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更新时间:2015/4/12 9:56:39 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In the Hills of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country

The man in the khaki vest slurped noisily from his cup, descended briefly into scowling meditation, spat the contents into a sink and then unleashed a torrent of approving descriptors, lavishly rolling his r’s along the way: “No foreign taste, very refreshing, robust, strong tannins, a tingly sensation at the end of the tongue — good show!”


I sipped as well and nodded gravely, thinking: right, but it’s still tea. Granted, it was excellent tea, cultivated just outside the Norwood Estate processing factory where we stood, surrounded by whirring machines and immense bags stuffed with tea leaves.


Deep into the island nation’s hill country.

Here, near the town of Hatton, in the alluring hill country of Sri Lanka, some of the finest tea in the world is grown at an elevation exceeding 4,000 feet. And as Andrew Taylor, the vest-clad Norwood resident planter and native Sri Lankan, had made emphatically clear, everything about this beverage required martial exactitude, from the small-handed women who carefully picked the leaves to the 170 minutes the leaves spent being machine-oxidized, to the 21 minutes of drying on long trays, and at last to the six minutes Mr. Taylor cheerily advised me was optimal to consume my drink after it was brewed — “so bring your stopwatch, ha ha!” Nonetheless, I confessed that I had other liquid preferences.

我们置身斯里兰卡美丽的丘陵,距离哈顿镇(Hatton)不远,在这个超过海拔4000英尺的地方,生长着世界上最好的若干茶叶。穿马甲的这位名叫安德鲁·泰勒(Andrew Taylor),他是诺伍德本地的茶园主,斯里兰卡人,他强调,任何与茶有关的事情都需要一丝不苟:茶叶要由长着纤细双手的女人悉心采摘、要在机器中经过170分钟的氧化发酵工序,之后在长长的托盘里干燥21分钟,最后,泰勒兴高采烈地告诉我,茶叶制作完成6分钟后是最佳饮用时间——“所以带上秒表吧,哈哈!”不管怎样,我坦白告诉他,我更喜欢的是另一种饮料。

“Coffee has almost no medicinal effects,” the planter scoffed. A regimen of four cups of tea a day, on the other hand, would indemnify me against indigestion, heart disease and general dysfunction. I asked Mr. Taylor how many cups he consumed daily.


He beamed and replied, “Five to six.”


Sri Lanka is a sunny heartbreak of a nation, a welcoming South Asian island country beset by three decades of ethnic war that came to an end in May of 2009, when the Sinhalese government routed the Tamil Tigers in a brutal show of overwhelming force. As many as 100,000 Sri Lankans died along the way. Another 38,000 were killed when the tsunami of 2004 pulverized its eastern coast.


It’s entirely possible to visit the country formerly known as Ceylon in a state of blissful ignorance, to ogle its elephants and leopards roaming about in the national parks, or to languish on the many beach resorts in coastal Galle and Batticaloa, and in that way sidestep altogether the scabs of history.


By contrast, the hill country stretching across the island’s midsection presents an authentic side of Sri Lanka that can be visited without experiencing pangs of guilt. Though largely unblemished by the long war, the roots of conflict — proud Buddhist nationalism (as evinced by the region’s great temples), the residue of British colonialism (apparent in its tea estates) and Tamil militancy (expressed in a single but notable act of violence, a deadly bombing in a Buddhist temple) — are all here to be discovered and pondered.


At the same time, the region feels like its own country, as it essentially was when the Buddhist Kingdom of Kandy held sway over the hills five centuries ago. It is noticeably cooler, higher and greener than elsewhere on the island, with the omnipresent terraces of neatly pruned waist-high tea plants as its aesthetic and economic organizing principles. Today Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of tea; most of it, along with the island nation’s excellent cinnamon, comes from the hill country.


The names of the plantations — Strathdon, Shannon, Kenilworth — are distinctly Anglo and many of the field workers today are descendants of the “plantation Tamils” who were transported by boat from southern India to pick the first tea leaves cultivated in the 1860s. (Shortly after the British awarded Ceylon its independence in 1948, the new Sinhalese government stripped the Indian Tamils of their voting rights, setting into motion ethnic grievances that would eventually lead to war.)


Navigating the hills by rail can be a beguiling experience but also a time-consuming one, as the trains move slowly through the undulating rough country and run infrequently throughout the day. I opted instead for a van with a cheerful Sinhalese driver named W. S. Yapa, who has been ferrying tourists and journalists throughout Sri Lanka for over three decades. (Sri Lanka’s roads are invariably two lane but well-paved and safe. And the country’s better hotels typically offer lodging for tourist drivers at nominal or no charge.)

乘火车在山间旅行是一种迷人但颇为耗时的体验,列车在崎岖的丘陵之间缓慢颠簸,每天的车次也很少。于是我选了坐面包车旅行,司机是个快活的僧伽罗人,名叫W·S·亚帕(W. S. Yapa),30多年来一直搭载旅客和记者们在斯里兰卡全境旅行(斯里兰卡的公路都是只有两个车道,不过路面状况很好,很安全。全国最好的酒店一般都给搭载旅行者的司机提供费用低廉甚至是免费的住宿)。

On the three-hour drive from the capital city, Colombo, to Kandy, Mr. Yapa pulled over twice so that I could visit roadside stands selling delicious locally grown cashews and boiled corn on the cob.


Kandy sits in a valley beside a placid lake that was ordered by the region’s last Sinhalese emperor. Like most Sri Lankan cities, Kandy, which has a population of 109,000, has the unzoned, mangy atmosphere of a once-small village that proceeded over generations to become sloppily urbanized.


I killed a couple of hours gathering up dried peppers and cinnamon at the local market and wandering through the tearooms — but really, one comes to Kandy for three principal reasons. One is to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, across from the university about three miles from the city — though I’ll confess that I did not do so, because it was drizzly and the grounds are famous above all for their orchids, and even on a dry day I am strangely underwhelmed by orchids.


Besides, Kandy’s other two attractions were easily worth the trip. The first is the famed Buddhist sacred Temple of the Tooth, in the very center of town. While paying 1,000 rupees (about $8 at 125 rupees to the dollar) for admission, I noticed the security guard informing a female tourist that her dress did not cover her knees. Unruffled, the woman walked over to a nearby clothing vendor and, for about 25 cents, rented a sarong, wrapped it around her waist and strolled through the security gates. I slipped off my shoes, entered through the security booth and found myself in a crease of the city where all is suddenly hushed and orderly.


The sumptuous marble temple contains two large shrines, along with a series of paintings that memorialize the odyssey of the Buddha’s tooth from one place to the next until the end of the 16th century, when it at last arrived in Kandy and is presently entombed in a small gold casket. Upstairs from the shrines is a small museum with incense, jewelry and other relics of the imperial era. One floor up was a memorial of a different kind: an exhibition of photographs depicting the temple’s wall in a state of semi-demolition, the result of the 1998 bomb blast attributed to the Tamil Tigers that killed 11. Sixteen years later, security guards were still frisking visitors before they entered the temple complex.


From the temple I wandered a few hundred yards into the Kandyan Art Association and Cultural Center just as an hourlong performance by traditional dancers and fire-eaters was getting underway, led by a Sumo-sized but fervid and surprisingly nimble young male dancer. Watching them hop across a bed of fiery coals reminded me that I needed to retrieve my shoes. I did so, called Mr. Yapa on my cellphone and together we drove from the temple into the hills above the city, where I was due for an evening at Helga’s Folly.

出寺院再走几百码,我来到康提艺术协会文化中心,这里有传统舞蹈和吞火表演,长一个小时,我来的时候正演到一半,领衔的是一个年轻的男舞者,身材好像相扑运动员,但却极具激情,而且意外的身手矫健。看着他们跳过一片燃烧的煤块,我突然想起还得回寺院取回鞋子。我回去取了鞋,用手机给亚帕打了电话,从寺院开车驶进城市上方的山麓,赶往夜色中的海尔格富丽酒店(Helga’s Folly)。

The visual pandemonium of this rambling 35-room chalet — Dali meets Addams Family — overwhelmed me at first, like tumbling through a kaleidoscope of oil paintings, vintage furniture and spicy fragrances. As the photographs on the walls attested, the Folly’s 60-year-old guest dossier includes Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sir Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck and Vivien Leigh. The suite I stayed in felt like a large, dramatically lit family scrapbook. A sign admonished me to keep the windows closed so that monkeys wouldn’t raid the kitchen. Peering out, I could see a few of them scampering from the treetops.

这是一片散乱的山间房舍,有35个房间,有点像达利外加亚当斯之家(Addams Family),一开始,繁杂的视觉效果就令我为之震撼,感觉自己在无数油画、古董家具与香料的万花筒里跌跌撞撞。墙壁上悬挂的照片告诉人们,60年来,富丽接待的贵宾包括圣雄甘地(Mahatma Gandhi)、尼赫鲁(Nehru)、劳伦斯·奥利维尔爵士(Sir Laurence Olivier)、格里高利·派克(Gregory Peck)和费雯丽(Vivien Leigh)。我住的套间有点像一个巨大的、富于戏剧色彩的家庭剪贴簿。一个告示牌告诫我关好窗子,以免猴子冲进来跑到厨房捣乱。向外看去,的确有几只猴子在树梢上蹦蹦跳跳。

While eating my excellent curried lamb in the candlelit dining room connected to my suite, a red-haired, pale-skinned woman in a crushed velvet dress and oversized sunglasses materialized from an unseen staircase. This was the proprietress, Helga Perera. She asked if she could join me and then told my waiter to bring me a different dessert, her personal favorite — though, to be honest, I was no longer paying attention to the food.

正当我在套间旁边的烛光餐厅吃着美味的咖喱羊肉之际,一位红发雪肤的女人从一道隐蔽的阶梯上款款而下,她身穿带褶皱的丝绒长裙,戴着大号太阳镜——正是这里的女主人海尔格·佩莱拉(Helga Perera)。她问能不能和我一起用餐,并让侍者给我上另一道甜品,这是她的最爱——不过实话说吧,看到她我就没法再注意食物了。

When I inquired as to what planet she was from, Ms. Perera said that she was born and raised in Kandy, the daughter of a prominent Sri Lankan politician and a mother who was active in Berlin’s Bauhaus art scene. For the last few decades she had lived in the private quarters upstairs with her third husband, a former local tea planter and presently a “total recluse” surrounded by weathered books.


Ms. Perera said her mother had designed this structure as their family home, as “a sort of Bauhaus” artist collective, and that to this day artist friends stayed at her hotel to pursue their inspirations. I found myself wondering if Jack Torrance, the murderously blocked writer in “The Shining,” might have found a more agreeable balance of work and play at Helga’s Folly.

佩莱拉夫人说,这里的建筑是她母亲设计的,既是为了家人,也是为了“某种包豪斯的”艺术群体,至今艺术家朋友们都会到这个酒店来寻求灵感。我忍不住思忖,电影《闪灵》(The Shinning)里受困于杀人之念的作家杰克·托伦斯(Jack Torrance)如果来到海尔格富丽的话,可能就不会落得“只工作不玩耍”了吧。

I left the hotel the next morning in a lingering state of stupefaction. The 40-mile drive upcountry to the town of Hatton took us two and a half hours. The hills were tropical, and fruit stands girdled the two-lane A-7 highway, which had little traffic beyond the ubiquitous feral dogs and three-wheeled Asian taxis known as tuk-tuks.


As we continued to climb, past 4,000 feet, the vistas opened up to reveal majestic waterfalls and terrace after terrace of tea plants. We pushed through the compressed beehive of Hatton, past Castlereagh Lake and into the heart of tea plantation country, a world of verdant staircases occupied by laborers with heavy bags across their shoulders. When I stepped out of the van into the crisp mountain air enveloping the spectacular gardens leading to the bungalow where I would stay that night, I suddenly lost all memory of that unforgettable place in Kandy.

我们继续向上行驶,大约过了海拔4000英尺,眼前出现一片巨大的瀑布,茶园的梯田鳞次栉比。我们穿过熙攘拥挤的哈顿,经过卡斯尔雷湖(Castlereagh Lake),深入茶园之乡的腹地,这里到处都是绿油油的梯田,工人们肩扛着沉重的大包行走期间。走出面包车,山间新鲜的空气扑面而来,茶园美景一览无余,远处有几间平房,我晚上就要在那儿过夜,面对此情此景,康提那些难忘的景色也不禁被我丢在脑后。

I had arrived at Tientsin, the oldest (built in 1888) of four bungalows operated in the Hatton area by Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka’s first Relais & Châteaux resort. Shortly after I was shown to my colonial high-ceilinged room (one of six in the bungalow), the chef knocked on my door and proceeded to describe the three-course lunch and four-course dinner he had in mind for me to make sure that I had no dietary concerns.

这里名叫Tientsin,是“锡兰茶径”(Ceylon Tea Trails)酒店在哈顿地区运营的最古老的四处平房酒店(始建于1888年)之一,“锡兰茶径”也是斯里兰卡的第一家罗莱夏朵(Relais & Châteaux)集团酒店。这里有六座平房小屋,我住的是其中一座,服务员领我进了殖民地风格的高屋顶房间,没过多久,大厨就敲响我的房门,为我描述他为我设计的有三道主菜的午餐和四道主菜的晚餐,还问我有没有忌口。

I sat on the patio overlooking the terraces and enjoyed a near-perfect meal of carrot and coriander soup, fresh bread, grilled tuna with tarragon sauce and apple crisp. I was about to order tea when the manager informed me that wouldn’t be necessary: I had an appointment in 15 minutes at the nearby Norwood tea factory with their planter in residence, Mr. Taylor.


Two hours after my tea-slurping seminar, I went for a long stroll through the tea plantation abutting Tientsin. Along the narrow roads, the only other pedestrians were women carrying freshly plucked leaves in large sacks or bundles of tea plant branches to use as firewood back home. The British planters had long since left the hills: Their estates had been expropriated by the new government in the 1950s, then returned to them a few years later, though the ensuing years of war and government-initiated land reform efforts had compelled their interests elsewhere.


Even under local ownership, however, a colonial air pervades the region. The women laborers greeted me warmly and chatted among themselves as they, with their armloads, walked off into the setting sun, but I suffered no illusion that their $4-a-day livelihood was a particularly happy one.


Presently I was alone, moving through the sea of leaves, past residences pumping out local music and Bollywood dialogue. Behind me tucked into the hills was a single aglow building, the Tientsin bungalow, and I would get there when I got there.


Mr. Yapa picked me up the next morning at 7:30. The three-and-a-half-hour drive along the A-5 to Ella was even more absurdly beautiful — velvety mountains, the mighty Devon Falls, the twinkling Gregory Lake, the wildly baroque roadside Rama Sita temple — than the previous day’s journey. And an even sweeter surprise was Ella itself, the one town I would unhesitatingly recommend as a destination. (Caveat: I didn’t have time to visit the much-touristed city of Nuwara Eliya with its profusion of vegetable gardens and fine colonial buildings.)

翌日清晨七点半,亚帕来接我。我们沿着A-5公路开了三个半小时,来到艾拉(Ella),这里的风景美到不可方物——天鹅绒般苍翠碧绿的群山、巍峨的德文瀑布(Devon Falls)、波光粼粼的格里高利湖(Gregory Lake),路边奇异的罗摩西塔寺(Rama Sita)——比起昨日的景色还要有过之而无不及。最美妙的惊喜还要算艾拉本身,这才是我可以毫不犹豫地推荐给所有人的小镇(注意:我没去游览游客众多的努沃勒埃利耶(Nuwara Eliya),那里有很多植物园和精美的殖民时期建筑)。

Ella possesses an agreeable scruffiness, the tea plantations and noble birch trees sharing the landscape with a host of ramshackle restaurants and guesthouses. A couple of miles past town, we pulled in to the Secret Ella, a sleek resort that had opened only two months earlier. The concierge showed me to my shiny wood-and-concrete room and presented me with a mobile phone with which I could summon him at a moment’s notice.

艾拉有种令人愉悦的保守气息,茶园之间矗立着高贵的桦树,镇上有不少老旧的饭馆和宾馆。我们住在镇外几英里的“秘密艾拉”(Secret Ella),这是一处隐蔽的酒店,两个月前才开张。看门人带我进了崭新的木结构混凝土房间,里面放着一部手机,供我随时用来召唤他。

Though it was getting chilly, I could not resist the rolling views from the dining patio, where I was presented with enough food — fruit salad, wild mushroom soup, curried fish — to fortify five of me. I did what I could before wandering down the road to the Secret Ella’s big sister, the lovely 98 Acres Resort, with its swimming pool seemingly hoisted up by the tea terraces.

尽管有点冷,我还是忍不住到天井里用餐,顺便饱览美景,晚餐分量很足——水果沙拉、野生蘑菇汤、咖喱鱼——足够五个人吃。我尽量享用了一番,然后沿路走到可爱的“98亩酒店”(98 Acres Resort),它可以算得上是“秘密艾拉”的姊姊了,那里有个游泳池,似乎正坐落在茶园之上。

I took a drink at the bar and continued my stroll downhill toward Ella. Then the rain began to fall hard. Drenched, I staggered into a place called the Curd & Honey Shop, at the town’s main junction. Those gathered on the covered patio were similarly soaked: a German family of four, a Chinese female traveler and an American techie named Neil who had cashed out a few years ago and was now backpacking across Asia, with tomorrow’s destination being Kandy where a five-day course in meditation awaited him. I counseled Neil to visit Helga’s Folly. Then I ordered a pot of tea, which cost about a dollar.

我在酒吧喝了一杯,然后又一路下坡,走到艾拉。这时开始下起大雨。我很快就浑身湿透,冲进一家名叫“炼乳与蜂蜜”(Curd & Honey Shop)的地方,这是镇上最大的娱乐场所,院子里遮起了天蓬,各种各样的人都进来躲雨:一个德国四口之家,一个来自中国的女游客,还有一个名叫尼尔的美国技师,几年前他破了产,现在成了背包客,在亚洲到处旅行,明天他要到康提去次参加五天的冥想课程。我建议他一定要去海尔格富丽看看。后来我点了一壶茶,只要一美元。

I sat there for an hour or so, watching the rain thin out while the ancient properties of the local beverage worked their magic on me. Newly imbued and somewhat dry, I marched back uphill.