Nuwara Eliya and Whining Karl

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2012

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, August 8, 2011

by Karl

It's cold and dreary. If sitting freezing in a hotel room and watching banks of fog come rolling through is your idea of fun then this is the place for you. I want beaches, sun and coconut trees. Not rain, cold and damp. I know Kat will disagree with me…

(Yes, I do!  If someone hadn't gone all "cheap" on me and refused to pay the extra $5 for heating in our room, I think the experience would have been different...I think it's a really pretty, relaxed town with lots of green and pretty trees.)

Nuwara Eliya is where the British would flee the heat of the plains for the more temperate climes of the hill country. At 2000 meters in elevation it is very temperate. Shimla in India is a better example of the British away from home than here. I though Nuwara Eliya looked like some dreary council estate in England rather than a glamorous hill station in Sri Lanka.

(Kat: Aaaagh!)
We took a bus from Sigiriya and changed at Kandy- the journey only took only a few hours. Still, Kat hurt her knee on the bus on the ride up here. Don't ask how, as we don’t know but she twisted it or something. Kat could hardly walk and I was considering getting a tuktuk as I didn’t think she could even walk to the restaurant where we were going to grab lunch- the Grand Indian. She managed to hobble to the restaurant and then I sent off to find a hotel. 

Two hours later and I returned and informed Kat that all the hotels I went to (about nine) were all uniformly grim and overpriced. Pricing seems to be based on what they think you will pay as opposed to any real set pricing. Some hotels have the Lonely Planet curse and by virtue of being in the guide book have increased their rates beyond what they should be getting. For example, the Alpine Hotel looks like a converted YMCA but still wants $70 for a tiny double room; I was getting better rooms up north for $25. The tuktuk drivers must be getting a hefty commission from the Glen Falls Resort (not to be confused with the Glenfalls Hotel) as every tuktuk driver in Nuwara Eliya was trying to drag us there.

(Kat: When you ask for the room price, they actually look you up and down while going "uuummm" and trying to figure out what price you'll go for.  It's hysterical!)
Two things made Nuwara Eliya bearable. The nine liquor stores around the bus station. If I lived there I would be drinking heavily too. The cheapest beer in Sri Lanka at 155 LKR a pint at The Pub bar, but it doesn't look like a place that women would want to hang out in. The food in Nuwara Eliya was nothing special. The guide books made a fuss about the Grand Indian but the food was ok, nothing more. I ate as much as I could at the short eats by the bus station- it was the best food in Nuwara Eliya- better tan the over priced mediocre food I was getting at the hotels.


We visited a tea plantation while we were there. The plantation was down hill of the town and we took a bus to reach it. We had to wait at the bus station until our bus was full and that was an interesting experience. There are more buses than spaces for buses at the station, so there is always an elaborate dance of buses waiting to get into the bus station and those all ready there. I watched a very drunk old man hop on the bus (this is at 9AM in the morning) and almost pass out in his seat. When we finally reached his stop he could barely get off the bus and I thought he would fall out the door. He managed to get to the ground (forehead firs on the top of the door) and as the bus took off, we all watched him staggering up the distance- weaving up the hill.

The tea plantation was interesting and we got the free guided tour. The tour takes 10 minutes so don’t get your hopes up. Basically, if tea could pick itself and hop in a tea bag then it would. It’s that easy to make tea. I thought that tea would be a delicate plant but in reality it looks like a hardy shrub (holly?) could grow anywhere. Here is the complicated tea process- they pick the tea, dry the tea, ferment the tea, grind the tea and package the tea. Tah-da!!! The tea plantation had a gift shop and we got a free pot of tea; and it was a huge tea pot. Kat and I were sloshing with tea by the time we left. I thought I was going to be sick. 

Afterwards, we walked down the hill to a Strawberry Restaurant (????) and had two strawberry shakes. The restaurant specializes in strawberries and apparently the strawberries are grown in the tiny garden at the back of the restaurant. I’m skeptical that all the strawberries came from there as there was only about twenty strawberry plants. Anyway… If you wanted anything with strawberries then that was the place to get it. They had strawberry everything- jams, shakes, ice screams, juice and even strawberry pizzas!!!

(Kat: Someone wasn't listening ... they had a strawberry orchard about 10 minutes drive away, the strawberries in the back yard were for cosmetic purposes...)

and Kat will finish off....

So what else is there to say about Nuwara Eliya?  I found it very pretty, and there was a really nice park that we went on a walk through, where many Sri Lankans seem to come for picnics and social events.  There seems to be more green space than other cities, it's small and walkable, and I found it quite relaxing.  I'm told that in the spring, when the flowers are in bloom, Nuwara Eliya is remarkable.

There is also a race track for horses, although it was outside of racing season when we were there - the jockeys try to make some money in off season by trying to convince tourists to pay $$$ to ride the race horses.   Personally, I think it's unfair to put either Karl or I on a horse that's used to riders the size of the Sri Lankan jockeys!  

There does seem to be a problem with alcoholism in the locals, which I can only blame on the low, low price of alcohol.  Maybe it does help keep you warm - which you might need if your husband is to cheap to pay for heat in your room!  
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