Seems to be suiting my laziness in posting erratically.
I still need to update based on trip to Edinburgh and Venice. Plus all the house headache.
Hopefully after I finish my uni stuff next week. After this I'm switching just to doing one subject a semester, much more fun. 2 with work was just too full on.
This post is a little long and rambling. I've left out stuff that should go in, and I'll edit it later. Just needed to get most of it down.
So for Christmas, my parents were going to Sri Lanka. Lana's never been, nor met most of my rellies. Last time I went I was 15 (so 17 years ago). So off we decided to go.
Plan was a couple of days in Colombo for a big family christmas with the extended family, fuck off down south to laze around on a beach for a few days, then back to Colombo for another week of catching up with everyone.
To start with, I will never ever fly Sri Lanka Airlines again. Only people who fly direct to Sri Lanka though. We bordered the plane an hour late, and were then stuck on the tarmac for another 4 hours. This was due to non of the toilets working. Of course they kept on handing out free drinks. I ended up sneaking in and pissing in the sink.
Apart from that, the airline itself was fine.
And the day before I had the runs and was throwing up, due to a bad reaction to the swine flu vaccine.
Got to the other end, out the doors into the chaos that is Sri Lanka. They are recently recovering from a civil war, so tourism is down. So the touts are fairly aggressive. And for whatever reason, not once was I mistaken for a local. This is the first time that's ever happened to me. Normally I blend right in.
Airport is a good hour away from Colombo. My cousin had a car pick us up, and off we were whisked to the number 1 hotel in Colombo, Cinammon Grand. This hotel was fantastic. Huge entrance room, live band playing, a dude making crepes. Complimentary drink on arrival, the whole nine yards. And dirt cheap. Think we paid $US55 a night, including breakfast. And breakfast was great. Both Sri Lankan and Western & Japanese, all you can eat.
Christmas lunch was good. Apart from my cousin, no-one else knew me and Lana were coming, so it was a surprise. Just a usual day of lazing around, eating and drinking too much.
After that, we headed down south to Weligama. About a 4 hour drive. Stayed at a place called Weligama Bay Resort. Owned by a Czech couple. The resort was in a great location, own pretty much private beach, with soft waves. Which was why I picked it, so Lana wouldn't get swept out to sea. Only downside, was a bit of a hike to any stores, no real other places to eat around there. Plus while it's been open for a year, they hadn't got everything down. For example, they run out of towels a few times, still trying to fine tune the menus. But when they had BBQ's for dinner, with a view of the ocean, you could put these minor complaints to rest. Fresh lobster whacked on the BBQ. Delicious.
And the room itself was huge. The only other downside was there were no blinds for the curtains, just those roman slat blinds. So I was getting woken up pretty early.
The hotel was also very expensive for Sri Lanka. Cheap compared to anywhere else in the world, expensive for there. All in all I wouldn't recommend it.
Here's a picture of Lana asleep....at about noon...
And some cows just wandering past the beach.
Lana was also highly amused at the fact the resort had a bunch of Russians there. She did end up swearing at some of them who were having a late night party on the balcony. The balconies are also cheaply done, no walls between apartments, just a blind. So if one person is noisy, the whole row can hear.
One day we did a trip to Galle. An old Dutch Fort town.
Just did a bit of wandering around.
Lana bought some old (200+ year) dutch coins. At a vastly inflated price. But hey, who cares?
Did a walk around the wall, which was pretty cool. Then ended up at some military festival. Finally got some groceries, and bought some fireworks. Which at a later date I took great pleasure in shooting them at lana while she was swimming Bloody hilarious when she stormed out of the water to yell at whoever was doing it, only to realise it was me.
Went out to Udawalawe National Park.
On the way there, saw this cool 50 foot Buddha statue.
Great trip, got in a 4wd, drove around with a tracker looking for animals. Saw lots of elephants. Even had one baby one charge the car. The driver gunned the engine to scare him off, then he turned around and tried to kick the car.
At one point the 4wd drive got stuck. I debated getting out to push, but decided my sitting on the back wheels for extra weight was probably best.
The funny bit is the place we got stuck, we spent 30 minutes helping another car get out. Of course Lana said we'd get stuck, of course we did.
Also saw lots of peacocks, a few eagles, a turtle or 2, a hyena, a wild cat, spotted deer, and prob a few more I missed. Great trip.
That was about it for Weligama. Mainly a lazy, get your bones warm before London week. I did teach Lana how to surf....well enough that she caught 2 waves
On the way back to Colombo we stopped off at a turtle hatchery. Basically these places buy/find turtle eggs, hatch them and release back in the wild.
There's a lot of security checkpoints in Colombo. Mainly get your passport checked and away you go. 90% of the time if they saw Lana's white face they would wave us through (unless the President was in residence). So I had great fun telling Lana to poke her white face out the window. Mainly as I'm normally the only brown face on our trips.
Back in Colombo. My mum arranged with the hotel for some goldfish to be in our room instead of the fruit bowl.
She even named them "Bonnie and Clyde".
Sounds like a good idea? Except they didn't change water, so one ended up dying. Leaving Lana rather upset.
New Years Eve had an all you can eat sea food buffet. Which was good value for £25.
But it was a "poya" day, or a buddhist holy day on New Years Eve. Which meant no booze until midnight. My Dad and mate kept running back to the hotel room for a quick nip. I ended up eating too much, that as soon as midnight came and I skulled a beer, my guts felt like they would explode. Plus I was taking immodium due to a bad reaction to the swine flu vaccine.
Next day headed off for a wander around town. I kept getting busted just strolling through military checkpoints without showing any id.
Ended up on some peddle boat swans. These peddle boats always seem cooler than they are. Too much hard work peddling.
Ended up in a buddhist temple. Cool King Elephant outside. King Elephants need to have 7 points touch the ground, 4 legs, tail, tusks and penis.
Now I was slightly pissed at the buddhist due to them stopping me getting pissed on New Years. But then we went into the temple. The head monk gave me and Lana a present. It was a picture of the buddha, lucky coin, 20 rupee note, 1 $US dollar picture of the buddha and some scripture. Which was cool. $1US dollar is prob the equiv in buying power of $US10 over there, so I was happy again. I do rather like the buddhists (apart from the reincarnation stuff). So ended up at the airport buying a few books on buddhism to read.
Back to the Hotel. Fantastic chaos going on again inside. Some dancers going on.
Final big trip, a trip to Pinnawala elephant orphanage and the Temple of the Tooth.
Not at the orphanage, my Dad tried to sneak me in as a local. Locals pay 100 rupees. Tourists pay 2000 rupees. Didn't work. They picked me straight away. I acted dumb, Dad tried to say I was a student (a great damn big one). I kept my mouth shut, but we ended up paying the 2000.
Orphanage was great. They feed the baby elephants, then take them down to the river to bathe. They just wander around playing. Spent a good 2 hours watching them.
Then we found a place that had elephant rides. Lana wanted to ride one.
Granted she wanted to ride one, but she was petrified on top. So she's in front of me, my cousin Shamara is behind me. Lana's screaming at me to hold on to her, Shamara is hanging on behind me for dear life. Was rather amusing. Good fun though.
Here's the youtube video of a bit. Lana screaming at me to hold her.
Temple of the tooth was a bit of a let down. 1000 (£5) rupees to get in. But you don't get to see much.
And that's about it. Lots of other family dinner's and get togethers. But I don't think anyone wants to read that apart from me Good to catch up with ppl I haven't seen in over 15 years.
Lana reckons it was the best holiday she's had. I'd rank it up there in the top 5.
BTW, there's also lots more pics on facebook.
Thankfully my passport with renewed visa came back in time (3 more years, expires Dec 2012).
I bought tickets for Rammstein 6 months ago in Katowice. I was cycling through their tour dates, picking interesting cities. I didn't realise until after I booked it that Kataowice was an industrial town with no direct flights. Oh well.
So off we go, 5 hour trip, changing in Frankfurt on the way there, Dusseldorf on the way back.
30 minute trip from the airport to the hotel. We get there around midnight on thursday.
Wander around a bit on Friday. Pretty much, see all there is to see. Town is fairly small. No really great architecture. Nice shopping mall though. Try to book some tours. There's nothing in winter. Oh well.
So we've been wandering around the town, and I've yet to see another brown face. Or asian. Or anything non-white. Which then to the amusement of Lana, proceeds to be my goal for the rest of the trip. And nope, never found another. Did find a half asian woman though.
Now on to Rammstein. Tickets said it opened at 6. So we got there then. We were rather confused as to which queue to get in, so just picked the shortest one.
Now our tickets said we were sitting in H section. But there was a word next to the H. "Sektor czerwony". There were 3 H sections. Red, Black and Blue. Within a day Lana had managed to pick up bits and pieces of polish. Prob due to her being able to speak Ukraine and Russian, she was muddling her way through. So we worked out it was red.
Get to seats, great seats. Standing is in front of us. Wheelchairs in front of us, but perfect view.
2 hours later the support act plays. Good, but not great. Lead singer wasn't loud enough.
1 hour after that, Rammstein plays. And yep, they were good. And loud. Mix of new stuff, and old classics (Du Hast and ending with Engel). Pyrotechnics were great. All in all, great fun.
But I am damn thankfully I'm old and sensible enough now to both not go into the mosh, and wear earplugs
The crowd was interesting. Nothing too freaky. Also surprising, there was an almost complete lack of police presence. And no trouble from what I could see (apart from ppl smoking in the toilets).
Next day we got up fairly late, wandered around the city. Everything was shut apart from one art museum, which was fairly average.
Did find a place that sold 1 litre beers. And that was pretty good.
Onto the flight back. Tiny plane leaving Katawice. Couldn't take any carryon luggage on, too small.
But getting through customs on the way back was a pain in the balls. For some reason the bloke in Frankfurt hadn't stamped our passports. So the guy in dusseldorf didn't want to let us out. But he called his supervisor who was cool, saw we'd been in the UK for 3 years, with a new visa for 3 more, and told us it's a minor problem. But to make sure we get it stamped next time.
The onto Heathrow customes. I've been through customs now at Heathrow maybed 20-30 times. Everytime they have been cool, even when there has been problems. This bloke was a dick. First tells me off for writing "indefinte" for time intending to spend in the UK, because our Visa expires in 3 years. Even though Tier 1 is a migrant track and is only intended for those who want to spend indefinite time in the UK i.e. migrate.
Lana's RF-ID chip ain't working. So he had a big question and answer about where she kept the passport. Then he stamped mine, sent me on the way, and kept Lana behind for further questions.
It wasn't his questions, just his attitude. Lana had a similar problem with her passport before where it didn't scan correctly. That guy was fine, friendly, courteous, got it triple checked. Didn't seperate us or do any power games like this guy was doing. I should have written down his name and complained after, but oh well. 1 out 20 can't complain.
In the end told Lana to get another passport. Which ain't really an option, since new visa is in this one, which will cost a hefty chunk for new passport and transferring visa.
Oh, and btw, one thing I absolutely love about getting off the plane in Sydney. You walk up to the customs desk and you hear the twang of the Aussie accent, and you know you're back in Oz. And even though I've been searched a couple of times by Aussie customs, those guys have never been dicks about anything either.
Lana's got pics, so those will be up on facebook shortly.
All in all, going to Katowice was not worth it for the city, but Rammstein was great.
Debating doing a christmas markets run to Prague for the weekend in December.
I'll prob upload some pics later.
So Lana was off to Antalya, Turkey to meet a mate of hers. I decided to tag along. As well, one of my mates came along to meet Lana's mate (they had been chatting for a while).
But to the trip itself.
Was painful to try and get a direct flight to Antalya. Managed it, with Thomas Cook. Who sucked dogs balls. £12 extra so we could sit together. Plus it was a package holiday flight, so full of kids and chavs. And I didn't realise how far out Stansted airport was from London. But anyway, that's just the flight, not that important.
Get to the airport. Go up to pay for visa into Turkey. On an Aussie passport you can't pay in Pounds or Turkish Lire. Only Euro or US Dollars. So took about 15 minutes to pay by credit card. Weird. Everyone else in the queue could pay by pounds.
Through customs. First strange thing. The bloke spoke perfect Russian and erratic English. Thought it was amusing that Lana, who has a Russian name, had an Aussie passport. Which it turns out a lot of others did as well. So they all thought Lana was a mail order bride. Oh well.
I'll spoil a little. Turns out Antalya is a purely Russian holiday destination. Most people there don't speak English, but speak Russian fine. As an Aussie, I was a bit of an oddity.
Now to the resort. Turns out this was an all inclusive resort. All food and booze included. Never been to one of these before. Place was also huge. 4 odd pools, own private beach. And full of Russians.
Russians are rather amusing to watch on holiday. They like their discos. We went on a boat tour, and halfway through, they broke out the disco. Also their swim fashions are about 20 years behind the times. Men like budgie smugglers, women g-strings. And normally 50 year old men and women. I enjoyed taking pictures of lana and trying to fit in some budgie smugglers in the background (hence I will post up pics later).
Also we ran into a few 50 year old men, with 20 year old girlfriends. And a few older men with a bodyguard or 2 tailing after them. Lana literally stepped on the toes of one of the bodyguards accidently, and got a rather strange look Played a game about who could find the couple with the greatest age difference. 30 was the best we found.
Also a few of the Russians we chatted to were rather snobby. But then again, we found out later we had booked into the poshest place in town. Some of them were cool though.
Food was good, some with a russian twist. Beer was shite. But free. At the bar once, ordered a beer. Bloke at the bar heard me speaking english and started up a conversation with me. Then he started bagging out Russians, and how the resort was full of them. Amused me to tell him I was married to a Russian.
They also slapped on a wristband to track who was allowed in the resort. I promptly ripped it off. Out of curiosity I checked who else had ripped it off, but couldn't find anyone else. I got checked once by this weird security guard coming in once, and that was it.
Decided to walk into town. Turns out the town was about 30 minute drive away. Walked for about an hour with Lana whinging before we caught a bus.
Town was okay, I bought a £2 watch as the batteries in my other one went flat. Pretty good watch, even though 2 of the hands are painted on.
Checked out the museum, which was okay.
With the massive Russian prescence, being a way out of town, and having free food and booze in the resort, holiday was more of being in Russia than experiencing anything Turkish.
Went on a boat ride and a jeep ride. Jeep ride was shite. Jeep broke down halfway, so we got towed for most of it. Plus they told us we could drive the jeeps when we booked, but that wasn't how it turned out. I'm still waiting for a tour that lives up to what they sell it as. Best crap is still the randomness. I hate organised tours, but lana likes them.
But all said and done, was a nice 30 degrees and sunny for the trip. My head hurt from russian being spoken everywhere. I started dreaming in russian, even though I can only speak about a dozen words.
But came back drunk, warm and tanned, so can't complain.
And fuck, I've got to post more again. I just read through this blog post, and it's way too stilted and disjointed. Got to get back into practice.
I've been wanting to do a RTW on a bike for a while. The problem being that Lana can't sit on the back because of her knees. And she was totally fine with me doing it solo or with someone else, but I can't bring myself to disappear for 2 odd years and spend a bucket of cash on it.
Doing it in a car just doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Don't know why.
With my laziness in regards to traveling normally, you might be asking why would you do an RTW? I really enjoy the random touring on a bike. I just hate weekend trips. Same amount of packing as if you'd do a rtw, you run around like a mad dog trying to do everything. I like the more chilled randomness of touring.
So now we're looking at getting a sail boat and doing a RTW on that.
This is raising a few issues.
Starting with the personal.
Firstly, neither of us can sail. I've boated erratically, but last time on a sail boat was 10 years ago.
Secondly, neither of us are rather good swimmers.
With the sailing, if we assume we kick off this adventure in 3 or so years time, enough time to get some lessons and practice in. A weekend intro course is around £200, spending the night on a boat. Bunch more lessons easy enough. Then hire a boat to do some solo sailing around the med. Maybe crewing for a few weeks to get some additional practice in. Or hiring an experienced skipper for a few days just to make sure we don't get into trouble.
In regards to the swimming bit. It's not really a huge issue. Packing an aqualung on board for emergency repairs will be good enough.
Now onto the other stuff. I have been reading and doing some research. All this is in very early exploratory phase. We need to get the lessons in first to see if we enjoy it, and can handle it.
Pirates. After investigating attacks on sailing yachts, the numbers are fairly small. Leaving out arden/somalia, there were about a dozen reported cases last year. And 90% of these were muggings/robberies than pirates. So my stress factor on that went down. It's enough to be slightly worried about it, without going paranoid.
Boredom. But then after a few lessons, a week around the med sea, we should work this out.
24 hour watches. So assume it's just me and Lana. That means while sailing you need a 24 hour watch. Solo sailors normally wake up every 15 minutes to check everything is fine. But checking up on this, a 4 hour watch at night, and a few naps during the day cover it.
Cost. The boat costs the most obviously. Around £50k will get a sweet 40 foot boat. Cost per year of sailing, including maint, is around £20k. So assume 3 years, we're looking at £110k. Doable. Plus at the end we've still got the boat.
Solo or with others. Undecided on this. If we get a boat with 4 berths, it does mean if we want we can pick up hitchhikers. Prob will help with duties and such. And help with me not strangling Lana.
Internet. They have satellite laptops now, which are meant to work anywhere in the world.
Captain. There can only be one in charge on the boat. But we're going to decide this after we do some lessons and see who is better at the sailing bit.
All in all, yet another option we're exploring. Next month we'll prob do the weekend course and see how that goes. Then wait until the warmer months before doing anything more on it.
There is a shit load to learn though.
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