Posts Tagged With: beach

Nullarbor to Perth

Well we left off the last post with us on the Nullarbor Plain doing the drive from east to west. We had just left South Australia and had entered what we found out was an entirely new time zone (The Central Western Time Zone) that we had never known existed. This differential messed with my mind more than anything before…I just could not work out what was going on. Having left the east coast during the end of summer daylight savings time applied in some states and had finished in others but none of this was the issue.

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Nullarbor Plain

The move to SA was a known 30 minutes difference and Perth was a known 2-3 hr time difference depending on the daylight savings component. We knew we were to be driving around 800kms, how long that would take and what time it would be in both SA where we had left and Perth where we were headed…we knew all times but in the middle there is this random 45 minute time zone… and none of the maths computed in my head.  Ignoring the time zone issues we kept heading west and eventually we found ourselves in a zone that allowed my tiny mind to operate again.

As you drive across the Nullarbor there are any number of random roads or dirt tracks that spill off to the left. These take you to the ocean and the Great Australian Bight which primarily is a really long cliff face around 60 meters tall ….randomly dotted along the road are surfing beaches and viewing platforms. These side roads are a good distraction to what can be a long drive and some of the scenery along the way is unrivaled.

The other major distraction on an almost 48 hour drive from east to west is The Nullarbor Links. This is an 18-hole par 72 golf course that exists between the WA town of Kalgoorlie and Ceduna in South Australia. This stretches a distance of 1,365 kilometres and the holes are located in the various towns and roadhouses that you hit along the way and equipment can be hired at each.

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The Nullarbor Links golf course

The concept was developed to give travelers a reason to stop and spend more time and money at towns and roadhouses that they may otherwise just blast past at 110kph. Some of the holes are at actual golf courses at either end while others have been designed to show off the local landscapes and wildlife. Some of these also provide degrees of difficulty for the golf game. Some of the highlights include:
  •  Hole 4 – Nundroo (the wombat hole) has the biggest population of the Southern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia.
  • Hole 5 – Nullarbor Roadhouse (Dingo’s Den) reinforced with dingo traps and scrap iron.
  • Hole 8 – Mundrabilla one of the world’s largest meteorite sites
  • Hole 10 – Cocklebiddy Motel a series of interesting cave systems

When you hit the border of SA and WA you come across a compulsory agricultural checkpoint and a little joint called border village. Just south of Border village is the Bunda Cliffs which at the right time of year (between May and October) provides views of the Southern Right Whales and in between times gives views of 90 metre tall perpendicular limestone cliffs alongside the Southern Ocean.

Having crossed into WA we then passed through a range of towns such as Mundrabila, Madura, Cocklebiddy, Caiguna, Balladonia, Fraser Range and Norseman. At Norseman you get to make a choice…head north to Kalgoorlie-Boulder or head south to Esperance. Having seen enough desert and barren landscapes we chose to head south and do the scenic coastal route into Perth.

This is a straight steal from the WA tourist website but it is about as accurate as it gets for the area around Esperance.

  • A beach and nature-lover’s dream, Esperance is blessed with squeaky-clean beaches, turquoise waters, untouched islands and colour-filled wildflower country. Among its most famous beauty spots is Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay – set against a stunning seascape of 110 islands of the Recherche Archipelago, even the kangaroos can’t resist lounging here.
Esperance Jetty

Esperance Jetty Sunset

In 1979, the space station skylab fell to earth with pieces of it landing across WA and in the vicinity of Esperance. In typical Australian style the mayor of Esperance issued a $400 fine to NASA for littering. Leaving Esperance we headed along the coastline taking a series of relatively similar photographs as we came across bay after bay of white sand, crystal clear water  and stunning scenery.

From here we headed to Albany stopping along the way at the the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk. This is a 600m walkway 40m in the air meandering through the canopy of some of the largest tress around. The Karri trees and forests of the southwest of WA are truly amazing.Huge trees with massive circumferences and even though you may be 40m up… the trees soar above you for almost as much again. To be honest even the drive to get to these giants is wonderful but getting out and wandering along gives an entirely different perspective. From here we were an overnight stay and a short drive from the place that would be our home for the next few weeks.

So we had a sleep and did the last 400kms into Perth. This leg involved :

  • Madura to Esperance – 730kms
  • Esperance to Albany – 480kms and
  • Albany to Perth 417kms

SA to perth

So pulling into Perth we headed straight for the accommodation that Jill’s work had lined up for us during our transition. It was in the Southern suburbs 50km south of Perth. It hasn’t been mentioned yet but Jill’s new job was a high ranking position with an aged care company here in WA. So of course the accommodation provided was a manager’s unit at one of the facilities.

So for the next 3-4 weeks we became residents of an old folks home.

As Jill does she flew straight into work and I was tasked with the jobs of finding us a place to live and finding myself a job. So it started…we scoured the real estate websites and went to open homes…basically hunting for some semblance of area familiarity. We had a brunch with my cousin who has lived here her whole life. Met her husband and child and got some tips as to good areas to look.

Subiaco was the first port of call, close to town and full of cafes and restaurants…one attempt at finding a carpark and a wander down the street surrounded by wannabe hipsters and I decided that Subiaco would not be for us. If I continually saw  perfectly gelled hair, bowties, button up cardigans with skinny jeans, Ned Kelly beards and twirly moustaches…then I would likely as not punch one of them…martijn

The next port of call was Scarborough Beach…neither of us had lived by the beach and we thought it might be worth a try. So while Jill worked I bounced around the laziest and least interested real estate agents on the planet. Bearing in mind that we were 50km south in the suburbs…each day was quite the trek. As the mining boom had flooded the WA economy…prices were through the roof and demand had been so high that people were knocking each other over to pay over the asking price. As such the real estate agents got complacent and when the mining money dried up prices plummeted and the attitudes needed adjusting.

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We found a great place about 200 meters from the beach and put in our application…and waited…and waited…no word…so I rang and asked…no response…so we kept looking…we checked out other suburbs and got a sense of where would be good to live. We found a nice place, walking distance to town and signed up straight away…renting straight from the owners (more about this next post).

Three days later we got a phone call congratulating us that we had got the first place by the beach. This was almost 3 full weeks after we first saw the property. We declined and made comment about the lack of service provided. A month later on and this place was still on the market and the asking price for rent had dropped by about $25 a week. I wonder if the owner knows that if it had not been for the ineptitude and laziness of his estate agents that they would have had 12 months of guaranteed rent.

 

 

 

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Phuket, Thailand

Our introduction to Thailand was atrocious…the first impressions were that of money hungry, gouging prices. We went in with our eyes open and were expecting it to be more expensive than the places we had recently been…but this took things to another level. To use an ATM here…any ATM…you must pay between 150 and 180 baht to withdraw funds. This is between $6-8 to get your own money out…further to this they limit withdrawal sizes…so that you must pay this fee over and over.

We arrived at the Bangkok airport (not the main one) at lunchtime and had a 3 hour layover until we could fly on to Phuket. We cruised the food options to be shocked at the prices…a subway sub was over $13 (once converted), a McDonald’s meal was well over $10 as was Burger King, a latte was $9. Now I accept that airport prices almost everywhere are high…but these prices are almost double the Australian prices…and as we all know Australia is expensive. We settled on 2 Burger King whoppers and we shared a large fries and a coke for $26 Australian.

We thought that after 14 months away a 2 week break by the beach in Thailand was the perfect way to wind down before returning back to Australia. The beach time may have been awesome…but Thailand…at least Phuket…was not it. This place is the pits. Having been through the last few countries…any one of these would have been a much better choice than coming here to Phuket.

IMG_4558Thailand is the home of the girlie-boy…officially titled the Kathoey…they are much more visible and more accepted in Thailand than the transgender or transsexual communities in Western countries. As Thais generally believe in Karma they tend to believe that being a kathoey is the result of transgressions in past lives, therefore kathoey deserve pity rather than blame. They are everywhere…you can see them working in shops, movie theatres and clothing stores…but mostly you see them working at massage joints. And mostly they are grabbing tourists offering massages with happy endings.

We settled in to an ok hotel in the middle of the tourist area near Patong beach. This is the most famous beach resort on Phuket and is tourism hell. Thousands of foreigners (mostly Russians and Aussies), bars, restaurants, touts, trinket shops, tourist shops, tailors and massage joints. Add to this the constant cacophony created by people touting for tuk tuks, massages, the nightly Muay Thai martial arts bouts or the Ping pong shows and this place sucks.

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IMG_4553The main tourist strip is Soi Bangla or Bangla road. This is about a 500 metre long street running between the beach and the main shopping centre Jungceylon. The street is lined with bars that double as strip joints and knock shops. The road gets blocked off every evening at 6pm and the fun begins. Hookers spill out along the street, shake their asses (poorly) on poles, and sidle up to drunk, sunburnt tourists who are too under the weather to notice that 70% of the girls are blokes.

The prices reduced from the initial shock of the airport but are still about 400% higher than each of Thailand’s immediate neighbours. Jill, Cathy, Brett and I all went searching every evening on the hunt for the various culinary delights that were on offer…and there is a lot on offer. While the nightlife is scary the food scene certainly is not. We did find some incredibly good meals…but we also paid a lot of money for them.

The beach was nice…sort of…it is kinda tough to get excited about foreign beaches when you grow up in Australia. The last time I went to Hawaii I complained about crappy beaches…the beaches here are much nicer…but the water is dead flat so there is nothing surf related. As I mentioned earlier the main groups here in Phuket are Aussies and Russians. The Aussies that come tend to fit 2 categories…parents with kids… Or single blokes looking for the nightclubs, hookers, bar girls and the rub and tugs on offer everywhere.

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The Russians however fit into one category but 2 age brackets. There are the early 20’s Russians who wear tiny shorts and muscle shirts, while the girls are in bikinis or G-strings and topless on the beach. And then there are the Russians in their late 50’s who are also in bikinis or G-strings and topless on the beach. I will not say too much on this subject for fear of instilling mental images that may never leave. Needless to say…we have seen some things that cannot be unseen.

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One of the more amusing aspects is the oldies…they are to afraid to get amongst the action on Bangla Road so they take up position on the opposite side of the road and just watch the goings on. We stopped in at the tailors and got a cashmere wool suit made up each…we figured that upon our return we would have to be grownups and get jobs and things. And this would mean job interviews etc…Yucko.

While here…I found the perfect shirt for my father in law but my wife overruled its purchase for fear that we may offend my mother in law. Anyway…sorry Jim…no shirt for you.

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Mañana, Borneo and Labuan

Well this was a break away from everything on a beach in the jungles of Borneo…literally. We flew from Penang to Kota Kinabalu where we were met by our cab driver who drove us 70 minutes into the jungle. As we popped into a village of about 8 houses he stopped the car and started unloading our bags…pointing at the ocean.

In the distance we could see two boys one 18 years old and the other about six…they were doing burnouts in a red inflatable rubber duckie. He saw the cab then sped over to where we were. He grabbed both bags (no mean feat as combined they are almost 40kg) and started wading through the water to the rubber duckie. We took our boots off, unzipped the bottom of our trousers and followed the wading.

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Knee deep in water hopped on and we sat on the edge of the life saving rescue vessel and off we went to our lagoon. Same scenario on the other end…hop into the water and wade onto the sand…and be met by a grinning owner. This place is quite literally an inlet with about 100 metres of sand, about a third of that of grass and buildings…and then the jungle. There was a main building which was the size of a double garage that housed the kitchen and a dining area which was under a lean-to type structure attached. And then there was the little bungalows.

Our little villa had a ditch filled with stones running through it…we assumed it to be a drainage issue but we were raised above the ground so I don’t really know why.it may have been artistic…but in reality it was a fall hazard…especially heading to the toilet late at night. Our toilet was not in our villa but rather out the back in an open air lean-to. There was a toilet, a sink and a cold water shower which was attached to the upright of the veranda structure.

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We had a dip in the ocean, settled into our hammocks and generally kicked back for a while. At sunset we took some photos from our villa and the beach then waited for the generator to kick in. That evening we headed to the garage for a reasonable sort of dinner and crashed early…making sure to plug in all of our devices as we only had electricity overnight while the generator was running. This place is a petrol driven, internet/ technology/ communications free paradise.

The next day we swam and lazed in our hammocks…that is all you can really do here. The one bit of excitement was watching Jill’s arm swell, blister and change colours after the jellyfish sting she got while swimming. This didn’t stop either of us from going for two hourly dips and lazing on the hammocks in between…did I mention that this is all you can do here. At one point we watched the English girl who made the cocktails hop in a kayak and paddle off returning about 3 hrs later. We found out that night that she had paddled to the opposite side to a different beach…to call her mother on the cell phone…as that is what you have to do to get any sort of reception.

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Late in the day I started chatting to a guy painting a door blue at the extreme end of our 100 metre stretch of beach. He was painting the door of the soon to be established dive and snorkel shop. Many moons back I did my open water dive ticket…much to the amusement of my sisters who called me shark bait for a period. So anyway we arranged that the next day I would get a quick refresher and we would head out to dive some scuttled Japanese war ships a few inlets over. Jill would lay on her hammock.

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The few days were mostly spent in the hammock and reading…as there was little else to do here…not so terrible. From here we did the reverse journey back to Kota Kinabalu where we hopped a 3.5hr ferry to Labuan Island which is a duty free launching point outside of Borneo. To be honest there is very little going for Labuan township. It is a ferry terminal, a dock and a bunch of duty free stores. But the timing of ferries is such that you cannot do it in a day trip but need to overnight here.

As you are forced to overnight…there are very few hotels here and of course all the cheap rooms are taken…always. It was quite a funny place actually. There were a lot of girlie/boys loading up on cosmetics, a bunch of body builders loading up on supplements (and probably roids) and a bunch of drunks getting booze and taking in their daily limit to Brunai Darussalam which is only a 90 minute ferry away…but is totally dry.

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Da Nang and Hoi An and out

Leaving Cat Ba we were faced with the nightmare transit…but in reverse. After the journey inbound we decided to use a different company on the way out…and it was immediately better. The transit still involved a 45 minute bus to the ferry, a 40 minute ferry to the mainland, a 45 minute bus to the bus station, a wait, a 2 and a half hour bus to Hanoi bus station, a cab to the airport, a wait, a one hour flight to Da Nang, and finally a cab to the hotel. But even with all this it was fine…no screaming kids, no obese Americans with 15 items of luggage each, no obvious skin diseases, minimal loud talking…just a complicated commute.

Da Nang is the 5th largest city in Vietnam and was lovely. Very little to see in real terms but a really pleasant feel about it. Most people come for the beaches and the stunning seaside promenade…for this we chose Hoi An instead. Rather we stayed in the heart of the city and took in the riverside promenade scenery and checked out the local attractions. Temples, pagodas, dragon bridges and churches were the order of the day.

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Add to this the street side gem restaurant that we always manage to find and life was good. Our first night we found a tent on the side of the road selling cold beer. It was hot so we stopped. We ended up playing menu point and pray, lucky dip and struck gold with 3 awesome dishes of Kim Cut Roty (quail), Ben Cha (mystery meat with raw garlic) and Cai Xao (pork mince with rice cracker and murderously hot chilli). These with 10 cans of beer came to a total of 240,000 duong ($12). The next night was squid, pork ribs and a different mystery meat concoction.

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We hopped a bus for the 45 minute ride to Hoi An which is a tourist beachside town In the middle of the country. It is UNESCO listed thanks to its old town which is apparently the perfect example of an Asian port town between the 15th and 19th centuries. Today it is a tourist Mecca with everything imaginable on sale…but most notably the tailors shops. There is a tailor shop every third store ready to quickly knock together almost anything you like…for very cheap.

A tailored suit, with shirt can be purchased for as little as $65 but more likely around the $120-150 mark. You will be measured up and by the next day or two you can pick up your specially made items. This is a long held thing throughout Asia and I have had 2 suits made (one in Bangkok and one in Singapore)..but this place is even cheaper again. Alas our backpacking does not allow for such purchases…but if you were in the market you could not go wrong here.

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The town and surrounds are beautiful, the food is great, the place is clean and almost everyone speaks fluent English. If anyone is looking for a 1-3 week getaway you really cannot go past Hoi An. There are 5 star resorts if that is your thing, backpacker hostels or in our case a nice 4 star equivalent joint, with breakfast included and a pool for $25 a night for both of us. We had blue skies throughout our time here and the only detractor was the oppressive humidity that leaves you soaked in sweat if you try to exert yourself too much during the middle of the day. We found that this could easily be avoided by lazing by the pool and swimming.

IMG_3143At night ancient town glows from thousands of lanterns and the shops and restaurants are abuzz with activity. We found an awesome little restaurant on the recommendation of fellow travellers and sat down to the set menu (pictured beside). This place was amazing. your food was on the table before your bum was on the seat.

The staff had you watered, and were showing you how to compile the ingredients listed beside into rice paper rolls and how to eat the local delicacies. So mush so that they will dip the rolls that they make into the chilli and satay sauce for you and actually feed you. From here you are on your own. This place was an eat until you are stuffed joint and I am certain that they would keep food coming as long as you were able to ingest. Round one was more than enough for us.

At the end of our meal we had eaten our fill, washed it down with 4 beers and when our bill came we paid the exorbitant price of $15…for both of us. After a few days in Hoi An we headed back to Hanoi for the trip to Hong Kong. At this point we had had a great time in Vietnam with the minor exception of Saigon. As we were only transiting we stayed at a hotel next to the airport, with a pickup service, for a shower and an overnight kip. Alas our parting memory of Vietnam was spoilt by this…the hotel we booked and another one around the corner was owned by the same mob…one cost 50% more than the other…we had booked and paid for the nicer of the two and upon arrival the pick up driver was told to take us to the other one.

Arriving at the lesser one we were relatively understanding…until we found that the wifi was not working and they had lied to us about services available. Jill hopped online using her phone and found the price differential between the two and the ranting white woman kicked in. Within the hour we had walked out, been picked up by a taxi and shuttled to the original hotel, at no cost to us, and were given what we had paid for. Needless to say a gobful was handed out to any poor bugger who came within earshot of my darling bride.

That night we headed into the back streets to find a meal and came across a tent with a street side smorgasbord. We entered, pointed at an array of items which were piled high onto a plate of rice…then pointed at some beers and we sat down to a great meal. At the end we walked up to pay the bill…which came to a massive 80,000 duong ($4)…this was 2 huge plates of food and two 600ml beers.

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Vietnam – an overview

Our introduction to Vietnam was not ideal. Saigon was a busy city and we were staying in the bar district which meant we saw the worst that western tourism can bring to a developing country…lots of old fat men trying to pick up small Asian women (LBFM’s for those that know the terminology). This gave us immediate Philippines flashbacks which were not pleasant. Add to this the poor initial food options and little to see and we were less than impressed.

This was followed by the Mekong delta which was a little better but not thrilling…and then the world changed. Everyone who has been here loves the place and from this point on we both understood why. We actually did not have any negative experiences at any point throughout our Vietnamese odyssey but by the same token it had not grabbed us by the throat like India, China, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka had done.

It is possibly the ideal introduction to Asia that you can find. The people are friendly, the food is good (once you learn to avoid the evil weed that is coriander…maybe that is just me), the prices are cheap, the place is safe, the beer rocks, and the sights are pretty without being historic. It is family friendly, has awesome beaches and Ha Long Bay is a must see for everyone.

I think the thing that turned Vietnam around for us was a change of attitude on our behalf. We had been travelling for almost a year, seeing historic sights and taking in the history and majesty of ancient worlds and huge constructions like palaces atop mountains and the Great Wall etc. Vietnam is not about this, it was smashed during the war and is a nation that is, and largely has, recovered. The historic sites are relatively minor…it is like going to Australia which is 200ish years old and trying to compare it with the colosseum in Rome…apples and oranges.

Once we shook off that way of thinking we loved the place. It is the ideal location for a 1-3+ week holiday and we will come back for just that at some point in the future. It would be incredible to do the country by yourself on a motorbike or similar where you can get up into the mountainous regions and explore the place on your own schedule and timeline. Everything that we have seen would mean that this is entirely possible, and every time we hopped on motorcycles here we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh may be tough to negotiate however as the traffic is entirely nutty.

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Phu Quoc island

Well we had a really easy commute to Phu Quoc island on a Vietnam airlines turbo prop. It was a wet and rainy day so the landing was a little on the rough side as we hit some serious turbulence on the way in. The female pilot had it all under control…I made the obligatory cockpit/box office joke…Jill was unimpressed…but we did hit a vew potholes on the way in that caused some people to almost soil themselves. It was pretty funny really.

We arrived at Phu Quoc island (which is essentially a series of beach resorts) at the end of rainy season. So of course it rained that evening and was torrential all of the next day…we sat and caught up with our blogging, reviews of various places and had a short walk for a meal when the rain briefly eased. We found a co-op store that sold cheese so bought some Edam and Gouda with some crackers, tomato and a local version of a cabana. A bottle of sav blanc and some beers and the afternoon just flew by.

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Our neighbours in the next bungalow decided to cut short their plans and moved on…big mistake…the next morning (and the next two to follow) we woke to stunning sunshine, calm warm waters and an idyllic island lifestyle. We hired motorbikes for the grand price of $7.50 a day and off we went exploring. Zipping along dirt tracks alongside a beach for hour upon hour is pretty sweet. We climbed up what passes for a mountain (on the bikes) and headed to the southernmost tip of the island to the pier where all the fishing boats come in, dock and sell their wares.

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After a good day we dropped off our bikes after getting more cheese etc for a late afternoon nibble and that night headed up to the closest thing that resembles a decent restaurant. This place is a culinary vacuum…the whole island. There are many restaurants but they all serve some form of fusion food. Given the wide variety of tourists nationalities that come here…this fusion is vast…and wrong. This is a theme that we have discovered throughout our travels…in every country…western food is tailored to suit local tastes and vice versa…and it does not work…ever. We have stopped trying to eat western food as it just gets destroyed. Eat local, it is cheaper, and better.

Phu Quoc island is currently pretty idyllic but the signs are bad…the place as it is, is full of beachside bungalows and little resort style accommodation… but the big hotels are coming. While doing the motorbike ride we passed the building sites of about 10 big 5 star hotels…side by side. This will greatly change the nature of the place so get in quickly before it changes forever.

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We settled in to a few days of lazing by the beach, swimming in the surf, having late afternoon cocktails while watching the sun set and having evening meals at one of the crapy fusion joints. We found a decent coffee place which was about a one kilometre walk up the beach…so we made a daily trek…interspersed with dips in the ocean. We seem to have finished the hard travelling section of our trip and the places we are visiting have comparatively little to see…just things to experience.

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Mirissa and farewell to Sri Lanka

The thing I didn’t mention about Galle was the sea turtles…from atop the walls of the fort…at around sunset…the sea turtles come in to shore and feed in the shallow waters. We spent about 30 mins watching the turtles in the shallow waters near the fort wall. The next morning we hopped a tuk tuk and did the 30-40 kilometre schlepp to Mirissa our next port of call. Our ride was 30-40 Kms, plus driver, plus stops all for 2000 rupees…less than $20.

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Along the way we stopped at the touristy bits…the first of these was the sea turtle hatchery which is a small place that rescues and saves both the eggs and the munty turtles. So there were a bunch of rescued munty turtles along with the eggs at had been liberated from the beaches (away from the poachers). We stopped at an inland lake, and a bit further on to get a photo of the traditional pole fishermen. It was staged for the tourists but hey…this was how it was once done. Needless to say that the seafood here is good, fresh, plentiful and cheap.

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Our time in Mirissa was merely to be a beach holiday on the southern part of the Sri Lankan island…almost. The other gem that I have been holding back for the uninformed (like I was)…is that Sri Lanka has a whale migration similar to that which happens along the east coast of Australia. In Australia we get the humpback whales…in Sri Lanka they get the sperm whales and the blue whales. Now the blue whale is the largest animal known to ever inhabit our planet..including the dinosaurs.

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An average blue whale is (thanks wiki) about 30 metres long and weighs about 170 tonnes, which is around twice the length and 4 times the weight of the humpbacks we see back home on the east coast. Alas the blue whales do not put on the same sort of show as the humpbacks (jumping, leaping and fin swatting) but rather just cruise on past with the odd blowhole burst. The experience was not what I had initially hoped for but we did get to see a whale along with some dolphins and flying fish…which was a first for me. I was hoping for some awe inspiring photographs of the whales but the roughness of the seas and the brief glimpses of the whales meant that our cameras and ourselves were not up to the task.

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The majority of time in Mirissa was spent lazing by the swimming pool trying to even out the tan lines on our feet from wearing sandal style footwear for so long. Jill’s feet had some strange tiger pattern going on while mine were blocked. The other thing was to use the salt water and sand as a natural loofa as we had both been in need of some general pedicure style maintenance.

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Mirissa was the last of Sri Lanka as we headed back to Colombo before flying out to start the Vietnamese leg of our journey. We would have a day and a bit and a catch up with Ruwan in Colombo but generally that was it. Jill did some prep work for her next assignment. Leaving Sri Lanka allowed us to witness possibly the greatest act of stupidity that we have seen since departing Australia, over 10 months ago. A small child (3-4 years old) was running around the departure lounge of the Colombo airport squealing furiously…ok…annoying but the kid is too young to really stop it…and the parents were trying to calm it down and shut it up…to no avail.

Enter stupidity…Dad was about to have a drink and the child threw a minor tantrum at wanting some…rather than say no they caved and I looked up to see a 3 year old swigging from a red bull can…fast forward 10 minutes… Any idea what red bull inside a brat 3 year old does. The entire airport lounge (and later the plane) was taken over by the shrieks, cries, tantrums and general bratdom of a kid who had been fed red bull and was buzzing off the walls on caffeine.

Thank god that Air Asia X offers a quiet zone for just a few dollars extra…this is just behind business class but is curtained off and children etc are not allowed. And my darling bride has booked us these seats for almost every leg to follow. This transit saw us leaving Colombo at 4pm and arriving in Kuala Lumpur at around 10 pm local time (but only 7 pm Colombo time) where we would crash in the airport hotel before catching an 11:15am flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

This meant we were trying to go to sleep at 8pm to try to catch 6 hrs sleep before being inside the airport once again. Anyway we woke tired and commuted through to Ho Chi Minh arriving there at around noon local time (with another time adjustment).

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Overview

I had never previously considered Sri Lanka as a holiday destination but having been here…I will come back and would highly recommend it for anyone reading. This place is fantastic. The people are lovely, the food is great, you don’t have to fight all day haggling with tuk tuk drivers (or anyone else for that matter) trying to rip you off. The beaches are clean and the water is swimmable, the seafood is freshly magnificent and everything (that the government doesn’t control) is cheap. Our 4 days on the beach cost us about $35 a night for nice accommodation with breakfast included. The food and drink bill ran to about $65 for the whole time…this included 2 meals a day (breakfasts were included in accommodation), all drinks. And when you factor in that our meals were generally fresh fish and prawns, this is seriously good value.

The ability to see elephants and leopards in the wild, the conservation efforts and the rebuilding after years of warfare is truly encouraging. The natural scenery is stunning, and the attitude and friendliness of all you meet will amaze you. The only detractor is the facilities run by the government which seem hellbent on bilking the tourist out of every cent that they can.

Sri Lanka is definitely the jewel of South Asia and should be placed high on any list of places to be experienced. The war is over and the infrastructure is improving and this place will only get better. I hope that they keep their current trajectory of encouraging tourism without cheapening the experience. I would hate to see this turned into a tourist hell hole, because quite frankly the place is stunning as it is. While we did not make it there…the locals tell us that the beaches on the eastern side of the island are even more pristine and less crowded.

If that is the case…bring it on.

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