Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka 15 - 16 Jan 2014

Labookellie Tea Plantation
It was 2 hours bus ride to Nuwara Eliya, this was the only direct bus from Ella. On the way we pass several big town, plenty of tea plantation and vegetables farms. We are moving high up on the mountain at an altitude of 1,868 m. The mean annual temperature is 16 °C. We arrived during a downpour. It was cold and wet! When the town gets bigger, it get's more confusing. We didn't know where to go to look for guesthouse, so we find a coffee shop to have our lunch. We loved the string Hoppers and curry. The tea tasted better too. Finally we decided to put on our raincoat and go look for guesthouse.

It was still the Tamil new year, the President house is open for public, many locals are flocking toward the President house. We asked some traffic police standing at every junction about any guesthouse recommendation, they don't seems to know. A tuk tuk driver stop us, he offered to bring us to a guesthouse little bit out of town by the lake side, "Free no charge!" we told him no thanks and continue with our search. We have lost any trust to any tuk tuk driver. 

Wattles Inn
Our ancient room
Old light switch
In town, there were just shops after shops. We tried to walk toward housing area, found a Hotel but the guy told us it was full and he brought us opposite to a monastery. The lady showed us a hostel style room with lots of bed and demanded for 1500rp each. It didn't look like it's worth the price. We continue our search. It was really getting frustrated after half an hour of search in the rain with our bags. I decided to ask someone again. This man walking out from a house told us yes there is a hotel he is working with so we followed him. He brought us to a really old colonial house, the keeper told us it is more than 100 years old. I believe him because everything in the house were so old. The furniture, the key, the old light switch, the painting, there is even a chimney in our room. We find the place attractive and decided to take it. The guy told us that the Labookellie Tea Factory is open. Yeah!! We can finally visit a Tea factory. :-)

Mackwoods Tea Plantation
We left to the Tea factory, it was quite easy to get there as there is a direct minibus to the factory from the main bus station. On the way the scenic view of tea plantation was stunning. We arrived at Mackwoods Tea Factory at the last stop. Mackwoods was established in 1841 with currently 27,000 acres of tea. There was a huge 4 story building, a tea house and a tea shop. As this was the only tea factory that was open during this long holiday period, it was packed with tourist. We wanted to get a tour but there were no guide available, so we wandered off ourselves into the factory which they called it museum now. The working area is isolated from the museum, so we could see some of the machine displayed in the museum. The entire process was clearly explain on the TV and the sample of tea was on displayed as well. We didn't have this brand of tea in Malaysia. I don't remember BOH having those tea named the way Mackwoods does. 

Type of Tea
There are 5 different types of teas, below copied from Mackwood website :-
BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe -Well made, neat leaf of medium size without stalk or fibre.
BOPF - Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning -Fairly clean, neat leaf, grainy but smaller than BOP grade
OP - Orange Pekoe -Long well twisted wiry leaf.
PEKOE - Pekoe -Shotty, even, well made grade.
OP 'A' - Orange Pekoe 'A' -Similar in size to OP but loosely twisted and inferior to OP in appearance.
FBOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe -This Medium leaf and tippy.

Weighing Machine
Drying Machine
We stop at the tea house to sip a cup of tea and a cake like an English. It was only S$0.60. :-) I find this a nice gesture so the customer will spend their money buying tea from the shop instead of a getting rip off for a cup of tea and scone like in Cameron Highland, Malaysia. After the rain subside, we went for a stroll to the Mackwoods tea plantation. It was endless. We finished our visit with some shopping, my brother bought 2 boxes of tea.

The cobbler
There is still a lot to do here but we are running out of time. Next day we left early to Kandy. This time we are determined to take the train because we have read that the train route to Kandy is breathtaking. We have pre-book a seat the day before with the help of the guy in the Inn. We had another great breakfast, Anthony found a cobbler to fix his running shoe but the old man was taking too much time. At the end, we had no choice but to get a tuk tuk. I hated bargaining with them. We were quoted 800rp at the bus station. The distance to Nanu Oya Train Station is just 6km. We walked away and stay by the road to flag one down, another one quoted 1000rp. Arrg! Then one of them bargain with us till we agreed to 600rp. Off we go, he told us the road is bad. We didn't expect it to be an adventure getting there. The road was muddy and full of potholes. The poor tuk tuk is bumping left and right avoiding potholes here and there. We finally got to the train station unfortunately the train has left! least we are here early for the next train at noon. :-) 

Nanu Oya Village
Nanu Oya Train Station
So we now have time to kill, we went for a stroll at the nearby village and found a tea factory up on top of the hill. The kids were so welcoming when we pass the village, they surround us and said "Hello, good morning" even the adults were really friendly too. The Edinburgh Tea Factory is locally owned, it was built in 1934. It wasn't open for public touring, but they didn't kick us out. We took some photos and chat with some workers. They said they are in a process of setting up the factory for tour. That will be good for the company and local community, sharing the info and bringing in more tourist to purchase tea directly from the factory. One thing I realized is that there isn't any souvenir shops where we have been, in a touristic places like anywhere in South East Asia, you will find store after store of t-shirts, key chain, fridge magnet, hat, etc. Not here though!

The ancient Lock-and-block signaling system
Handling over the token
While we were at Nanu Oya train station, we had time to visit the Train Control office. The office looks a bit like a museum, very tidy and neat filled with sets of old furniture left over by the British. Much of the network uses a lock-and-block signaling system. The key is to ensure the safe operation of a railway by allowing only one train to occupy a defined section of track at a time. The officer said it is over 100 years old but still in use. We observed that before a train arrive to a station, the bell will ring with certain code that only the train officer will understand. When a train arrived, one officer will pass the token pouch to the train captain, that ensure the track is lock and block for that one train use only. I couldn't understand exactly how it works but it is interesting. :-)

Wattles Inn Tel : 0770660110 – 2000rp per room/night with attached toilet with hot water.

Local bus from Nuwara Eliya to Labookellie Tea Factory - 35rp pp
Tuk Tuk to Nanu Oya Train Station - 600rp
Train ( from Nanu Oya to Kandy (Class 2 Reserved seat) - 600rp



  1. How was the bus from Ella to Nuwara Eliya?

  2. The bus journey was nice, beautiful scenery along the way. Leaves Ella 8am in the morning.