Before we stopped off at the Grand Hotel our guide took us for a brief tour of Nurawa Eliya. It’s honestly not a stunning place but we were assured it’s about to become a World Heritage Site.
Nuwara Eliya is only 180 Km from the hot and humid Colombo but it is said to be "blessed with a salubrious climate". In reality that means it’s a lot chillier here and there was certainly no need to Air Conditioning in the bedrooms!! It’s a very green and lush area and Nuwara Eliya (meaning the City of Lights) is also known as 'Little' England'. It’s not difficult to imagine why it appealed to the British and it soon became their favourite hill station. Just looking around you can see how they tried to create the town into a typical English Village.
There are some interesting 19th Century houses around the town some of which have been built with stone from England. The story goes that goods were exported from Ceylon, as the British called it (the island has been variously called Taprobane by the Ancient Greeks, Serendib by the Arabs, Ceilao by the Portuguese), but there was nothing that was really required to import back to the island. Not wanting to return with an empty ship the English loaded it up with building stone and then incorporated it into the design of the more prestigious buildings in Nurawa Eliya. These prestigious building were built as "proper mansions" some in the style of English houses and others adopting the classic colonial properties of India.
There’s the old brick Post office, country houses and gentlemen’s club, an 18 hole golf course (although my friend who’s a keen golfer didn’t think that the course was up to much) and even a race course. It must have been like home from home for the wealthy and influential British folk that moved her or visited the region.
As a contrast to these grand houses our guide took us to the local food market and educated us on some of the more exotic fruit unique to this part of the world. He seemed well known by the market traders and they were quite happy for us to take photographs of their stalls. We were looking at fruit and vegetables that we’ve never seen before and all looked fresh and colourful. Most of it looked quite tasty but the odd one – well, I’m still not sure. Our guide then stood near a small stall of items that seemed most unappetising. He explained that the "wrap of natural products" were for mouth hygiene and he then started to demonstrate by crunching on some stone like items and then opening a leaf (the contents of which are best left un-described) and chewing on them.
He explained that after a time the saliva would turn red. We stood like children at a magic show and then as sure as I’m typing this into my computer he showed us what he meant. My children would have said "gross" and indeed it was!
Next he led further in to the market to check out the dried fish. I have to say that was marginally less attractive than to "teeth cleaning concoction" and reminiscent of some of the horrendous food items that I remember seeing in the markets of Beijing. The fresh fish looked more appetising, if not a little "ripe" in aroma, but just at the end of the market were a couple of butchers shops selling beef and lamb respectively. I’m not squeamish, but I passed on by!
Beyond the food market we passed by a load of small shops selling all manner of goods. A real insight into the trading life of a town in Sri Lanka – complete with the smells and noise that is generated my market traders and their customers. Well worth checking out.