Amidst palpitation, we entered the most elegant and an unique hotel, which was once upon a time an actual tea factory.
The drier room of the earlier tea factory greeted us as the Reception Area, the green leaves’ withering lofts hosted us as bedrooms, the sifting room was served us as a restaurant, the rolling rooms engulfed us as bars!
Even today the factory equipment inside the hotel are still intact – all polished and perfectly working. It might sound unbelievable but these machines are switched on from time to time. Switching on the equipments may have been a treat for the other guests of the hotel but definitely it wasn’t for my children. So with every ‘switching on’ session our little brats would also ‘switch on’ their screaming gears and scream their lungs out, conveniently adding to the toot-toot & the whirr-whirr of the tea factory machinery! I now wonder why we hadn’t been rewarded at that time for all the add-on gimmicks that our brats provided – that too for free! As the proud Mum, I can really vouch for the fact that their screams transported us to the Hethersett Tea Plantation of the yesteryears when trains would toot (Li’l Z’s screams) and whistles would blow (Big Z’s animated excitement) as the daily work went on in the tea factory!
We were living and playing and screaming and walking on a ground reeking of history. In the early 18th century, the Hethersett Tea Factory was the first to fetch the highest price in the tea world and the Hethersett mark had become synonymous with quality Pure Ceylon Tea. In the mid-1930s a new factory was built, which stands as the hotel today. When the new factory was built it boasted of a lot of technological feat. By 1968, the Hethersett factory had passed its heyday and was closed down in 1973. It’s only in the recent years that the Tea Factory Hotel was born.
When I told the brats that we were standing on history, they asked me ‘Oh, so this is history? Its beautiful. And so cold’! Well, their concerns were real. How are the schools in Dubai going to teach history if it history was something so cold? After all, in Dubai the summer temperatures soared to as high as 50 degress C!
‘Thank God! We have the Air-conditioning in Dubai!’… So there was still a chance for my little brats to learn about some history.
Here’s our journey into the hotel’s history with some old historical photographs donning the hotel walls…
The sifting room of yesteryear has now been converted to Kenmare Restaurant. The interior of the restaurant still reflects the old British Colonial atmosphere amidst the the architectural features of the original tea factory. Being served the most exotic food by a personal white-gloved butler, was definitely a first for us. The wooden tea cartons hold the buffet area, serving both authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, Eastern as well as Western delicacies. The Butter Chicken was the best that we have ever tasted. Also the Beef Curry. And the Chilli Squids. Or, the Potato Sambal. And did I forget the desserts? All dishes had garnishing of fresh tea leaves – just in case we forgot that we were still living in a tea estate!
Incidentally, we had our first meal at Kenmare Restaurant on the Valentine’s night. The restaurant was lit up with dim lights, the tables were set up elegantly with candles with more than the usual dose of Valentine red. Our only concern was the Z-Sisters – lest they pull the table cloth or make much noise disturbing the couples dining on candles, romance, red wine and surrounded by live jazz performance!
TCK 6685 (Railway Carriage) Restaurant
This is an authentic theme restaurant of the 1930’s. The full-size replica of the actual train’s restaurant, sitting on its small-gauge rails, this restaurant offers an unique fine dining experience complete with a shrill whistle and toot-toot. The experience begins when the Chef personally visits the ‘passengers’ to discuss their personal culinary preferences. No menu is available at this unique restaurant, and the Chef discusses each meal with every guest!
The main course is brought in with great pageantry, and ‘whistle blowing’. Everything is served elegantly served by white-glove clad ‘attendants’ in railway uniform! A novel experience indeed accompanied by a very hefty price tag.
The Green Stay
The hotel adheres to all parameters of responsible tourism – starting from their water management system to waste reduction; organic farming to local employment. Near the sink there are white placards telling you how many litres are running out as you brush your teeth or take a shower. It is really interesting to read how the hotel is incorporating various aspects of green tourism. This hotel embodies a luxurious green stay thus breaking the myth that many seem to have – luxury and eco-friendliness don’t go hand in hand!
The Sign Off
Our guide, Mr Bandulla, had given us a list of places to visit while we stayed in Nuwara Eliya. We gave him a break and didn’t even wish to venture out of the tea plantation during our whole stay. Throughout the day, we walked through the dancing clouds, seeped in all the green that we could, enjoyed the 360 degree view of the tea gardens all around us and committed a few mistakes -
Mistakes like -
- Screaming our names out in the open and hear them echo back to us
- I wore fit-flops to the prim and propah restaurant boasting of the glory of the colonial past and strict adherence to ‘formal attire’ (my other option was my sneakers!)
- We ate the most brilliant food, served and also cooked perhaps in clay pots, served by white-gloved Butler. Big Z, the elder brat, for once was so charmed that she behaved like the most elegant lady on earth
- We had organic tea brewed in different aromas and most importantly, grown on the very plantation that we stayed in
- We woke up to the morning sun-rays sifting through the white sheers of the window and stared at crystal clear blue skies with layers of floating clouds & changing shades of green all around us
Well, the list is pretty much endless… the hot and spicy food that lingered on our tongues were the only reminder that Nuwara Eliya belonged to the hot tropical Srilanka!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.
Other articles on my Srilankan journey
Rafters Retreat, Kitugala, Srilanka… Getting Started!
Red Tuk-Tuks & Triumphant Rides – Colombo
Living by the water with sunset as prop – Colombo