Biking on Atolls

Biking on Atolls

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kochi India

As I had no tour or other plans for what to do in Kochi, I called up my new friends met while running around Langkawi

(here they are taking pictures in front of a Catholic church) and they graciously allowed me to squeeze into
a tuk-tuk with them for the day of touring. For those that may not know a tuk-tuk is really more of a two person ride, but it was great fun crowding in and zipping around seeing the city sights for the day. I learned a bit about posing for photos from these two. -
Check out my improved stance in this photo in front of St. Francis Church in Kochi.

Kochi is known for it's Chinese fishing nets which are a land fixed net that raise and lower using counter weights.

After a quick refresh back at the ship to wash off the various types of grime from the day we went back out to continue our authentic Indian experience by grabbing a beer at a nearby bar. This was an unforgettable experience as Mark bargained for a cheaper price for our beverages. He insisted we were being charged a tourist vs. a local price for the beer. I've never considered questioning the price quoted in a bar, but it did get us the beers for about half the originally quoted price. Later they brought around some snack that was something like chickpeas in a spicy sauce which they just spooned directly onto our open hands (btw - no napkins in sight) while Lenka reminded us that of all the places we were traveling we were not supposed to eat in India. I was hoping the beer would kill any germs - either in the food or that were on my hand and then got onto the food that way. Anyway - no ill effects and it was a lot of fun.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Columbo & Kandy, Sri Lanka

After a day at sea we arrived to Sri Lanka. Because I wanted to see Kandy and it is a bit far from port I signed up for another super expensive ship tour.

It turned out to be mostly a ride on the tour bus through horrendous traffic conditions - about 2-1/2 to 3 hours each way with non-stop honking, lurching, and slamming on the brakes - with the occasional audible gasp by those closest to the front who could see the close calls. It also meant that many sights were seen as we drove past them without stopping including seeing a man riding an elephant along side the road.
Upstream on this river (Kelani River) is where "Bridge On the River Kwai" was filmed.

Our first stop in Kandy was the botanical gardens. One area of this very large garden was a huge circle where famous people had over many years planted various trees and bushes. Several were planted by the British Royals.

This guy shared with us a scorpion he had found. Uh... thanks for sharing, please don't get near me.

After lunch at a local old hotel we went to the Buddhist temple that is the keeper of the tooth relic. Apparently when the Buddha was cremated they found one tooth in the ashes and it is now kept here.

View from the temple. It was raining and the ship had given us these funny blue rain covers to wear - a bit flimsy but a real help.

Phuket Thailand

Phuket is a tender in port, which means the ship can't dock and so it brings down the lifeboat boats to take us ashore that way. A bit of a pain as it takes a while to go back and forth.

The Phuket area was hit by the tsunami and there are now signs and a warning system in place. It's a very tourist focused area with lots of fun shopping including the some pretty nice knock-off merchandise. For example a large number of Tiffany products were available. They even came with the little blue Tiffany's soft bag and the blue Tiffany shopping bag. Note to self - don't buy this stuff on eBay, it's probably from the same fake source.

This stop was one of the three ports where I signed up for the pricey ship tours. It was a tough decision on whether to go to "James Bond" island or the island where "The Beach" was filmed. I went for James Bond. First they took us by bus to the east coast where we boarded a speed boat to the James Bond island. This area was featured in "The Man with the Golden Gun" which I viewed via Netflix when I got home.
The beach here is quite small and a good part of it is taken up by these stands selling souvenirs. If you actually pick anything up or otherwise show interest they get really aggressive, even to the point of holding onto you to prevent you from walking away.

Our boat also went through a cave in that same area, giving the kayakers a bit of a start to scatter out of our way. All perfectly safe I'm sure. :-|

We next went to a floating Muslim Water Village in the same general area. Interesting to see this village over the water that has all the things one might expect to see in a small town - shops,

a school with a sports court, restaurants,

and homes.

I even saw a boy riding a bike. I almost was left behind when I got lost in the maze of alleys and didn't get back to our boat on time. Fortunately someone noticed I was missing and the guide came back in and found me.

We then went to another island where we had a lovely lunch at tables set under trees (shade!) on the beach and had some beach time after lunch there too.

Really nice.

This area is really spectacular though Phi Phi island is probably equally as beautiful. Apparently there was controversy about the movie "The Beach" in Thailand. "After the film premiered in Thailand in 2000, some Thai politicians were upset at the way Thailand was depicted in the film, and called for it to be banned. The depiction of the drug culture was said to give Thailand a bad image and having a statue of Buddha in a bar was cited as "blasphemous"." This is a bit hysterical if you've been to this area of the world. Uh... are you really concerned about the drugs? What about the blatant prostitution? I went into Phuket in the evening with some friends from the ship and one street in particular there seems to be devoted to it.

Also the only place I've seen a street sign that indicated to watch out for drunks crossing the road. A very cute sign, btw. ;-)