On day four, we left the Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya behind and headed into the tea country of Sri Lanka. I’m somewhat reminded of the vineyards of Napa or Tuscany as we passed all of the different estates. Instead of grapes, there are tea trees, but it is just as picturesque.
Glenloch Tea Factory
Our first stop was Glenloch tea factory to learn about the tea making process. This is one of the few tea estates with a processing factory on the grounds that is open to the public. As a tea drinker, I found it interesting to learn more about this. After the tea leaves are picked, they are laid in long, narrow trays with large fans at the end. They stay here for 12 hours before dropping down chutes into the rolling and crushing machine. This breaks down the leaves into small pieces, which then go through a sieve to make sure that they are all small enough. They are then moved to the fermenting area for 90 minutes. After that, the stems are removed and graded by size first and then taste. And just like wine, tea is assigned a rating:
We also had our first in-person experience with some of the women who pick the tea leaves for a living, and a great photo op. For some reason, she doesn't seem as thrilled to be taking the picture with me as I am with her...
Temple of the Tooth
The city of Kandy is not only one of the biggest tourist town of Sri Lanka, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Kandy, one of the biggest sites is the Temple of the Tooth. In a country where about 70% percent of the population are Buddhist, there are temples everywhere. Temple of the Tooth is probably the most sacred as it houses one of Buddha’s teeth. The story is that it used to be kep in India and in order to protect it, one of the princesses smuggled it out in her hair and brought to Sri Lanka for safekeeping.
The Temple was also the royal palace of the Kandyan king and his multiple wives. Within these grounds are the former rooms of the king and his queens, along with the places of worship. There are three ways to do this - by offering flowers, lighting an oil candle or lighting incense.
Although people come at any time of the year, there is the annual Festival of the Tooth that brings tens of thousands to the temple and lasts for several days. There are processions with elephants dressed in elaborate costumes, music and dancing. The actual tooth relic is only brought out every 5-7 years and when that happens, people are lined up literally for miles to see it.
After Kandy, we had what was supposed to be a 90 minute drive to our next hotel. It ended up taking over twice that, partly because of traffic and partly because our next hotel was in the mountains with narrow, winding roads the only way to get there. I was pretty glad that it was dark and I couldn’t really see the road. There were spots where the driver’s assistant had to get out of the bus to help direct him so that we stayed on the road. The bus couldn't even make it on the last bit of road, so we stopped and changed vehicles. I was one of the lucky (?) ones that got to ride in the tuk tuk. We did make it to our next hotel safely and the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge was a luxurious surprise. We were welcomed in the traditional hindu way with oil and red clay to the forehead and flowers, followed by tea and cookies. They clearly know how to make a girl feel welcome!