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15 February 2008

Rice And Curry

Location : Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.

In my last entry, I forgot to mention that the picture of the boy jumping off the crane is, in my opinion, such a BRILLIANT photograph! Don't you think so? It is my favourite photograph because it correctly depicts somewhat a day in the life of a Sri Lankan. The timing was perfect, the boy's mid-air pose with his limbs spread out, the sky in the background...perfect, and probably painful. I'm even contemplating sending in the photograph to Lonely Planet! My next favourite picture is the one below :-

Sri Lankan lady plucking tea leaves
Tea picker at Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

Nuwara Eliya is considered the premium tea producing region of Sri Lanka, like Bordeaux of France(for wine) or Amsterdam of Holland(for stoners). On our first night in Nuwara Eliya, Gerardo and I popped by the Grand Hotel to have a beer. Coincidently, we met the superintendent(sort of manager) of 3 tea estates in a nearby town(Kandapola) and he invited us to visit his tea estate! I was really relieved to finally get a chance to experience true Sri Lankan hospitality instead of the tourist touts that annoy the crap out of me. He showed us around his bungalow which is on a hill overlooking all 3 tea estates - beautiful. When we were leaving, I noticed a group of tea harvesters had come round near the bungalow. Like an excited little boy, I ran over to try and snap an au natural shot. I sneaked up on this Sri Lankan lady and popped out from under the bush. The lady was a little shocked but she immediately realised it was just another stupid "Japanese" tourist with a camera in hand. So, she stopped picking, struck a pose and flashed me a smile as wide as the ocean. How sweet, eh? She didn't even asked for money. But anyway, I told her not to pose but to continue plucking. Her hands were like machines plucking the young shoots off the tea shrubs. Amazing.

For those dying to see pictures of waves :-

Overhead waves at Hikkaduwa
A-frame at Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.

One morning I woke up and I saw this(picture above). A ground swell had just arrived and it was going to grow bigger, up to double overhead. That's too big for me so it led me to search for other spots south of Hikkaduwa.

Long rides on a huge swell
Pic 1
Big walls of water
Pic 2

Pic 1 above is a long, long easy left hander wave....once you get over the fact that you are surfing above sharp coral reef! This is the surfspot where my darling surfboard was damaged by a British surfer who dropped into a wave I was catching. There wasn't even many of us out! Only 4 of us in the water but it only takes one stupid guy to leave scars on your beloved fibreglass. Pic 2 is a short walk away from Pic 1 but it is mainly a right hander although it breaks a little left wave at times. You just have to ensure you bail out...way out of the wave before it hits the rocks. =)

Short right point break at this little cove south of Sri Lanka
Mirissa, Sri Lanka.

Mirissa is a little idyllic cove pretty far south of Sri Lanka, facing south east. Apparently, this is where travellers go to chill out, get away from crowds and the party scene, a little gem of a hideaway. Hence, if a ground swell surges in from the Southern Ocean, it has to wrap around a tiny headland to produce this nifty right hander. I didn't surf this spot because I can't really surf right handers and also because while I was walking along the beach, I noticed some washed-up enemies of the ocean - sea urchins. Nasty little buggers.

Although we were really tempted to just stay by the beach the whole time we were in Sri Lanka, Gerardo and I forced ourselves to get up off our big fat asses and be proper tourists for a while to do a little sightseeing and soak in the culture, eat rice and curry from other parts of Sri Lanka, blah, blah, blah...

Looking down on me
Buddha is alive and well in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Public bus in Sri Lanka
Colourful buses of Sri Lanka.

One note though :- The bus drivers of Sri Lanka ought to be shot! They have no regard whatsoever for any other road users(human or animal), they drive like lunatics on an F1 circuit, overtaking despite oncoming traffic, driving extremely close to the back of a tuk-tuk, etc. Just stand at the roadside for 5 minutes and I bet you would see a near accident soon enough. I have lost count of how many times I have seen a vehicle overtaking despite oncoming traffic! They honk anything in their way and they never come to a full stop at bus stands(even if it's an official stop) because they don't want to lose the momentum. Sometimes they don't even stop! One day, Gerardo came back after visiting a nearby town and funnily exclaimed to me "I had to chase the bus".

Big guys should never sit in front
Watching a cultural dance
I smell burnt hair...
Somebody give this guy a shaver!!!
The train that was swept inland by the tsunami is now a tourist attraction at Hikkaduwa
Tsunami train at Hikkaduwa
Raising eyebrows at the local joint
Eating with my hands
Eating rice and curry at Homegrown Restaurant, Hikkaduwa.
Gerardo and Johanna tasting curries.
Gimme a kisssssss...
Pancho loves the locals!
Lovely ladies
Nice Sri Lankan ladies in saris
Lazing on a hammock watching the waves roll in
This is the life!!!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do...walking on train tracks like the locals!
Acting local on railway tracks
Somebody's watching me...
Eyes burning on my back

In the last picture(top right), there is a monk staring at me from the top of the hill. This was while we were in the hill country, in a city called Kandy. It is one of the annoyances I found about being a tourist in Sri Lanka - even bloody sightseeing is not cheap! We walked up this hill to check out the statue of Buddha at the top. To enter most temples, you have to pay a fee(what the fuck...?). In this instance, I was stopped by a monk at the gate and asked for a fee. I stepped aside and I watch a Sri Lankan couple casually strolling straight into the temple without being asked to pay. So I looked at the monk and pointed at the couple. He just shrugged his shoulders as if there was "nothing he could do about it". This gives Buddhism a very bad impression - I doubt Buddha is racist or discriminatory but Sri Lankan monks seem to make me think they are. We decided not to enter the temple and walked round the hilltop to see if we could take photographs of good views because the temple overlooked the town of Kandy. The monk thought we could be trying to sneak in through the side!!! Hence, Gerardo saw the photo opportunity.

Later on, we found out that the entrance fee to climb up the rock fortress in the ancient city of Sigiriya was 2000 rupees which is almost 10! That's a crazy price to pay in a 3rd world country - we only wanted to take a few photographs. And I bet only foreigners pay too! Then we started thinking of going to check out the Horton Plains National Park but the entry fees cost...USD$20. I don't normally mind paying but I feel violated because not only do I have to pay a western price structure in an Asian country when the locals don't even pay at all! Based on my other, past travel experiences in other countries, the entrance fees for some of the tourist attractions that we wanted to see in Sri Lanka was very expensive. In Kandy, we were once finding a way to walk at leisure back to our hotel through a jungle path. When we finally reached the entrance of the jungle, there was a locked gate that required us to pay to enter! Oh come on man....sheesh, we just wanted to walk through the jungle back to our hotel. I felt like a walking wad of cash. So, if you ever go to Sri Lanka, let it be known that for almost any tourist attraction that you want to check out, be prepared to pay in USD or what it's worth in Sri Lankan rupees.

On another note, there was a day when we were sitting down chilling at the beach in Hikkaduwa when suddenly, a few baby turtles popped out from under the sand!!! I've always seen turtles laying eggs but never seen them hatched. They were pretty cute...and I couldn't help myself but to give them a little lift to the water. I wanted to take them little buggers surfing with me! I think turtles are some of the most awesome creatures of the ocean(better than dolphins) so I was pretty enthralled by the whole experience. I even recorded a little video clip. The turtles in Hikkaduwa are such awesome guys...I swear they are all surfers. I have seen so many of them popping up next to me while I was surfing. Gerardo went snorkelling one day and a few of them big but friendly turtles turned up surrounding him as if they wanted to be friends. Turtlely awesome!

I have also observed there isn't much of a food selection in Sri Lanka. Perhaps because I may not have travelled far and wide on the island but most of the time, the food served at restaurants and stalls are :-

  • Rice and curry - Plain boiled rice with a selection of approximately 2 or 3 vegetable curries and a meat curry
  • Hoppers - pancakes shaped like a bowl, made from fermented rice flour. See picture.
  • Titbits - little bits of deepfried flour or sweets

That's about it! I didn't come across any soup noodles, other styles of preparing rice, stir fried stuff(except chop suey which is originally Chinese), etc. I'd like to believe there is a bigger selection that I haven't tried but I surely didn't come across it. That is why one of the biggest things I've always missed about Malaysia is the food. Authentic Indian, Malay or Chinese food, plus the many fusions between the 3 cultures and influences from Thailand. It has also been a while since I ate with my fingers so it was funny to see the amusement of Sri Lankan locals when they see me use my fingers, with comfort and style! It normally brings them to ask me where I was from to which they would in turn, exclaim that I was the first Malaysian they had met.

Gerardo and I were quite an odd combination as travelling partners anyway - the Spanish don't travel too much due to their lack of proficiency in English and most Malaysians don't really do independent travelling at all. I've had to explain a few times that we used to be mates at university because people we meet would often wonder how in the world did a Malaysian and Spanish come together. =)

Tomorrow morning, I leave back to Qatar for a day trip walking around the city of Doha before continuing on, back to Artic temperatures(by tropical standards) in UK. I'm SO looking forward to the cold...NOT!

To Gerardo, thanks for some of the pictures. Hope to see you soon again, compadre!

Posted by Ripcord at February 15, 2008 02:39 AM


Hey dude! nice photos, somehow you managed to make the one from the tea field look like a wide angle lens shot...

NORMAL Malaysians don't really do independent travelling. You know of at least one nut *AHEM* who goes to a travel agent and just for the hell of it orders a flight to SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE then leaves with practically the clothes on his back for a few weeks.

Posted by: Tim Yang at February 24, 2008 01:36 AM

Absolutely wingnut! You really captured the soul on a lot of your photos and id be proud to host any of them on my wall (apart from the one of your cheesy ass feet)

It was a bloody delight to read your post man, i have been drying out pretty badly this week - in desperate need of some waves and sunshine. Being landlocked like this is not good for my soul brother. really man, it was a pleasure to see your photos and read your classic liners!

heres to you being the raddest, carefree, badass fricking mentalist of a malaysian dude i have and will ever meet. its all yours edwin so take it away!

Posted by: stevie at February 24, 2008 12:15 PM

tim : thanks! yeah, what i meant was most malaysians or like you said, NORMAL malaysians. but that just means we are not normal!

stevie : aww man, comments like that make it hard to shut this blog down, but thanks dude. you still my bro! =) only 2 more months then we can surf brit waters again!

Posted by: Ripcord at February 24, 2008 03:15 PM

lucky bastard!!!!
I m going SL

Posted by: jd at February 26, 2008 02:37 PM

What an interesting trip ---minus the part where ppl tried to rip you off everywhere you go. tsk tsk tsk. Insane charges for touristy stuffs. No wonder it's an unpopular country to visit. Ptuih!

Oh, and I love eating using my fingers sometimes. The food kinda take on this mysterious, appetizing flavours from it. So that's good thing to do in SL since their food selections are so boring.

And YAY, cheers for the coolest Malaysian dude!! =)

Posted by: odriic at February 28, 2008 04:27 PM

jd : wish u were there too bro! =)

odrii : no...i'm sure there are much nicer blokes out there. u too kind!

isacabo : isabel my dear, i could've sworn i thought i saw your comment in here! i don't know what happened...i never knew you still visited this blog! so nice to get a comment from you...

Posted by: Ripcord at March 7, 2008 01:36 AM

tht pic on the hammocks...u r right !
that is what life should be....

and looks like sri lanka has lots to offer... putting aside the double standard and the food served

Posted by: zbjernak at March 15, 2008 02:34 PM