Nuwara Eliya in July

hot water July – because you might still be wondering where to go for summer vacation in July and I highly recommend flying to Sri Lanka from the UAE. It’s near, it’s cheap and it’s wonderful.

We visited Sri Lanka last summer and I’ve not quite gotten to writing more about it. My bad. We stayed in Colombo with a dear friend but I’ve always wanted to go to Nuwara Eliya, that mountain region famous for its scenic tea plantations and cool weather. Cool weather, in Sri Lanka? I know, that’s why I have to go and experience it myself!

The train ride from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya lasted for seven whole hours. We have lived to tell the tale!

train to Nuwara Eliya

When you hear the word Sri Lanka, you’d think of warm weather all year long, every where. But the truth is, Sri Lanka’s weather and climate is rather complicated for such a small country. Sri Lanka’s position close to the Equator means that temperatures remain fairly constant year-round.

But temperatures decrease with altitude – a pleasantly mild 14–17°C in Nuwara Eliya where nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing.

jackets for sale

It was almost the end of July when we were there, yet these jackets were on display for sale at the market. Obviously, there was still a need for it. I was tempted to buy one.

St Andrews grounds

While in Nuwara Eliya, we stayed at Jetwing St. Andrews, a nice historical building that offers modern comfort. It’s more than a hundred years old! We left the hotel after breakfast to explore the small town. Jetwing St. Andrews is centrally located and the town is a walking distance.


The fish market at Nuwara Eliya – just because there’s no shore nearby doesn’t mean the locals would be deprived of fish, a staple food in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is easily accessible by land through Ramboda Pass towards Nuwara Eliya along Gampola – Nuwara Eliya road.

fish market


In earlier times, Nuwara Eliya (meaning ‘City of Light’) was the favoured cool-climate escape for the hard-working and hard-drinking English and Scottish pioneers of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. This classic Victorian style brick building (this is a post office) is evidence of this town’s English influence.

post office

Look at the mountains blanketed in fog – in July!

nuwara eliya post


In Sri Lanka, the town of Nuwara Eliya is known as “Little England”. Apparently much of it was built by the British to remind them of home whilst they managed their tea estates. The Queen Victoria Park is a sprawling 27 acres of beautifully manicured gardens. The kids loved strolling around these lush, verdant gardens.

victoria park

p and b at victoria park 1

Queen Victoria park is a great place to relax and enjoy the natural sights and clean mountain air. Something we don’t have in Dubai!

p and b at victoria park 2

p and b at victoria park 4

p and b at victoria park 3

Unfortunately, the children’s playground is not well maintained with play things rusting, it’s almost dangerous for kids. I hope they repair those soon.

nuwara eliya lodges

Surrounded by hills and tea plantations, the town of Nuwara Eliya enjoys spring-like weather throughout the year. A favourite retreat of the British during colonial times, the town is dotted with English country style houses and half-timbered bungalows, with names like Sunhill Cottage or Windsor Hotel. No surprise it’s earned the name “Little England”.

victoria park 2

Tip when visiting Nuwara Eliya at anytime of the year: bring warm clothing.

We were there in July yet it was chilly. I am sure during other times of the year, it’s safe to bring jackets, etc. We were in Maldives first before going to Sri Lanka and I didn’t bring any closed shoes nor woolly things to wear. My feet was freezing.

Benjamin at the entrance of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

Benjamin at the entrance of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Showing the kids animals in the wild whenever possible has always been my plan in our trips, whether they’re small birds or butterflies – it doesn’t matter. They don’t get to experience it in Dubai.  Our trip to Sri Lanka was a perfect chance to see one of the magnificent animals – the elephants in the wild. I have only been able to see elephants in a zoo type environment so I was also looking forward to this trip.

The very helpful agent from Jetwing Travels suggested we go to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka on our way from hill county of Nuwara Eliya back to the capital city.

Related read: Road trip from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Today’s photo essay takes you with us to the elephant orphanage we visited where elephants roamed chain-less.  Visitors from all over the world come to see this sanctuary for over 80 retired, abused or orphaned elephants.

I have not seen this many elephants in one place ever in my whole life. And this close? It’s overwhelming.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

You can find all types of elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage – male, female, old , young and even calves, abandoned or lost in jungle living free and breeding in this 25 acre land. A project launched by the Wildlife Department about four decades back is now managed by the National Zoological Gardens.

It’s an understatement to say that our kids Pristine and Benjamin had a lovely time. Pristine was very eager to get close to the elephant at the fruit feeding station. Benjamin stepped back and wouldn’t go near just yet. Here you can see Pristine touching one elephant.

P with elephant

At some parts of the orphanage, I have read over at Trip Advisor that mahouts (elephant caretakers) ask for money in exchange for touching the elephants of taking photos of them up close. At this particular feeding station, we weren’t charged for anything. There were trays of fruits for sale to feed the elephant. I took these photos without being charged or anything.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The elephant caretakers at the feeding hut were fascinated by Benjamin and kept calling him “little white elephant”.

P and B with elephant

There’s a milk feeding station too but we didn’t have any photos of any of us bottle feeding the baby elephants because, we didn’t. First, there is a separate fee for that. Next, we didn’t like how it became so touristy with so many people hovering around the poor baby elephant. The animal must be too overwhelmed or even stressed. We left and went to see the elephants who were roaming freely in the field instead.

So while waiting for the river bathing time, we explored the back side of the orphanage and we’re pleased to see that the animals generally seemed very well cared for with large expanses to roam.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Here, the elephants are roaming free but they are closely watched. We never felt unsafe standing this close to these animals.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

When it was 2 pm, we heard the signal – it was time to take the herd for their daily bath at the nearby Maha Oya river. We followed the herd after a while – not too close as it is dusty to be following them behind closely!

bath 4

The Maha Oya river is about 500 meters away from the orphanage.  It was a lovely sight to see! The elephants had a lovely time in the river, with some lying in the deeper water and others just hanging about.

Maha Oya river

A few elephants were still lingering in the river when we left.

Maha Oya river


1. Prepare cash as they don’t accept credit cards for the entrance fees, at least when we went there in July 2014.

We have ran out of cash and had to withdraw from an ATM machine outside the premises. Sometimes, depending too much on plastic money can be an inconvenience.

2. Bring food, especially if you’re taking kids along. The shops inside selling food are limited.


Benjamin was very hungry when we arrived there and I forgot the small bag with food inside the car, parked outside. My husband went to get the bag and for the meantime, the caretakers at the fruit feeding station gave us pieces of watermelon and bananas. These food were meant for feeding the elephants for a small amount of money per tray but they were kind and said “for your little white elephant madame!” (they didn’t ask us to pay for the fruits)

3. Be careful of the lure to get close to the elephants to touch them or take photos of them up close as this is not free, especially at the river!

maha Oya river

4. When the elephants head to the river for bathing, secure a table at a restaurant at the Elephant Bay Hotel. The hotel is located at the left side when you’re facing the river from the road.

I didn’t know this but my every resourceful husband found us a good vantage point while we enjoyed a late lunch on the balcony, overlooking the river while watching the elephants enjoying their water time.

View from the balcony of the hotel

5.  Aim to arrive at the orphanage before the scheduled bathing time at the river scheduled at 10am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm.

Maha Oya river

We had a fantastic time at this place and glad we took this side trip with the children. Benjamin still remember this trip when we look at the photos and say, “we go there again, mama”. I was a bit worried reading some reviews that some mahouts beat the elephants and don’t treat them right. I didn’t want my children to see such maltreatment. The handler’s did have sticks, but they were only used to coax the elephants. I told the children that elephants, even the babies are heavy and need to be kept controlled for the safety of all.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated between Kandy and Colombo, accessible via Kegalle-Rambukkana road. Entrance is 2,500 Sri Lankan Rupees or about ($20).

Pristine and tea plantation

Road trip from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Pristine and tea plantation

I’ve been meaning to write about Nuwara Eliya, that charming town located in a mountainous area in Sri Lanka right after we came back from our trip last July (wow, that really sounds like a long time ago) but somehow postponed and postponed it until now. Well, better late than never!

The town of Nuwara Eliya is home to the famous Ceylon tea and the rolling mountains are carpeted of velvety green tea plantations. Since the town is about 1,800 meters above sea level, it’s cool up there and hard to imagine that it is only 180 kilometers away from the hot and humid Colombo.

mackwoods tea factory

The town is also popular for being called “Little England” with beautifully cultured gardens and cottage style buildings like this tea cafe at the Mackwoods Tea Factory along the way to Kandy.

In order to see the breathtaking views in Nuwara Eliya, we had to go on a 7 hour train ride from the capital city of Colombo to Nanu Oya station.

It’s hard to think of going back to Colombo by train again so we hired a private van via Jetwing Travels who was so helpful in arranging everything for us. There was a specific Jetwing Travels advisor with whom I was in touch by email. The communication exchanges, willingness to create the perfect trip (at a price to suit my budget) and attention to detail were excellent. The trip back to the capital ran smoothly and the driver/guide was excellent.

We left our charming Tudor style hotel Jetwing St. Andrews very early at 7 am as we needed to be at our next destination, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage before 2 pm to catch the bathing of the herd at a nearby river – that is one scene we really didn’t like to miss!

We asked the driver is we could make a quick stop at places he think is interesting. Our first stop is the tea factory called Mackwoods. The vast tea plantation is owned privately and called “estates”. This is the Mackwoods Estate. There is a huge sign in the mountains, obviously mimicking the famous Hollywood sign.

fam at mackwoods

We were treated with sights and smell of nature at its best. There was a waterfall down the hill and the husband and Benjamin went down to see it.

maki at mackwoods

waterfalls 1

Pristine and I, together with our guide went inside the cottage for tea sampling.

tea at mackwoods

The tea was a very timely as we are feeling cold early that morning. I made a blunder by forgetting my jacket as we got down from the van and thought I’d just suck it up rather than waste time going back to the parking.

I bought boxes of fresh Ceylon Tea to take home. It’s actually a great souvenir/gift since it’s very light and it was very cheap at the tea factory.

As we traveled further down steep mountain passes snake down to Kandy, I felt a wave of motion sickness. We didn’t know it would be like this and we’re certainly weren’t ready. And we thought traveling by train was worse! I had to ask the driver to stop as I felt I needed some fresh air, immediately!

monkey edge 1

The driver stopped at one bend of the road where other cars have stopped as well. They were all looking to the cliff and we knew why. A group of mountain monkeys were hanging out at the edge of the rock in the cliff.

A closer look at the monkey.

monkey edge 3

Benjamin was fascinated seeing these animals in the wild, in person otherwise, he only saw them in National Geographic episode!

We continued our journey and as the van zigzagged through the mountains, I just kept on breathing deeply and closed my eyes. Benjamin on the other hand was becoming restless. He is very resilient with the challenges we had for this travel, including international flights and 2 seaplane trips but I could feel something’s not right.

benjamin at mackwoods

All of a sudden, the little boy threw up. It was so sudden that my first instinct was to catch the vomit with my hands – I am sure any parent could relate?! I did not want to ruin the rented van’s carpet! Poor little boy!! I cleaned up the mess while battling with severe motion sickness myself.

And the driver said, ONE MORE HOUR of the zigzag roads, Madame…

I had to ask for another ‘fresh air’ break.

We saw the Bathalegala in the horizon. The rock stands as a colossus dwarfing the surrounding landscape. The Colonialists called it ‘The Bible Rock’, as it resembles an open book.

bible rock

The scenes along the way from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy when going by car was as spectacular as the scenes from the train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya by train.

pristine taking photo of waterwall

The winding road descending from the hill country passed through tea plantations, beside the waterfalls that cascade down the hills, and into misty valleys. It was a very memorable experience despite the motion sickness!

You can checkout my Instagram posts about our trip to Sri Lanka with the hashtag #GraceInSriLanka.

Next up: Visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Should you give to beggars while traveling?

in colombo bus

One of the best things I love about traveling with my children is being able to impart lessons otherwise they could only see in television or read in books. They learn it first hand; sometimes it’s a joyful experience but sometimes, it’s a sad one.

But nevertheless, they learn something important.

We were in Colombo last summer when while walking in the streets in one of the city’s main train stations, a beggar approached us and asked for something (either money or food, I am not sure since we don’t speak the local language). We were in a hurry to catch the bus on the other side of the road so we walked past him and did not give. Our ten year old was stumped.

This is something our children do not see everyday in Dubai. In fact, there are NO beggars roaming in Dubai (actually there are but very discreet as it is illegal here and they can get arrested – it is common during the holy month of Ramadan. Otherwise, you could not see any obvious beggars here).

Pristine was shocked at our naivete, and I remembered the same face she made when we traveled to the Philippines when she was 5. I grew up in the Philippines and street kids and beggars are not new to me. Still, I cringe at the thought of children living in the streets, putting their lives at stake and living by chance – depending on other people to give alms for food, for their basic needs. It hurts more after I had children of my own.

children at colombo fort

I had to explain to my daughter (again – I already told her when she was 5 but I doubt she remembers our discussion that time) that tourists should not give to beggars, children or not. Never mind it’s the cutest child, or a disabled one or a blind man. Our daughter could not understand it and she started to cry. She was very disturbed with my seemingly ‘cold’ decision not to give to the needy.

We needed to catch the bus at the other side of the road and the pedestrian light is turning red so we walked past the beggar, crossed the road and got on the bus.  We spent the entire journey explaining why giving money to (child) beggars is the least generous thing a tourist can do.

Here are reasons why giving to beggars (especially children) do more harm than good:

1. It contributes to the cycle of begging and poverty.

Children learn quickly and if they become aware that they can earn in the streets from begging, they will continue to do so. The more you give to beggars, it affects their way of thinking that it’s a viable thing to do and so they will continue to do it. And some impoverished parents even encourage children to beg instead of sending them to school.

2.  The money you gave might not be for food but for drugs.

In my home town, there’s a group of children living near the church who spend their entire day begging and when someone gives them, they buy cheap drugs to get high.

I’ve read in one article that even the most seemingly harmless gifts often end up into something else: A Consortium for Street Children report, for example, found that when tourists gave milk powder to child beggars in Brazil, the children traded that milk for crack cocaine. Yes, milk for crack.

3. You might be supporting a ‘begging mafia’ that exploit children.

In India, it is reported that thousands of children disappear every year and end up in the streets forced to “work” as beggars. And since disabled child beggars get more money than healthy ones, criminal groups often increase their profits by cutting out a child’s eyes, scarring his face with acid, or amputating a limb (remember the movie Slumdog Millionaire?).

4. It keeps children away from school.

We give (money or small gifts) in the best intention to help but these children can resell it and skip school since they are earning in the streets.

5. The government will downplay the problem.

The government, the entity that should find solution to helping kids off the streets will downplay the problem because children who continue to get something from tourists are thriving.

It is not easy to ignore children in the streets. It still breaks my heart whenever I am in a taxi in Manila and children tap the window when the taxi stops at a signal. Those eyes. Those ragged clothes. No slippers. Those children risking their lives cheating death by chasing cars. The taxi driver always say to “lock the door”.

I told our daughter that not giving money to child beggars doesn’t mean we don’t care about children and turn our backs on them. We can help by donating to legitimate NGO’s and charitable agencies, orphanages, etc. We need to find ways to be kind to children that don’t encourage continued cycle of poverty, or support human trafficking and organized crimes.

But I tell you what, all this well-founded advice is tough to follow when standing face-to-face with a child who look truly starving, who obviously needs help. I was waiting for a bus one stormy night in Manila many, many years ago when a child came up to me, begging for food. She did not have any umbrella and was completely soaked and feeling very cold. I had so many thoughts racing in my mind but in the end, I gave a small amount, I couldn’t help it. And now, I always pray no one comes near me to beg, especially children because it is still difficult to say no and walk away.

Have you encountered children begging in any of your travels? What did you do? I know I have readers out there with some amazing perspective. I would love to hear from you.

Jetwing St. Andrews entrance

Where we stayed: Jetwing St. Andrews, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Jetwing St. Andrews entrance

I couldn’t wait to write the review for this hotel when we arrived in cool Nuwara Eliya after that scenic but rather challenging train ride from Colombo. I know I’ll have so much to say and because I don’t (more of can’t) really blog while on the road, my Moleskine diary is filled with notes about this hotel.

So glad I finally got the time to publish the review and share these photos has come.

Our trip to Sri Lanka entailed a lot of research. It’s our first time in this country and while we had friends in Colombo to take us around and guide us through the city, we did not know anyone in the Sri Lankan highland retreat of Nuwara Eliya. We read guide books, online hotel reviews. When you’re traveling with children, you just tend to become more…cautious and probably over think everything.

And by “you”, I mean “me”.

Sri Lanka is a pretty diverse country where you can enjoy the city, the beach and the mountains and because we just came back from our wonderful beach holiday at The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Resort in the Maldives, it was time to see the mountains.

We picked to stay at Jetwing St. Andrews for two nights because of the good reviews online. Since we traveled by train, we had to stop at the nearest station which is Nanu Oya. We hired a private van arranged by the hotel (it’s a third party service and we paid Rs. 1500) that picked us up from Nanu Oya and drove us to the hotel. The travel time was about 30 minutes.

It was rainy and misty as we arrived at Jetwing St. Andrews, a colonial  Tudor style mansion that sits at 6,182 feet (1,884 meters) above sea level cradled amidst the mist covered mountains.

rooms with hot water

This place looks nothing like tropical Sri Lanka you know or have seen in the photos. First, it was really cold. I never thought I’d be able to blurt out the word “cold” in Sri Lanka. There are signs all over the place like this – for budget travelers looking to stay with the basic necessity: hot water.

Confession: All I wanted to do while in Nuwara Eliya was soak in either hot water or under the warm blanket!


The check-in process was fast and smooth and we were guided in the newer wing of the property, on the second floor. We were upgraded to a Suite Room (yay!) and couldn’t be any happier since the bed is bigger (we co-sleep with an active toddler) and they also arranged an extra bed for our tween.

entering the room

We loved this bed so much and had a very restful sleep especially after that very long and tiring seven hour train ride from Colombo. So charming, isn’t it?

room 1

Other photos of our room:

heater in the room

small living room

small living room



1. Beautiful colonial property

The hotel is an old colonial building that was built in the latter part of the 19th century. However, the bedroom we occupied was spacious, modern, clean and opened onto the beautiful gardens.

st andrews grounds

By the way, there is an old billiard room inside the hotel that is more than a hundred years old.

old billiard room

2. Very pretty hotel grounds

The hotel was like an old English mansion in big manicured grounds. Each room offers a view of the distant mountains and lush vegetation-clad hills.

st andrews grounds

st andrews grounds

3. Wooden floor rooms

There’s something about wooden floors that gives that warmth, cozy feeling. And warm and cozy is what you would want in a cold place like Nuwara Eliya.

Jetwing St. Andrews suite room

4. Great fireplace

It’s hard to believe you’re still in Sri Lanka with the vast climate difference between the capital city of Colombo and hill county Nuwara Eliya.


Sitting by the fireplace in the hotel lobby enjoying the misty evenings was one of the highlights of our stay here. However, the fireplace can get really crowded. We attempted so many times before we had the sofa to ourselves, for only a very short time.

5. Very near to the city center (see the clouds touching the mountains!)

city center

It is very easy to wander into town and have a look at some of the shops, colonial style buildings and the botanical garden. The Victoria Park is very near (another post in another time).

6. There is WiFi in the room


7. Food was good.


A great selection of breakfast is served very early from 7 am and what I really LOVED about it was you can opt for “breakfast to go”. We needed to leave very early after checkout so it was difficult to drag the sleepy kids to the restaurant, let alone let them eat. The staff offered breakfast to go boxes where I get to choose the food and they carefully wrapped the parcel to take with us to our car.

Dinner option is buffet or ala carte. Dinner served international cuisine with live cooking stations but with a variety of Sri Lankan food options too.


no elevator only stairs

There are no elevators in this colonial estate. So you might want to consider it when you have heavy luggage or strollers for smaller children – the staff are more than happy and helpful to carry those things for you but I suppose when the hotel is busy at peak season, that could take some time to reach your room(?).

The hotel can arrange for guided nature trail walks and other outdoor activities but unfortunately, we didn’t go to any and just walked to the nearest Victoria Park (another post, another time). We were feeling so cold, because we were under-dressed – of course our fault for not listening to what all the other are saying before we embarked on this journey: “it’s cold up there!”


I was almost tempted to buy one of these winter jackets at the city center.

Like many places in Sri Lanka, the staff attentiveness and their assistance with the children was exemplary. If you want to stay at a heritage hotel which also offers all modern conveniences, choose Jetwing St. Andrews at Nuwara Eliya.

Jetwing St. Andrews
No. 10 St. Andrews Drive, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Tel: + 94 52 2223031

We stayed as guests at Jetwing St. Andrews. However, all opinions in this review are mine. For more information about this hotel, please visit the official website.

Train ride in Sri Lanka, to the mountains!

Sri Lanka airport

After our glorious five days at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort in the paradise that is the Maldives, we were ready to go back to reality (I mean we really have to, at some point). You know, see people around who aren’t tourists in a small, secluded island, probably have some street food, get on a local bus and explore a city in the real world type of activities.

We landed in Sri Lanka with a renewed sense of adventure.

It is a totally different world. Not necessarily better or worse but different. And we love exploring and experiencing something different in our travels. Sri Lanka has always been on my travel bucket list because of its proximity to the UAE, cheaper airplane fares compared to say when we go to Japan or the Philippines and I heard the food is amazing and the people are friendly.

And it is very green. And even rains in July.

We’ve lived in the desert for almost 8 years now and the words “green” and “rain” always excites us.

(I will skip mentioning our first days in Colombo and jump to the part where we were crazy enough to take the challenge of taking Sri Lanka’s train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (210 km south of Colombo) because I’ve read that this must be the most scenic train ride in whole of Sri Lanka.)

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is located in the hill county south of the capital city of Colombo and accessible by public transport, by train for about 6 hours (approximately) from Colombo Fort Station to Nanu Oya Station in Nuwara Eliya.

VERY IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP (and you will thank me for this!): Don’t eat or drink too much during this train ride if you are in the 2nd class or 3rd class carriage. I know it’s a looong journey but the toilets are dirty. And while I know many will not mind in case of emergency (I know I wouldn’t too), I personally did not want to use it, as much as possible. Ever. Until we reach our destination. (Thank me for not posting a photo!)

Anyway, there were a bunch of high school (?) kids in our carriage and instead of taking photos of what’s ahead, I turned my camera towards the back of the train and saw this young student taking photos with his iPhone (as most passengers did). When I blinked, he almost lost grip of the phone and it nearly fell off from the moving train!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

TRAVEL TIP: it might be very helpful to put something to strap your phone to your wrist during these kind of train rides. (I wonder how many phones/cameras have fallen in this route?)

Also what makes it dangerous for phones and cameras is that the train is really SHAKY. If you live in the Dubai and curse the Metro for the crowd during rush hours, I want you to stop complaining and think of the tracks. How smooth and perfect it is compared to the train in Sri Lanka. See for yourself and be thankful!


We opted to sit in the 2nd class seat because 1st class is too touristy and 3rd class is too local (not that we didn’t like that but with two young kids, we felt 2nd class was the safer and more comfortable choice).

What I’ve read is that you get better views in the 2nd class and it’s true. The views were breath-taking as was the very fresh and cool mountain air!

Note on the train classifications: 3rd class is very basic and gets very crowded, and it is not generally recommended for visitors. 2nd class seats are the recommended option on trains with no 1st class. A 1st class observation car is available on one or two of the daytime trains on the amazingly scenic route from Colombo to Kandy and Badulla. The observation car is normally at the rear of the train or occasionally behind the locomotive and has comfortable though slightly grubby armchairs facing a large window looking back along the track.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Travel tip: You may actually prefer 2nd class as the opening windows in the non-A/C 2nd class cars are much better for photography and sightseeing. Plus, we wanted a break from the aircon environment in Dubai!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

The first few hours was fun. We loved the scenery as it was totally different from Dubai, most especially. Man, look at those trees and plants! And it’s different from Maldives as well. I’d like to think of it as something out of a scene from rural Philippines.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

I suddenly missed my home town. The kids enjoyed the ride …well at least for a few hours!

kids in the train

Benjamin is into trains. No surprise, he is after all a boy.

Benjamin and dad

kids in the train

After a while, the little humans got bored, switching activities from drinking juices and Milo (you don’t know how hard I prayed he wouldn’t poo!!), to sleeping to swinging in my legs like a zonked out Koala bear.

in the train 1

I feel very lucky to be traveling with these kids. They love the simple joys on our travels. They don’t fuss or throw tantrums and patiently wait for each of our journey to end. And Benjamin didn’t poo!!

The ride seemed ENDLESS. I was also very tired already – I thought I’d be ok because I have internet data on my phone (life is good as long as you have internet, right?). I updated my social media channels whenever I had the chance (you follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, yes?) but there were places where there is no signal at all. I took a lot of photos through my phone and my SLR to while away the time but FIVE hours into the train ride, I think I stopped taking photos. And just wrote on my journal. But the train was really shaky I stopped doing that too.

Then we reached the peak of the mountain!

Nuwara Eliya

We were 1,464 meters above sea level. The world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at 828 meters so imagine THAT. We were higher than the top of Burj Khalifa!

The wind was getting colder as well. I never thought I’d say, “it’s cold” while in the tropical island of Sri Lanka! The view was magnificent from up there. Nuwara Eliya is the tea capital of Sri Lanka and sure enough, tea plantation fields are all around.

tea plantation

tea plantation

When the train pulled into one of the stations near our destination, we can see a group of passengers in warm clothing.

Nuwara Eliya

Fleece jacket.

Leather jacket.

Knitted caps.


Ladies in long, thick skirts.

We were in shorts. Flip flops and t-shirt. Thankfully, I always bring jackets for the children when we travel because the plane can get really cold so they used their jackets while my husband and I froze. It as about 10C when we arrive. In July! In Sri Lanka!!

That long stretch of train ride that lasted for SEVEN hours was a very unforgettable experience for all of us. I would highly recommend you do it if you have the chance to be in Sri Lanka although honestly, I don’t think I’d do it again! Maybe because my legs were just tired of Benjamin lying on it like that one in the video or maybe because I was really scared to use the washroom so I didn’t eat or drink much (DON’T JUDGE until you see the toilet, ok?).  Or maybe because I was really cold when we got off the train, haha! I am glad I took a lot of photos to remember that very beautiful place atop the mountain! I wanted to bottle up the fresh air and take back with me to Dubai.

How about you, where was your most unforgettable train ride?

Next up: A review of where we stayed in Nuwara Eliya, Jetwing St. Andrews Hotel.