June 14, 2017

The butler did it!

When I arrived at Tea Trails for the first time I was introduced to my private butler, Suresh. Resplendent in a silvered sarong and matching shirt, (He has 4 sets to choose from) he was everything I envisaged a butler to be. Tall, handsome and quietly spoken. In fact, I’ll admit it here for the first time, I was a trifle intimidated.

I’ve stayed at several top class hotels in my life but never have I had the privilege of a personal butler. And I had no idea on how to act!

Was there a butler’s pantry he would suddenly emerge from as I pottered around the room? Would he creep around the suite in a pair of slippers frightening me to death when I saw him out of the corner of my eye? Would he cough discretely if he wanted my attention? Or would he, like a certain Royal Prince’s Butler, squeeze my toothpaste in readiness every morning?

Suresh turned out to have none of these idiosyncrasies. In fact, he is one of the nicest people I have ever met and he looked after me with care and respect.

He already knew my name, where I was from, how long I would be staying because he’d received my personal profile the day before. That’s what service used to be like. Know your guest. And at Tea Trails they certainly do.

His day obviously started well before mine as he arrived at 8 am sharp to help me prepare my day. His day, on the other hand, can last anything from 6 hours to 20 depending on what service the guest requires. If there’s a dinner party in your bungalow, then he’s probably in for a long haul, but an early night in preparation for an early (1 am) start to climb Adams Peak means he can retire early too.

That’s exactly how the 1st Class staff in any of the world’s better airlines treat their guests. Whatever needs doing, they do. Because they are not just trained to respond, but also to anticipate a guests’ needs without asking. In fact, it took just 1 day for Suresh to remember that my favourite drink was black tea infused with Ginger. Spicy and very refreshing!

“Your tea is ready Sir, but I can make you any flavour you like if you’ve changed your preference”.

There were times during my stay when I experienced the full gamut of Dilmah’s tea range in an unforgettable tasting experience, but that’s a story for another day and I remained with my favourite for the duration of my wonderful stay.

Immaculately dressed, Suresh almost glided round the room and asked what my plans were for the day.

I’d decided to explore the local area on foot so his next question was so relevant, I was almost embarrassed. “Would I be looking for wildlife or just admiring the scenery”? Obviously the former if there was any around. My answer dictated my choice of clothes from my limited wardrobe.

Dark clothes and long trousers.

The reason being that I would blend in more with the forest and increase my chances of seeing something worthwhile whilst the strongly recommended wearing of a pair of metal leg guards would protect me from leeches.

Now, I’m not the squeamish type having survived the jungles of Costa Rica, but leeches?

Apparently, they are not that common but they can move with amazing agility and you don’t know they are there. BUT, they simply can’t get past the metal as there’s nothing for them to grip.

My bathroom was all prepared and ready for me to experience. The shower was running, the toiletries laid out (organic and natural, of course) and I was left to my own devices.

Before he left to prepare my breakfast, I asked him about his training.

He’d worked in several of the top-class hotels in The Middle East and was trained by them to an exemplary standard. He’d also been trained in top-class hotels in Sri Lanka having completed his initial training at the National Hotel School in Colombo.

All the 8 Butlers at Tea Trails have followed a similar path and none of them have less than 10-12 years’ experience at Supervisor or Captain level.

Due to their international experience, all the Butlers speak excellent English and obviously, Sinhala and Tamil. There’s also a little German and French that’s greatly valued by those nationals. Mais, Oui!

Because of their past training at top hotels, each of them possess a fairly deep knowledge of wines, both to drink socially at any time of the day and as an accompaniment to particular dishes.

Suresh was no exception.

I trusted his recommendation of an excellent Chardonnay during the day and to accompany my 1st Sri Lankan dinner, a full flavoured Pinot grigio. I have to say it felt strange quaffing an Italian wine from Lombardy in the hills of Sri Lanka whilst savouring the full flavours of a Sri Lankan curry.

The best news? It worked!

What was strange to me was the fact that Suresh, and I guess the other 7 butlers, didn’t think like a Butler. It was more akin to being served by a hotel manager. Such was the attention to detail. And often unspoken.

Here’s a small example.

I wanted a day out in Kandy so he organized a car to get me there (along with a Tea Trails driver) and then booked train tickets for the return journey to Hatton. 1st class of course and don’t ask me how he got them at one day’s notice. Apparently, that was a feat in itself.
When I detrained at Hatton that evening, a car and driver were waiting to take me back to my Bungalow.

Suresh had checked the arrival times of the trains, allowed for a small delay and organized the car accordingly. That’s what I like about Tea Trails. The attention to detail that makes me feel as if nothing is too much trouble. And it usually isn’t.

Unless you want to do something a little out of the ordinary. Like dine under the stars.

I can’t think of anything more romantic than looking up and seeing nothing but the Milky Way curving into the distance and listening to the sounds of the night with a soft breeze accompanying each delicious course.

Suresh was of a similar mind and I marvelled at his thoughtfulness. He reminded me that being at 4,000 feet I might feel somewhat chilly. So he organized a blanket to cover my knees if I needed to. And there might be some insects that could fancy a late night snack off me, so a couple of Citronella candles were also provided.

Voila! My dinner under the stars was all set.

What a night and dinner it was! Unforgettable, and thanks to Suresh and his band of helpers, it passed off without incidence or bite.
There’s only one other thing I have to mention.

In most of the cities of the world where top class accommodation abounds, you’re usually pretty close to medical facilities in case something goes wrong.

It was very reassuring to learn that all the Butlers possess basic first aid skills for those odd scrapes and grazes. (well, Tea Trails might be a luxury destination but going climbing, trekking, white water rafting or cycling invites the odd war wound or two).

It was also reassuring to know that a well-equipped District hospital was just down the road so anything serious could easily be treated.

Having Suresh look after me so well made me more determined than ever to win the jackpot on either the Euromillions or Powerball Lottery. I could get seriously used to this life.

And there‘s every excuse to return too. After all, I’ve only been looked after by Suresh. There are another 7 butlers to put through their exemplary paces.