Month: August 2015

Trip to Sri Lanka 03-7 – my account

Monday – day 9

Hooray, I had lasted out two nights in sub-standard accommodation, and I was moving this morning to another guest house – with air-con, bathroom, hot water etc. They rang me around 8am to confirm I was coming.  I sure was.  It was only five minutes walk from where I was.  I could catch up on my laundry, as I was now out of clean clothes, and have a proper shower.

I moved to this guest house

I moved to this guest house

Despite my misgivings, I rented a bicycle to get around for the two days.  It hurt to sit on a bike, but it also hurt to walk, so, as cycling was so much faster I thought the pain would be for a lot less time.  My muscles will recover soon.  The hotel is literally next door to the British Council, so I thought it’ll be great to stop in and read some papers. But.  I am staying Monday and Tuesday nights, and it is closed Monday and Tuesday.  Oh well, I still have Wednesday morning to pop in.

Otherwise, my plans for the day were not too ambitious.  Go to Mangos, a vegetarian restaurant about 5 minutes away, and see the big Hindu temple across the road from it.  I had Thali and tea for lunch – Rs300 with tip.
vegetarian restaurant

vegetarian restaurant

my lunch

my lunch

The Hindu temple is being renovated and is closed, but you can see it from outside to an extent.

nearby Hindu temple

nearby Hindu temple

Then I tried and tried to hunt down the Thoma Monastery, where they make a wine.  I asked lots of people, and they told me where it was. But it wasn’t. There are so many churches here, and I found another nice one – St John’s.  Fourth on the list for today was St. Mary’s Cathedral, and finally, in the centre of town, Anna’s Coffee, where I can buy tea.  And pop in to the market for some fruit.

at the market

at the market

All that done I could come back and have a nap, and go to the Cosy Restaurant for crab curry. As it was dark when I set out I was in a quandary. Should I walk in the dark and be agile enough to get out of a vehicle’s way if necessary, but not be able to see where I put my feet – or ride the bike with no lights on, as everyone else does, and be exposed to danger for a lot less time, although less manoeuvrable. I decided it might be safer to walk, and it was pitch black, with no streetlights.  It took about 15 minutes to Cosy Restaurant, but wasn’t much fun, being so dark. The crab curry was great there.

dinner

dinner

crab curry

crab curry

Strangely, one and a half hours later, walking back, the streetlights were on – and it was pleasant to walk off dinner and enjoy a cool breeze.

Tuesday – day 10

It was time to try the local breakfast at the hotel.

breakfast at the guest house

breakfast at the guest house

I’d already seen the sights in Jaffna. I had a (rented) bicycle, and really would like to have done another road trip to different islands. I worked out a route that would probably only be 40KM. But my rear was just too sore. It would take a week to recover as it was. Thus I decided just to have an easy day, as the next day was train, bus, plane, plane, taxi to arrive home in Penang. So I just rode randomly around Jaffna and stopped when I saw anything interesting.  After it became too hot I returned for a nap, and some reading.

reading on the hammock

reading on the hammock at the guest house

Then an early dinner at Hotel Green Grass, so I could ride there and return while it was still light.  Good food, and huge portions, so I had over-ordered the waiter didn’t warn me.  And he gave me the wrong bill.  This bill was bigger than mine would be.

dinner at a hotel

dinner at a hotel

Wednesday – day 11

Today I am going home.  I packed, had the western breakfast.  I forgot to take a photo until after I had eaten the (one) fried egg.  The local breakfast was better and cheaper, but I had wanted to try both options.
break fast at the guest house

breakfast at the guest house

I spent my morning in the British Council next door, reading four-month old magazines. I’d hoped they’d have current newspapers.  Then I read a novel for a while.  It was a short stroll to the railways station from there.

at Jaffna Station

at Jaffna Station

The train arrived on time,and was a train with all first class carriages.  The restaurant carriage had only water, soft drinks and buns for sale.  The toilets were quite clean.

the train to Colombo

the train to Colombo

I didn’t see any special landscapes on the way, or anything I hadn’t already seen.

further south the landscape turns lush

further south the landscape turns lush

The train arrived about 10 minutes late after about a seven hour journey.

Colombo Fort Railway Station, and the end of the trip

Colombo Fort Railway Station, and the end of the trip

I walked the 10 minutes to the bus station and found the 187 stand, but Information told me the bus departs from the road – where buses are constantly coming and going in large numbers.  I flagged it down – a tuk tuk driver who had been trying to sell me his ride to the airport told me this wasn’t the airport bus – I asked the conductor and he told me it was.  It took about an hour to near the airport, and then the conductor told us to get a tuk tuk the rest of the way – Rs100 for the tuk tuk.  Probably a 10 minute walk.

At the airport, chaos.  Security check to enter building, security check to get to check in counters, and security check to get to departure lounge.

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packing for travel – why am I so bad at it? – and a new methodology

I’ve been travelling all my life. From literally a few weeks old. I guess my parents did my packing at first. But for decades I’ve been doing my own. And I am still rubbish, that is to say, inefficient at it. I don’t like doing it, and I dither and take hours, even though I have a detailed list.

At one stage many years ago I had a Kombi van – and I had most of my gear for camping in plastic rubbish bins permanently stored in the van. Friday night after I got home it was just a matter of grabbing some food and heading off into the country for the weekend. That worked OK.

Usually I start packing a couple of days before the trip, just in case I find there is something I have to buy, or foreign currency I should change. A problem is that there are some things that I only have one of, and those I am using right up until I leave – electric razor, phone charger etc.

So I am trying something new. I have modified my packing list so that I have a three sections: A prepacked section of things I will always take – which requires buying some duplicates such as an extra toothbrush and so on; a packing section of what I must pack for this trip – and this would vary depending on the weather etc.; and a last minute section which I will pack 15 minutes before I leave, as I cannot have duplicate phone chargers etc.

This is my list for the trip to Sri Lanka – reclassified with my new system.  I used everything I took, and wasn’t lacking anything.

pre-packed items

pre-packed items

 

PREPACK PACKING LAST MINUTE
Toileteries 4 electronics Clothes Toileteries
socks razor
toothbrush UK triple adapter upants mossie repellant
toothpaste adapter plugs shirts
shampoo earphones hat Documents
hairbrush tripod uniqlo jkt
hair gel USB-micro USB cord shoes driving licence
deo usb sd card reader t-shirts money -USD
soap SD-micro-SD adapter belt debit card
tissues USB mob charge cord day pack credit card
nail clippers MY plastic 2 prong trousers glasses
CS passport
floss wallet
wet razor Documents
laundry line
pegs pen
Documents
4 electronics
sink plug OR paper
plastic bag for wash travel insurance card directions mobile charger
laundry detergent passport copy plane/train tkt mobile
toilet paper passport photo maps tablet
spoon etc. money pouch light book tab charger
ziplock bags umbrella itinerary print eBooks
piri kari powder sunglasses music
bandaids torch
cotton buds bag weigher cam charger
ear plugs camera
cam batteries
Clothes ON RETURN
swim cost
towel Replace or top up any prepack items
eye mask Return all pre pack items to their container
flipflops

Trip to Sri Lanka 03-6 – my account

Sunday – day 8

Jaffna has many islands, and many of these are connected by causeway;  otherwise ferries connect them.  Today’s plan was to start early, before 8AM,  cycle for a maximum of four hours, with appropriate stops, and cycle back.  That would get me back around 4 or 5PM – way before it gets dark – around 6.30PM. The bike had no lights or reflectors, and unlike locals, I really did not want to ride in the dark with no lights.
off the main road of Mandaitivu Island, heading for the beach

off the main road of Mandaitivu Island, heading for the beach

The road across the first causeway was smooth, except where they are doing road works, and despite the bicycle having the uncomfortable and partly broken seat too low (which I couldn’t raise further), it was still cool and the going was easy.  A couple of people asked me to stop for a chat, which I did, and I easily found my first goal, being Chetty Beach, after a very bumpy ride from the turn-off.

yes, it's got white sand - and lots of sea weed - Chetty Beach

yes, it’s got white sand – and lots of sea weed – Chetty Beach

I arrived about 90 minutes after setting off.  Disappointingly the beach was covered in huge amounts of seaweed, but the water looked clear, and people were swimming, so why not?

There were concrete cabanas, one of which was a police cabana, so I asked him to watch my bike etc. and I waded in a little. I was like a people magnet.  They all bunched around me, kids and adults, and we all took photos and laughed.  That was fun.
we had fun messing around in the water and taking photos

we had fun messing around in the water and taking photos – they look a bit serious here – but they weren’t

Continuing on, I kept on seeing big masts, meaning Google Maps should work. (And Skype.) But the road was mostly quite bumpy.  There were churches and temples on the way to briefly look at, and about 10am I had to decide which route to take. Taking the route which led to more islands connected with causeways I also came across a town someone had mentioned to me earlier.  I was hoping for a restaurant as I hadn’t yet eaten, but there were lots of bakeries with unappetising looking bread, but nothing much for me.  I had emergency water and biscuits, so I bought bananas, resolving to stop and eat when I found a nice place. About half an hour later, on another causeway, I stopped to eat.

another causeway - to Punkudutivu Island

another causeway – to Punkudutivu Island

An hour later I was flagged down by a guy selling Palmrya (RS50) – a sweet jelly like stuff.

palmrya nuts

palmrya nuts

eating a palmrya nut - the part you can eat tastes like sweet jelly

eating a palmrya nut – the part you can eat tastes like sweet jelly

He pointed out a (Palmrya) toddy bar just down a dirt track, so I joined a bunch of men seemingly spending their day drinking.  (Well, it was Sunday.)  It was drinkable, but not particularly tasty, or strong (perhaps 1%).  It cost Rs80 for a big cup.

a palmrya toddy drinking joint

a palmrya toddy drinking joint

The bumpy road continued, and 45 minutes later another cyclist asked me to stop at his friend’s shop, so I met Albert. Later there was another causeway to cross – the road surfaces seem to be even worse over the causeways.

another causeway - to Kurikadduwan Island

another causeway – to Kurikadduwan Island

A bit before 1PM, when by rights I should have already started back, I was one ferry ride from a huge Hindu temple.  Ferries run every 20 minutes or so, fairly haphazardly, so if I had a brief look, and the ferry took say 20 minutes, then I should be back around 2PM and still have  over four hours riding time – which should be plenty seeing as I had stopped so many times on the way.

catching a ferry to the Nagadeepa Hindu temple on Nainativu Island

catching a ferry to the Nagadeepa Hindu temple on Nainativu Island

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Buddist temple

Buddhist temple

It didn’t work that way. Passenger loading is very slow, and not all ferries would take my bike, so it took about 40 minutes by the time my bike was off the ferry. Although I was back at the loading point at 2PM – even later than I intended – it wasn’t until a little after 3PM that I was back on the road back on Kurikadduwan Island – giving me only three hours of light.

returning to Kurikadduwan Island by ferry

returning to Kurikadduwan Island by ferry

Now, they have mileposts – kilometreposts(?) – so I could judge the speed, and I calculated that if I hurried, had a short break every hour or so, but didn’t stop to chat, that I might make it back before dark. So I figured I was doing about 15 KPH over bumpy roads.  Looking positive.  I had done about a kilometre from the ferry, thinking all might be OK when – bam – my bike chain came off.  Unfortunately the chain was enclosed in a casing, making the back sprocket inaccessible, and although I could get the chain back on the front one it was immediately obvious it was off the back sprocket. And now my hands were covered in grease. I had no tools – I needed a screwdriver.  Some tuk tuks have roof racks and could probably carry it – or maybe one of the many passing vans would have either space or  screwdriver.  I started pushing, and the first van that saw me stopped and enquired as to the problem.  He had neither space nor a screwdriver, but offered to help.  Somehow he managed to undo the screw using a twig he found nearby.  Then I could put the chain back on the rear sprocket and manoeuvre it onto the front. No photos of any of this as my hands were covered in grease.

Albert, who helped me clean up after my bicycle incident

Albert, who helped me clean up after my bicycle incident

Back on the road I kept up my bumpy but blistering (I think I got blisters) pace, but I needed water as it was so hot now. Passing Albert’s  shop I noticed  he was still there and I could buy some water.  Also I could wash my hands so that the only remaining grime was under my fingernails.  He offered tea and a seat, but I didn’t have time to chat and pushed on.

approaching Jaffna on the causeway

approaching Jaffna on the causeway

In fact I made it back to Jaffna city centre, about 10 minutes ride from the hotel, just after 5.30. It looked like it was going to be a nice sunset so I stayed on the waterfront to watch it.  I wasn’t the only one – but I nabbed a bench as a family just vacated one. A big family came an occupied some of my bench and another nearby one, and we got chatting and had fun.

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

one of the many icecream vans

one of the many icecream vans

I spent sunset talking with this family

I spent sunset talking with this family

Once I arrived back at the guest house I was too tired to go out.

dinner at the guest house

dinner at the guest house

I am sore in all sorts of places, but it was a great day. According to Google Maps, and also my rough calculation, I’d covered 70 KM.  On flat but bumpy roads, on an old bike with no gears and a broken seat.

A few miscellaneous matters in late August

HAZE

Overall this year it’s been cooler than usual with many more rainy days.   Thus the haze has mostly not been in evidence. However, these last couple of days the haze has been terrible – and the plants are suffering too. It hasn’t rained now for a few days, and so nothing is clearing the air. Best to stay indoors as much as possible.

MOSQUITOES

For the last couple of weeks I have noticed mosquitos have been bad, not only at home, but even where it is really built up, like at Gurney Plaza Al Fresco area, in Tesco, etc.

NEW PRODUCTS

Today in Tesco we found a couple of new products – at least, new to us:

fermented durian paste

fermented durian paste

Fermented durian paste: To put into sambal, add into stews or other dishes.

rice cracker chocolate

rice cracker chocolate

Rice cracker chocolate – unfortunately not so fresh, although not past its expiry date, but still nice.

AUBERGINE

I found several varieties.  Must explore the difference sometime.

so many varieties

so many varieties

BIRDS

Many birds are visiting the mango trees and eating the mangos.

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Trip to Sri Lanka 03-5 – my account

Saturday – day 7

 I had given the previous day’s tuk tuk driver a good tip, so I was disappointed when he didn’t pick me up at 6am to take me to the bus station. There are three buses an hour to Vavuniya, so at worst I was delayed by 20 minutes as either the driver after I’d rung him, or the hotel owner soon had another tuk tuk take me to the terminal. Apparently there are no direct buses to Jaffna, so I had to get a Vavuniya – Jaffna bus later. This was no problem.
bus to Vavuniya

bus to Vavuniya

backpackers often put their luggage on that blue hump to the left of the driver - but in a crowded bus they can't keep an eye on it

backpackers often put their luggage on that blue hump to the left of the driver – but in a crowded bus they can’t keep an eye on it

crowded bus

crowded bus

scenery

scenery

Vavuniya

Vavuniya

the bus to Jaffna

the bus to Jaffna – these guys wanted me to photograph them

not so crowded

not so crowded now

getting closer

still quite a distance to go

Jaffna is on a peninsula

Jaffna is on a peninsula

We only had to stop for about three minutes for a police checkpoint as we entered the north. Just the conductor got out to deal with it.  About 11.30 we were at the Jaffna bus terminal.  It had taken five hours from Anuradhapura, which was OK.

at the Jaffna bus station

at the Jaffna bus station

As no one gives out maps, Google Maps has to suffice.  But my phone got no signal.  Panic.  I’d have to trust a tuk tuk driver?  A restart of the phone sorted it, and I had the Internet again, so I had a walking route to the hotel.  A tuk tuk was not suitable as I wanted to walk and see whatever hotels on the way had to offer, as the accommodation I’d booked was not at all enticing.

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clock tower

As it turned out, I found quite a lot of hotels, some were not worth considering, and others were way overpriced for what they are offering – and still I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there.  I detoured a bit on the way to see the railway station, check several hotels, and view a couple of churches, so the walk took over an hour.  So I had to use my booking, and it was as bad as I had dreaded.  Worse.  The outside bathrooms seem to have the water turned off in the evening, so a shower, or even washing one’s hands, is not possible. And I couldn’t hire a bicycle as I had intended.

hotel

guest house

Anyway, in the afternoon I saw pretty well all the local sights, even though I was walking.

one of the many ruined houses

one of the many ruined houses, as a result of the war

Seminary

Seminary

church

church

fisherman's area

fisherman’s area

clock tower

clock tower

one of the local papers

one of the local papers – which I read at the library

public library

public library

ruin of Dutch fort

ruin of Dutch fort

ruin of Dutch fort

ruin of Dutch fort

town market

town market

But in the late afternoon I also passed the Rolex Hotel, which is one of Lonely Planet’s recommended places to eat – so I did. It cost Rs280 for a chicken curry and a cup of tea.  I was enjoying the food until I felt a mosquito dining on me.  After that I couldn’t relax and eat, which was a shame.

Rolex restaurant

Rolex restaurant

my dinner

my dinner – delicious

Trip to Sri Lanka 03-4 – my account

Friday – day 6

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dawn over Dutch Bay, Trincomalee

Dawn was a little after six, and I saw the sun rise over Dutch Bay from the beach.

omlette breakfast at the hotel

omelette breakfast at the hotel

I probably shouldn’t ring hotels too early, so I waited until 7.30am.  There was a bus to Jaffna at 9.30,and one to Anuradhapura at 9.45, so either way I had plenty of time.  I got a room at London Palace, so 9.45 it was.  One should catch the bus from where it starts, and be the terminal at least 20 minutes early to secure a seat.  Standing would not be fun.  So about 9am, after my omelette, I set off to the bus terminal.

the bus to Anuradhapura

the bus to Anuradhapura

The bus picks up and drops off people all along the route, so sometimes the bus is packed, and other times there are seats free.  Right on time the bus departed.

the bay behind Trincomalee

the bay behind Trincomalee

still quite a way to go

still quite a way to go

quite varied scenery on the way

quite varied scenery on the way

We arrived in Anuradhapura at about 12.45, which was one hour early.

London Palace Hotel

London Palace Hotel

This turned out to be the nicest hotel I stayed at during the trip. After a shower and a meal I was ready to see the sights.

lunch at the hotel

lunch at the hotel

The tuk tuk driver at the bus station seemed OK; he had dropped me at the hotel. It was so hot I scrapped my plan to cycle around the sites, so I hired him to show them to me. It was supposed to be a three-hour tour, but I got him to stop off at the bus station to check schedules to Jaffna, and to a supermarket for some supplies, and thus get everything done in one go, so it was a bit longer.

photo are forbidden according to the much ignored signs

photos are forbidden according to the much ignored signs

well maintained stupa

well maintained stupa

Buddha in another temple

Buddha in another temple

elephant in another temple area

elephant in another temple area

huge stupa

huge stupa with monks

huge stupa

huge stupa

the world's oldest tree - continuously monitored for millenia

the world’s oldest tree – continuously monitored for millenia

The tour worked out well, and the half day I had in Anuradhapura was enough.

back at the hotel after a hard afternoon's sightseeing

back at the hotel after a hard afternoon’s sightseeing

At night I had to try to book a room in Jaffna, but being a holiday weekend it was almost impossible.  I ended up with a booking for a room with no air con and no bathroom for two nights, and then  better accommodation for the next two nights, following which I have a train reservation back to Colombo.

Trip to Sri Lanka 03-3 – my account

Thursday – day 5

I’m now updating this in Jaffna.
The tuk tuk was on time, and it took only 10 minutes to the bus station.  I’d booked a hotel tuk tuk, so it was trustworthy, and I had no problems. I was there at 5.45,  for a 6.10 departure.
bus seating

bus seating

The bus wasn’t yet full when we left – at 6.08, but soon was full and had people standing.  Being early traffic was OK.  It was urban and hilly to Matale, which took about 45 minutes.  And still urban for the next half hour, too, but greener, and some fields between towns.  The bus was clean enough, and the seats were also in good condition.  Configuration was 2, aisle, 3.  By 7.45 more rural – fields, some streams, mountains in the distance. At 8.30 there was a rest stop, but there were a few vacant seats, so no worry of losing my seat if I disembarked.

scenery

scenery

20 minutes later we were on our way again.  There are bus stops probably every 1/2 KM, and the bus will stop to pick someone up, or if someone presses one of the buttons on the ceiling, to drop someone off.

getting close to Trincomalee

getting close to Trincomalee

on the road

on the road

We arrived about one hour early, in 4 hours 40 minutes instead of 5 1/2 hours. After being harassed by a tout I found the information booth and checked bus times.

arrived

arrived

Not trusting the Lonely Planet hotel recommendations enough to book, I went to look first at the only hotel they recommended for this town – about a ten minute walk.  But they were full, and couldn’t recommend anywhere.

a hindu temple I walked past

a hindu temple I walked past

I continuing walking, and the first hotel I found was OK, if overpriced.  But it was so hot I was in danger of heat exhaustion, so I checked in and had a nice hot shower.

a hotel that I came across that had rooms

a hotel that I came across that had rooms

My Trincomalee sightseeing plan was formulated over lunch in the air-conned restaurant, and feeling good again I set off on foot.

more veges

more veges

Pretty well everything was a few minutes walk away…

this is now a museum

this is now a museum

St Marys Cathedral

St Marys Cathedral

the beach at Dutch Bay

the beach at Dutch Bay

stag at bay

stag at bay

deer - so many cute deer

deer – so many cute deer

while I was admiring the deer a monk came out and asked for money and pointed - from my viewpoint I couldn't see that there was a temple up there, and the money was the admission

while I was admiring the deer a monk came out and asked for money and pointed – from my viewpoint I couldn’t see that there was a temple up there, and the money was the admission

quite a big buddha

quite a big buddha

about a kilometre up the road, at the end, is a big Hindu temple that many locals were visiting

about a kilometre up the road, at the end, is a big Hindu temple that many locals were visiting – just follow the crowds

To enter the temple building, men had to remove their shirts.  One could carry it inside with you, though.

the temple

the temple

After I went for a long walk through the town and to look at the railway station.  I saw the clock tower on the way – the time was different, depending on which face you looked at. The clock tower is right next to the bus station, anyway. While there I checked the bus times for the morning again – to Jaffna and Anuradhapura.

back in town - the clock tower

back in town – the clock tower

I found a stall selling these on the street right near the clock tower.  Not so hygienic – I ate them later in the hotel – and luckily I didn’t get sick.

prawns covered with a kind of hummus

prawns covered with a kind of hummus

On the way back from my walk to the train station the moon had come up.

nice moon

nice moon

I walked along the bay behind the town on the way back to the hotel, and cut through the leafy suburb, about a 10 minute walk to the hotel from the bay.  I found a little shop that sold devilled egg rolls and bought some for the bus trip the next morning. (They were delicious.)

dusk over the bay behind Trincomalee

dusk over the bay behind Trincomalee

 Tomorrow I had to decide tonight whether to go directly to Jaffna, or go to Anuradhapura on the way.  If I could book a room in Anuradhapura I would go there, if not, directly to Jaffna.  I’d ring the next morning at a civilised hour – after 7.30am – and decide from there. The Anuradhapura bus left at 9.45, and the Jaffna ones left frequently, but there was one at 9.30am, so either way I could leave the hotel around 9am and stroll to the bus station.  Sounded like a plan.