ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47

On the trail of colonial luxury

By Esther Williams

A little after a year of opening, Tea Trails of the Bogawantalawa Valley has received amazing reviews, establishing the fact that Sri Lanka is capable of providing world-class service

“It is unprecedented in the history of Sri Lankan tourism,” says CEO Forbes & Walker Group, Thilan Wijesinghe.

Tea Trails featured in the Luxe list of Best New Hotels in Asia for 2006 along with Geoffrey Bawa’s Lunuganga, is among 33 hotels in Asia - rising above the rest for concept, style, service and surroundings, also figuring in Conde Nast Traveller Magazine’s Hot list of new hotels for 2006. Besides, WOW Traveller writer Mary Gostelow ranks Ceylon Tea Trails as the top place out of 10 locations worldwide to ‘pop the question to your partner’ while the Independent newspaper, UK includes it in the five best colonial hideaways in the world.

Castlereagh bungalow

“The fact that a select band of Sri Lankan hotels is rubbing shoulders with the most prestigious names in the global hotel industry is a source of pride to the country,” Mr. Wijesinghe adds. Despite negative publicity, Sri Lanka continues to attract the discerning travellers who are on the lookout for fabulous location, charming rooms, delicious food and gracious service, Mr. Wijesinghe adds. “We offer an authentic Sri Lankan experience.”

Barely three hours away from the Colombo, a scenic drive would lead to the charming classic colonial bungalows – Summerville, Castlereagh, Tientsin and Norwood – situated 4000 feet above sea level and 4-15km apart.

The rooms offering luxury living in the hills, with stunning view of lakes and reservoirs are named after British estate managers whom they were originally built for in the days of the Raj. Among other facilities they provide duvets, hot water bottles wood fire and chimneys – a feature that has drawn much appreciation.

Bedroom at Norwood

“Small is getting beautiful in the luxury bracket,” explains CEO Forbes and Walker Leisure, Dominique Nordmann. Speaking of the current trends, he says, “People are looking for small, integrated boutique hotels where they feel like individuals rather than tourists.” Such travellers are willing to pay premium for an explorer experience as opposed to the tourist experience in locations that are out of the beaten track – giving them opportunities to integrate with local population, learn about new cultures and appreciate the tea experience.

At Tea Trails guests get to visit a tea factory, witness plucking, engage in tea tasting and visit the line houses - the ‘life on the tea estate experience’ created following a tremendous amount of research.

Refurbished the 20-luxury rooms and suites offer peace and quiet to unwind, trail-walks from one bungalow to the other and opportunities for adventure – biking, trekking or white water rafting.

Summerville garden

Although Tea Trails is chiefly marketed to UK, Europe, Holland, Germany, China and the Middle East, packages are available for the local market at appealing rates. Notably, their prices are all –inclusive. Drink, laundry or trekking are included in price, the options comprising of luxury rooms, garden suites or the master suites.

Packages are also available for families and companies, increasingly gaining popularity as a honeymooners destination among Sri Lankans.

Ceylon Tea Trails is a partnership between majority shareholders MJF Leisure, a member of the Dilmah tea family of companies, Nick Clayton and Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Ltd.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.