Singapore's FREE adventure travel magazine

Distribution locations
Subscribe
Back Issues

Sri Lanka: Tea and more…

Rows of tea bushes

Ever since topping the ‘must visit country’ list of several travel publications last year, Sri Lanka is the current darling of the travel cognoscenti and nothing confirms that better than the fact that hotels here are fully booked for months in advance.

Sri Lanka seems to have all it takes to lure travellers: pristine beaches, verdant rolling hills, a neat collection of World Heritage sites and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

THE WELL-TRODDEN CIRCUIT
For many, the well-trodden Sri Lankan circuit goes like this: Colombo (Negombo) – Sigiriya – Dambulla – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Colombo. All this translates to: beach, Sri Lanka’s version of Ayer’s Rock, painted hermit caves, Buddha’s Tooth and tea plantations.

See the red bananas?

It’s a lot to fit into a week (and plenty people do), so take a few extra days and get your own wheels to really get to explore the country. Stop by a roadside fruit stall and enjoy a fresh pineapple with chilli flakes, or one of a dozen varieties of bananas (including a curiously red-coloured version). It’s also a great way to meet the locals and try the local food: plenty of restaurants have buffet tables lined with tureens of curry (almost everything is curry here).

While there are plenty of things to see and do here, the one thing that does stand out is…tea. It’s produced and drunk here in huge quantities, so what better location to start the trip than in the tea region?

PART 1: THE TEA TRAIL

On the tea trail

Mention Sri Lanka, and you’ll immediately think Ceylon Tea. Almost half the island is dedicated to the production of these golden tips, which is ironic considering it used to be a major production area for coffee until a coffee blight struck, and was replaced by the booming tea industry by the mid 1800s.

Today, the Nuwara Eliya region, with its verdant rolling hills, is synonymous with tea country. You can have a go at tackling some of the tea trails that wind through the tea bushes – if you think it’s tiring, imagine hauling a full basket of tea leaves the way the locals do!

Coincidentally, Nuwara Eliya is also the country’s most ‘British’ region, where old British plantation houses and tea factories still remain. And because of its British heritage, you can count on the existence of trains. One of the most rewarding excursions is riding on an old locomotive as you chug your way past the rolling tea fields and tin-roofed factories as you watch the locals go about filling their baskets with freshly-picked leaves.

Riding the Old Train

CHUGGA CHUGGA
Most tourists take the ‘first class’ observation carriage (where the chairs are upholstered and indented with 100 years’ worth of seated butts), which is basically the last carriage of the train that is equipped with a rather Victorian version of ‘panoramic’ windows. You can sit back and enjoy the train’s rocking motion and the breeze that comes from small rotating ceiling fans and open windows.

Getting tickets at the counter

In addition to the charming locomotives that probably haven’t been refitted since they first went into action, the train stations themselves are also atmospherically ancient. Grab a train from Gampola station to Nanu Oya and enjoy 3 to 4 hours of chugging through more old-school stations as friendly locals smile and wave you by.

If you’re staying in the tea region, consider spending the night in one of the many British plantation houses. They range from rather basic lodgings to opulent digs, and are usually located within tea plantations, so you can sip your freshly-picked morning cuppa as you soak in the scenery.

============

Of course, there’s much more to Sri Lanka than tea. Read up on Sri Lanka: Between a Rock and a Tooth.

One Response to “Sri Lanka: Tea and more…”

  1. [...] more about the country’s tea heritage in Sri Lanka: Tea and more. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted [...]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.