Luxury Escape: Ceylon Tea Trails
Narrow strips of pockmarked asphalt wind their way through the terraced tea plantations. Wide enough for just one vehicle and yet seemingly through a mutual understanding, the road swells to accommodate two abreast plus the odd tuk tuk or motorcycle. It is a constant dance between the drivers as they navigate these precarious roads, one step forward followed by two steps back. Gradually we edge our way towards Ceylon Tea Trails, sometimes holding our breath as we reverse backwards hugging the side of the road to accommodate oncoming traffic. Acquiesce is acknowledged with a wave of the hand and beep of the horn. In Australia this would never work and yet here in Sri Lanka it does. With blind faith I put my trust in our driver and doze intermittently.
Finally we arrive to a sight that takes my breath away. Rolling green lawns, bountiful English-style gardens of roses, agapanthus and spring crocus and a swimming pool sitting idly by just waiting to be enjoyed. And in the midst of all of this our home for the next few nights, the six-room Norwood Bungalow, with a history dating back to 1890.
For me no visit to Sri Lanka is complete without spending time in the fertile valleys of rolling green tea leaves. Luckily for us Resplendent Ceylon and Relais & Chateaux have come together to develop the world's first luxury tea bungalow resort. Situated at an altitude of 1250 metres near Hatton in Central Sri Lanka, Ceylon Tea Trails offers a collection of five restored colonial era bungalows that once housed the owners of Sri Lanka's tea plantations. Now these luxury bungalows offer period furnishings, intuitive butler service and gourmet cuisine in a "private home" all-inclusive experience. Each bungalow features between 4-6 rooms and comes with a house manager, chef, butler and household staff.
Warmly welcomed to Norwood by the house manager, we are encouraged to make ourselves at home. Wander the terraced tea fields outside the property, explore the gardens, play croquet on the lawn, enjoy a traditional English high tea of scones, jam and cream and steaming pots of Dilmah tea. Perhaps a refreshing swim or just find a quiet corner to read a book. The choice is ours.
Cuisine is a highlight of any stay at Ceylon Tea Trails and we are well fed for the duration of our stay. The menu celebrates Sri Lanka's English heritage rather than Southern Indian and Sri Lankan classics such as curries and egg hoppers. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the tariff with an excellent selection of wines as well as spirits. It was gin and tonics all around pre dinner. Dinner is a communal affair which encourages travellers to connect and share their experiences of this incredible country.
There is plenty on offer while staying at Ceylon Tea Trails and one could easily spend 3 nights minimum enjoying the incredible hospitality and location. For the adventurous there are kayaks for exploring the Castlereagh Lake, mountain bike and scenic walking trails that can either be self-guided or led by a Tea Trails guide, white water rafting or a more strenuous hike up Adam's Peak. Perhaps a friendly tennis match on the clay courts at Tientsin Bungalow or maybe an in-room spa treatment or bubble bath in your claw-foot porcelain bathtub is more your thing. Whatever you do, you cannot miss a morning tour of the tea factory. Once you see first-hand the work that goes into a single cup of tea you will appreciate your next "cuppa" in a new light.
A stay at Ceylon Tea Trails is sure to be etched into your memories of Sri Lanka long after you bid your bungalow farewell. And if you are keen to extend the Resplendent Ceylon experience consider booking yourself into their luxury beach resort, Cape Weligama on the coast near Galle. Mid 2017 will see the opening of a luxury tented lodge in Yala followed by a resort within the cultural triangle by the end of 2018.