Friday, January 10, 2014

Sri Lanka, Dilmah and a *Lucky* Winner

(Check out the photos at the bottom)
You know how you enter competitions and you never win?

Dilmah Tea Fields, adjacent to "Tea Trails"
 Well, I did!

It felt unreal, it was unbelievable, I mean who wins overseas trips? Not me, not you (it seems) but I won! It was via 3AW radio in Melbourne, a competition, not your regular ring in and win, but a
competition that actually required some thought, in 25 words or less, why I deserve to travel to Sri Lanka and see Dilmah's Operations. I thought about the entry for all of 2 minutes (I mean who honestly wins?)
My entry read:- I would love to win this for my darling husband of 25 years, every night I make him a tea and he loves it. He's never flown before and we have always talked about travelling, this would combine his love with a desire.
That was the winning entry. It's all true, and he loves tea.
As the dates approach I'm starting to get nervous, hubby is too. We don't even have passports, we've never flown anywhere before, let alone overseas! It's scary!
We organised the local chauffeured vehicle to the airport (and the return trip) and then really started to panic! It's REAL!
 We arrive at the airport early, and with Anne's (chauffeur) help find the right gate and we are away (well sort of!) Suddenly we are on the plane and the plane is taking off. It's real, we are seriously flying to Sri Lanka and going to see The Home of Tea.
 We change planes in Singapore, we almost missed the plane, Singapore's Changi Airport IS HUGE and 7hrs on a plane, I've stiffened up a bit and that slowed us down.
Water Monitor, Seen on the way to "Tea Trails"
Suddenly we are in Sri Lanka, people everywhere, but everyone is so friendly. We get through customs and are met by the Dilmah tour guide. Did I mention that telephone (or SIM card) salespeople are the same world-over? Yup they are!
One of the buildings in Colombo. Built in the 1800's
Several other Dilmah guests arrived on the same flight, we just didn't realise it at the time, we all piled on the bus and the fun began. The first stop was The Hilton in Colombo, we got there about 1am……. By 6am hubby and I were exploring the streets of Colombo. It was amazing, so much old world architecture, intermingled with lots of glass and cement. A city changing its skin like a chameleon. Tuk Tuks sharing the roads with 2013 Land Rovers! Beautiful and certainly a change from lil' ol' Melbourne.
Snake Charmer in Colombo.
We stayed in Colombo for 2 days, it felt like forever. We toured the Dilmah factory, it's a beautiful place, a place for the person, it's a family. Machines are present, but unlike Australia, people are the preferred method of getting things done. The love that is put into company of Dilmah, by the owners (Fernando Family) and the employees is a sight to behold.
Water Buffalo, as seen on the way to 'Tea Trails'

 The next stop was 'Tea Trails' a magical place, right in the middle of the tea fields, up in the hills. The mist in the morning and 4 poster beds of a night. An experience that should be on your bucket list!
Bridge over a river, notice the baggage being carried? Likely tea leaves
Tea Drying House
Steps at "Tea Trails"
 The rest of the tour were scheduled to visit the tea fields and drying houses, I opted out, as I know that yesterday I held up the tour group and knowing that the group would be going into the tea fields, it wouldn’t be fair to have me dragging them down. We had a wonderful day, being spoilt by the staff at Tea Trails and later in the afternoon we went for a walk in the village. I felt like the pied piper, with kids calling out in English and wanting to talk and then following us down the road. We caught a tuk tuk back (it was all uphill.) We stayed two nights here and it was a peaceful, quiet retreat.
Tea Fields, near 'Tea Trails"
Sunset over the Dam at 'Tea Trails'
 On the way to the next port of call, we stopped at the Temple of the Tooth. The Temple is a very special place, the age of and reverence within the Temple of the Tooth is sacred. It's so hard to explain. I was awe-struck. After our visit we proceeded to "Blue Water" (I think this was our favourite!) another 2 wonderful nights, another 2 wonderful days in heaven, smiling people both within and outside the resort. The weather was glorious, the views amazing.  The pool was the centre-piece of the resort (as it is with many). Early in the morning an elephant would be bought to the grounds and you could pay for a ride if you wanted (I wasn't game enough!) On the beach, the local fishermen would spend hours laying their nets and hauling them in. It was a sight to see. The food was amazing. You had spas at your fingertips, drinks from the poolside bar. You name it, I think everything was available, all you had to do was ask. We had a wonderful time outside the resort too. Took a tuk tuk and went shopping. We ended up in the Russian quarter. No longer were the signs in English, all Russian, felt very strange! Bought a beautiful dress 
Elephant rides at Blue Water
Fishermen at Blue Water
From Blue Water, we travelled to Uda Walawa and had lunch at Manduka. Manduka is a very special place, set up as an initiative of the Merrill J Fernando Centre, where women of the area can earn a wage, by throwing, baking and glazing pottery. It's amazing what can be done with so little. The next stop (again two nights) was Uda Walawe Grand Safari Lodge

Water Lily at Uda Walawa Grand safari Lodge
The Afternoon Rains at Uda Walawa Grand Safari Lodge
Rain Band coming in over the hills at Uda Walawa Many a cricket team has stayed here! A gorgeous place, squirrels literally on your doorstep and the  opportunity to go on safari just around the corner. While we were there - we visited the Elephant Transit Home, a very special place for young orphaned, mistreated and injured elephants. Perhaps have a look and make a donation. I know we did.
Orphaned elephant getting his daily feed of milk at the Elephant Transit Home
Elephant playing with water. Seen whilst on Safari
The next stop was Galle and a place called The Fortress. A truly beautiful place. Ravaged by the  2004 Tsunami, a full recovery has been made. The opulence of the surroundings is jaw dropping to say the least. Just around the corner (100m walk) you can see traditional pole fishermen, and a 20min drive in the other direction, you can see the Galle Fort, built in 1588 by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch with many different architectural styles clearly still visible today. Check out Wikipedia I was taken aback by the sheer thickness of the walls!
Night at 'The Fortress'
The Fortress was our last overnight stay in Sri Lanka, from Galle we proceeded to Colombo and checked into the Hilton again for a meal, to freshen up and then fly out at 1am.
Stall Holder
Our trip to Sri Lanka was a wonderful eye-opening visit. We saw very little of the civil war that ended in 2009, nor did we see much damage from the 2004 Tsunami. The people were so friendly and smiles everywhere. So polite and helpful. We were wandering around the local market at 6am the first morning we arrived and it was an amazing experience.
Temple in Colombo
Dilmah tea is not the traditional stodgy English hot tea you are used to, Dilmah tea can be served in many styles, from hot to cold and even infused in your food! Check out some of the Dilmah recipes here or create your own, perhaps you are a closet mixologist (bartender) or a secret chef! Why not tempt your tastebuds and find out!
We learnt so much about tea, about the Dilmah manufacturing processes and MORE importantly the Dilmah 'family'. Each and every employee is part of that family and it is they that brings to tea to you, for you to enjoy.

 Celebrating 25 years of Dilmah.
Tea made with Love, Care and a Commitment to Human Service
Thank-you to the Fernando Family and Dilmah staff, my husband and I had a once in a lifetime experience.

Squirrel, enjoying a nut. (Remember the Movie 'Up'?) Hubby and I couldn't get it out of our minds!

The tusked elephant (4%er) is approx. 45yo. We saw him on our early morning safari - and he wasn't moving for ANYONE!

Baby Elephant and sibling (cue the ooohhs!) - as seen on safari (another 4%er - Tusk)

Peacock in full show - as seen on safari

Boats in the Galle Harbour

Squirrel in silhouette

Pole Fisherman at Galle

Galle Market

Popular Form of Transport ;) (and good photo op!)

Railway crossing near 'The Fortress'

Railway Crossing Shed at same crossing

Temple of the Tooth. A wonderous place of beauty, age and reverence

'The Fortress' at night

Fisher monger on his motorbike weighing out fish in Galle

View from the Pool at 'The Fortress'
Bed made up at 'The Fortress'

Merril and Dilhan Fernando with Hubby and myself

Tea Lounge - coming to a location near you - look out for them.
Galle Fortress - A structure from the Spanish Period


  1. awesome! - congratulations! - Sri Lanka is certainly a beautiful place

    1. Sri Lanka is a beautiful place, not only the scenery, but the people. I think it was the people that 'made' Sri Lanka for us. Always friendly, always smiling. No matter the age or social setting.

      We were so lucky that Dilmah chose us to witness this first-hand - A once in a lifetime opportunity