A nice side trip to the hill country
As we were leaving our resort in Uda Walawae for Nuwara Eliyia, a tour bus showed up with Hebrew on the side it it. It made me wonder why they would do this give all of the terrorist attacks on the Jewish people over the years. To me, it looked like they were setting themselves up for a target — remember Bulgaria in 2012…
The hill country would be a nice change from the heat and humidity we had experienced to date. We travelled 170 kms and climbed 1,700 m to get to Nuwara Eliyia. Once we got into the mountains, it was a beautiful but slow drive taking us four hours to cover the 170 kms. On a funny side note, our young driver pulled out a large bottle of vodka on the ascent and winked as he took of swig of it to only say it was only water… We may never know… 🙂
Nuwara Eliyia is called “Little England”, as in some ways it truly does look and feel like a little English town. The weather during our stay certainly represented England well with it being overcast, cool, and wet. Much of the colonial architecture around town supports that adage. Of all things, it has a huge horse race track, where there has been a big horse race each April for over 150 years.
Before getting too settled, I went to the market to buy a sweater, as I knew it got quite cool during the evenings (12 c on both nights we were there). At $4, I could easily discard it after our departure from here. Interestingly enough, there are certainly a lot of knock offs in the market here. Sri Lanka has become a big hub for clothing manufacturers, so my heart goes out to companies alike North Face and Colombia because the market has heaps of their clothing selling well below market prices… No need for the brand names for me on this trip though, and I went with the cheapest sweater I could find.
On our first night out, we went to the Grand Indian restaurant, which did a decent job with the food and nice ambiance to go with it. What was of particular note over dinner was the behaviour of what looked like an older Indian couple next to us. Towards the end of the meal, the man let out HUGE belch and seemed totally unfazed with it. I Googled this afterwards and I guess it is acceptable behaviour in India — shows that you actually enjoyed the meal… Not to be out done, his wife let out one herself, but just not to the same magnitude.
The highlight of our visit to Nuwara Eliyia was the trip we made to the Pedro Tea Factory. We were given a 30-minute tour with a cup of tea to end it off with. I always enjoy learning about how things are made. While processing tea seems simple enough, I am always amazed at the specialized equipment that is built to make and process things like this. This factory would be no different. Tea is really all the same, it is just how it is processed and what is added to it (e.g. jasmine or dried fruit). This factory doesn’t take the process too far, but produces some standard grades of black tea for wholesale. The drying process was of particular interest because of how hot it got in that part of the factory.
The Queens Wood Cottage was the first guest house we have stayed that disappointed us. There were a long list of things that didn’t work here, but I found ironic though how they could put so much time and money into creating a beautiful log cottage that would be at home in the Rockies or Alps. I guess they ran out of money because the bathrooms were just an unpainted concrete cells… The internet was the biggest problem and probably the biggest reason we choose this place thinking it was small enough enough that we would not have to worry about getting internet in our rooms. Not the case…. it only really worked while we outside on the lawn (no reception or lobby…). With that, it was kicking in and out constantly. The most peculiar miss though was to have the room card and key attached. Not that this alone was the issue, but when I pulled out the room card to lock the door, the power would go out immediately. A little difficult then in terms of locking the door at night…
On the flip side, it has been a nice surprise to see the bed sizes here in Sri Lanka. In some of my earlier research, it appeared that the norm was double beds, but in reality we have had either queen or king-size beds in all of our stays.
The following morning we were on the road to Kandy. This would likely be our best ride of the trip, as it came with a 1,500 m drop through tea country. The road was good, traffic minimal, and views spectacular. I was so lathargic at he end of the descent I didn’t have a lot in the tank to peddle the rest of the ways to Kandy (20 ams), which had poorer roads and noticeably heavier traffic. On this part of the road, I hit a speed bump only see my handlebar bag fly off my bike (didn’t have it properly fastened) and my iPhone and camera projected out of the bag. Thankfully, I had spent $80 for a proactive phone case or I wouldn’t have a functional phone now. All was good, and we were quickly back on the road.
On our arrival in Kandy, we passed by Lake Kandy, which was beautifully nestled in the hills around Kandy. This city is the last capital for the Singhalese people and it stood here until the British finally took control of it in 1815. The Dutch and Portugese never really controlled much more than the parts of coast. There was lots to see in this historical city.
Moving around this country is so effortlessly. The tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis predominant in parts of Asia) are everywhere and easy to wave down. On top of that, they are so cheap. It costs roughly 100 Rs ($0.80) per kilometre and most of the tuk-tuks in Colombo are actually metered, which makes things even easier for the naive traveller.
The guest house we choose was highly recommended on Trip Advisor, but not well laid out in terms of finding it. There were no signs (manager worried about touts bring guests and looking for a commission) and an address system that takes some getting use to. Some of the addresses say they are on a main road, but in actuality they are located on a side street. Now I finally knew why so many of the addresses had two sets of numbers separated by a slash (e.g. 622/18). There many homes that shared the 622 prefix.
Wasanthi, the manager at the Kandy Green View Boutique, lived up once more to the incredible friendliness and kindness of the Sri Lankan people. The home was full of character and actually had a little fish pond built in to it! We actually had to walk on stones to get across to our room!
We had a number of interesting meals in Kandy. First, was our dinner at the Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar, which served up some nice and unique Chinese dishes. I had skewered whole prawns with black bean sauces and chilies. It was spicy, but good. The ambience was nice with views over the lake. There was even British DJ spinning some western tunes… I had to ask myself if I was even in Sri Lanka at this point. Needless to say it was quite popular with both the tourists and locals. The next meal of note was a Chicken Briyani (Indian fried rice with spices, meat, and vegetables) I had at the Devon restaurant in the old part of town. The last time I can remember having briyani was in India nearly 25 years ago. I am not sure why I haven’t had it since, as it was phenomenal and cost me less than three dollars! I even have it as my new Facebook cover page. The final dinner was at the Royal Bar and Restaurant, which was set in an old colonial building. The meal was nothing special, but the building with its pictures and posters from a time long past added tremendously to the ambiance. I felt like I could be anywhere in the British Empire circa 1910.