While the talk of the town is the tourist boom and the elaborate construction of celestial class accommodation being built for the impending influx of foreigners eager to sample Sri Lanka’s delights, residents seek more simple places to stay for a few nights away from home.
That’s what enticed me to try the MF Holiday Bungalow at 1,219m (4,000 ft) above sea level, 5 km north-west of Bandarawela. This differs from the usual tea plantation bungalow as it was built not in Victorian or Edwardian times or even in the 1930s but within the last decade. Thus, it has the advantage of modern plumbing and purpose-built guest rooms, as well as carefully selected “period pieces” to add atmosphere.
Perhaps the greatest attraction (apart from the view down a tea-clad valley) is that guests can please themselves. When I stayed, there was a cook on duty who bought provisions from the village and dug up vegetables from the garden.
He cooked a hearty hill country breakfast of string hoppers and curry, and a chicken dinner for which we paid the menu price. When a friend of mine stayed at the bungalow with his family a week later, they took their own supplies and cooked for themselves.
Guests can rent either the entire bungalow of six bedrooms or just take rooms and stay on bed-and breakfast basis. This flexibility creates a relaxed atmosphere that no formal guest house or hotel ever achieves.
Although it is new, the bungalow has an exterior of granite blocks that is typical of old properties. Its roof, however, instead of being painted the dark green of plantation bungalows, is of modern, tanned tiles. Its entrance door opens onto a hall with a parlour on either side, and a central lounge with space soaring up to the roof above the first floor.
Here, again, it resembles an antique plantation bungalow because of its spaciousness. The parlours have knickknacks associated with a planter’s lifestyle, such as a hat stand made out of tree trunk and an old gramophone.
A collection of 1960s long playing records is available and at sunset, the bungalow resounds with ballroom dance music creating a delightfully nostalgic moment.
There are two bedrooms off each side of the central lounge, each with a double bed and an extra single bed, as well as an attached bathroom. Two of the bedrooms have narrow verandahs overlooking the garden, the valley of tea bushes, and an “eco-hut” made of clay half walls with an avocado tree growing through its roof. There are two more bedrooms off the first-floor gallery.
Most of the bungalow‟s furniture is chunky; locally made using local timber, instead of imported Chinese faux furnishings or Indonesian lumber. The dining room with its view of an organic vegetable garden is ideal for families or for a small conference session. Guests can amuse themselves in the bungalow (there is television as well as the record player), join in plantation activities or hike through hills to visit a village Kovil.
At sunset, I sat on the verandah with a book and a cup of flavoursome estate tea and relished the tranquillity, without a tourist in sight. When I asked why the bungalow is called “MF,” I was told it is named after the two brothers who own it. For me, though, this holiday bungalow with its high wooden ceilings, home-crafted furniture, refined Sri Lankan cuisine, cosy bedrooms and picturesque setting, the letters “MF” could stand for “Maximum Fulfilment.”