Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I'm back in KL again, after a wonderful week on the serendipitous island of Sri Lanka. I really had no idea what to expect - I was going simply on the basis that it was one of Air Asia's cheapest flights from KL, and I hadn't been before.
Arriving in the airport I had one of my regular blond moments on the start of these trips, walking out of the airport with a large wheelie suitcase, that a) wasnt mine and b) couldn't have been as the one I had was safely back in storage in KL. Anyway, a bit of sweet talking and I was let back in to swap bags by the helpful airline security.

The first thing you notice on leaving the airport is the number of well armed cops and soldiers everywhere, a reminder that the war has only just finished. My first stop was Negombo, a beach-side town that, although fine, would probably not be on many itineraries were it not for its proximity to the airport. There didn't seem a lot of tourists around at all, but it was fun wandering about, getting a feel for the country and watching the kids playing cricket in the fading beach light.

Next up was Kandy, Sri Lanka's second city a few hours inland by bumpy bus. While the bus station was a bit of a mess, the journey was good fun and finding suitable digs in Kandy pretty hassle free. I set myself up in the Olde Empire hotel to sample some of the faded colonial ambiance at rock bottom prices. It's amazing how quickly you adjust to hard beds and cold showers again!

Kandy was a nice manageable city built around a pretty artificial lake frequented by loads of birds including egrets, pelicans, ducks, cormorants and loads of small waders, as well as numerous locals strolling around and the odd tourist, only really noticeable in evidence at the Kandy Dance performances. It's also home of Temple of the Tooth, purported to hold a tooth from the Buddha himself. The temple itself is a pleasure to wander around in the dawn light, but gets thronged with worshipers pretty quickly.

Having sated any cultural urges, I made a beeline south for Hikaduwa, an erstwhile hippie beach resort that sounded a bit overdeveloped by now. However in reality, it was almost empty - it is low season - and still quite pretty, IMHO. I spent a couple of blissful days swimming, surfing and playing with turtles. And it was nice tasting the various Sri Lankan specialties, deviled fish curry being my favorite.

I also met my first real tourists, Tim and Sarah, an Aussie couple who had been sweethearts since sixteen (awww!) and had even been in the same playschool together! We also encountered Christopher, an American on a quest to avoid repaying his substantial student loan by endlessly studying all manner of nonsense in places like Finland and Romania, in between traveling on 5 euro a day (think lots of hitching and couch surfing).

Enough beaching, time for a bit of colonial culture and Galle, whose European influence is obvious in it's Fort and crumbling colonial Dutch buildings, many of which are well preserved. We ended up staying at the Fort Inn, a pretty nice place and run by the brother of a tuk tuk driver (seriously, he was his brother -what are the chances of that! - Sri Lanka is definitely a bit less scammy than India, or even Thailand, for that matter). It was a pleasure just wandering the streets, or the Fort walls, shared with hundreds of jolly local kids, courting couples and the Jumpers who dive precariously off the ramparts into a narrow shallow target below for a few dollars.

Regretting not giving myself longer, I was left with only enough time for a quick day trip to the very beautiful Unawatuna beach town just south of Galle, before I border the train north back to Negombo and one final sunset. The train was great fun - though a bit of a scrum to get a seat - and the combination of the clickety old carriages and friendly locals made the journey pass in no time at all.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Australian Update

Been busy with work and stuff, so havent updated in a while -
Have done some work on my wedding photography Melbourne site.
Also check out my melbourne photography blog. I'll keep this blogspot one for travel.
Not sure what to with my other wedding photographer site.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Out through Asia. Again.

After very brief stops in Dublin, Frankfurt, Munich and Singapore, I arrived in Malaysia to meet up with some friends. I hadn't been to Kuala Lumpur before, and it's a surprisingly modern city. Not cheap, but good nightlife, food and some fairly interesting old meets new, east meets west architecture.

After a couple of days the lure of Thailand was too great and I found myself in Krabi, via an overnight bus to Surat Thani (eveyone's least favourite Thai town) and a minibus. On said bus I bumped into Nick, the manager of the Nunnery in Melbourne where I'd stayed a few months back. Small world. I was on my way to meet Pat and Sarah, who are nearing the end of 2 years traveling. We stayed in Ao Nang, the ritzier side of Krabi. Personally, I prefer the more down at heal places, but the sunsets are still pretty nice.

After a couple of days we decided to head to Phi Phi, as both Pat and I fancied some scuba. It was even busier than Krabi and tough finding any sort of reasonably priced digs, but after a few days we had devised a schedule to offset the high rent by timing our wanderings to coincide with all the free food and drink going in different bars. And we found a nice quiet area of beach for daytime relaxation far from the madding and often maddening crowd. Passing on a trip to the Similian islands for cost and weather reasons, we settled for a local day's diving, which was pretty good and worth waiting for the improved conditions.

Enough beach pampering. Next up was Mae Sot, a Burmese refugee camp north west of Bangkok, and the place where Mike Cariaso from my Genelogic days was calling home for a few months. He's on his 3rd stint there helping with the kids computer education. Its a really nice setup, a lot more organised and less impoverished than I expected.

And I must admit the kids are adorable. We also did get to see some of the darker sides of the area, including a ward where amputees craft their replacement limbs, as well as the local "sport" of cockfighting. Although not near as gory as I imagined (about on a par to a boxing ring), I still think anything involving needless cruelty to animals isn't really kosher. We also got to see some of the local expat characters, who are always interesting (and usually a little odd) in these kind of locations.

All too soon my Thai visa was up (again) and it was time to move on. Tickets to Melbourne through Vietnam were cheap and allowed me to catch up with Tim and his Vietnamese girlfriend, who I had traveled with last year, as well as Sean (and his - do I sense a theme here...) who I met in Japan. Mostly we just drank lots of bia hoi in Saigon, but we did get away for a couple of days to the busy beach resort of Vung Tao. With hardly a western in site, it's certainly a different beach vibe than Ko Phi Phi!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

home unexpectantly

Although he hadnt been well for a while, I was still a shock when I realised my Dad was going to die in December. Being on the other side of the world doesnt help in these situations, but I managed to rearange my flights in time and leave work for the moment, without a return date. I only just made the funeral as my flight was delayed 8 hours in Melbourne. Everything went as well as possible in these circumstances, and it was really nice seeing the family again.
When I made it back home I thought Joey was going to have a heart attack, he was so excited, but after a while he quickly returned to his favorite entity in the world.

He did accompany me on a lot of early morning walks, and the weather was surprisingly nice and sunny. If was cold but not exceptionally so, all quite pleasant, and a lot better than many Irish summers! Mulling things over, I decided to jack in the job in Melbourne, and decided to pursue a new career in photography of some sort. Somewhere. Some time. Life's definitely too short to stay doing something you really don't like.

Well there seemed little point in doing anything too quickly, what with Christmas just around the corner, so I decided to take it easy for a few days and contemplate my future. Christmas was a nice affair, nothing too high key, as you can see by the look of boredom on out two youngest participants.

Apart from several Galway trips to meet Martin, I made one trip to Dublin to meet up with Anna who I knew from Estonia. It was fun being a tourist in your own country for a change. Having decided to head back down under, and with no cheap flights to oz, I booked a one way ticket to Asia, where I planned to meet up with a couple of friends en route.