What could be even more Marwari than the 3 kilos of Thepla, instant poha and Girnar ready to make masala chai that we had in our luggage? This is the story of the biggest change of plans in the history of our family vacations.
When travelling with family, our flight tickets, hotel reservations and a checklist of all travelling members is duly printed and safely secured in crisp white envelopes. We are received by hotel staff at the airports and we comfortably check into our hotels. Our itinerary is planned and we ensure we wake up for breakfast buffet.
A fate encounter and a certain piece of information had us very excited! I crosschecked online and The Hindu mentioned it as following :
‘The Madhya Pradesh government recently announced subsidies on visits to pilgrimages” located in Cambodia (Angkor Wat temple) and Sri Lanka (Sita Mata temple).The government will provide a one-time, 50% subsidy on the expenses incurred by the “pilgrim” upto a maximum of Rs. 30,000’
OMG,whaaaa?!So get this, we landed in Colombo, went to the south western coast where we had intended to spend the rest of the holiday,cut short our stay there and instead decided to drive 225 kms inwards to visit a temple,spend one night and the drive back 6-7 hours to Colombo in time to catch our flights. Just so that we could claim upto 1,50,000 rs.? Well, seems legit to me.
Fortunately, the hotel we were living in, Heritance Ahungulla, had another hotel from its chain of hotels in Nuwara Eliya and thus our bookings were shifted, though at a surcharge.
Heritance Ahungulla was a bit of a let down honestly especially since we had heard really good reviews.There was a large pool but other than that not too many things to do and the in house restaurants weren’t much fun either.We stayed there 2 nights.
(We went on a river safari on the Madhu River which was INSANE and such a must do! Will tell you all about it in my next blog?)
We left after breakfast buffet and it turned out to be a pretty long drive, but it was also just as beautiful. We crossed beaches, then inland rivers, mountains and then most beautiful of all, the tea plantations.
Nuwara Eliya is a safe representation of heaven. Shades of green, crystal clear lakes, homely scent and happy winter weather.Nuwara Eliya is also called the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka. The vast green pastures with striking blue ponds and donkeys provide a background for Tudor Style bungalows. The Tudor style of architecture was first seen in 19th century Britain and is best characterised by steep gable roofs,rustic look and decorated chimneys, the kinds in England’s countryside.
Sita Mata Madir
So, the legend is that when Sita Ma was abducted, it was here, at the temple site that she was held captive. Also, there are two big footprints where apparently Hanuman ji had landed.
The temple is not the most sophisticated or detailed but situated on the foothills of lush tea estates, it has a soothing effect.
When we entered the temple and had paid our respects, we turned to the priest and we told him we were from Madhya Pradesh and he seemed to have understood the rest of it… He gave us donation slips and made us a receipt for each person that would in turn serve as proof of having been there.Oh below is some more proof!
Now, we could check out the rest of the place.
It was starting to get a bit chilly, and obviously we hadn’t packed for that (we were in Maldves before this). We just randomly picked a sweater or two from a local place and got on with it. We got ourselves some hot cappuccino at The Coffee Bar,which is super high on my recommendation list. The coffee was on point,ideal in the weather, the pastries would just melt in the mouth immediately and the ambience was very cozy and well done amidst greenery on all sides. We all ordered a drink and a snack at least (a fair amount of vegetarian choices were available too) and the bill came to about 200 Rs per head at most, cheaper than Cafe Coffee Day but like a whole different experience.
Heritance Tea Factory
A tea factory from the colonial times turned into luxury resort atop lush green tea plantations was what we got at the end of our itinerary change bargain, and frankly we couldn’t have been more excited! The highest hotel of Sri Lanka was our bunking spot for the night. Like I mentioned, it was a restored tea factory, what I missed was the genius with which the restoration was carried out. It retained the authenticity of a factory while achieving great success in creating a lux property. It’s a theme hotel that actually derives from a genuine past so its pretty cool.
We dined in the in house restaurant,Kenmare. The food was delicious and we had a fair number of vegetarian dishes to choose from. There was another restaurant in an actual live size train coach which sadly was closed that night.
This secluded,huge hotel amidst all the greenery is at least a dreamy plot.
Its proximity with the nature is a very big part of the experience. However, there isn’t much to do, even in terms of amenities. There is a make do gym and a spa centre where you can use the
amenities only if you take a paid massage… There is an indulgent tour of the plantation where we dress up as tea planters and go on a guided tour and then go plucking tea leave in the estate and also a nature walk that is organised at different times in the morning… but other than that, you enjoy your solitude, a book or else if that’s not your style, then you shouldn’t think of staying here for more than 2 days.
// Now About that subsidy granted by the M.P government,we did file for reimbursement. It has been a while but we’ve heard from others about them receiving their dues. I’m hopeful and even if it doesn’t come through, this was totally worth the gorgeous road trip, the stay at Hesitance, the tea plantation tour and the stories we have from there//
Also, I usually mention prices, but since this was a family trip, it wasn’t exactly on a student budget…but I can safely say that Sri Lanka is very reasonably priced. I absolutely fell in love with the country and hope to go back there backpacking some time.
Nuwara Eliya was a last minute change of plans deal for us and thus we could only stay there for one night. But I hope when you make the trip to Nuwara Eliya,Sri Lanka (Which I really hope you do!) you go well intentioned, well planned and definitely with some warm clothes.
And lastly,talking about Marwari Roots, we bought a hell LOT of tea and a Noritake Kettle, so be sure to drop in sometime and we’ll have some chai.