Although small, Sri Lanka is a very varied country – and that includes the vast changes in temperature. When we arrived in Colombo it was almost unbearably hot, so after our stay in Kandy, we headed for the hills to cool off. The Hill Country rises up in the centre of Sri Lanka to about 2,000 metres above sea level. With the gain in height, the temperature significantly drops. The temperate climate, combined with Sri Lanka’s colonial past and the miles and miles of tea plantations means the area is now known as Little England. We were quite excited about our few days in what we assumed would be vaguely familiar surroundings.
We had heard about a place called The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya, which was built and owned by Brits connected to Sri Lanka’s colonial past. Unfortunately we discovered it’s a bit of a novelty. The Hill Club is a throwback to a bygone era where men wore dinner jackets and women weren’t allowed to participate in social occasions. Unfortunately the hotel has kept rather too many of the ‘traditions’ and has refused to modernise with the times. Rob was made to wear a jacket and tie to dine in the restaurant, which he obviously didn’t have with him as we hadn’t had many occasions to be smart during our 5 months of travels! However, he was shown to a room and told to pick something to wear from a various collection of old fashioned garments. I had one beach-type dress with me, so together we looked pretty funny 🙂 However the strict dress code for the restaurant is particularly ironic as the food itself is pretty terrible. It reminded us of bad English restaurants 20 years ago – or school dinners! Everything was overcooked. Unfortunately many of the staff were also rude, and whereas I respect that the club has a history which didn’t include women, surely in the 21st Century things have moved on a bit?! I got pretty fed up with being ignored as every question was directed at ‘Sir’. It was as if I didn’t exist. I am absolutely not a raging feminist (!) but it’s just common sense that you’re polite to all your guests, male or female.
No trip to the Hill Country is complete without going to a tea plantation, and we hired a driver who took us to a tea factory, surrounded by miles of green leaves. It really was a tea lovers paradise. The factory itself was pretty old school; many of the machines hadn’t been updated since it opened more than 100 years ago and I’m sure health and safety would’ve had a fit. But the smell of the freshly rolled tea leaves was divine – and we even got a free cuppa afterwards! On the way to the factory, the driver insisted on taking us to what seemed like every known waterfall in the Northern Hemisphere (!) but some of them were admittedly spectacular.
One of the redeeming features of The Hill Club was the fact that they had a huge DVD collection (mostly of copied DVDs….!) and so after our last faux fancy dinner we ended up watching The Queen. Even if the old colonial hotel hadn’t lived up to its past reputation, we still had HRH to make us feel at home 🙂