A Travellerspoint blog

Land Rovers, fish spa and interesting people

overcast 33 °C

I spent three nights in the great city before heading elsewhere. The first impression of Malaysia (or at least the small parts of it I’ve seen) is that it’s a model for multi cultural countries. Here people dress very freely. Having in mind that it’s a Muslim country it’s remarkable. In Kuala Lumpur and Penang you have almost an equal share of Chinese, Indians, Indonesians and Malays. The diversity of religions and cultures has created something I haven’t seen before (not even in Europe to this extent). Of what I’ve heard from talking to locals is that regardless of your origins you are indeed a proud Malaysian. Indonesian girls with veils walking amongst with Chinese girls with miniskirts; nobody cares how you look. Apparently there is racism, according to the locals, however it’s hard to spot. Probably it’s a totally different story in the deep country side. Nevertheless, when it comes to the parts I’ve seen, I’m impressed. After applying for my passport last week, I’ve been quite busy trying to make the most of the surroundings of K.L.

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I went to Cameron Highlands, an area in the mountains north of the capital that is known for its tea plantations since the colonial times. It was a great escape from the humidity of Kuala Lumpur, which often hovers around the 80% mark. Up there (1500 meter above sea level) the air was dry and the temperature lower. It truly felt like a typical north European summer day. At night it got pretty cold, a blanket is a must! The climate and nature was quite similar to the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, India. The thing that stood out the most was all the old Land Rovers still running across the valleys, one got an impression that they would fall apart any time. I’ve never seen so many type 1 and type 2 Land Rovers in my life. If you’re into classic cars, you should pay a visit.

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In the Highlands I met some great people. Me, a Dutch guy, two Frenchmen and a girl from New Zealand made some very beautiful hikes in the area. Rather than paying money for the organized tours around the area, we hitchhiked everywhere. It was incredibly easy to catch a lift, mostly on the back of pickups and lorries.

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The highlights of this area were the tea plantations and a tea factory where you could see how the tea is made. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to pay a visit to the butterfly farm. There you can see loads of butterflies, reptiles and really cool insects.

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Also in the Highlands, I met this 80 year old American Arnold that totally blew my mind with travel stories. He ran away from home when he was 16, forging his identity to get into the US army before he got sent to China. This was all back in 1947. Imagine a 16 year old American alone in China nowadays. When he and his wife were backpacking through Europe back in the seventies, they came to Spain and stayed for 40 years! After his wife past away he’s been traveling on his own, when I met him he’s been on the road for three years and has no plans whatsoever to come back to Europe.

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I told him about my travels in India and Sri Lanka and he got really keen on going (he hasn’t been on the subcontinent for almost half a century). Last time he went to India was with “the magic bus” that went over land from Europe, that’s proper hardcore in those days. Respect. When I told him about that American citizens can obtain a ten year visa for India, he booked a ticket to Colombo straight away in order to apply for it there and also to see how the island itself has changed.

After Cameron Highlands me, one of the French guys (Simon) and the girl from New Zealand (Melanie) went north west to the island of Penang. Staying in Georgetown we made a lot of miles walking the giant air conditioned malls that basically were connected to each other, creating some kind of mega mall. If you’re into colonial architecture it’s a water hole for the enthusiasts, apart from that you really have to be creative to prevent boredom.

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We found two really amazing sushi restaurants, me and Simon were really pleased. I think we had 24 pieces each in two days, and that was only the dinners. Compared to Europe it was really a “good bang for the buck”.

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The most outstanding though was a foot spa we had all three of us. Ever heard of “Fish spa”? It’s an amazing thing that does wonders to your tired feet. You put your feet into a giant aquarium full of small hungry fishes. On you dip your feet; the fish comes and bites off tiny pieces of dead skin from them. The first five minutes were really ticklish and then you got used to it. People say it feels like acupuncture (I can’t say). After half an hour of being fish food, I can say that the result was amazing. I don’t recall my heels being as soft as they are now. If you’ve been on the road for a couple of months like I have, don’t hesitate!

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I’m currently on a “super VIP coach” from Penang back to K.L. It’s a normal size long distance coach with only 18 wide cockpit seats, making it really spacey. When it comes to entertainment, every seat is equipped with a flat screen TV along with a game console and headphones. We actually managed to hitchhike with one of these back in Cameron Highlands. That’s hitchhiking in style!

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Here’s Simon enjoying the free ride.

My passport hasn’t arrived yet (of course), hopefully it will arrive in the beginning of next week. If not, more money down the drain for me (I have a flight from Singapore to Jakarta on the 9th). I get upset whenever I think about how bureaucratic western countries are when you’re in trouble. In order to think about other things, I’ve found a climbing gym in K.L. I plan to visit. Probably the passport won’t arrive before next week; however I don’t want to be too far from it if it does. Maybe I’ll pay a one day visit in the old colonial city of Melaka. We’ll see what happens.

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Roger and out
Patrick

Posted by Patrick_K 10:14 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

From beach life to cosmopolitan insanity

overcast 33 °C

Well, I finally got my passport after more than three weeks… It took so long time that I missed the flight I had booked in advance. I managed to catch a flight one day before I was obliged to get a visa for Sri Lanka. After landing in K.L. yesterday, I went straight to the Swedish embassy this morning to apply for an ordinary passport.

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The woman at the embassy told me that she can’t issue me an ordinary passport for free (what I was told by the embassy in Delhi). I can possibly get a refund back home since it’s a production failure, if I show them the receipt. Now I’m hoping that I will get this new passport before my flight from Singapore on the 9th of December.

So let’s count; 160€ for the temporary passport, 100€ for a new flight and 140€ for an ordinary passport. For that money I’ve managed to get a round trip from Stockholm to Delhi and have money left for shopping. After this experience I’ve bought a passport cover, something I thought only old people use. Better safe than sorry (too bad I had to learn it the hard way).

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I finally spent a month in Hikkaduwa. I guess if you’re not into surfing it gets pretty boring after a while. I was determined to surf everyday it was possible though. I took four lessons and then I just rented a board and went out by myself. You need to understand the basics, after that it’s all up to you how much time you want to spend learning the right moves. I was in the water five hours per day. The first week was terrible, I was really angry at myself that I couldn’t stand up. I fell in the “washing machine” hundreds of times I think. But then there was a real breakthrough after a week. The last days I felt really proud surfing a proper two meter wave from the last line up, all the way to the beach. I gave my underwater camera to a local surfer in order to take some photographs, but they came out very foggy and shaky unfortunately. When I get to Indonesia I plan to buy a surfboard and hopefully get some nice pictures too. For now I will satisfy you with two photos from a river safari I went on.

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In Hikkaduwa I met a really friendly Italian couple. They have been traveling for six years, working in Australia and Italy for the seasons. We hanged out a lot in town. Me and Michele went surfing a couple of times which was cool since he was a more experienced surfer. At nights we often had dinner at a place called Sea View Restaurant. The owner Rohan has been living in Italy for six years and spoke Italian fluently. The food was exquisite, proper Italian food for a bargain. If you’re in town, you have to visit it.

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At the moment I just came back to the hostel. I went to the Petronas towers, when you stand at the ground looking up you kind of loose perspective of how tall they really are. Then it started to rain a lot, so not so much more sightseeing today. K.L. is truly a cosmopolitan city with people from all over the world and outstanding engineering. Where I’m staying, there is another (larger) shopping mall that has an indoor amusement park with roller coasters. They’re open until 10pm, so who knows.

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Peace out
Patrick

Posted by Patrick_K 11:35 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches skylines trains Comments (1)

After I left Delhi

sunny 29 °C
View Kickin' it solo in Asia on Patrick_K's travel map.

After I left Delhi, Mila still had to wait a week for her stamp so she could get out of the country. She´s back home in UK now, thank god. If you rent a scooter or bike, never leave your passport as deposit. I highly regret doing this in Goa, apparently it’s normal pretty much everywhere on the subcontinent. When I returned the scooter, which was shit, my passport looked like someone had been tampering with it. The laminated first page had been starting to come off just a bit in one edge before, but it was hardly noticeable. Now the entire page was coming off, barely hanging on to the rest of it.

Of course the guy claimed he didn’t touch it. Reporting it to the police was just going to be a bureaucratic nightmare with no real solution to my problem. I knew I was to get in trouble with this. When I was about to leave the country the customs in Chennai wrote, next to the Indian departure stamp, that I was not allowed to re-enter India with this passport, regardless of my visa. After coming to Sri Lanka (yes, they actually let me in), the first page broke in two and came off completely from the passport. The passport itself is a Swedish one from the early 00’s, the series of passports that apparently are known all over the world for its tremendously bad quality. It was worrying that Sweden doesn’t have an embassy in Colombo; they have a consulate that stopped issuing passports in March earlier this year. After checking their website out, I was told to contact the embassy in Delhi (a city I already was fed up with, due to Milas paper work, and a country I was not allowed to enter).

Thankfully, the consulate could received the documents by courier for the grand total of equivalent 160 €. This is what I’m waiting for right now, a temporary passport which I only can travel one month with. Swedish embassies only issue ordinary passports if you can physically identify yourself, so the first thing I’m going to do in Kuala Lumpur is to find the embassy. It apparently takes two weeks to get it for no cost at all since it’s a production failure, the fast talking woman at the Delhi embassy told me.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been hanging out with locals a lot and learning to surf. After travelling around like crazy in India for two months it’s nice to finally find myself a base. That base’s name is Hikkaduwa, a surfing hang out spot since the sixties. It’s not the season yet, but one can find some really good waves anyway. I rented a nice room with ocean view and huge breakfast, a dirt bike for transport and a surfboard for a grand total of 17 € per day. It’s not Indian prices, but still impressive. Staying at this base, I plan to do some day trips with the bike in the Southern Province but most importantly dedicate myself to learn to catch beautiful waves. Hopefully three weeks of body torture gives some results. Have to be ready for Bali in December!

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Speaking of waves, Sri Lanka still has scars after the tsunami back in 2004. The locals tell the most terrifying stories. Over 2000 people died in a train that was heading up the coast.

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In some places the memories of the tsunami are very obvious.

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Apart from that Sri Lanka is quite different from India, people are more westernized here. I got surprised of how clean it was when I left the terminal in Colombo (too much time in India?). In Colombo people actually respect lanes and stoplights, highly unthinkable in India. The driving here in Hikkaduwa and all along the coast is quite different though. The long distance bus drivers have competitions with each other (for money?), this means overtaking other buses in bends without a clear view. They can easily overtake each other on a road through a crowded village in 70km/h, no problem. I saw some really crazy things in India and heard breath taking stories, but normally the buses have the lowest rank on the streets. Not here.

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Most of the bus drivers in India are drunk while driving at night, there are actual bars along the roads (in the middle of nowhere) that open up after sunset full of bus/lorry drivers. If they’re not drunk, they fall asleep some locals told me. I don’t know what’s worse?

Anyway, I’ve booked some flights online a couple of days ago. The fixed dates are as follow:

Nov 16, Colombo to Kuala Lumpur
Dec 9, Singapore to Jakarta
Jan 22, Jakarta to Manila
Feb 10, Manila to Bangkok

The average price for these flights is 40 €. You can get great deals throughout Asia if you book in advance.

Thank you for reading about my travels, it feels worth keeping on writing!
Everything is possible if you put your mind into it…
/Patrick

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Posted by Patrick_K 19:15 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

Goodbye India, hello Sri Lanka!

rain 30 °C
View Kickin' it solo in Asia on Patrick_K's travel map.

So much has happened the past few weeks here, that I don’t recall happening during the past few years in Sweden. It’s obviously too much to write about. I’ll just capture the highlights so you don’t get bored.

After leaving for Gokarna the bus stopped 3:30am, 20 km from our destination. I went out from the bus for a leak and said to myself: “Screw this; no way am I getting of here!” So we continued to Goa which was the final destination of the bus. In Goa we saw some amazing places. We rented a bike for a couple of days and did some sightseeing around Goa basically. I bumped into some friends I met in Arambol, just a month earlier. We actually went on a bike trip from Palolem to Arambol, which is across whole of Goa. It was cool seeing the transformation of the little village due to the massive increase of tourist. A lot more shops and restaurants had opened, along with higher prices I suppose. I liked monsoon Goa more, with almost empty beaches. During the season, you still can find deserted beaches. You need a bike though.

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In India everything takes ages to accomplish, hence the expression “shanti shanti” which means “slowly slowly”. To upload pictures for example and to write a blog entry takes three hours, due to frequent power cuts and extremely slow internet connection. If you’re not used to this kind of effectiveness it can be very frustrating. Fortunately, after two months in India I have learned to accept it. I wrote a two page blog entry and the power went off just 2 days ago.

I supposed to be in Sri Lanka now already, a flight I had to postpone since Mila lost all her important documents such as: Passport, ID, flight ticket, credit cards and cash. This happened (how? don’t ask me!) in Hampi the day before her flight.

Over the past few days I have become a social worker here in India. After traveling five weeks together I couldn’t just leave her 2200 km from her embassy with no ID or money. Being Lithuanian citizen though, things became more difficult. The first thing that shocked me was that the embassy didn’t even have a web page. Eventually we found a telephone number and called them. So it began, the journey to Delhi. Since you’re not allowed to fly domestically within India without ID, we had to go by train.

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All in all a 40 hour ride which was quite cool actually, we traveled with this polish guy Maciek and had a lot of time to get to know each other. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s story when you’re sick of telling your own. After reaching Delhi, we had a fare well party with Maciek since he was leaving for Poland 12 hours later. We stay in Majnu Ka Tilla, which is a Tibetan neighborhood in the outskirts of Delhi. Tibetan people are really nice, nobody rips you off here. The food is good and there is plenty of Tibetan monks drinking Chai (tea) in the narrow streets.

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Dealing with the Lithuanian embassy went really fast when we actually found the place. She got a temporary passport. However, in order to fly back to the UK for her studies she needs to fly to Lithuania so she can get an ordinary passport. If she hadn’t lost her ID, she probably could get one here in India. Dealing with the Indian authorities to get her Indian visa (you need one to exit the country) turned out to be a real bitch. The past three days she’s been sent from one office to another. People working in government institutions here are somehow from a different planet! Are you rude? Is your patience minimal or none existing? Do you hate helping people out? Do you enjoy minimal of work? If you’re Indian and you can answer yes to these questions, the Indian immigration office will be happy to employ you.

Two days ago, when in the Internet café, I got a Trojan horse in my pen drive. This evil virus of course spread itself to my laptop, external hard drive and my memory card. I basically saw all my files and pictures being replaced by executable files you don’t want to open. Fortunately I found a computer guy that could help me destroy the virus and recover my pictures. Thank you!

Yesterday, I start to feel sick. Really sick. After spending a day in downtown Delhi, we went back to the hotel. I almost passed out before seeing a doctor in Majnu Ka Tilla. He fixed me up and gave me some medicine along with tips what to eat. I had become a victim of food poisoning after two months in India. No wonder there actually is an expression called Delhi belly. With these two encounters, I can say without any remorse what’s so ever, Delhi is a filthy place. Don’t argue with me on this one! There are parks that are actually clean though. The strange thing is that almost nobody seems to walk there.

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I wish everything turns out well for Mila so she can fly home as soon as possible, she missed out a lot in university and her parents are worried of course. She needs to fill in some final papers today. Hopefully she meets a cooperative person that can speed up the bullshit.

Tomorrow I fly to Sri Lanka with an overnight stopover in Chennai, I’m really looking forward to it. Palm trees, white sand beaches, elephants and surfing!

Posted by Patrick_K 17:55 Archived in India Tagged landscapes beaches people trains air_travel Comments (4)

From Puducherry to Hampi

sunny 31 °C

After spending five days in Puducherry, it kind of felt like a vacation from India. The town's french quarters which we stayed at is incredibly European in it's appearance. Clean streets, french architecture and loads of french cafe's serving croissants with real coffee. Even the hotels are a lot better than other places in India I have been to. Similar to Nice for example, Puducherry has got it's own "french style" beach road with a wide sidewalk (sidewalks are incredibly rare in India) and palm trees every few meters.

After renting a bike, we drove south (15km) and found a stunning wild beach. With just a few fishermen and children playing in the sand, there was a beach long enough to be very touristy. However, there was absolutely nobody to ruin the peace. I was surprised over the water temperature, it was a lot warmer than on the east coast (Goa, Kerala) and more blue in the color as well. This truly was a slice of paradise, I recommend!

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Now we're in Hampi, spent three nights already. This moon landscape that surrounds the village of Hampi is so breath taking that one could easily spend a couple of weeks here. I was really keen on doing some rock climbing here, since it's one the world's most spectacular bouldering areas. Unfortunatly, the boat that takes you across the river is not operating due to the high water level. On the other side one can rent climbing gear and meet fellow climbers of course. It seems that we will explore the temples here and walk up the hills waiting for the boat to start operating.

First day in Hampi was pretty stupid! We bargained for like half an hour to rent a scooter , got it for 100Rs and fueled it for 150rs. After realizing that there's no road up in the hills, we only went like 200m with the scooter to the roads end. When we came back from the walk, we realized that then key was gone! So this 200m scooter ride ended up costing something like 750rs :)

I'm pretty sick of Internet Cafe's to be honest, it's basically 32 degrees C indoor with low/none ventilation. I try to stay as little I can here. On the 1st we are going to Gokarna (Karnataka state), just south of Goa. I've heard so much good things about this place. After a week there, we will return to Hampi. Mila is then leaving for the UK and I will try to find some climbing to do.

Pistures of Hampi will come up from Gokarna, stayed tuned!

Posted by Patrick_K 09:52 Archived in India Tagged beaches art Comments (6)

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