Our latest Sri Lanka travel blog is about Sri Lanka's own Little England. Nuwara Eliya is a small town in the highlands of Sri Lanka that, because of its moderate climate, was a getaway from Colombo for the colonials. Indeed: we were there in the summer and it was cold and I certainly didn’t have the gear with me to stay warm. The short time we spent there was the most uncomfortable in Sri Lanka. For us the town was a bit of a bust. The two main attractions are the tea museum and Land’s End. We didn’t get to do either. However, we did have a lovely walk through the town, Queenie managed to get her broken shoes fixed and we did enjoy the lovely Victoria Park in the middle of the town.
Sri Lanka's Little England
We learned from the Lonely Planet that this town is called Little England because parts of it were made in the image of an English town during the colonial era. Walking down the street you can see old style red English post boxes and some beautiful architecture as well as the high end Hill Country Club. The town was distinctly divided between the high end country club section and the downtown, hustle and bustle down-to-earth Sri Lankan part of the town with the regular low price shops and markets.There were also a few local pubs that were open for business fairly early in the afternoon.
The other notable feature of the town was the climate. At an altitude of nearly 1,900m, the climate here is distinctly different from the other parts of the country we visited. It was cool/cold and the air was crisp. Getting to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy was basically a never ending climb up the mountain roads to higher altitudes. The bus trip (as mentioned in the previous post) was about 4 hours in total (see Bus Ride to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, 2012 ).
The Guest House
We chose to stay in the Fern Cottage guest house which was recommended to us by the Lonely Planet. We were the last ones to get reservations in the cottage and so were quite happy to take the chance to stay at was recommended as one of the better guest houses in the country. Unfortunately the whole place was a little too surreal and disorienting. The staff were not that friendly, neither were they rude; the place wasn’t that comfortable, neither was it uncomfortable. I guess we just had some very high expectations because of the great recommendation in The Lonely Planet and came down to earth a little when we realized that it was a regular guest house with a different layout. It’s not a bad place to stay, just not an amazing place either and I am sure the other guest houses will suit your needs just as easily.
Walking through the Town
After settling into the guest house and having a cup of tea, we jumped go ready and went for a walk through the town: we strolled past the golf course, through the small town and up into a small tree lined road filled with buses looking for a restaurant that came highly recommended. The town itself was filled with all the hustle and bustle you would expect of a South Asian town: a lot of activity in the shopping areas, street side vendors and tuk-tuks racing up and down the streets.
We walked through the town and somehow ended up at the Hill Country Club with its amazing stone-wall architecture and beautiful gardens. Turns out we were in the wrong place so we continued heading down the road until we came to a hotel, outside which we were meant to find this restaurant we were looking for. Unfortunately it was closed. By now it was already 2:00pm and we were hungry and cold so we went into the hotel, found their Indian Restaurant and settled in for a somewhat expensive/luxury lunch.
After lunch we headed out again and found the entrance to the highlight of the town: Victoria Park. It’s a fairly big, well maintained park with beautiful lawns and trees all around. It was very beautiful. There is an entrance fee (which is higher for tourists) which we were more than happy to pay. The park was respite from the town and the slight disappointment at the lack of things to do in there. As mentioned, the park is well maintained and would highly recommend a stroll through the park if you ever find yourself there. It was nice to relax there and until the early evening. It was cold (and considering it was summer, it was a bit disconcerting) but still we enjoyed being there. I would say this that this park is much better than the other Victoria Park I know so well: the one in Hong Kong. This one was much more beautiful, less developed, far more peaceful and (obviously) less crowded.
After the park we took a walk through the very busy commercial center of the town. To Queenie’s delight there was a cobbler in the middle of the street. Just before going to Sri Lanka Queenie had bought a very expensive pair of Tevo sandals for walking but the shoes were coming apart. So Queenie approached the street cobbler and showed him her shoes. He quickly put down what he was doing, grabbed Queenie’s sandals and what followed was 20 minutes of mayhem with glue and thread putting the sandals back together again. I can’t remember how much it cost but it was cheap and the sandals survived the rest of the trip.
After strolling around the town and getting Queenie's Teva's fixed, it was time to head back to the guest house for dinner. We had preordered the dinner earlier in the day (as you have to do in all the guest houses) and, despite being regular fare, it was really delicious. Not being spoiled with such rich curries here in Taiwan, it was awesome to be able to eat this food on a daily basis and most places we ate at outdid themselves with the flavor and content of the food.
Cold and Discomfort
It was then late in the evening. We went back to the our room and settled in for the night. We had made arrangements to go to Land’s End the following morning but would need to leave the hotel at 4:00am. Unfortunately I had been sick during the whole trip and the cold of Nuwara Eliya aggravated my cough and we landed up not sleeping at all the whole night. At 3:30am I got up and notified the other two guys we wouldn’t be going with them: I was sad to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I would definitely not have made it there and back. So, we tried to get some sleep and the next morning we were up and ready to jump on the train and start heading south to Ella, lower altitudes and hopefully warmer climes.