Sri Lanka
Kundasale Division

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3 travelers at this place

  • Day68

    D68 Sri Lanka - Kandy

    September 10, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    We inquired about a driver for a day, and before we knew it we had a little guy called Vilmer (?) cruising us around in the Royal Classic hotel’s Suzuki - complete with a giant sticker on the front window stating ‘Royal service’.

    Vilmer was here nice and early, waiting for us after our sumptuous breakfast of chapatti and curry (amongst many other delicacies that make up the buffet). We set off for the Ceylon Tea Museum on the outskirts of Kandy.

    The museum was a real treat, set within an old 5-story tea factory. It housed many large tea processing machines, all originating from the United Kingdom from as early as the 1800s when the tea industry was inaugurated in Ceylon. We were provided a brief guided tour, moving up each level of the factory and passing many interesting artefacts; machinery, photos, tea pots, agricultural testing machines, a mini museum dedicated to James Taylor, and the oldest package of tea from the 1940s in Ceylon. On arrival to the top level, we exchanged the tear off part of our ticket for a cup of the best BOPF grade tea. We had learnt on one of the lower levels about the tea grades, how they differ in taste and in price!

    Tea in my mind in a very simple commodity - One tea plant species (Camellia sinensis), with many styles developed as the outcome of minute differences in processing. The styles are therefore different types of grading - open leaf, rolled leaf, older leaves, young tips, chopped or unchopped (or “broken”) to name just a few. Every combination producing its own name and subsequent acronym, for example;
    - BOPF - broken orange pekoe fanning; a popular and tasty style the result of chopping the dry leaves into smaller fragments thus producing a stronger brew (smaller pieces, larger surface area, greater taste),
    - OP - orange pekoe; predominantly large curled leaf unchopped producing a subtle tasting tea.
    - GT - gold tip; the most expensive tea derived from fresh green tips yielding a subtle taste and very light yellow in colour.

    After our cup of BOPF, we began the slow crawl along the curvy, bumpy roads, climbing high up into the mountainous tea country. The roads are narrow, low quality and feature the occasional roaming stray dog. After a slow hour and a half drive, maxing out at about 50km/h, we passed the sign stating that the tea plantation surrounding us was in fact Loolecondera Estate. This estate is the oldest in the country and the legacy of James Taylor, a Scotsman known as the ‘Father of Tea’ in Sri Lanka. James Taylor arrived as a 17 year old to Ceylon, settling down in Loolecondera Estate. In 1866, he travelled to India to learn more about tea where he returned with samples of Assam tea. In 1867 the first 19 acres were planted, and just two years later at the peak of the coffee industry’s production, coffee blight plagued the industry providing a rise of opportunity for Taylor and Loolecondera Estate.

    Our first stop was to the large tea factory, which is government owned and processes the tea picked from the estate. This tea is then sold in bulk to auction houses across the globe where manufacturers then package and brand the tea for the consumer.

    Inside the factory, it was dark, dusty and archaic. Forget occupational health and safety - the lungs of the ladies working were fertilised like the tea gardens themselves, by the fine dust and residue waste produced as a result of fine quality Ceylon tea production.

    Our journey continued along very steep and narrow ‘roads’ up and into the tea plantations sitting at the base of overhanging mountains, some 4100 feet above sea level. The crunch of gravel and the occasional loss of traction had me clambering for a need of control and it was slightly nerve wracking heading up the road in a car with extremely low clearance. Vilmer never winced, employing patience with every inch travelled. It was slow going, but worth it once we arrived to the top where James Taylor’s granite seat is located, overlooking the valley below. This spot he would sit in and plan the expansion of the plantation across the valley.

    We spent the following hour or so wandering around the tea plantation. We witnessed the strength agility of the all female tea plucking crew. They walked faster down the roads than their motorised counterparts (a tuk tuk navigating the dirt toad). I had a brainwave amongst the beautiful rolling green hills - a tea company called Mother Pluckers Teas of Distinction. Kate wasn’t sold on the idea.

    What I found most interesting is the Australian influence in these very old plantations. The trees that sparsely populated the plantations included eucalyptus species, Grevillea robusta and Callistemons. I’m yet to learn why...

    By this stage, the clouds were rolling in and as the clock passed 3, we decided to make the long crawl home.
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  • Day69

    D69 Sri Lanka - Kandy

    September 11, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Ok, we got conned in Kandy. This is how it went down...

    We woke early, ate our usual Sri Lankan buffet breakfast consisting of chapatti, curry and fresh fruit, then donned our walking shoes in preparation for a day of stretching our legs. Leaving the hotel, some 6km from the centre of Kandy, we straddled the road as the locals do, navigating our way past trucks, blaring buses, tuk tuks, dogs, burning piles of rubbish and occasional ankle breaking holes in the roadside.

    We reached Kandy Lake, walking past the Temple of the Lost Tooth (we weren’t dressed conservatively enough to visit). An ice cream tuk tuk with music playing rolled past us, weird turkey faced looking ducks sat on the banks and tradesman worked on some new plaster and marble seats, adding amenity value to the lakeside. As we approached the end of the lake, the hustle and bustle of Kandy city centre kicked in. All of a sudden, a friend appeared next to us at the lights smiling.

    ‘Hey, it’s me, from the hotel. You don’t recognise me do you out of my uniform,’ he said with great familiarity. I immediately was thinking, no, no I don’t, but perhaps you are from our hotel. There were so many staff wandering around each day, you could very well of worked there. We continued with the idle chit chat of where we were going and what we were doing for the day.
    ‘I’m on my way to the market, but it closes soon’ (pigs arse I thought, as my radar peaked), ‘it’s got quality linen and beautiful sari’s, they’ll be perfect for your wedding’. Yep, he had the dirt on us. As my suspicion grew, I asked how long he’d worked at the hotel, knowing full well where we were staying was new.
    ‘Oh, 7 years in the kitchen, I like it very much.’ Bingo I thought, ‘hear that Kate, 7 years at the hotel!’ I said. She had cottoned on as well, but we were both in for the ride now.

    We arrived at the market which was ‘closing in half an hour’ and was introduced to his ‘brother’ and he promptly disappeared. Classic ghosting event. His brother began by saying ‘first sale of the day, very good discount for you’. I began to walk out, but Katey was enticed by these cool wrap around pants with funky elephant designs. He grabbed me, and showed my the ‘original’ price on his calculator - 4250 rupees. I laughed and said no way and began to walk away again. Negotiations flowed backward and forward, and Kate offered 2000 or no deal. By this stage I was walking down the street when Kate yelled out for some cash. The deal was done, and $16AUD later, he and his workers had made a week of wages on a pair of pants.

    Kate was happy with her purchase and I was happy that we didn’t get screwed too hard! Either way, we got very successfully conned in Kandy. Charming bastards.

    We wandered to the railway station to see if we could reserve tickets for our return to Colombo, no such luck. All booked out. So we haggled a tuk tuk into taking us to the botanic gardens some 5km up the road.

    The gardens were impressive. Huge sweeping gardens with long palm lined vistas, massive tropical trees and well manicured flower beds. A cacti house, orchid house, greenhouse for foliage plants, ‘the great lawn’, the ‘great circle’ path, Ayurvedic garden, they had it all and it was all pretty great! The plants are rather foreign to me being predominantly tropical, and so I find it all overwhelming not being able to digest the names and uses of each plant! For me, a standout was the largest bamboo species in the world, growing to 30-40m, 20-25cm in girth and the new shoots growing some 30cm a day. What a beast of a plant! No wonder bamboo may be the sustainable solution to many of the world’s problems. Check out the ‘Bamboo to Save the World’ TED video.

    A tuk tuk back to the lake, a walk down the opposite side and yet another negotiated tuk tuk ride, we found ourselves back at the main road junction leading to our hotel.

    On our return walk back to Royal Classic, we stopped at one of the thousands of little roadside stores selling many sugary snack foods, soft drink and a range of household items. This one in particular we had spotted earlier in the day for its traditional coconut spoons. They were well priced and after picking through them, got some of what we believe are good quality. Kate’s family have many of these, passed on from family members no longer with us. They’re just so useful!

    Our last night at the resort and with a busy day for the hotel following (two weddings!), we were treated once again to the buffet dinner. With full bellies and satisfied minds, we went to bed.
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  • Day66

    D66 Sri Lanka - Colombo to Kandy

    September 8, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    A quick thank you to Kate for her epic work on captioning many of the photos from the Turkey leg of our trip - it was such a hectic and time poor tour, meaning extra effort has been required to get us back up to date.

    After a late arrival in Colombo, seeing us greeted to our accommodation by a cool watermelon juice at 11pm, we woke this morning from a very deep slumber. Sayura House was a delightful little hotel to the south of Colombo Fort, featuring white walls, dark wooden furniture embellishing old British design, and polished concrete throughout the bathrooms. Although we left straight after our breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, fruit and coffee, we loved our stay there (except for the patch of mould in the corner of the room, and subsequent smell, which we chose to ignore).

    Arriving to Colombo Fort railway station after a hair raising tuk tuk trip engineered by a little old man, we grabbed our second class tickets to Kandy. We watched the world pass by while we waited for our train - rust buckets rolled along crammed with human sardines; locals nibbled on deep fried crispy snacks purchased from vendors; and fatigue wearing, gun slinging army men cleared locals from the seats for western travellers. But not I, who politely said ‘no thanks’ to the guy with the semi automatic rifle...

    The rolling stock ground to a halt and the stampede of elephants began. Instincts kicked in and I was pushing my way past the young men who were all vying for a precious seat on this longish journey. I flung my body on the first double seat I came to, as a person outside the train attempted to reserve it by squeezing part of their bag through the window. Luckily, they gave up after realising I was already lying down on the seat, turned upside down like a turtle stuck on its back.

    We drifted past lush green rice fields, each with their tokenistic water buffalo roaming around. Bananas and papayas lined the tracks, bearing fruits ready for the picking. The people ebbed and flowed throughout the journey, with opportunistic fellows bringing cold water, deep fried snacks and pomegranates through in wicker or plastic baskets held proudly on their shoulders. Kate was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hold a blind lady’s hand whose belly was poking Kaye in the head with every bump in the tracks. She’s such a Good Samaritan...

    Leaving Kandy station, our first tuk tuk driver didn’t seem to want to take us the distance to our resort so he called on his mate, the Michael Jackson tuk tuk man. Thus it began, 30 minutes of pumping classics. “Heal the world, make it a better place. For you and for me, and the entire human race... there are, people dying....”
    ‘Let’s hope it’s not us’ I said to Kate as we hooned along.

    And then we arrived to our final destination for the next three full days - Royal Classic Resort. A quick dip in the pool, a beer watching the sun go down, and a delicious buffet, we’re both ready for a sleep in!
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  • Day67

    D67 Sri Lanka - Kandy

    September 9, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    What can we say about today...

    We did absolutely nothing.

    Seriously. For the entire day. And no, we are in full health.

    We enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit and other goodies at the buffet, sat by the pool alone for most of the day and ordered coffee when we needed it, and then slightly exerted ourselves by wandering through the local village.

    This walk turned out to be the best part of the day - it was just a 2km loop but in that time we stumbled across a local temple, and then spotted a local brassware workshop directly across the street. It looked like we were walking into someone’s private property but a lady in the front doorway saw us approaching and called out to her husband, who greeted us in the local greeting by bowing his head and raising his hands in a prayer like motion. “Ayubowan” means Long Life, and is almost commonly used in rural area whilst “Hello” and a handshake is preferred in bigger towns.
    Upali and his wife had both been taught the skill of brassware from their fathers (their trade went back several generations), and he told us proudly that she was “The best female brassware worker in the region”, due to her father being head teacher in the trade. We followed them into their workshop which was pure organised chaos (Dad you may or may not relate to this) with tools, sheets of raw material, machinery and finished products lying everywhere. Upali’s wife sat herself down at the workbench and started to carve a small elephant into a sheet of brass while he gave us a full (and very enthusiastic) run through of the manufacturing process. Later on they kindly offered to make us tea, and so while we sat on their front patio with cups of delicious ginger tea and Maliban crackers (“the best in SL”), Upali offered to teach us about the temple opposite.
    I asked about the youngish man who had been sitting on the temple wall for awhile smiling at us - Upali explained that this man was ‘weak minded’, but was generous and kind, and would always hurry to tell him if people were visiting the temple so he could offer assistance. It was a nice way to end the afternoon, stumbling across a local trade and meeting some lovely and hospitable people in the process.

    The rest of the evening was quiet as there are only 5 rooms booked out until tomorrow! We enjoyed another dinner at the restaurant but no buffet tonight, that is only reserved for busier weekends.
    Shona - there is a girl staying here with her partner and we can’t stop staring at her as she’s your dead set doppelgänger. However there is no photographic evidence purely because I don’t want to be labeled as a creepo.

    Goodnight!
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Kundasale Division

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