Here is where the clouds wafted into my room through the open window.
On our visit to Sri Lanka, we stayed a couple of nights at the Tea Factory Hotel, an erstwhile tea factory set on top of a hill, in the middle of plantations. We drove past the cluttered town of Nuwara Eliya, past the bungalows with quaint English names (it was the summer retreat of the British) and up, up, up into the hills till there was nowhere further to go. And there we were, at a hotel with the facade of a factory.
This factory once served the Hethersett plantation, named after the initial owner Mr. Flowerdew’s home town back in the Blighty. Inside the hotel, the original pieces of machinery from the tea processing days have been kept intact and there are signboards to remind us of the history of each spot inside the hotel premises.
The hotel’s bar, for instance, was once the tea packing room, while the room we are staying in was the withering loft (so says the notice on the wall). I fell asleep that night imagining that the faint fragrance of tea still lingers in the air in the rooms that were once filled with the aroma of original Ceylon tea being processed.
Locals call the plantation Poopanie Estate, a literal translation of Flowerdew. ‘Poopanie’ is also perhaps a picturesque reference to the thick grey mist that covers the hills around the hotel at all times of the day. The next morning I woke up to see blanket upon thick blanket of white cloud outside my window.
We spent the two days there just walking among the tea plantations, talking to the giggling Tamil tea workers and taking in the fresh mountain air. We watched foreigners trying to pick tea leaves to make their own cup under the supervision of a plantation worker. There is also a mini factory just outside the main building where you can see the entire process of tea making from leaf to cup. And the hotel does thoughtfully provide a list of ‘things to do’ in and around the area, but really why bother?
There is also a small “railway station” in the back, with a signboard saying ‘Hethersett Railway Station’ – there are a few tables placed by it so you can enjoy a cup of tea (or coffee, if you will) in the open air.
We had stayed at some of the best hotels in Sri Lanka on that trip but this was experience was something else altogether. Highly recommended if you wish for some peace and quiet and of course, the experience of spending a night at a factory.
Also read – Hotels I love: Southern Ocean Lodge