Time Travel in Sri Lanka

Time Travel in Sri Lanka

After a couple of days in Colombo, Sri Lanka's pleasant capital, we visited the ancient Buddhist sites at Anuradhapura (staying in a wonderful old colonial guest house) and Polonnaruwa, as well as the Elephant Orphange at Pinnawala, the wonderful Botanical gardens at Perideniya, before arriving at the hill town of Kandy, roughly in the island's centre, where we visited the world famous Temple of the Tooth and were entertained in the evening by some fantastic Kandy Dancers. We'd also had a couple of nights in at the Heritance, Kandalama, an award winning hotel a few miles from the astonishing rock fortress at Sigiriya. (We'd visited Sigiriya early in the morning, before it got too hot; it's a long, but really worthwhile, climb to the very top, with its remarkable frescoes and superb views.) A notice in all the Kandalama rooms warns you not to leave your windows open, as monkeys can cause havoc in your room. We took heed of it, but it was a unique experience to have a family of monkeys watching whilst you showered! After Kandy, we started to climb ever higher into the beautiful, peaceful Sri Lankan tea country. We stopped - as so many visitors do - at the Blue Fields Tea gardens, where the process of tea production was explained to us and had a delicious lunch in their café before continuing to our destination for the night, the pretty town of Nuwara Eliya. (And, naturally, we bought some tea to take home.) Here we were to stay at the Hill Club. "It's a hoot!", our Sri Lankan friend had told us in Colombo, using a slightly antiquated expression, but one that turned out to be very appropriate. From the outside it looks like the sort of stone building you'd find in the Scottish Highlands, again appropriate enough; we were certainly in the highlands, even if they were tropical ones. On arrival we were made very welcome and had to become temporary members, which was no problem. Less expected, though obvious when you consider the tradition and history, was my discovery that I'd have to wear a jacket and tie for dinner. I had neither with me! No problem, they have a wardrobe of jackets and ties that may be borrowed for the occasion and I had no problem finding a jacket that fitted and a tie that - just about - went with one of my shirts. The rooms are large, spotlessly clean and comfortable, but very 1950s. Or earlier! It was a step back in time and, when we went down to the bar for a pre-dinner drink, we were enthusiastically greeted by the Club Secretary, who asked after our comfort and was, evidently, very pleased to see British guests there. It was early December and, as we settled in the bar, of all things, a Bing Crosby Christmas album was being played! I asked my wife what she wanted to drink and she asked for a dry martini, remarking that she'd never ordered one of these ever before, but this seemed the time and place where she should. And, indeed it was. In contrast to this and our surroundings, our menu for dinner in the dining room was quite sophisticated and modern, as well as being great quality and very reasonably priced. Local people were at tables for an evening out and we could understand why they chose to come. Fine food and a delightful ambience. There was only one drink, after dinner, that seemed appropriate: brandy & soda. We sipped these in the lounge, overlooked by a large black and white photograph of a radiant young Queen Elizabeth II and a rather dashing Prince Philip, placed above the fireplace. I recognised the photograph from my childhood in the 1950s; it seemed as apt and appropriate picture, in these surroundings, as you could have wanted. After our night there we went on to Yala National Park where, if you are lucky - and we were - you can see leopards during the day. There are no tigers in Sri Lanka so the leopard, being the dominant predator, is not so secretive and hunts by day. After all our travelling, we spend the next week unwinding at another excellent Heritance Hotel, this time at Ahungalle, where each night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves breaking on the wonderful, sandy beach. We have so many delightful memories of Sri Lanka. But, oddly the one that has lingered longest is that of the Hill Club. I'm still trying to work out quite why!Hill Club Sri Lanka Roy Wills

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