Sri Lanka 2015 – A Night At A Tea Bungalow


P1050108

Tea Planters of yesteryears had a taste for good things of life. They built their luxurious villas with immaculately kept gardens and orchards, in the most scenic spots. Nowadays, most of them have become upmarket boutique hotels. Viharagala in Haputale in the central hills is one such tea bungalow

The mini bus was waiting for us at Haputale Railway Station. It was dark and rain was falling. It has been a long journey by train from Colombo and all of us were feeling it. We drove through Haputale town and downhill on the Wellavaya Road and turned left on to the long, tree lined drive to the house. Three members of Viharagala staff with torches and umbrellas were waiting for us. “Watch out for leeches!” they warned. We climbed the stone steps to the beautiful house with its enormous verandah. We felt relaxed and at home. We sat in the lounge and a man served hot, fragrant hill country tea.

P1050097

The bedroom was enormous and a four-poster bed with a mosquito net stood at one end. There was also a spare bed, a dressing table, a wardrobe and an enormous flat-screen TV & DVD player. A sofa stood in front of the old fireplace. A rug covered the polished red cement floor. The attached bathroom was equally large and had a walk-in shower. There was no bath tub.

P1050094

P1050092

P1050093

We freshened up, changed and got ready for dinner. There wasn’t enough hot water for a shower. I opened a bottle of Torres Gran Coronas and poured the wine in to ISO tasting glasses I brought with me from Colombo. A limited selection of Torres wines are sold in Sri Lanka by a company called Wine World. The 2011 vintage was too young to drink and felt harsh and tannic but was consumed without comment.

P1050100

Dinner

Dinner was served at 9 pm. It will be “Fine Dinning” the agent’s brochure said. The room had a magnificent table and cutlery and crockery were fine but the meal was not! The vegetable soup was lukewarm. The grilled fish was ‘cremated’, there was a dollop of cold mashed potato, the salad was not seasoned and the two chicken sausages were miserable and completely out of place. The creme caramel that followed was just tolerable. No wine or coffee were served. No body said much.

P1050095

Dinning Room

P1050101

P1050102

Back in my room, I poured myself a night cap from the little bottle of Chivas Brothers Special Blend I had in my bag. I decided to tell the chef to forget about ‘fine dinning’ and serve a simple Sri Lankan breakfast the next morning.

The Morning After

It was a beautiful morning.  Birds were singing and mist rose from the Uda Walawe Valley. A rainbow appeared for a brief moment. I sat in veranda and drank tea.

P1050103

Early morning view of Uda Walave Valley from the veranda

P1050105

P1050104

P1050106

P1050107

It was a Sri Lankan breakfast and a good one too – coconut rotistring hoppers (Indiappam), fish curry, potato curry, coconut sambol, fiery lunumiris (red chillies with onion and flakes of maldive fish), plantains and tea. Roti and the curries were excellent.

P1050109

Breakfast

P1050110

View from the breakfast room

We left Viharagala after breakfast and drove to the highest waterfall in the island.

History of an Old Colonial House

31-1024x616

Situated 4000 feet above sea level in the tea district of Uva, Viharagala Estate was established in 1861 by the British planting family of Sillery. Incorporating both Ormiston Estate and Viharagala Estate, it passed to Evan Ormiston in 1862, and thence to George Smythan Duff in 1896.

By the time the Duff Estate Company Limited purchased the property in 1897 (for the sum of £ 10,000), it had expanded to cover an area of well over a thousand acres. Built into a mountain-side, and set among six meticulously maintained lawns, Viharagala Estate Bungalow, the estate’s spacious, 8 bed roomed plantation house, was originally built in 1876. A wide veranda that encircles the front of the house, commanding a panoramic view to the south and east of the Uda Walawe valley extending over fifty miles to the sea, was added in 1911. The present dining room and service pantry were further additions, made in 1948 to render the house more functional without destroying its ‘period’ character. The same aim has inspired all later renovations: for example, the original fire-places have been retained, and the original staff quarters still function today, linked to the main house by a covered stairway running along one side of a paved courtyard filled with flowers.

Opinion:

  • The bungalow, its location and view of Uda Walawe Valley are magnificent
  • Staff are helpful and friendly
  • Bedrooms and bathrooms are huge but hot water is insufficient
  • Average Sri Lankan food and chef has no idea about European food
  • Beware of leeches in the garden. (Click here to read about avoiding leeches)

Practicalities:

  • Address: Viharagala Estate, Nikapotha PO, via Haputale, Sri Lanka.
  • Reservation & Sales Office: Viharagala Estate Bungalow (Pvt) Ltd. No 02, Inner Bagatalle Road, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka. Hotline: +94 779 918 800, Email: sales@viharagala.lk Web: www.viharagala.lk
  • Cost: Double room $160 per night half board. There are special prices for Sri Lankan nationals
  • The trip was arranged by Bandula de Silva of Sagami Holidays
Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Sri Lanka 2015 – A Night At A Tea Bungalow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s