A Decade of Love: Our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon (Part 1: Ceylon Tea Trails)Posted: February 10, 2014
After we came back from our honeymoon I think I was probably more excited to write about our amazing time in Sri Lanka than our wedding. Of course I enjoyed our wedding tremendously but to wind down after the pains of wedding planning and to be travelling for the first time as husband and wife was even better!
Being the more detailed and analytical half, I had automatically (and quite delightfully) put myself in charge of the research and itinerary. Each time I sat down and researched the things to see and do in Sri Lanka, I would come out of it more and more excited because there were just so many!
But we only had a week, so we had to choose. After much deliberation, we decided on the Southwest region of Sri Lanka. These were the places we ended up going in our trip:
Our first stop was Ceylon Tea Trails. Tea is an integral part of Sri Lanka’s economy (they’re one of the world’s largest exporters of tea) so seeing the tea plantations was a definite must for us. There were many other hotels amidst the plantations, but based on research, Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton seemed to offer the best experience, and was thus intended to be the highlight of our trip.
We arrived at Bandaranayake Airport, Colombo at 1:40 am Sri Lanka time, 10 long hours away from our noon check-in at Ceylon Tea Trails. At the airport we were lucky to have chanced upon a tour agency from which we secured a driver and transport for our entire trip — something we’d left to chance because we didn’t have time to look for one before leaving for Sri Lanka. We told them we wanted to experience Sri Lanka’s famed scenic train rides, so they suggested taking the train from Kandy to Hatton, and that our driver, Pali, would meet us there.
Had we not chanced upon them, we would’ve taken a longer and less scenic route….and probably would’ve gotten lost along the way!
So off we went to Kandy Railway station. We arrived at 5 am, but our train was scheduled to arrive only at 9 am. With time to kill, we went about exploring sleepy Kandy city. We walked along the Kandy Lake, saw the famed Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple (also known as Temple of the Tooth), and experienced Kandy in its bustling Monday morning peak hour rush.
Wanting a more “authentic” Sri Lankan train experience, we bought 2nd class tickets. I imagine 3rd class would’ve been more interesting, but we felt we weren’t “seasoned” enough. Onboard the train, it was a real challenge to stay awake because we hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours since we woke up at noon on departure day!
Somewhere in the middle of our 2.5-hour journey, I got paranoid thinking we might’ve have taken the wrong train, or missed our stop. Prior to boarding, we had tried to check how many stops away Hatton was, but nobody seemed sure of what we were asking, or perhaps how to answer. I think in Sri Lanka generally most people can speak English, but the level of proficiency probably differs with the area. In Colombo I found they were very proficient, but not so in Kandy. It actually looked like we were the only foreigners in Kandy up until the arrival of the train — that’s when we finally saw other foreigners boarding.
We tried our luck again on the train, zeroing in on a young Sri Lankan chap sitting opposite us who looked like he might know English. A quick check with him put my worries at ease — we were on the right track!
Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton
It took us 14 long hours in total (including our 4-hour flight from Singapore to Colombo) to get to Ceylon Tea Trails but once we did, all manners of lethargy vanished — all because of this AMAZING sight:
Having been on the road for so long, we took the first day to rest and just stayed within the bungalow premises, marvelling at the scenery. We learnt that no keys were issued for our room unless requested — this was to make guests feel like they were at home. We were a bit apprehensive about the concept but went along with it, and was later after our stay grateful to find that nothing went missing.
Probably the first to die in cold weather, I was afraid it was going to be cold up in the mountains but it was in fact a cool and relaxing low to mid 20’s deg C during the day, which was just perfect. At night temperatures dropped further — no fans or air-conditioning needed — but nothing thick comfy blankets and lots of cuddles couldn’t solve!
Because Singapore is about 3 hours ahead of Sri Lanka, we found ourselves waking up ridiculously early in Sri Lanka — as early as 5am, which meant we had more time to do stuff and was probably the reason time seemed to go by slower.
On the morning of Day 2 we arranged to go for the Tea Experience, which is a tour of one of the tea factories in the area. The tour takes you on the journey from tea leaf to tea cup — basically showing you how tea is grown, plucked, processed, packed, auctioned and sold. It’s really quite amazing how much work goes into a simple cup of tea! It was somewhat a reminder of how we shouldn’t take even the seemingly simple things in life for granted.
We were glad we went for the Tea Experience early in our stay because through it we had a newfound appreciation for tea, and were able to better appreciate the tea served to us every mealtime — swirling the tea in our mouths a little longer before swallowing — adding to our entire Tea Trails experience.
Because at Ceylon Tea Trails you can have your meals pretty much wherever you want, we chose to have our lunch this time at Castlereagh bungalow, another Tea Trails bungalow located across the reservoir from Summerville. We had the option to get there either via tuk-tuk or boat, and without a heartbeat we chose the latter! We’d been marvelling at the view of the reservoir and the mountains beyond it ever since we got here, so deciding to take a boat across was a no-brainer, really.
One of the activities guests can do at Ceylon Tea Trails is to explore the other bungalows. They’re all preserved colonial bungalows, but each and every one of them has a different interior and character. Guests sometimes plan their stay such that they get to stay in each one of the four bungalows. You could also take a hike/bike up into the tea trails but it rained after lunch and into the evening, so we could do none of those. Instead we ended up taking an extremely satisfying nap in the cool weather, awaking only to have our evening tea and scones by the reservoir.
It again rained in the afternoon, and I was starting to feel a little anxious because this was the last day we could go trekking into the tea trails before leaving for Induruwa the next day. Fortunately the rain stopped, and we left almost immediately. Pradeep, the butler, equipped us with some salt to fend off leeches and we were on our way. We only had about two hours before dark, so we had no choice but to go for the shortest trail.
Typically the trail would’ve taken an hour to complete, but because we were stopping every now and then to take pictures, we took almost double the time. The trail back to the bungalow was quite steep — I wonder how we would’ve made it back down if we had chosen to go by bicycle. It was already getting dark and had started to drizzle again, so we had to be extra careful. When we finally made it back to the bungalow, we were so impressed to see Pradeep waiting out on the driveway to receive us with umbrellas! Such sincere service!
I dreaded to take off my shoes because I’d felt something like ant bites and somehow knew I’d find leeches in there. Yet I couldn’t wait to get them off! I was just so grossed out I just froze, and couldn’t bear to look! True enough, Pradeep found THREE leeches stuck to my foot! He had to pepper the bloodsucking leeches with salt before plucking them off of me. Where was Faz in all of this? Laughing at me and videoing my high-pitched squeals, apparently. Pfft.
Three days of bliss had gone by, and the time had come for us to move on to the next leg of our honeymoon in Induruwa. We were sad, but didn’t exactly mind leaving because we were already blessed with an amazing time here at Ceylon Tea Trails.
We didn’t get to check out the other bungalows (except for Castlereagh) because of the weather, but in all honesty we were actually quite contented to have stayed put in Summerville. In our itinerary we had planned trips outside of Ceylon Tea Trails to nearby Kandy, as well as the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage but this place was so beautiful, service top-notch — the butlers were attentive without ever being intrusive, every meal a titillation for the palate that we literally couldn’t bear to tear ourselves away.
I haven’t spoken about the food, have I? Every single gourmet morsel that went into our mouths while we were here was delicious. We had enquired about halal food prior to booking, and while they said it could be arranged, we still chose to stick to seafood just in case. At Ceylon Tea Trails we were served breakfast (you could have it Sri Lankan or English), a 3-course lunch, afternoon tea and cakes, and a 4-course dinner. Our chef would discuss every single meal with us beforehand. He would suggest the menus, but we were free to change it up however we liked. We absolutely loved everything we ate here.
Apparently Sri Lankans are big on bread — there are bakeries everywhere in Sri Lanka! We had freshly baked bread to accompany all our meals, which we found great pleasure in. Who doesn’t love freshly baked bread?
Some Singapore-style food pics to make you salivate:
Check-out, as was the check-in, was a breeze — there was nothing we had to fill in or sign, no bills we had to pay because we had paid for our stay in full beforehand, and there were no hidden costs. When we left, all the butlers saw us off, which was a very nice gesture but made leaving a little harder.
Ceylon Tea Trails was the PERFECT place to spend our honeymoon. We couldn’t have been happier.
The drive back down to ground level took us almost 2.5 hours! We were circling down on narrow, bumpy roads which made Faz feel a little sick, but once we were on the ground he was okay.
Coming up in my next post, Part 2 of our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon!