Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

WP_20131118_027The wind was howling off the sea today and the surf was getting ruined as a consequence. I didn’t do anything yesterday as a result of my hangover, so felt that I should get out and about rather than stagnate once more.

There really isn’t much to Hikkaduwa where I am staying, and I will soon have bagged all the breaks here so I needed to go and do some exploring. I hired some wheels to help with that, and after a wobbly test ride immediately treated the tyres to some air, which the owner must consider an optional extra.

BusIt was great to be mobile again and I would have enjoyed cruising north up the coast road towards Ambalangoda a lot more were it not for the other drivers and in particular those in charge of the buses who must be insane.

The town is only a half hour ride away and it was largely an enjoyable experience, feeling the spray of the waves that landed on the beaches next to the coast road hitting my face as I drove along. However at times the journey was as close to death as I have ever felt on this trip. This clip of Sri Lankan bus driving that I found online should explain why. It is an accurate portrayal of the roads here.

WP_20131118_039I was in no rush so was happy to go at my own pace letting any buses and tuk-tuks past as soon as they appeared beeping their horns in my mirrors, and took a few breaks to get out of the madness and check the surf available at the beaches I saw.

This scene along side the road was also particularly tranquil, so I couldn’t resist pulling over for a few minutes. I couldn’t find out what it was for though.

WP_20131119_007The reason for my journey to Ambalangoda was because I had read it was a centre of excellence for the making of the devil masks that are used in local ceremonies to ward off sickness and ill fortune.

I wanted one to add to the collection of wooden masks I have acquired around the world and took a tour around one of the few museums here that explain the history of the culture and offered a demonstration of their workshop.

Many of the masks in the shop were brightly coloured, but I liked the look of this one sporting a cobra, in a nod to my recent snake dancing exploits. After a healthy bit of haggling it was soon stashed in the space under the saddle of my moped.

Hikkaduwa SunsetI didn’t hang around long though because I wanted to get home for beers watching another of the amazing sunsets over the sea here.

There was no way I would consider driving after dark. It is horrendous enough during the day!

 

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fig_leafTo me who has been surfing for most of the last year the waves in front of Mambo’s do not look that challenging. Consequently I am amazed at how many people are being rescued here every day by the local surfers who keep having to paddle out and collect them once they have got themselves into trouble.

Thankfully there have not been any serious incidents yet, but there was an amusing one where the power of the waves actually stripped some Russian swimwear completely off the person who had been wearing it.

Chief WiggumThe poor soul had to be brought in to the beach laying butt naked on a longboard, providing much amusement to those watching on the shore.

It might sound titillating until you hear that the gentleman concerned, who was built like Chief Wiggum from the Simpsons, then proceeded to stagger up the beach. I would say with everything swaying in the breeze, but it wasn’t that impressive and to be fair the water isn’t at all cold here!

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WP_20131116_001There is a full moon here which means that many of the bars host rather large knees ups under the moon lit sky. Mambo’s where I am staying is no exception and Saturday night was their turn to host the festivities.

I enjoyed a great night of house music and chatting to people from all over the world, but in particular a German couple and a couple from Gravesend just outside of London. 

Full moon green turtleHowever the party was disrupted by one of the local turtle population who crawled out of the sea and up the beach to lay her eggs.

It occurs on every full moon here, but after a short period contemplating the flashing cameras, the banging tunes and the crowd which gathered around the female visitor, she decided that perhaps there might be a better spot for her young to start their lives and disappeared from whence she came.

It was a great night and my bedroom which is right above the bar was still echoing with the thumping beat when I crashed out. However I clearly had too much to drink because Sunday was an absolute write off.

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DCIM100GOPROI missed the morning glass because I had to wait around for the surf shop to open so that I could buy a new leash. (The existing one has let me down far too many times now.) I was then further delayed fixing the results of the latest round of the ‘Who can put the biggest holes in Rob’s surfboard’ competition undertaken between airlines worldwide.

However I am lucky that there is a break right in front of my hotel called Mambo’s Place, and it is named after it. I have a great room overlooking the break, which is the big window you can see over my left shoulder on the first floor in this picture of me charging into the surf.

DCIM100GOPROThe first thing to mention about this surf was all the turtles. I stopped counting them after a while because there are so many in the water. I was afraid catching a wave would resemble a water based version of hopscotch!

I still caught my share though, even if my delays in getting started meant that it was very windy, resulting in the lumpy waves you see here and a ride like a bucking bronco. 

DCIM101GOPROThis wave is a reef break consisting of a few rocks, but was nothing to worry about when compared to the cheese grating reefs of the Mentawai Islands which I have become used to. Sadly the waves were not in the same league as the perfection I have been enjoying over recent weeks either, but that was no real surprise.

There is a crowd watching from the shore sipping Lion beers and cocktails so you don’t want to look like too much of a kook with so many people looking on. Thankfully I did well, surfing so far in that I almost landed on sun loungers when I got off!

DCIM100GOPROI did have a lot of fun for a couple of hours here before the winds chopped everything up and I got out. Firstly picking out the best right hand line through the waves, and then trying to work my may along it to the shore following the route I had spotted from the sand.

I got out happy to have bagged my first break in Sri Lanka less than ten hours after stepping off the plane.

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NSAA quick note to let people know the Sri Lankan telephone number I will be contactable on for the next couple of weeks. It is +94 7661 53359

I am sure that while I have been away this year I will have collected more telephone numbers than Edward Snowden and the NSA!

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map_of_sri-lankaAfter a lovely few days of respite from life on the road with Rick and Lou in Singapore it is time to move on to my next destination.

I say my fond farewells to all after a day of playing with their children, shopping and catching up on the blog. Rick finishes work in time to drop me off at the airport with plenty of spare time before my flight to Sri Lanka.

FlagAs far as I am aware the Sri Lankan waves are not accused of war crimes so I will not be boycotting any activities whilst here regardless of what the rest of the Commonwealth thinks.

My flight arrives on time in Colombo where I am met by a driver who takes me and my surfboard the three hours south down to Hikkaduwa. Upon arrival at 2am I am shown to my room, which is right on the beach, and in no time at all I am nodding off to the sounds of the waves lapping the shore.

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hippo_busI have a day to amuse myself in the city so decide to take advantage of the double decker bus tours here. As I am being driven around the first thing I noticed was the surprising number of military aircraft in the sky.

Singapore must spend a huge amount of money on its defences to fund the activity I am seeing. Particularly because the city state is only half the size of the Isle of Wight.

Marina-Bay-SandsThe tour takes me past the scene of last night’s crime at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

I am still a tad worse for wear from the skin full that Rick and I had managed to put away the previous night when I drive past the building that looks like a ship that has been deposited on top of three office blocks.

WP_20131114_023I got off the tour bus to take a stroll around the Botanical Garden in the city that includes the National Orchid Garden.

The plants are amazing but the experience is hotter than hell because no air seems to circulate around the pathways alongside the beautiful flowers.

WP_20131114_031Here I am doing my best to impersonate David Bellamy alongside one of the orchids, complete with my beard which is coming along nicely. A typical orchid has three sepals and three petals. The sepals are similar in shape but one petal is usually different to the others. It is called the labellum and is the landing spot for pollinating insects.

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants according to the information at the national garden, and there are more than double the number of birds species, and about four times the number of mammal species. 

WP_20131114_116Cooling down I took a stroll by the lake in the botanical gardens amusing myself by watch terrapins making love. Very slowly!

There were loads of fish in the water too and everything knows that humans are usually a free feed so they all come to check you out when you do the same in return. It was too hot to hang about though so I headed for the bus once more and back into the city.

WP_20131114_130At the end of my day I wandered down to the famous Raffles Hotel, named after Sir Stamford Raffles who founded the city, to have a cooling drink in their courtyard.

I managed to resist the urge for a Singapore Sling which was created in the hotel’s Long Bar. I preferred to go for a Tiger beer that had been brewed a few miles down the road.

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map-philippinesThe disaster in the Philippines is going on just across the South China Sea from where I am staying in Singapore at the bottom of the Malay peninsular.

The magnitude of the events has been brought home by Lily who helps Rick and Lou with the running of their household, as well as showing an iron to some of my clothes for the first time in their lives. Lily’s family come from the affected area and thankfully were unharmed during the initial onslaught.

combat-survival-kitHowever the relief required by all those affected is only just beginning so I have decided to hand over some of my own supplies to those in more need because she is putting a parcel together to send home.

I had put together a survival kit so that I would be prepared for the most extreme of conditions on this trip. I have managed to get this far without needing my wire saw, waterproof matches, water purification tablets, fishing hooks, pocket knife, etc. so have decided to pass them on to those who could certainly use them everyday right now.

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WP_20131113_020After a delightfully lazy evening with the Dumpletons it is time to get out and about in Singapore. I spend the day with Lou, and after dropping Archie off at school we head off to the waterfront.

In recent years there has been a massive land reclamation project here on the island, which has moved the whole of the southern shore a staggering kilometre out to sea.

WP_20131113_024The city state is almost entirely dependent on trade and you can see how much shipping passes through the area by the number of boats on the horizon in these shots.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch before checking out the results of a sandcastle building contest being undertaken by a group of school children further down the beach. 

WP_20131113_027The heat here is relentless and it required a recovery nap at home before I was able to go out and join Rick at his office on the 35th floor in town.

The tower looks down on the Singapore Flyer, which is the world’s largest ferris wheel, and the adjacent pit lane buildings which are unused apart from when the Formula 1 circus is in town.

infinity-pool-marina-bay-sandsRick and I then headed off to the magnificent Marina Bay Sands Hotel for a beer.

It was only one beer there though because it smashed the record for the most expensive pints thus far on my tour. $43 for two beers was unbelievable but I suppose that somehow they have to pay for the upkeep of the huge pool lined with palm trees that runs along the top of the building fifty five floors up. On of the best views in the city is peering out over the edge of the infinity pool looking down on the illuminated skyline of the financial district.

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sindo ferryWith all my gear on my back or in my hands it is thankfully just a short walk from the Harris Hotel to the Sindoferry terminal.

I am as close to the equator as I have been on this trip or indeed ever before and have to say that the heat is brutal here. The air and the water are both so hot that there is no respite on offer for finding shade or taking a dip in the sea.

Balcony 1The ride on the ferry is air conditioned though and is very quick, so it only takes me an hour to get into Singapore. Unusually it is also the first time on this trip that I have arrived in a country travelling by the sea.

I will be staying with my former neighbours in London, Rick and Lou, whose flat was just a few balconies along from my own. I actually saw Rick for a few drinks when I arrived in Australia earlier on my travels because he was in town on business, but I get to see him and Louise this time round, as well as their two boys Archie and Dylan.

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