2012年8月13日 星期一

High tea 印度產茶區成為精品度假地

 產茶區成為精品度假地High tea作者:英國《金融時報》撰稿人詹姆斯•克拉布特里

After four hours of driving across flat, dusty plains and up hair-raising mountain roads, south India's tea country looks like something from another world. It almost does the landscape an injustice to say that it is green, given the many shades of lush, verdant terrain.
Thousands of lines of carefully sculpted tea bushes roll across the hillsides in front of us, like a giant, unfolding, emerald mosaic. Low cottages dot the valley, and from time to time I catch sight of distant groups of gaily coloured tea pickers, high on the slopes above. Gazing out, and stuck for comparisons, I am reduced to Hollywood: the island from Jurassic Park; the forest in Avatar.
映入眼簾的是山坡上成千上萬壟精心修剪的茶樹林,猶如一副漸次展開的巨幅翠綠色馬賽克圖。低矮的村落點綴山谷,遠處高高的斜坡上、一群群穿著艷麗的採茶人不時躍入視野。凝望車窗外的世界,不由得讓人浮想聯翩好萊塢的電影:《侏羅紀公園》(Jurassic Park)裡的島嶼以及《阿凡達》(Avatar)中的森林。
My partner and I are on our way to stay in two converted bungalows, first in Tamil Nadu then in the neighbouring state of Kerala. Built in the first half of the past century, bungalows such as these were once the jewels of Britain's imperial tea plantations , where colonial estate managers and their families lived a life that was at once luxurious and isolated.
我與同伴正馬不停蹄地趕往兩座翻修一新的平房,並打算入住於此。第一座位於泰米爾納德邦(Tamil Nadu),另一座則位於相鄰的喀拉拉邦(Kerala)。這兩座建於上世紀前半葉的平房曾是大英帝國茶葉種植區的瑰寶,殖民時期的茶園主及其家人曾在此過著奢華而又與世隔絕的生活。

Today, the economy of these plateaus is changing, with fewer managers needed to run the area's many tea factories. As a result, the bungalows are being renovated to provide luxury of a more modern sort: high-end holiday cottages. The second in which we are to stay, in particular, has been recently refurbished at a cost of $2.2m, and we are to be its first guests.

A driver is all but essential for such a trip – tea country has no railways and only a few rickety local buses (car hire is possible for foreigners, but not straightforward or popular). Ours picks us up at the airport to begin the drive from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu's second-largest city.


He explains that the journey will culminate in a road with 40 hairpin bends, as we climb towards the town of Valparai, more than 1,000 metres above sea level in the heart of the Annamalai mountains. Sure enough, as the climb begins, roadside signs announce each in turn. As we go up we also get a first glimpse of the wildlife for which the area is renowned. Dozens of monkeys patrol the kerbside, while at one point a rare mountain goat, a nilgiri tahr, wanders out in front of us .
他向我們解釋說:趕到位於安納馬萊群山(Annamalai)中心地帶、海拔1000米高的瓦爾巴賴鎮(Valparai),整段路要經歷40個險彎。毫無疑問,爬坡後,路邊的標示牌依次警示著下一個險彎,我們也有幸看到該地區名聞遐邇的野生動物。我們看到許多猴子正在馬路邊“巡邏”,而在另一處,一隻稀有的山羊——尼爾吉里塔爾羊(Nilgiri Tahr)正漫步於我們前方。

The first bungalow sits in the middle of the Stanmore estate, a working tea plantation about 12 miles outside Valparai. As we pull in, we see a green tin roof, a neat garden, and sweeping views of the valley below. Inside the furnishings seem to have changed little since the place was built by a British planter's family in the 1930s, down to the charming, if spartan, period furniture. This feeling of stepping back in time is only reinforced by the friendly, if occasionally slightly overly attentive, house staff. There is a chef too, whose expansive meals are easily large enough for a party of eight, rather than just the two of us. But we don't complain as we are greeted on the verandah with a plate of local snacks and pots of “factory fresh” tea. We take it Indian style: milky, with plenty of sugar.
第一座平房位於瓦爾巴賴鎮外12英里斯坦默爾茶場(Stanmore estate)的中心位置。停靠好車後,綠色馬口鐵房頂、整潔的花園以及腳下山谷中的勝景盡收眼底。進到屋內,看到自上世紀30年代英國茶場主家族修建以來,屋內的擺設(包括精緻簡樸的仿古式家具)似乎還是原模原樣。看到彬彬有禮、神情異常專注的服務人員後,這種回歸到過去的感覺愈發強烈。此處還備有廚師,他準備的豐盛晚餐8個人享用都綽綽有餘,更甭提就我們兩位客人了。但看到陽台上盤子裡堆滿的當地小吃以及幾罐新炒製好的茶,我們還抱怨什麼?喝茶的方式入鄉隨俗——加很多醣的奶茶。
Intrigued to learn a little more about the area's history, I arrange later in the evening to have tea – what else? – with a local plantation manager, who has lived and worked in the area since childhood. As we talk, he hands me a dog-eared photocopy of a history book which explains how this once heavily forested region was first opened up in 1875, in advance of a proposed hunting trip for the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.
我倆很想再多了解一些當地的歷史,於是晚上請到了當地一位茶場主喝茶(還有什麼比這更合適呢?)。對方從孩提時代起就在此生活工作,閒聊期間,他遞給我一本已經翻得皺巴爛的影印本歷史書,其中介紹了這片曾經森林密布的地區如何在1875年被開發成茶場,此事就發生在當時威爾士親王(Prince of Wales)、後來的愛德華七世(Edward VII)原定的狩獵之旅之前。
The trip was to be no small affair. More than 100 servants, about 150 “attendants on horse” and even a dozen “European postillions” were lined up. And while the hunt was ultimately cancelled, a base camp established in anticipation of the royal arrival became the region's first settlement, and the starting point for the planting of hundreds of thousands of hardy tea bushes.這次狩獵可謂興師動眾:100多位奴僕、約150名騎馬侍衛、甚至還有10多位“歐洲左馬御者”緊隨左右。雖說這次狩獵最終被取消,但靜候王儲駕臨而修建的營地則成了該地區第一個定居點,從此開始了漫山遍野種植茶樹的歷史。
We rise early the next morning, preparing to set out for a hike around the local area. Just before we leave, a siren screams out across the valley, a signal to the local tea workers that work is to begin. Our exploration begins in more relaxed fashion, with a packed breakfast at another of the bungalows on the estate, next to the start of the trail we are taking.
Our real aim for the day is to spot one of the herds of wild elephants that roam nearby, our hopes raised by frequent road signs reading: “Elephants have right of way.” As if to whet our appetite, our guide entertains us with stories about buildings on nearby plantations that have recently been damaged by more than a dozen of the giant visitors.
But while India's largest animal proves elusive, we do suddenly find ourselves surrounded by another local favourite: a troupe of lion-tailed macaques, endangered monkeys found only in this part of southern India. Some clatter around on the tin roof above, while one intrepid male makes a decent fist of commandeering our car.
Elsewhere, we spot a handful of malabar giant squirrels in the trees above, an unusual and charming furry animal, about the size of a small dog. Later in the day we cross paths with a herd of gaur, a hefty species of wild bison with impressive curly horns that come together over its head in the shape of a heart. When not animal-watching, we walk contentedly through the sunny tea fields, occasionally chancing across groups of pickers, and return pleasantly tired, ready for another large meal.
On the third day we're up early again to bundle our belongings into the car for the trip's second long drive, across the border into Kerala. The trip takes us back down to the plains, passing palm-tree forests and banana groves, before climbing back up to the hill station of Munnar and our destination, the Talayar Valley bungalow.
第三天,我們又起得很早,把自己的行囊塞入車裡,準備越過邊界進入喀拉拉邦,準備驅車開始第二段長途跋涉。途中又回到了平原地帶,穿過成片的棕櫚林與香蕉林,然後再次爬坡,到達山中避暑地蒙納鎮(Munnar),並最終抵達我們的目的地——位於塔拉亞爾谷地( Talayar Valley)的平房。

The scenery is subtly different here, craggier and more mountainous, but the second bungalow looks much like the first, on the outside at least, right down to the green roof and rose garden. Inside, however, the contrast is dramatic, with its period feel tastefully but comprehensively updated, creating a look that is more high-end boutique hotel than colonial family residence. Our guide explains that the just-completed renovation took more than two years. Under the direction of conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, the rooms have been given contemporary touches while still paying homage to the traditional turn of the century planter's bungalow. Its owner, the Woodbriar Group, currently has eight more bungalows in the process of restoration.
此處風景顯得與眾不同——更加層巒疊嶂與崎嶇,但至少從外觀上,第二座平房(下至綠色屋頂與玫瑰花園)與第一座平房大同小異。但進至屋內,風格迥異——古色古香,但總體又很現代,所營造出的氛圍與其說是殖民時期的家居,倒不如說更像精品高端酒店。導遊解釋說剛剛竣工的翻修耗時兩年多時間。在保育建築師艾卜哈•納瑞恩•蘭巴(Abha Narain Lambah)的指導下,房間賦予了當代氣息,同時又保留了20世紀初茶園主所住平房的傳統建築風格。其擁有者——伍德布里爾集團(Woodbriar Group)目前正對自己名下的八座平房進行修復。
On our final day I make a trip to Munnar town, which, apart from a small tea museum, has little to detain visitors for long. There is more fun to be had at the High Range club, an old tea planters' club, where we have lunch. The bar is decorated with trophies from imperial sporting endeavours. One wall is even given over to the hats and pith helmets of those who worked in the area, alongside the heads of many of the animals they shot.
旅程最後一天,我們造訪了蒙納鎮,除了一座小型茶博物館外,小鎮實在沒啥能讓遊客再躑躅長留的景點。以前的茶場主俱樂部——High Range俱樂部倒是讓人流連忘返,我們在此吃午飯。酒吧里陳列著大英帝國時期各種體育比賽所奪得的獎杯。其中一面牆甚至還展示了當時勞作者用過的帽子與太陽帽,旁邊則掛著獵獲的各種動物頭骨。
But while the town provides a brief diversion, we quickly want to be back in the lush, rolling countryside outside it. Only then does the true charm of the area – that feeling of being somewhere stuck in another age – gradually return.
It is a feeling oddly confirmed by the tea plants themselves, which turn out to have remarkable longevity – a sign in one field informs us that it had been planted in 1929. It's a thought that stays with me as we sit out in the garden on our final night, enjoying the cool weather and watching the sun dip down over the tea-covered hills. As the green of the valley turns a misty blue in the distance, it seems for a moment as if we are looking out over history itself.
James Crabtree is the FT’s Mumbai correspondent
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Munnar Hill station
Munnar is located in Kerala
Coordinates: 10°05′21″N 77°03′35″ECoordinates: 10°05′21″N 77°03′35″E
Country India
State Kerala
District  • Idukki

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Tamil Nadu
—  State  —

Tamil Nadu Emblem
Motto: Truth alone Triumphs
Anthem: Invocation to Goddess Tamil
Location of Tamil Nadu in India
Map of Tamil Nadu
Coordinates: 13.09°N 80.27°E

James Crabtree was a guest of Transindus (www.transindus.co.uk), which offers a six-night trip, including four nights at the tea estates mentioned, from £580 per person, or £1,175 including flights from London