The Tea Garden Holiday Inn is a house-turned-motel as is the norm with most inns and guest houses. While they might not exactly be top class in terms of facilities, the warm service and pretty location made our stay enjoyable.
The Inn is just a few metres from the bustling and rapidly evolving Ella Town. So we had easy access to all the cafes, supermarkets and ATMS within the vicinity as long as we decided to bite our tongues and go. The walk is brisk and a good way to freshen up before you hit the town, so there's that advantage. It can be very tempting to take a tuk, but dude just save that Rs. 100 for a thambili or whatever and plod on.
We booked this place through booking.com and it cost us Rs. 7,322 for two nights and three days. This is quite expensive mind you, but accommodation in Ella isn't cheap at all. Unless you're paying by the dollar, that is.
We got there a bit too early (6:00 AM) and immediately regretted this decision. Check-in times at most - if not all - places are at 10:00AM, so what were we to do for the next four hours if not enjoy a much-needed nap?
Thankfully, the receptionist showed us to a double room much like the one we booked, so we settled for this instead. Win-win.
As you can see, the room isn't exactly comparable to a suite at the Shangri-La or whatever, but it did the job. The bed was a bit high, but comfortable nevertheless. We received clean linen and sheets despite the many comments on their booking.com page where people spoke of the opposite. All in all, the room was clean, and minimal.
You can use the window to step out into the balcony and chill for a bit. There's a small secret area if you walk to your right. It's dirty there but offers a nice view of the mountains.
The lighting is nice and dim as well. I will say that you must bring your own basic amenities such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo. Towels are provided, but bring your own if you're opposed to the idea of using a used, but washed, towel.
There's a table with a low chair if you'd like to sit by the window and ponder over what made you think you could handle a 12-hour train ride (and other fun stuff). We mostly used to set up all our snacks and drinks, so it came in handy for the most part. They've got one of those 'racks' where you can keep your bags, a very large mirror, and a fan as well. The loo, however, was a bit of a let down. In this case, everything was fine but the hot water. How can you not have hot water in Ella? How? The shower produced the most tepid of waters and showering was more of a 'get in and get out ASAP' ritual as opposed to a way to unwind after a long day of walking. Sigh.
The breakfast costs Rs. 385 each. This is a bit of a steep price if I'm to be honest because you can go around town and find a dish for much less.
However, there was one slip-up concerning the breakfast we had. When we booked the hotel, we booked it with breakfast the next day. This is supposed to be part of the overall amount due. But nay, they went ahead and charged us a full Rs. 770 after we ordered breakfast. Check with them if you go. Actually, check with any hotel before you go.
As you can see, breakfast wasn't impressive at all. We got 8 slices of toast bread, some butter and mixed-fruit jam, along with a small platter of assorted fruit. The tea we ordered was merely a pot full of hot water, and some tea bags to go with. Coffee was also just a few Nescafe sachets.
Go out for breakfast.
The dining area is a calm spot which is very reminiscent of an aunty's house. With its rather garish curtains and red tablecloths, the overall effect is like that of a local restaurant. We didn't linger about here for too long. The confines of our room seemed much more inviting. The deluxe rooms are just past these staircases here, but we weren't allowed to photograph that area out of respect for privacy. So here's a photo of me awkwardly standing by the wall. This particular area is very pretty, and is actually a lot more aesthetically pleasing than our section was.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for this particular holiday inn, is its location. It's situated on a hill and is privy to a spectacular view for you to enjoy. You can see a whole load of mountains off in the distance, trees galore, the occasional waterfall or two and so on. In the early mornings you'll witness the mist rolling in and settling over the still air. Quite magical.
The common sitting area on the balcony might be occupied with a guest or two if you're not already there, so watch out for the noise. It's very quiet here, so talking can get quite disruptive for anyone who doesn't have a holiday spirit. But seriously, take a book and some tea and just chill here for as long as you like.
The inn is run by a family. They're very sweet, and extremely accommodating. We lost our room key, and they were nice enough to let it slide. You're left to do whatever you like as long as you're staying here, provided the activity you choose is within moral reason, of course. They also have dogs running about, so feel free to pet them. Say hello to the adorable Daschund if you see her!
Go to Ella, but only stay here if you've figured out other breakfast plans, really like dogs, and pretty pathways. Oh and spectacular views, of course.
It's about a 15 metre walk from the town. You'll see a small road leading uphill. If you look closely you'll find a large board with the inn's name on it and a giant arrow pointing towards its location.