Sri Lanka

Post-election Malaysia

Well, I more or less ceased blogging until the new government repealed the fake news legislation.

And since then I have been too busy.

elephant festival

I was away for a trip to Sri Lanka, my third trip there.  It’s a short inexpensive flight from KL.  There we saw the amazing elephant festival in Kandy, visited the highlands to benefit our bodies with some cold weather and clean air, and see tea plantations, and bought some Ayurvedic oils.

Later I was on an end-of-season trip to the Perhentian Islands.  We were last there in April, and it was (even) more relaxed in early September. And from the islands you could see the mainland, so the air was clearer.

the mainland from Perhentian

So, what’s been happening here in Penang?  I haven’t been here to notice too much, but the Gurney Wharf project is progressing.  A lot of sand (?) has been spread on the reclaimed land, and more of the bay has been reclaimed.

The 6% GST was abolished, as promised by the government, but at the beginning of this month, a 6% SST was imposed.  This makes some things the same price as before, although it’s supposed to be imposed at wholesale level.  My Starbucks coffee went from RM7 with GST, to RM6.50 without GST to RM 6.90 with SST.  Restaurants are charging the full 6% on the bills.  However, some retail shops have signs up saying that prices won’t rise after the SST.

The rainy season again started early this year, and it’s been cool.  This has been the trend for the last few years, generally getting cooler and cooler each year.  This is nice, actually.  If, but really when, an ice age starts, obviously the tropics is the place to be.

In the years of trying to grow papaya at the back I’ve only ever managed to harvest one papaya.  Although it’s very easy to grow the trees – just save some seeds from a store-bought papaya and sow them where you want your trees – somehow the ants conspired to kill or weaken them and I got no fruit.  I decided to grow some trees in my roof garden, not in pots as I never got fruit from potted papaya, and now I have lots of papaya fruit growing, and I’ve already harvested and eaten some.

so many papayas

ready to eat

Other things keeping me busy are working on setting up an e-business and trying to work out how to export this blog to tropicalexpat.com, having bought the domain.  The WordPress export function didn’t work properly, and only moved a small fraction of posts.

Since Grab and Uber merged I notice that now fares are about 25% higher, and discounts almost non-existent. And the other day we were out when everyone else also was, and had to pay surge fares – over double the normal.  However, it was still preferable to driving, as the traffic jams were monumental, and parking presumably very difficult.

This time of year there are many public holidays, so sometimes it’s a bit hard to get things done.

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Signs of Sri Lanka

Signs and a few typical sights in Sri Lanka:

Kandy train timetable

ginger beer is popular and good

a Sri Lankan curry

so many old buses

toilet costs more to use than in Germany

country restaurant

better watch for those crocodiles going about – but nevertheless I saw men swimming

also watch for elephants

a bit of a climb

they like to put elephant carvings on the walls

tourists have to pay big money to visit some temples – even if for religious reasons

tourists have to pay big money to visit some temples – even if for religious reasons

Sri Lanka has Buddhist, Christian and Islam, among others

at a bus station

I found local Marmite

statues in the making on the way to Sri Pada

so many dogs in Sri Lanka – and they are very relaxed. Few cats.

we climbed Sri Pada

at a Ayurveda shop

at another Ayurveda shop. So many in Kandy.

OK

delicious Kuttu – but fattening

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A great many shoe shops – also Shoe Empire, Shoe Galaxy, Shoe Universe etc. Maybe.

A lot of shoe repairmen can be found on the street – RS200 or so to repair.

a distinct elephant theme in Sri Lanka

tuk tuks everywhere

many buses are old ones from Japan

many buses are old ones from Japan

many tuk tuks have a message

petrol is not cheap

cricket is very popular in Sri Lanka. But this is actually a betting shop.

alcohol is expensive, and they are big on temperance, it seems

some lions

a small scale copy of Borobudur in Indonesia

Hyde Park Corner in Colombo

Malaysian Airlines luggage delay – generally well handled

only three hours flight

We’d just arrived back in Penang from Colombo.  With only one hour ten minutes transit time in KL we wondered if our luggage would be loaded onto our Penang-bound flight.  Particularly as all three bags were labelled fragile.

While waiting at the luggage carousel in Penang Airport we noticed no more luggage was appearing.  Only a minute or two later a MAS employee strode over to tell us and a couple more passengers that there was no more luggage to be delivered.  We were accompanied to a desk three metres away where the employee took details of flight origins, the bag descriptions and all the obvious details.

They said they had currently no information, but would phone us when they did.  And that our luggage would be delivered to our home unless Customs wanted to examine it. In the latter case we’d have to return to the airport for luggage clearance by Customs.  We had not exceeded any Customs limitations, so we certainly hoped we wouldn’t have to return to the airport.  We went home, arriving about 10.30AM.  That was easy as we had only our hand luggage to carry.

At about 3PM a private sedan pulled up at our gate – it was our luggage!  Unfortunately only one bag still had the fragile sticker attached, and one of the others had a broken bottle, despite being securely wrapped.  So, Customs didn’t bother us, and MAS delivered our luggage in a timely fashion, with the only sad thing being the broken bottle.  We weren’t informed of progress at all by MAS, but I’m afraid that lack of communication is typical in Malaysia.

 

Retiring in Sri Lanka?

Last year I made a trip to Sri Lanka.  Edward has asked me a couple of times if I would write a rough and ready evaluation of whether I would consider retiring there.  So, just off the top of my head, here is a quick response.

I might consider it, but I would need to do a lot more research, and I think at the moment for me the answer would be , “no”.  I liked travelling there, and kept on meeting people and families (often from the UK) who were having their third holiday there.  But I am not sure about living there.

I don’t know the visa situation, nor the cost of rental, or the possibility of property purchase.  Hotels were relatively expensive.  Having only been through Columbo I don’t know the availability of any goods that I might want to buy if I was staying. This is also a problem in Malaysia – if it’s not a mobile phone or its accessories  you want then it may not be so easy to find.  I also don’t know if importing one’s household goods would be easy and tax-free.

Being an island I find Sri Lanka a bit isolated.  I don’t know how many flights out there are, their availability and costs.  I think there is now a ferry to India, too.

I don’t know how good Internet access availability is in general, but mobile Internet was cheap and speeds reasonable.

Domestic transport was cheap, but crowded, although the country roads seemed quite empty and the standard of driving reasonable. I haven’t checked the statistics on that, though.  I’d have to check car prices.  Tourist sites can be expensive to enter.

And it was quite annoying that it was too risky to use a credit card as reportedly so many people will copy the numbers and use them.  So I never used a credit card there. And I only used an ATM there twice – the second time the bank stopped my ATM card as the ATM machine I’d used (in the middle of Kandy) had been used in the past for fraud.  I had a backup card with another bank, but this could have caused a terrible problem when I was doing everything right, correctly, carefully and honestly.

What about the future of the economy and the stability of the currency?  I don’t know.

Alcohol prices and availability are not so good, which may or may not be an issue.  And I don’t know about health facilities, either, but apparently malaria is not a problem now.

Certainly it was easy just to communicate in English,  the food was good and inexpensive, and the scenery and variety of scenery wonderful.  It seemed safe enough, although there is sometimes political violence.  If you don’t attend demonstrations you would likely have no problems.

So, after doing my research on these and other matters I still imagine probably would not want to retire there under current conditions.

Signs of Sri Lanka 6/6 – transport

road sign

road sign

petrol station looks pretty much the same

petrol station looks pretty much the same

lots of statues around the place

lots of statues around the place

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

sometimes the train timetables were incomprehensible, sometimes OK

street signs in three languages

street signs in three languages

saw quite a few of these around

saw quite a few of these around

tuk tuk

tuk tuk

station sign - often you couldn't find one when on the train and had no idea where you were - except with Google Maps

station sign – often you couldn’t find one when on the train and had no idea where you were – except with Google Maps

on the train

on the train

a typical train

a typical train

train ticket

train ticket

Kandy sign for the poor of sight

Kandy sign for the poor of sight

at Kanday Station

at Kanday Station

a bit of history

a bit of history

in three languages again

in three languages again

bus station

bus station

road sign

road sign

bus station

bus station

another station

another station

another timetable

another timetable

petrol again

petrol again

some info

some info

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

typical long distance bus

I never worked this one out

I never worked this one out

these were found on many street corners in Jaffna

these were found on many street corners in Jaffna

OK, I like stations

OK, I like stations

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in the middle of nowhere in the north west

in the middle of nowhere in the north-west

bikes and motorbikes go on the ferry roof - no extra charge

bikes and motorbikes go on the ferry roof – no extra charge

another ticket

another ticket

It took days to be able to say "Anuradhapura"

It took days to be able to say “Anuradhapura”

Signs of Sri Lanka 5/6 – sights

so many Chinese tourists in Galle - either pairs or groups of young girls, or young couples.

so many Chinese tourists in Galle – either pairs or groups of young girls, or young couples.

plenty of nice beaches

plenty of nice beaches

every town seems to have a clocktower

every town seems to have a clocktower

full moon every months means party day - called Poya

full moon every months means party day – called Poya

in Jaffna many buildings are still in ruins after the war

in Jaffna many buildings are still in ruins after the war

Alliance Francais - just around the corner from the British Council

Alliance Francais – just around the corner from the British Council

cricket ground in Galle British Council - just around the corner from the Alliance Francais

British Council – just around the corner from the Alliance Francais

cricket ground in Galle

cricket ground in Galle