Our itinerary said we were to do this journey by train, however, all first and send class tickets were sold out and whilst I’m not usually a snob about travelling economy, 3rd class in Sri Lanka meant no seats or air con, on a potentially packed train, for four hours as it rolled through the middle of nowhere. Given that I’ve had a panic attack on a busy train from York to Leeds before, I didn’t want to risk it and Amy wasn’t that fussed. If you plan on doing the train in the comfort of first or second class, learn from my mistakes and buy tickets early; I think you must do it at least 28 days prior, but it would be wise to do it ASAP.
In a way, I’m glad it fell through. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the train is a highlight, but our driver recommended Kandy’s Royal Botanical Gardens instead, since the 4 hour train ride equates to much less by car.
It was phenomenal! I’m not a plant person, but the one and a half hour stroll could easily have been double that if we didn’t need to meet our driver. The gardens were beautiful, with some amazing plant life, as well as monkeys, squirrel (type things) and thousands of bats.
As we drove on towards Nuwara Eliya the roads began to climb upwards and into the clouds; the landscape was simply stunning. Eventually you start passing tea plantation after tea plantation, until it feels like you are entirely surrounded by them.
Eventually, our driver stopped at one of the factories, so we could have a tour. It was only a short tour (10 mins) and I’m not entirely sure which factory it was. Due to the limited English of the girl who gave our private little tour, I can’t say I learned an awful lot, but what I did pick up was interesting and definitely worth a generous tip at the end – particularly given that the tour itself was free. After the tour you get to taste a sample of five different teas made at the plantation (black, white, green and a couple of others which I can’t remember). The black BOPF Gold was b-e-a-u-t-I-f-u-l. You’re then ushered into the gift shop where they sell all of their varieties of tea for you to take home. Usually, being a tight-arsed-Yorkshire-man I’m inclined to give the gift shop a swerve, or at least avoid parting with any cash, but given the friendly and informative tour, coupled with the five free cups of tea, you’d be hard pressed not to part with your cash as a way of repaying their services, if nothing else. We ended up purchasing some of their vanilla blend. After the gift shop we had a little wander around the tea fields before heading to our accommodation for the night: Villa Tea Fields, Nuwara Eliya.
This was the cheapest accommodation of our eleven night stay and I still can’t decide how I felt about it. You got a lot for your money: –
- A double room;
- Accommodation for your driver;
- Breakfast (which they are even prepared to do as a pack-up if you’re out early);
- A short walk/tour around the tea field it sits on/next to;
- Unlimited tea (which I assume is sourced from the nearby fields – it was beaut’);
- Some of the nicest hosts you could ask for;
- A pool table;
- Free WiFi; and
- A free tin of tea on departure.
There were also some added extras you got thrown in at no extra cost, that they wouldn’t be so keen on putting in the adverts: –
- Mould in places (probably due to lack of adequate ventilation);
- Surround sound experience of everything outside (since the window wouldn’t shut) and in the neighbouring rooms (since the walls were paper – almost literally). Maybe we were unlucky too because both of these issues were compounded on the nights we stayed, firstly by dogs barking outside until about midnight and secondly by noisy guests in the neighbouring rooms).
I think, taking everything into account, I’m happy we stayed at Villa Tea Fields and would say the bottom line is that it is ok for a short stay. We stayed for two nights and I’m not sure anymore would have been enjoyable. I’d recommend it only on the proviso that you are aware of and can bear with the negatives mentioned above. I’d suggest looking at the Trip Advisor and Booking.com reviews, as most of the complaints have been made there and you can make an informed decision. You’ll notice, like me, that despite the negatives, there’s something about the place which stops people from totally writing it off. I mean look how many more positives there are than negatives.
Read the rest of my Sri Lanka Stories, here.