We didn’t make it to the Galle Fort until close to the end of our stay, but were glad we did go! The fort is located on a rocky peninsula that juts out from the city of Galle. Only about 35 km from our place in Weligama, a motorbike ride was around an hour away.
If you don’t want to ride a motorbike around Sri Lanka – which is understandable – Galle should still be easy to reach via train, tuk-tuk, or taxi. We got into an accident just days before riding to Galle, but to be honest, you might feel a little nervous with any of the transportation options. There are some crazy drivers on the road! Ultimately, we chose to go by motorbike because it was the most flexible option.
We set out for Galle around mid-morning with the intention of grabbing something to eat while in the fort. As usual for this time of the year, the weather was a little dreary but not rainy, making for a pleasant ride along the the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
The traffic wasn’t too bad until we were within a few km of the fort. Luckily, coming from the south you can get to the fort and avoid driving through the congested city interior; whereas through the north, you will ride through a congested city of over a hundred thousand residents.
We crossed through the walls and parked in a small parking lot at the Ambalama in the northeast section of the fort. There is no fee for parking, and we had no trouble finding a space. We were visiting during the off-season though, so it may be more crowded at other times of the year.
Walking down the historic streets with no real direction in mind other than to find someplace to grab a bite to eat, the charm of the fort presented itself. Although the fort is over 400 years old, it still remains in good repair and continues it’s lively operations. The interior of the fort is filled with home stays, restaurants, religious and municipal buildings, museums, and residencies.
Our first stop was a unique, free museum that showcased various trinkets and artifacts from Galle’s past. While hard to get good information on many of the pieces, it still is very interesting. It also doubled as a jewelers and we were able to see some of the tools used to polish the semi-precious stones.
Upon leaving the museum, we were really hungry so we stopped by the first place that seemed reasonable. The place seemed nice, and my food was pretty good – Fish and Chips – nothing special, but it was good. Bri, however, ordered garlic bread, and was very disappointed. I had assumed that she was just being a little picky, but upon trying it myself – no, it was just bad. Ultimately, the meal cost 1200 LKR (~$8.20) for us.
This was a problem we encountered frequently while in Sri Lanka – poor food. Colombo impressed us with the quality and variety of the food we could get – offering a wide variety of Indian, Sri Lankan, and south Asian dishes. But as we progressed down the coast, we found the quality dropped severely. Fish was usually decent, but nothing catering to locals seemed to be great – cold, poorly spiced, very starch heavy, and lacking in fruits and vegetables.
We can’t be sure here, but it could be that many locals do not go out to eat frequently, and thus the local establishments cater to tourists who don’t know any better. More expensive eateries could have decent food, but you will pay around $10 for a meal that should have only cost around $4.
So while the meal was satisfactory for me, Bri was still feeling ravenous, and thus we made our way towards an ice cream shop we had previously researched.
Along the way though, we happened upon a few key landmarks, the first being the Meeran Mosque. The building does not look like a normal mosque, but rather more like a church. This is due in part to Dutch colonialism, which encouraged the more European style architecture that is prominent throughout the fort.
The Galle lighthouse is directly across from the mosque sitting on the southern end of the promontory. We found a few vendors trying to sell trinkets, but unlike most touristy vendors, they left us alone which was nice. Instead, we were able to take in the views of Galle Bay and the lighthouse.
We were surprised that people were swimming in the jetties just below the wall. The water was rough in the bay, but the rocks surrounding the fort made for a safe place to swim.
After viewing the lighthouse, we returned to our previous goal of finding the ice cream shop: Dairy King. The shop features homemade ice cream, which was quite good. We each got our own, at 250 SLR each coming out to ~$3.41 total. I got coconut flavor, while Bri got passion fruit flavor.
We then wandered down Church Street, where we found a friendly – though skinny – cat that enjoyed our attention.
The fort was first constructed by the Portuguese in 1588, and was later fortified by the Dutch during their colonial period in 1649. The city of Galle itself however, has been acknowledged since at least 125 CE by Ptolmey as a major port for trade between Asia and Europe.
Other Galle Fort Activities
Wandering the fort is a great way to spend the afternoon. We made a stop for some sunglasses, which Briana unfortunately lost on a previous outing. You can also find local artists from whom to buy paintings – which we did. Ultimately, we were tired and only intended for a half-day, so we went light on the activities. However, for those that are interested, you can check out:
The Dutch Reformed Church
National Maritime Museum
Old Dutch Hospital
All Saints Anglican Church
Wandering, we eventually found ourselves back along the sea wall and ambled towards the ramparts that face the the city. The wind here was pretty substantial, which encouraged the locals to try to fly kites. Some of them were very big.
Sitting about twenty feet below the wall on the sea-side was a tomb as well. It is known as the Muslim Saint’s Tomb. I don’t know what else to say about it unfortunately, I am sure there is information somewhere, but what I can find is all in Singhalese.
The ramparts give a nice, sweeping view of the area in front of the fort and the sprawl of Galle before it. We enjoyed the overlook before finally heading back to the motorbike to make our way home. We decided that we didn’t want to risk driving at night again.
Ultimately, Galle Fort is a great place to visit if you’re in the South of Sri Lanka. And even if you’re up near Colombo, it is only a couple hour’s ride away. For those really wanting to experience Galle in a slow way, you can stay in a number of home stays within the walls of the fort for an authentic experience.
The quiet town of Weligama doesn’t offer much for the visitor to do aside from surfing and using the location as a home base for further exploring to places such as Mirissa, Galle, and Yala National Park. However, there are still plenty of smaller, more personable sites to view and explore. One of these such places that we decided to check out was the statue of the Leper King.
At first, we knew pretty much nothing about the Rock of the Leper King other than the fact that it existed and was carved in stone. When we looked up it’s location, google maps gave us a general location, but as we had come to learn, google maps isn’t always the most accurate in foreign countries – particularly those that are a little less developed.
Getting To The Coast
Nonetheless, with our destination set, we set out for a walk to get to the statue. We began with our customary walk out of the residential road and across the bridge (which was under construction) over the river to the main road.
Once on the road we proceeded out towards the waterfront road, where we proceeded to walk the entirety of Weligama Bay. During this time, we passed numerous fish mongers, boats, shrines, surfers, and cricket players.
The sky was on the verge of storming nearly the entire duration of our walk, but this had become customary to us. We had arrived in Sri Lanka during the monsoon, and as such it rained most days. But coming from Florida, this really wasn’t a big deal – we’ve heard people complain about monsoon weather, but personally, I think it is actually nice (less tourists, and cooling rains – why complain?).
Just as we rounded the cape of the bay, we turned inwards back towards the main drag of Weligama. Along this road, at this point, though, things were far more relaxed and residential.
Turning Towards The Interior
We stopped by a small Buddhist shrine, but didn’t feel right entering because we weren’t properly dressed. A few locals outside the shrine urged us to go in and look around, but we still felt a little uncomfortable.
Proceeding to enter at their behest, we were shot dirty looks by other locals inside the temple. We opted to simply wander the grounds for a few minutes but not intrude on the temple operations themselves. Shortly after, we left.
Continuing along the road, we came upon numerous homes and buildings of seemingly no consequence. However, they all bore a authenticity that made our wandering all the more enjoyable.
Arriving At The Rock Of The Leper King
A long while later, we finally came to a fork in the road that I was expecting – near the train tracks and knew that we were close to the statue. A quick turn to the left, and proceeding across the tracks brought us to the entrance to the tiny park that held the statue.
The statue was carved into a large boulder and stood a few feet above head height. The park was small, but offered a quiet respite from the going-ons about us.
Known locally as Kusta Raja Gala or Rock of the Leper King, it depicts an ancient king stricken with Leprosy. The king was instructed to drink coconut pulp for three months to cure his disease. The “cure” worked and the statue was built to commemorate him.
We stayed for a few minutes, before proceeding back towards our AirBNB. Of course, we were still a far from home at this point, with good walk ahead of us. We took a break watching some cricket players across the road.
This time though, we proceeded to make our way through the heart of Weligama and the main city center. It was very busy, and aside from the cell phones, evoked the feeling of being in the 60s or 70s.
The walk took us several hours, and we were quite tired upon arriving back to our AirBNB. As we’ve found elsewhere, a simple walk in “mundane” neighborhoods can offer more noteworthy experiences than typical tourist fare.
We spent two weeks in Weligama, during which time we had our accommodation at WeereVilla via AirBNB. It was better than we were expecting and we had a pretty good time while we were there. We arrived in the late afternoon via the train and got a tuk-tuk to take us to our place for 200 LR (~$1.30).
The home was situated back in a quiet street on the peninsula where the river makes a large S-bend before emptying into the bay. Here we could see the quiet life of the locals, and the many friendly yet stray dogs – and even puppies.
Our host Gihan told me that there was a superstition amongst the people that if you take care of animals, you will die – which is why there are so many strays in Sri Lanka, no one wants to die. He told me that while he doesn’t believe it at all and has tried on occasion to take care of the animals, the older generation holds firmly to this belief (we did not encounter this in Colombo).
The house and property itself was quite spacious, with numerous fruit trees in the yard including banana and avocado. The house was divided into three spaces: the family side, the upstairs, and the renters side. The renter’s side, which is where we were, had a fridge, a sitting area, and two bedrooms. The upstairs could be rented by room or entirely as well and contained a kitchen, although it wasn’t really prepared so we couldn’t use it.
Food For Thought
Gihan also provided us every morning with a breakfast. It was quite nice to have breakfast provided for us, although it was much too big and heavy for us, as we’re not big eaters in the morning (though Briana is more so). In the end after discussing how it was too much for us, it just turned into banana and tea which we were perfectly fine with.
It was certainly difficult not being able to cook. The local food was cheap, but it didn’t sit quite right with us usually. Gihan would order for us what we wanted off a standard menu and it would come about 30 minutes later. We were provided with a bowl and knife to cut fruit though, which helped when we wanted a midnight snack. Sadly, our very weird and poor diet led to some health problems.
Beating the Heat
The property was not air conditioned, and it did get a little hot at times. There is little air conditioning in the country, so it’s not something to get particularly upset at. We had a fan provided so we made do. The much-needed mosquito net kept us protected at night.
Luckily, we also had internet for our work. We were worried at first because of data limits, but he had 60 GB of data to use for the month, and we realized that by being careful, we wouldn’t get close to hitting that mark.
The shower was cold, but considering how hot we were, we (or at least I) could adjust rather quickly to the temperature and enjoy the cooling affect. Briana was disturbed one time when fresh concrete suddenly came through the open-air window. This was the result of the owners doing repairs.
The Little Things
We also did not have access to a washer/dryer, but did have a tub to hand wash our clothes in. The biggest issue was attempting to dry the clothes. Because it rained so often and was so humid, it could take up to two days to properly dry in the sun. But again, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
A Little Adventure
Gihan also lent us his motorbike on two occasions, one time to Yala National Park and another to Galle – despite us getting into an accident on our first outing, which was nice of him.
The place could get a little buggy, which was annoying. But we’d started to come to accept that is just the way of life in Sri Lanka.
Talking with Gihan was nice. He actually got officially engaged on our last night in Weligama and had his family in town to celebrate. They had a BBQ, and I got to try some of their local fish (Mullet) which was delicious. He was attending, and finishing up University in Business and Hospitality at the time. The AirBNB / WeereVilla was his business venture, and I think he was doing quite well with his offers. At this moment, the residence up for sale, as he intends to move having now finished with school.
We spent two weeks in the town of Weligama, Sri Lanka. Weligama, which means “sandy village” in Sinhalese, is a sleepy town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka in the Matara district.
What’s To Know?
The primary industries of the town are tourism and fishing. Here, you’ll find the iconic stilt fisherman as well as many regular fishing boats. The area around Weligama Bay is dotted with numerous boats and marinas, and it is easy to get fresh caught fish from fisherman along the shore.
The primary tourism in the area is in regards to surfing. The bay provides excellent conditions throughout most the year, though the peak season is during the winter months from October to March. Visiting in June, the town appeared to be devoid of most tourists. Weligama sits near the famed Mirissa beach as well as other surf spots.
A Great Home Base To Explore From
It’s location is also optimal for taking day trips to Galle or visiting various national parks such as Yala on the eastern coast of the island. While a motorbike or tuk-tuk will make traveling the town far easier and faster, you can walk the whole town.
There are a few hotels, and many home stays that one can elect to stay at. If you have the funds, you can even stay on the private island/villa known as Taprobane – which will cost between $1000 and $2200 a night depending on the time of year.
Hit hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 15% of Weligama was destroyed. 2,200 homes were damaged and 469 citizens killed. Due to the civil war, most humanitarian aid and funds were misappropriated towards the war in the north. The town put its best foot forward to reconstruct on its own.
Anything to Eat?
The food is not as varied as you will find in the capitol of Columbo. Stil, you can find plenty of local fare such as Kottu, Rice and Curry, Hoppers, Roti, Curd, and King Coconut.
If you want to visit Weligama, you’ll need to either travel via the train as we did (and don’t really recommend unless you are traveling light) or hire/rent a car.
When you arrive in Sri Lanka, there is almost a 100% chance that you’ve come in through Colombo. Colombo is the capitol of Sri Lanka, and considered the shopping hub of the country – however, you likely didn’t come for the shopping. You came for the sights.
Where in Sri Lanka are You Going?
Most likely you have one (if not all) of these places on your itinerary: Kandy, Ella, Anurahadapura, Galle, Mirissa, or Yala. The list goes on, with numerous visit-worthy sites. One thing you will discover though, is that everything is located away from the others – it’s a scattershot of the island.
With money, you can certainly hire a private driver or rent a car. If you have the time, you can choose a spot as a home base and motorbike the majority of the island. If you’d like to risk death, you can take a bus. But most likely, you’re going to have to use the train.
The train in Sri Lanka is not anywhere near as modern, easy, or comfortable as we’ve covered before in Seoul or Bangkok. In fact, you’ll pretty much be taken back to the turn of the (20th) century in terms of operations. If you want to use the bathroom, I’d suggest you just hold it.
We made two trips on the train during our stay. Our first trip we started at the tiny Ja-Ela station, which just happened to be near our AirBNB, which we took to Colombo Fort Station, and from Fort we went to Weligama.
Sleepy Ja-Ela Station
Ja-Ela was a very tiny station, really just a platform with a ticket master. Our tickets cost 20 LKR (~$0.15) each. We had looked up online when to be at the station, which in this case was 10:30am, and the train arrived relatively on schedule. The trains do not run frequently, so it is important to know what time to make, otherwise you may be waiting several hours or even to the next day for the next train.
Once the train arrived, we jumped onto the train and took a leisurely ride to Colombo Fort, which lasted roughly an hour. The train itself looked to be around a hundred years old. Wooden bench seats (they did have cushions though) were the only option and the train doors were simply open, air conditioning meant windows and small electric fans on the ceiling.
Chaos at Colombo Fort
Arriving at Colombo Fort was chaos in stark contrast to sleepy Ja-Ela. Big, loud, and bustling, the numerous platforms had trains coming in and out seemingly at random. There were no announcements, you simply found out which train you were supposed to get on and go to the right platform at the right time.
One rule to remember, is that while trains may run late – they NEVER run early. So do not get on a train if it’s not yet time, otherwise you’ll find yourself on the path to the wrong place.
Store Your Valuables
Colombo Fort has a “Coat Closet”, or “Left Luggage” area near the main station master. It is watched by a guard on the first floor, and you put your stuff in a large locker on the second floor for 50 LKR (~$0.33) a day.
It should hold whatever you’re carrying. If you can’t fit it all in – you are carrying way too much stuff with you. They provide you with a small lock, but if you’re planning on leaving your stuff there for more than a few hours, I’d recommend bringing your own, sturdier padlock.
We had two hours to kill before our train to Weligama arrived. So we put our stuff up and explored the area around the station. There isn’t a ton, but there are a few streets of shops and food to explore. There is also a small food vendor within the station that is alright – nothing special, but it will get the job done.
Buying the longer express trains to places such as Weligama, or Kandy will run a bit more expensive. Buying our 2nd class tickets cost us 240 LKR (~$1.60) each, not much, but it is more. You must purchase them outside the station though and re-enter.
Boarding The Train
Once your train arrives, get on the train and search for a seat. You probably won’t find one. Despite paying for 2nd class, which is supposed to get you a seat in air conditioning, you’ll still probably stand. We eventually got to sit about 2 hours into our ride. Luckily you can stow your gear above the seats. If you do this though, be sure to keep your eyes on your luggage – people will steal your stuff. Upon arrival to Weligama, another couple discovered that literally all their belongings had been stolen: bags, phones, money, Passports and Visas.
Take in the Views
If you can though, grab a window seat and enjoy the scenery. The trip to Weligama follows the shore the whole way. Much of the time you have a nice ocean view. If going to Kandy, the trip is considered beautiful enough to have a special car just for viewing the landscape.
Our Return to Colombo
Our second trip, was from Weligama back to Colombo Fort, and then supposed to continue on to Kurana station, which was near our AirBNB that would take us to the airport the next day.
Purchasing and boarding at Weligama went smoothy, and we got 2nd class seats – and since it was a smaller station at the beginning of the line, we actually managed to sit. The train was delayed en route for reasons unknown to us, but we sat at Galle Station for at least a half hour before continuing on.
Disembarkation at Colombo Fort was awful though. People rushed onto the train as we tried to get off. They were incredibly rude, shoving and pushing and very inconsiderate. I got pressed against a wall at one point, and once I managed to stumble off the train, I discovered my wallet was missing. I’d been pick-pocketed.
Again, I can’t reiterate enough that you need to be careful of your stuff on the trains in Sri Lanka. People will steal your stuff. That fiasco led to us not catching the train to Kurana, but I’ll not go into that here.
In any case, the trains in Sri Lanka are an adventure to themselves. Don’t be scared, but you should certainly be wary, and keep your guard up.
So initially, the plan here was to give each country it’s own individual beer review. As time has gone on, some countries only had a few to offer, while in others I didn’t get to try as many, and in some places they offered the same beers. So I’m going to go ahead and just list them all here with my review.
Vietnam may not be well known for it’s beer, but it’s actually got quite a good selection and they’re all cheap. There are a few national brands, and many imports with Heineken being the favorite, but the beer scene in Vietnam is pretty local. Many breweries are very local and only sell regionally. While I didn’t get to try any from the central region, I did get a wide range from the south and north.
Bia Saigon Special:
Light sweet flavor with strong bitter after notes. 14,000 Dong (~$0.70) Found nationwide, hailing from Ho Chi Minh City.
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Light with a musky flavor, with no distinct after taste. 16,000 Dong (~$0.75). Found nationwide hailing from Ho Chi Minh City.
Tastes like Budlight. Cool design though. 11,000 Dong (~$0.50). Originates from north Vietnam, and is now part of the Carlsberg group.
Bia Hai Phong:
Light and crisp with a fruity flavor and a bitter, but not too hoppy bite, big bottle. Huge bottle at only 12,000 Dong (~ $.050). Found only near Hai Phong City and Cat Ba Island.
Bia Ha Noi:
Light and clean. The taste is a little watery though. There is a mild bitter aftertaste. Found nationwide hailing from Hanoi.
Heavy beer. Slightly bitter and hoppy, but with a clean after taste and very filling. 15,000 Dong (~$0.75). Brewed by French colonialists in 1909 in the European style.
Light beer, very light taste with a hint of lemon. It’s rather foamy. Reminds me of Keystone Light. Hailing from Hanoi, it’s aimed at middle-income drinkers who want an easy to drink beer.
Like (most) any other country, Thailand likes its alcohol and has a fair selection of beer. I’ve gotten a chance to try a few and review them here. I believe that you can find some of these in US stores if they offer a wide selection. All the beers came in two sizes, regular and big at the prices of 32-35 BHT (~$1) and 55 BHT (~$1.5).
Medium lightness, not too bitter, slight citrus taste. Really good. It is a pale lager, brewed at 5.5% ABV. Chang is Thai for elephant, of which there are two on the logo.
Heavy and rich taste. Almost tastes like a pale-ale. It is a American Adjunct Lager, brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery at 5% ABV.
Lighter than Leo, but similar. Rich taste, very crisp, and bitter. It is a 5% ABV pale lager, also brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery. Singha is a powerful mythological lion of Bihari Hindu and Thai stories. It is the only brewery allowed to display the royal Garuda on the bottleneck.
Decent Lager. Mild flavor, moderately bitter. Similar to a Bud-light, but it actually tastes good. This is an American Adjunct Lager at 5% ABV brewed by Thai Asia Pacific Brewery Company.
Cheers Malt and Riceberry Lager:
Sweet, light and crisp. Slight bitter after-tones. Much better than the regular Cheers. This is a 5% ABV beer.
This is not actually a beer, I was surprised upon drinking it after opening. It is a beer brewed rice wine. At 8% ABV it’s not as strong as regular wine. It is a sweet, crisp and fruity white wine. Its decent and comes in a large bottle, but certainly a cheap wine. 35 BHT ($1)
I was really surprised at Cambodia’s selection of beer. They had quite a few craft style selections to choose from.
6% ABV. Light tasting and very smooth. Not particularly bitter. It is considered a gold lager, and is brewed to German Purity standards – containing only water, yeast, hops and malt. Kingdom Breweries was founded in 2009 as Cambodia’s premiere Craft Brewery. ($0.50)
5% ABV. Smooth and heavy. Very complex, and well balanced flavors. Hints of caramel and chocolate with a hoppy finish. Slightly sweet. Brewed by Kingdom Breweries. ($1.10)
5% ABV. Light and fresh tasting. Light hoppiness with sweet citrus notes and a sweet honey finish. Moderate body, with a good mouth feel. Not overly carbonated. ($1.30)
Phnom Penh Lager:
5% ABV. Bitter, hoppy and light. Hints of citrus. A pale lager. Decent but not particularly noteworthy. Brewed by Phnom Penh Brewery Company. ($0.55)
Phnom Penh Stout:
7% ABV. Smooth with chocolate notes. It begins slightly sweet and malty, but ends with a crispness that can almost be called bitter. Deep brown in color, with a thick head. Very good quality. Brewed from Phnom Penh Brewery Company. ($0.65)
ABC Extra Stout:
8% ABV. Smooth with a sharp bitter taste with distinct notes of chocolate and coffee. Good mouth feel, and quite heavy. Good drink to have along with a meal. Brewed by Archipelago Brewery Company. ($1.10)
5% ABV. Sharp and bitter bite. Watery mouth feel, and flavor does not linger long. Quickly becomes more palatable as the beer slightly warms. Very hoppy. Not the best, but nothing to complain about. Brewed by Cambrew Brewery. ($0.50)
Angkor Premium Extra Stout:
8% ABV. Very strong bite and a bitter, hoppy taste. Light hints of chocolate, with stronger overtones of vanilla and anise.Brewed by Cambrew Brewery. ($1.10)
5% ABV. The taste is a bit heavier and foamy. Not particularly sharp tasting, but not overly watery.It’s acceptable, but not amazing. Reminds me of a Keystone Light. Typical mass produced lager. Brewed by Khmer Brewery. ($0.55)
Despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, and being a Muslim country via the government, you can still get yourself plenty of alcohol with little to no issue here. Each island has it’s own regional beers, of which I only got on Bali, but Bintang is offered across all the islands.
Pilsner. Light tasting, with hint of citrus. Smooth and with little head. 4.7% ABV. Very average, but drinkable. 17,000 Rupiah (~$1.30)
4.85% – Draft Beer. Good strong, yet mellow drink. Good mouth feel. Thin body. Smells and tastes of malt, barley, and rice. High carbonation. 17,000 Rupiah (~$1.30)
Sri Lanka carries many of the standard beers you find in SEA, but it also has some wonderful local beers. Over here, they like them big and strong. Most varieties come in both large and small bottles, and well as regular strength and strong.
8.8% ABV. Lion Brewery Ceylon. Strong, heavy malt flavor. Smooth finish. Light carbonation. Medium hoppiness. 625 ML310 Rupees (~$2.10)
8.8% ABV. Lion Brewery Ceylon. Strong, heavy malt flavor. Thick and rich. Subtle hints of chocolate. 625 ML 310 Rupees ($2.10)
These beers you can find just about anywhere in this region. The key distributer is Carlsberg.
This is actually a South Korean beer, but very popular in the region. Light tasting, with a hint of citrus and bitter after notes. I grabbed this one while in Vietnam. 18,000 Dong (~$0.80)
4.9% ABV. Thick and creamy. Very carbonated. Was decent and malty. I grabbed this one while in Bali. 19,000 Rupiah (~$1.40)
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Carlsberg Special Brew:
8.8% ABV. Medium bodied lager. Decent finish with moderate carbonation. Hints of malt. Decent. I grabbed this one while in Sri Lanka. 310 Rupees (~$2.10)
4.7% ABV. A very nice light pilsner beer with a smooth finish and light, sweet taste. A rice beer. Supplied via our host in Columbo, Sri Lanka.
I experimented with a different way of writing the summary to give you a better idea of the month but then it turned out to be VERY long (not unlike last month’s summary) but if I think it was too long for the monthly roundup, than it was too long for the monthly roundup. I’m just going to let the rest of the roundup summarize June for us. Despite how long it remains, I am actually leaving out lots of interesting experiences because I would like the roundup to be just a little more readable. I am also going to link to our Liebster award here because that was fun and exciting for us!
Where We’ve Been this Month (Pic credit: Kyle)
3 days Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka
14 days Weligama, Sri Lanka
1 day Negambo, Sri Lanka
1 day transit/the Colombo Airport/Dubai Airport/Beirut Airport
3 days Bcharre, Lebanon
2 days Beirut, Lebanon
6 days Dhoros, Cyprus
Distance Traveled by:
Plane: 3503 miles Train: 193 miles Bus: 134 miles Motorbike: 225+ miles
1. Cyprus! We are now housesitting 7 cats in Cyprus! The house is lovely and so are the cats. So far we’ve gone to the beach, checked out Paphos a little bit, including their Archaeological Park, and explored our current town in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. 2. Yala Safari. We went on our first safari this month in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. We saw elephants, water buffalo, a sloth bear, a sleeping leopard, and more. 3. Surfing. While he found it exhausting, Kyle had a fun time surfing in Weligama and did pretty well! 4. Exploring in Sri Lanka. We really enjoyed walking along the coast and up various little streets in Weligama. We also had fun exploring some of the south (such as Galle and Mirissa) by motorbike. 5. Exploring in Lebanon. In Bcharre we walked through the Cedars of God, explored the Qadisha Grotto, and wandered through the town. In Beirut we checked out Nijmeh Square and a little bit of the area in which our Airbnb was located (Achrafieh). 5. Privacy and Accommodation. In our place in Weligama we were somewhat separate (though in the same house) from the living space of the owners which was nice. In Negambo, Bcharre, and Beirut, we had the entire places to ourselves (and the place in Bcharre was nice.) Now we have a big beautiful house to ourselves in Cyprus. 6. Friendly Hosts. We really got to know our first Airbnb host (and his daughter) in Sri Lanka. We had discussions on topics such as politics, religion, film, and even freemasonry over local food and beer. Our second host was also welcoming and generous and our third was nice. Both of our hosts in Lebanon were also very generous with both of them offering us warm welcomes and food. 7. Carpet/rugs. In Bcharre, the living room had a carpet. Well actually, a huge soft rug. I know I judged Kyle before for complaining about dirty feet and it did not bother me at all for a while but after months of places in Asia which does not seem to know about carpet and is full of hard dirty floors, I was so happy to walk, sit and lay on the very soft carpet in Bcharre. There are also some nice rugs here in Cyprus. 8. Hot Water! We didn’t have it at all in Sri Lanka until our last place but have had it everywhere since! It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to get hot water reliably and it’s quite nice! 9. Food. We had some pretty good Indian food in Ja-Ela and Negambo and some delicious food in Lebanon. We finally got access to cheese in both of these places. We were able to cook with paneer while in Ja-Ela (though we didn’t have access to an equipped kitchen in Weligama- which was most of our time in Sri Lanka.) When we couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for the first night in Lebanon, we went to the store and bought some yoghurt and hummus to have with the bread and cheese our host gave us and it was soo good, as was the meal we tried out the next day (fried cheese rolls and garlic yoghurt soaked fried eggplant.) And now in Cyprus we have a full equipped kitchen! First time on our travels. I am talking a full stove, oven, microwave, etc. Ovens are rare/pretty much non-existent in Asia so this is a pretty big deal. 10. Did I mention we are watching 7 kitties??
1. Getting pick-pocketed in Sri Lanka.Kyle had his wallet stolen out of his pocket on the train from Weligama to Colombo Fort. This was annoying in many ways. Because of the whole thing throwing time off, we had to take a tuk tuk which was more expensive and then our Airbnb host was not at the proper location to pick us up. Kyle also had to cancel his cards to things which were on autopay and we lost some cash. Luckily most of our cash was stored elsewhere. It must be commonplace there, though because on our original ride from Fort to Weligama, the only other foreign couple on the train (I think they were British) had all of their things (bags, wallet, phone, etc.) stolen. 2. Road Hazards in Sri Lanka. While out motorbiking one day, we/Kyle hit a pig. We escaped pretty much unscathed but it’s certainly still a lowlight. I cannot comment on the state of the pig, partly because I never actually saw it. The important thing is that we are fine. Anyway, though, while the roads themselves are actually in good condition in Sri Lanka, we found them to be the most hazardous between the drivers who drink, the drivers who think think they can drive on any side of the road and constantly switch between them- especially the big buses, and all of the stray animals and wildlife. I chose to not drive the motorbike myself and would rather not ride one there again, at least in the south- perhaps conditions are better in Kandy. We might not have used the bike at all had the alternatives for transportation (taxis/tuk tuks) not been considerably more for some of the distances we were traveling. I can’t deny that a motorbike is a fun way to see the beauty of the country and it was, but it was also stressful and perhaps it should not be done much in places like Sri Lanka. Though I must say I think anyone on the road there is not safe, no matter the type of vehicle. 3. My pains. Skip if you think talking about this is TMI because I go on a bit. Anyway, each of these could be a lowlight of their own but I will just throw them all together.
The worst pain was in my upper abdomen (above the belly button and to the left). Towards the end of Sri Lanka I started getting some pains in my upper back which interrupted my sleep. This area on my back was also extremely painful to touch for just a little while. I think I may have somehow injured it with the backpack. I am not sure. Then the pains started getting quite bad in the front/all the way around in the day (after like 2 nights). I especially noticed it when lying down and after eating. The pain was the worst on the plane ride to Dubai and then Beirut and also the bus ride to Bcharre and caused me to feel quite ill. It has slowly been subsiding. I think it was a very mild form of pancreatitis because symptoms match up best but sometimes I think it could be my kidneys. It is pretty much clearing up now, but still gives me a little pain either at times. I am trying to avoid sweets/alcohol/coffee in case it is the pancreas but am not very good at avoiding sweets. I have also gotten other abdominal pains but that is just normal for me.
The next pain is my gums. They have really only bothered me a few days but I do worry that one of my wisdom teeth may not be coming in correctly. There is one that has been coming up and is doing just fine and rarely gives me pain but it appears a new one is trying to come in and the gums in that area became little swollen for a couple days. There is plenty of space in that area and it hasn’t bothered me at all the last few days, though.
My knee. I have hit my knee several times. My knees have a tendency to hurt all on their own but I knocked one pretty hard into the bed trying to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and could not sit/squat/bend it for days and now I have hit my knee a few times on the table in Cyprus.
Head. I don’t get them as often as I used to but I had a few pretty bad headaches this month.
Now, back to my toes. While my right toe is now perfectly fine, I am now sometimes experiencing pain in my left big toe. It is nowhere near as bad as the pain in my right toe was for some time and even goes away entirely at times but can sometimes be a nuisance. 4. Sunburns, Allergies, Mosquitos and other bugs. We have enough lowlights than I can combine lots of them. We got light sunburns a few times this month (yes we used sunscreen) and I had allergies to varying degrees just about everywhere. I got over 100 mosquito bites at our place in Ja-Ela. That was not fun. Spiders and ants were both abundant in all but our last place in Sri Lanka. I would put up my leg to shave it in the shower, oh look there is a spider next to my foot. I would look up at the shower, oh look there is one on the shower head which is just above my head. Oh look there are five on that wall. Oh look there is one on the door handle to leave the bathroom. I am sure you get the point. It’s all fine. At least we had a mosquito net at our second place and also the spiders eat mosquitos. The most annoying thing was spending over an hour getting all the ants off and out of my lap top in Ja-Ela. I don’t know why they liked it but it was so annoying dealing with that and trying to figure out where to keep it. 5. Power and Internet. Neither of these are reliable in Sri Lanka. It made it harder to work, hotter, etc. One time my mom said she got worried because she didn’t see me on Facebook messenger for 16 hours. LOL. 6. Enduring the Heat/No A/C. It wasn’t such a big deal and we knew before we came but we didn’t have A/C during most of our stay in Sri Lanka. There were fans and they mostly sufficed. The other super annoying thing was that I had to wear pants in the Colombo area (Ja-Ela, at Fort, etc.) While every other tourist (of which there were few) I saw in that area was definitely wearing shorts/short skirts/rompers, etc. I tried once and got such terribly dirty looks from everyone that I felt I had to wear pants even in the heat. I actually was still not pleased with many of the looks I got when I dressed according to their standards but I think they were not as bad. I may write a ranting post about this later because I have some opinions on the matter. In Weligama I chose to wear shorter things some of the time and it did not seem to be such a problem. I think it was more acceptable because we were by the beach. 7. Various things about Sri Lanka. First of all, and I suppose this is my own fault, I stupidly thought the country was a little more developed/modern. When I say “developed” I am referring to how we tend to think about the word as westerners. Anyway, it was, by our standards, the least developed country we have been to so far (including Indonesia). Additionally, while our hosts were hospitable and nice and we met some other kind strangers, Sri Lanka is most certainly where people made us feel most uncomfortable. Pretty much the second we arrived I was ready to hop on a plane somewhere else. I tried to convince Kyle that we should just get a new flight to Eastern Europe and skip the rest of Sri Lanka and Lebanon but he reminded me that not only did we have flights purchased but our next flight was Emirates. Dang it. It really made me wish that we hadn’t gotten all of our tickets in advance but it was necessary because of the housesit. The last thing we didn’t like (aside from other things mentioned- like the way people drove and the bugs) was most of the food in the south. The one good thing about the Colombo area was that it had some good Indian food. We can’t say the same of the south (or at least we didn’t find it). The food was fine, if you were in the mood for it. We were rarely in the mood for it. It also did not seem very varied. Honestly, even their watermelon was somehow not very good! I thought the roti and the daal were decent but not memorable. Because we did not have a full kitchen, this meant for food we would have our breakfast (I could write a bit about this but won’t, at least here), wait as long as we could but before it got dark and go to a more western place (meaning it had other options- like pasta, pizza, etc.), eat a meal there, and then snack the rest of the night on chocolate bars, fruit, and peanut butter. The western places were a bit more expensive so we could only have one meal at them per day. We could have just sucked it up and eaten Sri Lankan food which was very cheap but we just weren’t that fond of it. As much as it sounds like it Sri Lanka was not all bad. In the end we did have some great experiences there (see some of the highlights). I also might have enjoyed it more had I been more prepared and had we gone at a time I felt like going to the country. Also, probably if we had more money to spend there. 8. Activity Planning and Stress. Calling Kyle out a little. I made 3 economically similar-in-terms-of- flights-routes from Bangkok To Cyprus (necessary because of our housesit). I was happy with 2 of them. I had anxiety about one of the plans- I was concerned about the internet in Indonesia and Sri Lanka (for work) among a few other things, I was fearful about the idea of going to Lebanon- but it was the plan Kyle wanted. We both threw fits about getting our plans but he did a better job. Or perhaps he is just immune to mine. He said he would plan the activities for every location after this point (we were in Bangkok). I was rather tired of doing all the activity planning for us at this point. I mean, I like it, but I had been doing it for about 6 months at this time and it really takes away from my time for, you know, actually doing work. I very much wanted to take a break so while I did not want to do that plan, I agreed.
Now, once we began on his route I found that at times, Kyle’s idea of activity planning can be searching the name of the city, seeing the first couple things that pop up and then wandering around and hoping both that he/we eventually stumble upon these things and that they happen to be open at whatever time we arrive. And here is a spoiler: sometimes we never even find the activities he plans (though we may end up seeing something we wouldn’t have otherwise which is nice) and other times he chooses to go somewhere on the only day an activity is closed and it is a long walk there! Of course this meant I did not get my route, had to move often, and in the end still had to have a large hand in most of the activity-planning, aside from finding him jobs which leaves very little time for myself!! I will give him credit for his successful days of planning, including our Temple route in Bangkok and some activities in Yogyakarta. He did contribute some, but not in the way he originally agreed. Needless to say, I will not be taking any more of his bargains and I intend to make all of the travel decisions for the rest of the year (with Kyle’s approval). It is not that things did not work out fine, it is that I had to deal with more anxiety/stress and work than I would have preferred. 9. Airbnbs Canceling on Us. First an Airbnb in Beirut cancelled on us. Then our Airbnb in Bcharre was removed from the website. I told Kyle, this is a sign! We are not meant to go! And started showing him the most affordable alternatives. Instead, he thought it would be best to book 2 new ones. Well one of these almost had to cancel on us too! It all worked out but I have to say it was stressful because I did not want to get stuck having to find a random hotel there considering both safety issues and the fact that Lebanon was the most expensive country we had visited at this point (Cyprus is probably comparable). 10. People taking our window seats! On our flight from Dubai to Beirut we noticed that as we walked down the isles there were a number of arguments going on related to people taking seats. Well, when we arrived to our seats, there was a woman sitting in Kyle’s window seat. Then, on our flight from Beirut to Larnaca, there was a man in mine. I tried talking loudly about how angry I was that he was in my seat but it did no good. I made Kyle sit by him. It would have been a very nice scenic view had I had my proper seat. Honorable mentions: stepping on cow poop, losing hairbands, mold covering all of our bags in Weligama, the Colombo place smelled a little bit like paint, the bus to did not bring us to our Airbnb, I was feeling sick when arrived in Cyprus, and more.
I won’t elaborate on most of them, but here are some of the random things we encountered/experienced this month. 1. A Surprise. Someone accidentally shoveled concrete into the bathroom window while I was peeing. 2. Just don’t offer it, then. A man on the train to Weligama repeatedly offered me his seat on the train only to stand and constantly sigh and act tired until I offered it back to him. 3. Engagement. Our host in Weligama told Kyle one night that he would be getting engaged the next day. The next day some of his family came over. When we asked where his fiance was he said she would be down from somewhere in a few months. We couldn’t find much information on the internet about how the whole thing works. They offered us some cake. 4. Doorbells. At our place in Bcharre, there were buttons for the doorbell just about everywhere. I got a little irritated a couple times because Kyle enjoys pressing every button and trying every switch he sees and here a lot of things made the doorbell ring. I have strayed away from such behavior ever since I got shocked in Hanoi looking for the wifi router. I, myself did accidentally pressed a doorbell button a couple times, though (one was near the bathroom light switch and appeared as though it could have been the light switch.) 5. Maybe all that time in Asia rubbed off on us? Someone in Lebanon asked if we were from Japan. When we said no, they asked if we were from the UK. Closer. 6. A Trend. At first we thought this was a random occurrence, but now we have noticed it a few times. At at least a couple of the airports we’ve been to we have seen large groups of Chinese people doing last minute packing. It usually looks as though they did just a little too much last-minute shopping and are trying to do some re-arranging. In Sri Lanka they pretty much covered the floor area around us with their suitcases. It was really more entertaining than bothersome. 7. Men Wearing Skirts Sarongs. Somewhat interesting as a westerner. Many of the men in Sri Lanka (and we also noticed this rather often in Indonesia- particularly on Java) seem to wear sarongs as casual clothing. 8. Cows. Everywhere. I mean, that’s pretty much all there is to it. We saw cows everywhere in Sri Lanka. At the beach, near the houses, and just wandering the streets. 9. Cats Eating Things. Our first Airbnb host in Sri Lanka seemed devastated when Kyle told him his cat brought in and ate a squirrel (I told him he shouldn’t have told him!). Kyle has also seen one of the cats in Cyprus bring in a bird (which upset him- I didn’t see it happen) and a dragonfly. Did you know that cats are actually responsible for the extinction of multiple species and sometimes catch endangered creatures? I will just note that it is really one reason (among many) to keep cats indoors, or at least get them fixed so they do not produce more kitties which depend on food outside. Now, it is healthy for them to have meat but you can also feed it to them.
Now, keeping a cat indoors is not always very reasonable or possible and we acknowledge this as well. The cats at our current place originate as feral cats, the house has a more open style, and there are seven of them. The house in Sri Lanka was also pretty open and it was necessary to keep doors and windows open to let in a breeze. It is good and helpful that these kitties are being offered food and shelter and probably do less hunting because of it. All of these cats (and the one in Sri Lanka) are also fixed which helps keep down the feral population. They also probably get more exercise than the average house cat and may help prevent snakes from getting in (though I do worry about the kitties getting hurt too!) 10. American Politics. People are talking about it everywhere. You will actually find some interesting variation in preference among international people because they don’t feel the need to stick to a party. For example, our host in Ja-Ela loves Reagan, Bush Sr, and Hillary Clinton, hates Bush Jr., and doesn’t like Trump. Our host in Beirut said he thought Trump was funny. I won’t write more in case we decide to do a post on this topic.
First time getting pickpocketed
First time filing police report
Our first time in a country US department advises against
First motorbike accident/First time hitting a pig
First time with no A/C since traveling
Kyle’s first time in Europe
Kyle’s first time in the Mediterranean
First time negotiating a lower Airbnb price
It was yet another slightly more costly month (or is this just standard now?) at $1944.41. It’s really because all of the constant moving, though. Take away our transportation costs and the total would have been $1281. (Also note: we actually did pay for the plane tickets and most of the Airbnb costs a previous month so that second number is actually a little closer to describing what we actually spent this month). Anyway, when we were in Korea we were actually able to get by on about $850/month which was nice and only about $50 of that was spent on transportation per month. The benefits of both house-sitting and staying in one place (as well as staying in cheap places- look at our roundups from Vietnam/Malaysia) certainly have their benefits. Accommodation: This was a somewhat interesting month for accommodation. We had our most expensive nightly stay and our cheapest (tied with one or two others). We spent one night at the airport/airports so we didn’t book anything that day/night and also spent the last week of the month housesitting. All costs listed include the added Airbnb fees. We started off the month in the place we ended it in May- Ja-Ela (2 nights at $20/night), then moved to Weligama (14 nights at $10.92/night- it was $10 before fees), headed back up to the Colombo area where we had found a nice place to ourselves for $15 for the night, stayed at the airport the next day (free), made it to Bcharre ($37 a night for 3 nights), then to Beirut ($27/night for 2 nights) and finally, spent the last week of June in Cyprus (free).
Now, when we initially looked at Lebanon, I thought it was on the expensive side and it was (for us), but we did find a place in Bcharre for $20/night and a place in Beirut for somewhere around $23/night. It was more than we usually pay but it would be for a short time and we would be housesitting for the last week which would help balance costs. Because they both cancelled (see lowlights) I was thinking it seemed a bit financially (aside from the other reasons) unreasonable for us to go there because at this point we had trouble finding anything below $50/night. I had recently been talking about the idea of negotiating with Airbnbs for prices in the future and Kyle decided this was a good time. He managed to make a compromise with one of our hosts. I have to say, while we couldn’t have afforded it, once we arrived we decided it was definitely worth it’s original price, if not more. Anyway, so the total amount we spent on accommodation for the month was $374. It definitely helped that our place in Weligama was affordable (which was one of many factors which led us there) and that we spent 1 week of the month house-sitting. Food: We spent a total of $411 on food this month. That is exactly the same as last month. We were not able too cook for about half the month and also had a couple more expensive meals out but were also provided with some food for free: breakfast in Ja-Ela and Weligama, various foods in Lebanon, and a few meals in Cyprus. Transportation: We spent $663 on transportation for the month (also nearly exactly the same as last month) which was made up of $331 ($165/person) for the flight from Colombo to Beirut (with a layover in Dubai), $167 for the flight from Beirut to Larnaca, $110 on taxis and tuk tuks, $6.41 on 3 train rides for 2, $12.30 on a couple days of renting a motorbike, $18.60 on bus rides, and $17.84 on gas. While we won’t have any flights, taxis, etc. during our time in Cyprus, we will still have to be careful because gas here is expensive. Activity: A large percentage of our activity total comes from our safari. It was a big activity which we discussed a great deal before deciding yes. I will discuss more reasons for our choice once I/we write about the safari but we think it was worth it. Other activities we did this month (which cost money) included renting a surf board in Sri Lanka, visiting the Cedars of God, going to the Kadisha Grotto, and visiting the Archaeological Park in Paphos. The total cost was $101.46
Miscellaneous: This was a pretty big section this month. We lost money when Kyle was pickpocketed, spent some money on gifts (Father’s Day, parent’s bdays, etc.- though used a little bit of a gift card which I’m not counting), bought more postcard credits, bought a new pair of sunglasses (mine flew away- the replacement was about $6), needed more ibuprofen, paid for new paint for the motorbike we rented which got a little scratched (also something like $6), had a small fee for storage for our packs in the train station when we were walking around in Colombo, were charged a fee for the re-issuing one of Kyle’s stolen cards, etc. The total was $217.84. Regular Expenses:$171 for Kyle’s car insurance, Creative Cloud subscription, Google Drive Storage, Netflix, Storage back home, etc. Fees:$6.11 for ATM fees (we only used the ATM once) and transaction fees for the cards.
Kyle: My work this month has not gone as well as I’d hoped. It was actually my worst month ever for income. My large animation project has dragged on a bit longer than intended (though I am happy to say it is nearing completion and should be delivered this upcoming month) and thus no payment from that client. I did manage to complete two projects: a band logo and a t-shirt design. Unfortunately, that is all that I got paid for this month. Other clients have been an issue. One did not like the design I provided and has requested a redraw which has left me at a creative dead-end, but thankfully is not time sensitive. One client has been dragging me along, asking for redesign, after redesign but providing no feedback aside from providing me the Oprah logo and saying they like that – 7 designs in and I’ve told them they need to provide actual feedback before I do anything more for them. Another client has gotten busy themselves and has kept me in limbo for nearly a month after I provided them an initial animation that they didn’t quite like – I’ve sent in storyboards for a new idea but have yet to receive feedback on that. One potential client that did not work out, brought me through an extensive interview process, and then asked that I “audition” by creating a 15 second lip-synch animation and create a character from scratch – I politely declined as the “audition” would have required over 40 hours of work, been unpaid, and still not guaranteed the job that did not pay a large amount to begin with. And a final potential client has brought me through a long interview process, but has not yet gotten back to me after an initial design consult. So this month has for me, been a lot of work that has resulted in pretty much nothing – quite aggravating to say the least. Briana: Thankfully, my own work/projects went alright this month (but always could have been much better) but I think it’s also worth mentioning that Kyle took a break from work for a week and a half and I only semi- took part in this break. Kyle planned for a “vacation” in Lebanon because our time there would be limited (and we thought we wouldn’t have internet), but between our time prior being so busy and then not really being able to work the first few days in Cyprus, this got extended. He also really needs a full set up to work for his drawing pad, laptop, etc. whereas I just need my lap and wifi (and not even always) so I can work more easily at places like the airport (which I did for 10 hrs). Kyle also contributed a lot more to the blog, putting up all of his own posts. Also, it was very hard to work this month between the power outages, dealing with various problems (like the wallet), being consumed with the Orlando tragedy (where we went to college), etc. I did try to relax a little as well in Lebanon, if you can call it that (and really out of necessity from exhaustion) but still did work.
Health and Fitness
I mentioned my various pains in the lowlights so I’ll just mention nutrition and activity. Nutrition: Particularly in Weligama, we did not eat the best. We did have a fair bit of tea and fruit, but by the end I was almost getting tired of sugar. Yes, me! I almost have to wonder if the poor diet is at all responsible for some of my abdominal pains. We could get small chocolate bars for about $0.20 and regular-sized ones for about $0.68 so we tended to stock up on those as meal supplements (along with fruit). The meals we did have out were fairly decent but not as well-rounded as when we cook for ourselves. I often found myself getting meals like the toast and fries which doesn’t provide a whole lot of nutritional value. We finally got dairy in Lebanon and took our fair share of it in the form of yoghurt and cheese. We are not sure if the yoghurt in Lebanon was really delicious or if we were just in dire need of some of the nutrients in it but we could not stop eating it! Now that we are in Cyprus and have a full kitchen and place to ourselves we’re able to eat a more rounded diet. Activity: We did get quite a bit of activity! We did a lot of walking/hiking carrying all of our stuff (2 large backpacks, 2 medium packs/bags, a ukulele, sometimes food bags, etc.) and even more without it. We walked a couple miles (there and back) to get food and look at the coast (the restaurants were pretty much on the beach) pretty much every day in Weligama in addition to all the walking we did exploring the town (and others). We walked/hiked over 20km (total) during our few days in Bcharre and also did a fair bit of walking in Beirut. So far we’ve only done a little bit of walking/exploring in Cyprus but we plan to do more.
Tv shows/movies/podcasts: Because the internet is limited in Sri Lanka (I’ll elaborate on this in a later post) and because we were busy outdoors during most of our time in Lebanon (and the internet was also not perfectly reliable), we were not really able to watch any shows. We did watch two episodes of the John Oliver show (Kyle particularly wanted to and at least 1 of these occasions was in Cyprus) and listened to 1 podcast episode. Books: We both read Sandstorm in my Heart (a fairly short read) by Faith Mortimer on the Kindle. We are housesitting for her so we had to try out one of her books! We started with the free one but may try out some more books of her’s as well. She writes in a few genres including mystery, psychological thriller, and romance. In addition to this, Kyle finished up The Time Machine and I finished The Secret Garden (both on the Kindle). I also just got started on another book.
Much of Sri Lanka is a surfers paradise. There are many beaches with great breaks, especially along the southern shores from Galle to Arugam Bay. So let’s go surf Weligama.
Surf Weligama Bay
We spent our time in Weligama, which is a wonderful town on the southern tip in the Matara district. The town sits on a neat half-moon bay, with nice sandy shores and consistent waves. There are also a few large rocks within the water, but few if any reefs. It is primarily just a beach break.
Due to the nature of the bay, the waves tend to not be quite as big as they may at be some of the other beaches, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The bay protects the waves from being blown out during high winds, but also allows in decent swells. This allows for ideal conditions for a beginner or intermediate rider, with waves ranging from 4 – 9 feet on a typical day.
The high season is during the winter months from October to February, however you’ll find that some areas are able to be surfed year-round.
This was good for me, because I am a beginner surfer. I’m quite comfortable in the water and have gone before at Cocoa Beach in Florida, USA. My experience here was quite different though.
Surf Weligama at Surf’n Lanka
If you want, you can get surf lessons for around 1200 LKR (~$8) or you can opt for the route I went and just rent a board by the hour. Because it was the off-season here (June), I was able to just walk up to the beach, look for a guy with a surf board and rent it for 250 LKR (~$1.70). Not a bad deal (usually it’s 300 LKR / $2). They offered advanced or beginner boards, I decided to just go with a beginner board.
Then I went off into the water to give it a shot. Briana stayed behind on the beach to photograph and read – she wanted to see how I fared before giving it a shot herself.
Lots of waves
The current was pretty strong, but not too difficult for me to fight. What I found most difficult however was actually paddling out. I kept fighting the waves, as soon as I ducked under one wave, another one was atop me. I spent quite a few minutes before I managed to get to the first break and try to actually catch the waves. The waves themselves were around 4 feet that day.
Once I got into position however, the waves were perfect to ride. They were long, had a slight curl, and decent size and power. If you were better than me, you could certainly ride them pretty well. I managed to catch a half dozen, and miss a dozen or so more. My biggest issue was paddling out, which would exhaust me and then I’d get impatient and try to ride the wrong waves.
Managing to surf Weligama is harder than it looks
I’ve since learned you should look for the outflow of water and follow that so that you don’t have to fight against the waves. Rip currents = bad for swimming / good for surfing. Lesson learned. Towards the end of the hour, exhaustion was getting to me and I was getting quite sloppy with my riding and thrown around by the waves.
At one point, I somehow got rolled by a wave and then came up facing the beach to see another huge waves crashing atop me. I’m really not sure how a wave came from shore, but it did.
When I came back, I had to take a rest before going on with the day. Briana decided she didn’t want to fight the waves that much. I would have liked to go again on a different day, but my arms were so sore I was out of it for a few days, and then things just didn’t work out with all the other things we did.
But for surfing, you should definitely head to Weligama and give it a shot. For those looking for bigger waves, just head a few miles down the road either way. Mirissa, Matara, Koggala, Unawatuna, Dikwella, and Tangalle all have great breaks. There are waves for all kinds of riders here.
I was never anticipating on having to write a post about this and I feel bad that this is the first post we’re making about this country, but – I got pick pocketed in Sri Lanka. It was not a fun experience at all, but I might as well put it up. Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes, or at least just be a bit more vigilant.
I really do not like Colombo Fort Station
As I (will) covered in a different post, we were using the trains to travel between Colombo and Weligama. On our return to Colombo, we arrived at Colombo Fort Station intending to switch trains to Kurana Station. We never did make it quite that far though.
When we arrived at Colombo Fort, things got a little crowded to say the least. Dozens of people rushed aboard as we tried to get off. It started with someone throwing their luggage through the window at me. I was carrying both mine and Briana’s large bag, just because of the way things were working out. As I tried to push my way off, a short heavy-set woman blocked my way and pushed and pinned me against a seat.
The woman essentially trapped me for about a minute just standing there pressed against me and blocking the entire train. I tried to push forward but had little leverage, and other passengers were getting quite upset at her as well. I tried to get her attention and get her to move, but she refused to make any kind of eye contact. Finally, she shifted a bit and I stumbled past her and dropped off the train and onto the platform.
That rush of dread when you reach into your pocket, and find nothing
Briana was just behind and me and we set down our stuff real quick. I patted my pockets out of habit and immediately discovered my wallet was missing. With adrenaline pumping, I quickly said, “My wallet is gone!” and jumped back onto the train to search for it while Briana watched our large pile of luggage which consisted of two very large packs, two small packs with out computers, ukulele, and extra food.
I scrambled around and began asking around for a lost wallet. I luckily still had my phone with me, so I used the flashlight on it to search the dark cabin. There was nothing. Other people were helping me look, but to no avail. It was gone.
There is always a helping hand
Two guys were aware of the issue and quickly assisted me. They led me to the station master, and various security officials attempting to help. The station master didn’t seem to care at all, simply giving a “not my problem” kind of attitude and told us to go to the station security. The security officials seemed amused at the situation, offering no help and told us to go to the station master.
Back to the station master, where he told us to go to the police. The two guys then took me back to the train where we tried to get people to look again, but people just didn’t care. So we went to the small police office, separate from the tracks and platforms. There the two guys left me, saying they’d done all they could. They really did try to help, more so than really anyone else.
The police asked me what happened, so I explained giving them information about what was missing. My wallet with $50, about 3000 Rupees (~$20), 2 Credit Cards, 1 Debit Card, driver’s license, and various other cards were missing.
A passport is ultimately more important than a wallet
They were concerned about my Passport, which luckily was somewhere else. They asked where my stuff was, and I said it was on the platform back with my wife and that I really needed to go get her. Sri Lanka is notvery safe for solo females, and I’d already left her alone for far too long. They nodded, then led me to the station master, while I repeatedly told them I need to get my wife.
The officer then led me to the security office after the station master did nothing (again). The security officer truly seemed to have never heard of this before, despite my telling him what happened just five minutes before. Again, nothing. The officer then begins to lead me back to the police station, to which I say, “I need to get my wife now!” Finally he seemed to realize what I am talking about and he tells me to lead the way to her.
Finally we arrive to where Briana had been sitting, seemingly twenty minutes at this point with no clue to what’s going on. All the while being badgered by local men asking her if she needs help. I explain what little I know about the situation, but that at the core of it all, the wallet is gone. We then proceed on to the police office, where the officer tells us that we will go by jeep to the Police Station about a km away to file a report.
Off to file a police report
So away we go. During this time, I try to call my card companies to cancel my credit cards and debit cards – of course my phone won’t let me call out without wifi, so I can’t cancel them. We arrive at the station and enter. The officers are busy initially so we take a seat and wait. About five minutes later, and officer asks me back to interview me and take the report while Briana sat behind with our stuff in the lobby.
I filled out the paperwork and explained the situation to the first officer. He told me what they would do, such as check the CCTV on the train (I really doubt they had any video on the train), and they would file the report and send it to me along with anything if they found it. The officer then tells me that I need cancel my cards, to which I reply that I have tried, but can’t call on my phone. We repeat the process of repeating my story and then talking about canceling my cards and how I need wifi to call several more times.
The police chief then walks in and asks for me to tell him what happened. He seemed a bit more sympathetic and on top of things, but still didn’t really help out. Then I have two more officers come in and ask me about what happened and take my story. I’m really starting to get annoyed at this point – to which the police chief then says that he is using me to train new recruits on how to conduct interviews and take reports – great. He asks me if that’s ok, after the fact, to which I say yes.
Take what help you can get
The police chief asks about Briana, and I tell him she is in the lobby, so he calls her in to explain the situation. Basically nothing is going to happen. They will email us the report once it’s filed and let us know the results of what they find. However, considering I saw them still using type writers, I’m not anticipating hearing from them anytime soon. They then arranged for a tuk-tuk to take us to where we need to go.
They ask us if we can pay for the tuk-tuk, to which I respond that we were just robbed. No we don’t have any money (Rupees), nor did we have the ability to withdraw any either. It’s almost like they didn’t listen to what I said. Luckily, I did have some dollars stashed in a different place and could pay with that.
They wanted to know if we wanted to go back to the Colombo Fort Station, but after our ordeal, we decided to take a tuk-tuk across town to our AirBNB host. The ride cost $20 and took over an hour to get to Kurana station. So once we arrived, our host who was supposed to wait for us had left. We were about 45 minutes late, so can’t blame him too much. We weren’t able to get a hold of him.
Getting back on track
I had his phone number and address, so I went and asked some locals if they would call the guy. No one would call, they just pointed me vaguely in a direction and told me to go. So we picked up our gear and began walking. Asking a few other people really didn’t help, other than telling us that we were on the wrong street. I went into a restaurant and asked the owner if he would call the number. After I explained the situation, and he agreed to help – he looked at the number and said “oh, this is my friend! He’ll be here in just a minute, go grab your things.”
So I grabbed Briana from the side of the road and within a minute our host found us attempting to cross the street. He led us to the apartment. We explained our situation to him, to which he kindly did what he could to help. He took me to a money exchange to get a few rupees for the night and showed me some good places to eat.
Be careful on trains
Our host told us it was not an uncommon occurrence. We actually saw another couple on our way down to Weligama get everything of theirs stolen. Occasionally the police do find the items – usually turned in to lost and found, not stolen though. He did say that if the person was caught, punishments would be very severe. Sri Lanka does not take lightly to theft from foreigners.
And that was our experience with getting pick-pocketed in Sri Lanka. A waste of money, time, and a whole bunch of incompetency. But n the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse. At least I still have my Passport and phone, and we have stuff in different bags.
May was a long month. I had to look at my calendar to see where it began. May 1st we were in Kuala Lumpur. We have now been to Kuala Lumpur 3 times! Who would have thought? We have noticed some similarities with our both of our stays there: 1) Hosts with interesting backgrounds: the first was a Protestant Malaysian of Chinese descent living with his mother and working in insurance sales, and the second was a Catholic Pakistani man of Indian decent who was living with his wife (who was away at the time) and working in banking. 2) Both of our hosts wanted to drink beer with us. 3) Both of our hosts tried to convince us to move to the area and did a pretty good job at it.
Onto to Yogyakarta. In the time after KL, I generally found myself covered in bug bites, bruises, blisters, dirt, and sweat. I usually felt a bit gross. It’s funny how things work because after we visited Kuala Lumpur the first time, all we wanted was to be out in nature and away from the cities. And where did we go? Ho Chi Minh, a city of over 8 million people. Eventually, Cat Ba island and Siem Reap got us away from the huge cities for a little bit. This time in KL (though I am not sure if Kyle felt the same), I just wanted to stay there and be in a modern developed area. Would I appreciate a visit to the countryside? Sure, but I would have been content just staying in KL with our beautiful city skyline and malls galore. And it’s not like the area is expensive. So, of course, this is when we make our venture to the most rural area we have been, and also the least developed. Truly, I can’t really complain because everything has been an amazing experience, but when we initially got to Yogyakarta, I just took a deep breath and nodded to myself because I thought “this place is not for me.” It has turned out to be Kyle’s favorite place so far and it did grow on me quite a bit as well. When we first drove through the actual city part I had not realized all of the graffiti was due partly to the city being the art/culture capital of the island. Plenty of it is not very artistic though… Anyway, we spent time in the countryside and the city which offered very different experiences. They both have their own charm and I actually do very much recommend the area in general. We both would have liked to enjoy the area without working at all. Bali was Bali. It would have been nice to stay longer. If we go back, we’ll stay in a different area, though because the island is quite large. And, now we’re in Sri Lanka.
Likely due to many of the lowlights of the month, after our 13 hour layover in KL I started to fantasize a little bit about living there. Previous to our long layover, I was not so fond of the airport because they make us go through security like five times but now I think about staying there a little bit- it would not be so bad! I have always loved airports and the KL airport is clean, has internet (it’s limited but then you can go buy food in the lounge area of the hotel and get more), you can just live as you please/not answer to anyone, there are tables to work on, places to charge things, it’s easy to get work done, there is food, water, plenty of coffee options, etc. The benches are not so much more uncomfortable than many Asian beds and they are dry and feel clean. Already we have found most beds a little too short for us, so again, no problem there. There is a hotel inside and the price isn’t too bad so if we wanted to stay there every few nights, one night every 3 days would be less than 3 nights in the places we have been staying. If we wanted to go out, we could store our luggage. We could go down to Malacca or up to KL. Kyle does not desire this because he is quite content already as he is just a happy go lucky person. His always-positive attitude while sometimes helpful, can also be excruciating at times simply because he has no understanding of my troubles. I know I may sound dramatic but I feel like I have essentially been out camping with strangers for the past month which is not exactly my thing. I also do not like changing locations every week. It’s just too often.
I also have a new place I want to go. I have heard a lot about the country of Singapore. In most of SE Asia people talk quite badly about Singapore because it’s expensive and they have so many rules. Our current host told us they call it “Fine country” (meaning you get fined for everything.) They also have lots of surveillance. So, Singapore: modern, clean, lots of rules which are actually enforced, no bribing to get out of things, lots of surveillance to catch criminals, women are treated well (our Sri Lankan host said that women are queens there and if you so much as brush by a woman there you can get caned- thus he felt comfortable sending his daughter there), people are unfriendly as they are all stressed out from working so much. That sounds like a place for me!! I am going to have to start looking for jobs for us in Singapore! We haven’t made it there yet because it is too expensive for our current income/budget.
Where We’ve Been this Month:
6 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (plus a 13 hour layover)
7 days near Borobudur in the countryside of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
7 days in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia
7 days in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
5 days in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka
Distance traveled by air: 4012 miles
1. Rain. We experienced a few glorious thunderstorms in Kuala Lumpur, and many refreshing and beautiful showers in Yogyakarta. 2. Animals. We had dinner with a friendly cat in Yogyakarta, met the most playful dog in the mountains in Java, had a dalmatian come up to us on the beach and start licking us in Bali, and our host in Ja-Ela had both a sweet cat named Jello who purred for us and enjoyed our company, and a nice dog named Benji. There were a number of other neighborhood dogs as well. Unfortunately, we also came upon a terribly depressed dog in Bali. We bought it food one day which made the tail go from down and between the legs to just down. It wasn’t there on our last day. We hope it’s okay. 3. Souvenirs. We actually got a couple souvenirs in May! When we went to learn about Batik, we bought a couple as well. The nice thing about batik is that it can be rolled which allows us to fit them in our backpacks. In Sri Lanka we picked up a shawl/scarf/table thing/whatever we envision for it at a market. I chose a dark green one so we can always use it but it can also look Christmas-y. These were our first souvenirs besides a picture of a cat we picked up in Hanoi and a couple little things we mailed home from Korea. We just usually don’t have the room or the funds for the items which appear most interesting to us. 4. Borobudur.We visited the largest Buddhist temple in the world! 5. Motorbikes. Both on Java and Bali we were able to zoom around on one of our favorite methods on transportation. 6. Menoreh Hill. We didn’t intend to climb Menoreh Hill but we were quite pleased with the accidental change of plans anyway. We had a fun time wandering through the forest and exploring, and the view from the top was spectacular. 7. Food. This month we had access to vegetarian food and a kitchen everywhere and had hosts that were happy to let us use their kitchens how we pleased. Our host in Sri Lanka even brought us a yummy local vegetarian dish to try. 8. The Beach! We had only spent about an hour at the beach prior to Indonesia since we have been abroad! (Back in Cat Ba, but it was a little chilly.) Thus, we made a couple beach outings in Bali and on both occasions spent a few hours and watched the sunset. 9. Getting Film Developed. Always a highlight for me. 10. The Elusive Mangosteen. Kyle has been talking about mangosteen since Saigon, maybe prior. He/we have been on the hunt for it, but we never quite managed to find it (likely due to the season) until we arrived in Yogyakarta. We have since found it in Bali and Sri Lanka as well. Part of it’s a little hard to eat but it’s quite delicious. Honorable mentions: I FINALLY FIGURED OUT SNAPCHAT FILTERS (if you want to add me my name on there is brianaarachel.) It couldn’t get it to work for me for the longest time. My sister told me how to do it and didn’t know why it didn’t work but I just had to re-download snapchat. Now I can be a dog, cat, a koala, whatever. Also, Taman Sari/the water castle and the underground mosque were pretty neat. Also, for the first time, we had Airbnbs (3) which provided us with breakfast!
1. No places to ourselves. To put it lightly, I am not terribly fond of living with people. I would not mind living in a house full of cats/pets but people stress me out. I cannot tell you how nice it was for me last month having studios in Bangkok. Even in Siem Reap we sort of felt like we had the place to ourselves. Having a place to myself is related to my stress levels and is also positively correlated with my happiness and productivity, or at least the potential for it. Interestingly, I tend to prefer to live with lots of people- like 10-15 as opposed to 1 or 2 (as long as I have my own bedroom and bathroom.) That is just a personal preference and probably one that is less common. I am also a person who prefers large parties to small gatherings. Kyle is the opposite which is probably a more normal preference. Thus, it was best in our first place in Yogyakarta when there were lots of other guests there. When there were more people, the attention of the hosts was not solely on us and we had a greater variety of people to choose from to socialize with and an easier time telling them that we are too busy to talk when we need to work when that was the case. When there were not other people there, the hosts (and there were somehow like five of them) wanted to chat us up constantly. Often they were trying to sell us something while being discrete about it. 2. Smelly shoes. My moccasins, which are the most comfortable shoes for my feet, have walked through a number of enormous puddles and also have been soaked at night on multiple occasions (you generally must leave your shoes outside in Asia.) The wetness lasts a few days each time and the shoes are left quite smelly. It fades slightly until the next time but can get quite bad. 3. My Feet. I have always had problems with my feet but lately it has mostly just been from shoes. The flip flops we picked up in Cambodia for $3 have on multiple occasions given me huge blisters between my toes, and scabs and blisters on my actual feet where the straps go down. It’s not a problem with the flip flops really- my feet must adjust every time I go back to wearing flip flops or break in new shoes, but breaking them in is a problem because we pretty much only ever walk long distances so I can’t try them out on short outings. It is rare that we go out for a walk somewhere that ends up being under 2 miles. In addition to my flip flops, my black flats are now giving me problems as well. They didn’t bother me at all in Korea (maybe because I sometimes wore them with socks?) but they are suddenly giving me quite a bit of pain on the back of my foot (and also blood.) My toe does still hurt on and off as well. 4. BUGS. *sigh* I thought I was doing pretty good in KL the first time we were there as I was pretty chill about ants always crawling on me, navigating all the daddy long legs in the bathroom, etc (note: there were absolutely no bugs at our second place in KL, though) but jeez, KL had nothing on Yogya. Mosquitos, bees, flies, many types of spiders, ants, roaches, etc. everywhere, all around our first place. In our second place it was mostly just ants and spiders but boy, were there a lot of both. I did okay with it because sometimes Kyle brushed something off me and I would say “What was that?” “A spider.” “Whatever!” Yep.
I am actually a person who finds bugs quite fascinating. I really like to look at them, especially spiders and beetles and dragonflies, up close. I just prefer that they not be on me. I always felt like there was something crawling on me and there pretty much always was something crawling on me. In Sri Lanka, while there were not bees flying through the house, man did I get bit up by mosquitos! I’ve probably gotten over 100 here. I find so many like four inch sections of my body where i’ll find over 10 so yeah, I’m thinking that’s right. Maybe a little less. I am always slapping myself too because I find them on me. Flies bother us a little while we work and like other area, we often find ants on us but it’s okay. The cricket hopping on the bed? Okay. What I do not like so much is when I reach for my toilet paper and there is an enormous spider on it and it’s right next to me!! And then I reach for the toilet paper another time and there is a spider right under it! That is scary! Also, the bugs were so big in Indonesia! We saw enormous bees and spiders larger than our hands. Constantly, I was running around the house with bees chasing me. In general, I think it is okay that there are bugs because these are places that are just very open. You generally won’t find these sort of house designs in the US but I think they are nice and it’s nice to experience these different things/places. I also don’t like bug sprays/deterrents because of all the chemicals which are bad for both humans and can also kill animals if they ingest them. So, the bugs are fine, but I am still going to count them as a lowlight. 6. No sink in Yogyakarta. (At our first place.) This turned out to be not as much of a problem as I anticipated. I did not know there was no sink until we arrived. I did not think this was a question I would need to ask a host. It mostly bothered me because it was something on top of other things which I did not anticipate, but in the end spitting toothpaste onto the bathroom floor and bending down and washing my hands with a little faucet was not too big a deal. 7. Sound/sleep. Our first place in Yogya was also just loud all the time. The roosters there don’t just crow in the morning, they crow incessantly through the night. One rooster: cock-a-doodle-dooo! Another rooster: cock-a-doodle-dooo! The first rooster again: Cock-a-doodle-dooo! And so on. All night. The goats were not as loud but sometimes added some noise on top. There were also these bugs that made this high pitched electrical sound for long periods of time. Add on the occasional mosquito buzzing in your ear, ants crawling on you when you already feel dirty due to only cold water, and it makes it pretty hard to sleep. The whole mess gave me quite a few headaches. In the day, added sounds include bees buzzing around (as I said, including in the house), and the call to prayer which seems to last the whole day (really it just goes on for hours at a time, multiple times a day.) I didn’t mind the call to prayer, though. Despite the lowlights, the place was also quite nice in many ways. I loved stepping outside on the porch, enjoying my morning coffee and watching the shower on the countryside, the chickens hiding in the gazebo, a person taking in their laundry because of the rain, etc. I mean the place is an experience. I would still recommend it but just know what you are getting into, you know? I did not really know. 8. Wood Lacquer Smell. Our second room in Yogya, though beautiful and spacious, smelled very strongly of wood lacquer. I am somewhat sensitive to smell and get headaches easily so this wasn’t great. 9. Bali Review. So far we have only had positive reviews on Airbnb but our host in Bali left us a review basically saying we are too busy working and don’t talk with them enough. The review was still positive as they said had no problems with us but still, I am angry that she wrote this for a review. I state in my profile that we will be working and prefer to keep to ourselves but she is mad because it’s true? Kyle spent at least a couple hours every single day talking to them!! That is not enough?? I did not know we had this responsibility as guests. We have to work to be able to stay here!Meanwhile, another couple there took the key with them back to the US (specifically Minnesota), making it so they could no longer rent out that room but they give them a super positive review. And honestly that couple was pissing me off too. Every time the guy saw us, he said “Having a good day?” or something along those lines. But it was not a sincere or friendly question, it was like, patronizing. My day was fine until I saw you two. Also, the host was an Indonesian woman in her 30s and is married to a rich elderly Australian man (who has quite the beer belly) if you get my drift. I would not have mentioned this if she had only said pleasant things. Anyway, I think that couple and the Minnesotan couple get along because they are both so fake (on that note, the Minnesotan woman, who was actually from Taiwan, was also quite fake physically as well if you know what I mean.) I think we did learn a little bit more about Australians though as it was mostly the husband whom chatted with Kyle. 9. Internet. We had some issues everywhere but the biggest problem was in Bali, even though we were assured we would have fibre optic internet at 25mbps which would be able to stream video as well. Instead, we often didn’t have internet at all. We were rather surprised at how good the internet was in Yogyakarta, out in the countryside. Once we were in the city in Yogyakarta, it sometimes slowed a bit, but was fine. In general, almost everywhere we go, we find the internet slows down considerably at night. We haven’t actually faced too many issues as a result except that it really slows down everything we do/makes us far less efficient. Sometimes I have to start the same upload like 10 different times because the internet cuts out and something that might take like a 30 seconds in Korea will take like 8 hrs somewhere else. 10. Lack of hot water. KL: hot water Yogya 1: maybe one time for me? I think Kyle got it hot for himself a couple times Yogya 2: Same deal. Bali: Same. At this point Kyle didn’t believe that it only comes out hot for him but cold for me but he went to test it found it to be true. Sri Lanka: only cold but at least I expected it this time. Additional:A lowlight I forgot to mention last month was that after one of our very long bike rides in Siem Reap I thought I was going to die. The second we got off the bikes my throat suddenly just started squeezing and it kept doing this a while I don’t remember the rest because it’s so long ago now. It went away eventually and I think we determined that it was probably angina or something along those lines. It was just too much work riding so much in that over 100 degree Fahrenheit weather. I told him I am not as fit as him but he refuses to believe it.
1.Pictures. So many people wanted their photos taken with us in Indonesia! Our host in Yogya told us that students who go to Borobudur like to get their photo with foreigners if they can find them and then they post it on social media and pretend that they have new foreign friends. We also had students interview us on multiple occasions (I also had this happen to me in Korea.) This occurred all around Yogyakarta. We thought it was over after that but then people wanted their photos taken with us in Bali as well. My assumption is that they were other tourists (perhaps coming from other parts of Indonesia) because I would think people in Bali see foreigners all the time. In Yogyakarta we rarely saw another foreigner. Except in KL and Bali, we have seen very few white people this month. One group of Indonesian students who interviewed Kyle in Yogya were very nervous. They said they had never met a foreigner before and when one of them found out he was an animator, he just gasped and tried to talk but couldn’t because he was so excited. 2. Couples in Yogya. We met a couple other couples (or so we thought) at our first place in Yogya. One was a couple that was allegedly honeymooning! If you read some of the above, you might see why I think that would not be the most ideal spot, though if you don’t mind a sort of camping-like atmosphere then I think it could be nice. I forget where they came from but I think they were either French or Dutch. Then there was a man and a woman who we thought were our age and appeared as a couple. We talked to them a bit and I hid in the room and worked while Kyle talked to them more on other occasions. Thank goodness I have him to socialize with others to learn things about them. The only downside is I cringe a bit when I am able to listen in (while being otherwise productive) and he says something that is not quite right or they say something I don’t like and I can’t just emerge from the room and tell strangers, “Actually, you are incorrect.” That is me, the secret creeper. This was a case where I couldn’t really hear, though so I just let him brief me later. Anyway, we learned that they were actually 19 (makes us feel so old! they really looked older) and had recently broken up but already had these plans so they went anyway. They said it allowed them to remain friends. Still, pretty different. Can you imagine breaking up with someone and then traveling with them for months? Also, we were talking about the place and mentioned airbnb and they said the booked through another place. They thought Airbnb only existed in Europe. Really? That is kind of stupid ignorant because it was invented in San Francisco. 3. Sharing food with a Gecko. If you go to SE Asia, you will find that geckos are part of the mix. We have rarely found a place that did not have geckos running around inside. It doesn’t bother us and we rather like their company. Well, I had these chocolate wafer bars I had been eating. One time I went to take out a wafer and it seemed to be missing the top layer but I was just like whatever! and ate it. The next day, I heard something rustling in our food bag. A gecko was in my wafers. I noticed that the next wafer looked like the other one I had eaten. My assumption is that the gecko ate off the top layer both times. As far as I am aware there have not been any major repercussions to sharing food with the lizard. 4. Blessed in Bali. This was actually so neat! Bali really makes you feel like you’re in Bali. To go to Tanah Lot, we had to get blessed with holy water and then get rice on our foreheads and a flower behind our ears. 5. Statues in Bali. To say the statues at the Monkey Sanctuary are weird would be an understatement. What is weird, though, is that we can’t find mention or photos of them anywhere on the internet!! Is everyone just so distracted by the monkeys that they don’t notice the creepy statues and carvings? Post and pics to come but you can see one at the head of this section (no pun intended.) 6. Naked man in the Bali Airport. There we were at 3am in the Bali airport, just waiting for them to open the gates so we could go through the scanners and check in, me working on organizing my desktop and Kyle playing his ukulele, when I saw an Australian man walking around shirtless shouting strange things about delays and conspiracies and things. Kyle was pretty much in his own world but I got him to look. I also noted that his pants appeared to not be staying up very well. He starts being more dramatic as he circles the airport and security looks a little annoyed but decides to follow him at a distance. 20 minutes later and I spot him coming up our way again, this time naked. Again, it’s a little hard to get Kyle’s attention but I do. Honestly, the things he would miss without me. Of course we giggle and I would like to have videoed him more but he looked at us, started talking about electronic devices and things and I did not want him to come up to us. A few Muslim men laughed and said he really should not be doing this in a Muslim country. Another Asian woman looked shocked, and the Australians: completely ignored the whole thing. Must be a regular occurrence there. That was actually pretty much all of us at the airport, though aside from some people sleeping on random chairs/benches. 7. Our Serenading Pilot. Towards the end of our flight from Bali to KLIA2 (where we had our layover), the pilot just comes out and starts singing and playing a ukulele. He talks a bit, sings several more songs. The guy was pretty good and ended up singing for quite a while, mostly popular western songs. He kept saying “this is the last song” and then would do like 3 more before saying it again.
First time in the southern hemisphere
First time getting kisses from a random stray dog
First time having red dragonfruit and mangosteen
First time using a plant as a straw (lemon grass, pretty neat)
The total amount spent for this month (again, for both of us/2 people) was $2044. That is similar to last month. Only last month we actually spent a decent bit more than this, whereas this month we spent less ($1312). I will remind you that I am reverting to primarily talking about what the month costs, rather than what we spent during the month as we often will buy in advance or whatever. For example, we actually did not purchase any plane tickets this month, but we did use them, so I count the used plane tickets into costs for the month. Our income was a little higher than our actual spendings but was less than the cost of the month of May. One thing that can get a little annoying in doing the budget is that typically I record the amount we spend in the local currency. I write all of this down, compare things that were on card to the bank, and then add up the amount spent in cash and compare it to the amount withdrawn from the ATM. This works fine to ensure accuracy but I do have one problem with the cash spent: when we withdraw the money from the ATM, currency conversion is at a particular level. At the end of the month, when I convert the cash into dollars, the conversion rate may be different. Often this is just a few cents per item, but it probably adds up a little bit. I don’t worry about this with things spent on the card because I just take the already converted number from the bank statements. Of course I convert the other number first to compare and make sure it’s the same purchase (and I notice it will often be a few cents off) but if I wanted to be really accurate with cash I would need to go determine the conversion rate at the time that we withdrew the money from the ATM and then apply that to all purchases with cash. I just don’t really feel like doing that right now because then I can’t use a converter and have to do more math. I like math but constantly doing the same problem gets a little old, the differences would usually not be very large, and the budget already takes long enough.
Accommodation. The total we spent on the accommodation we actually stayed in this month was $564.57. This is a little bit more than normal but it was the best we could find and these places also offered more than many our our past places. Our places in Yogya and our place in Sri Lanka offered breakfast each morning as well as unlimited tea and coffee, we were provided with water for free in most of the places, and in our first place in Yogya, we were able to use bicycles and motorbikes to get around for free. Food. We did a little better in this area this month, back to our standard, mostly because we were in cheap areas because we certainly felt like we splurged a few too many times on food and desserts. I also think it is not in our budget to buy beer but Kyle does not agree. We spent $193.30 on groceries which also includes some water, beer, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. We spent $12.65 total on ice cream out (we had ice cream out 6 times) and spent a similar amount ($12.52) at bakeries which we visited 6 times as well. On food out/restaurants we spent $192.62. All of this adds up to $411.09 Transportation. For local transportation we spent a total of $110.75. This includes 6 taxis ($100), 2 days renting a motorbike in Bali ($7.34), gas ($2.16), 1 tuk tuk ride in Yogyakarta ($1.10), and parking ($0.15). While we purchased the plane tickets last month, the cost for the plane tickets used this month was $529.42. KL to Yogya was $139.50 after fees (around $70 each), Yogya to Bali was $74.59 after fees (~$37/each, though it was likely more like $20 before baggage fees and things), and Bali to Colombo was $315.43 ($150 each.) To make it to Cyprus (for our housesit in June) using the route which involved staying in SE Asia first and doing Indonesia, we needed to chose either India, Nepal, or Sri Lanka as an intermediary location. Total transportation costs for the month: $640.17 Activities: If you add up the cost for the Monkey Sanctuary, Tanah Lot Temple, the Water Castle, a tour guide at the water castle, Kraton palace, the camera house, and going to the movies, the total is $26.41. Borobudur alone cost us $38, though (but we couldn’t miss it!) so our total for activities this month is $64.61. Visa: It cost us $80 for our Sri Lanka visa! We were sure we saw it for lower online so we were not so happy but whatever. Fees:$29.90 in transaction and ATM fees. Miscellaneous:$83.46 includes souvenirs, electrical tape, purchasing more postcard credits, using restrooms, leftover currency, contact solution, developing film, and a few unknown items. Standard: $171 The standard storage, software subscriptions, insurance, cloud storage, and Netflix.
Get ready to read because this section is quite a bit longer this time.
Kyle:Work for me has been a little bit stressful. My large project was pushed back due to changes and add-ons. Luckily, the clients are good, and have offered additional pay for the increased work as well as another partial payment which is easing the stress. It is looking like the project may possibly get done while in Sri Lanka, but there is the chance it may not get finalized until we hit Cyprus. A few other clients have come back for some work, though they have wanted small projects which only help to pad the wallet a little and aren’t helping tremendously. I have four new clients as well. One is great and knows exactly what he wants and has paid quickly, with a small order of 3 illustrations and a possible short animation. I have another, who has been a little bit more difficult, but provides a fun project overall involving 3D graphics for a Youtube channel (payment should be coming through the coming month). A third has a logo animation that is midway through the project, but is not very responsive. And a fourth is just about wrapped for a t-shirt illustration. Frustratingly, most of the projects are small, and not paying much. More worryingly, is that there aren’t any big projects lined up for the coming month – but we’ll see how that plays out next month. Additionally, I have been assisting a lot more with the blog. I have taken on managing the blog posts that I have written. So now my duties have included writing, image editing, uploading, and posting. As well, I have been playing around with new methods of navigation such as the Places page. Briana edit: This is true, Kyle has been helping by doing all the work for his own posts and looking into changes for the blog and it has been very helpful. Briana: Though I make very little, I thought I was going to make more than Kyle this month (it has happened a couple times before) as we had nearly reached the end of the month and he had only made $100, but then he got another larger payment and a couple additional smaller ones as the month was closing. Of course he had been doing work but just hadn’t been paid by many people yet.
At the beginning of the month I attended a Webinar for a new job. The webinar was really for people who had been doing this work for a while and had deeper questions when I didn’t even know how the whole thing worked so it was semi-useless to me. After I messaged a couple people I finally got my login info. They had provided an FAQ document and some guides which were very helpful, but it would have been nice just to see a simple demonstration for a beginner. Basically, I am given keywords and then I need to do all these things with them and some of them require a little research and a bit of thought. There are lots of rules and some words don’t seem to be a right fit for any category (one thing you do with it is categorize) so you must make some decisions yourself. Well, I initially had 10 words. Alright. So I do my first few words and as I get more into the process I realized I messed a couple things up on these words. I finish my 10 and try to find more words but they don’t show up. It’s supposed to be an open queue so I should be able to just grab words. I should also be getting feedback on my words. I email them to let them know about my issues with the first few and also ask how I can get more words. Over the span of a couple weeks I email them a couple more times. One time I got an email saying: go now! there are some words there! Well, I did not see the email until a couple hours after it was sent and I don’t know if it just doesn’t show me the words or they just hired too many people. I log in all the time and refresh it, go to every possible tab/thing I can click on, etc. I earned $1.50 for my 10 words and did get paid but I just wish I could do more.
In general, this month I have been focusing on trying to get a remote job more than anything else. I would say a good deal of my writing has been cover letters! My time has been fruitless, though. There were a few positions I really hoped for, but nothing I really expected to come through. I had one annoying interview. The position I was looking at was a social media management and online marketing position. The pictures showed a person vaping and a forest or something like that so I am not sure about the details of the company. It just offered a small monthly stipend, but it allowed for remote and I thought it would be good to get more experience doing something along those lines. I am already managing the social media for the blog and have been learning more about this subject.
Here is how the “interview” went:
Person called me, told me who they were, etc. and we started talking about the job. The second I heard the voice, I thought “Ughh” because I hate the guy’s voice. It’s just terrible. He is a terrible guy. The job is a scam and I already want to be done. Sure, I don’t know this guy, but I do know that voice. And I don’t like it. After I am done on the phone I tell Kyle and he says, as he always does, “Really Briana? That is kind of harsh. It’s not possible to tell things like that only from a person’s voice.” I think it is soo incredibly obvious and I would think that most other people would immediately get this as well but now I just have no idea because Kyle is the only person I am around anymore and he does not ever seem to be able to tell these things. I guess it’s reasonable to doubt it if you cannot do it but I don’t really like it when people say that I cannot know something like this because that is a lack of confidence in me and it makes me question myself even though I never turn out to be wrong. Usually I’ll make far more specific judgements which can then be checked but in this case you’ll just have to trust me on it. Can I accurately judge every person? No. But if I do make a judgement, it’s generally correct.If I think there is the possibility I am wrong, I generally note it. I know, yet another tangent. Just know that I am holding myself back, it could have gone much longer.
Anyway, I bring up the original ad on my computer to consult and ask the man a couple questions to clarify things about the position. Phone cuts out, likely due to our poor internet connection (I was wifi calling.) I call back a couple times. No answer.
I start brushing my teeth (it’s 1:30am) and the phone starts ringing. I realize and spit out the toothpaste just as it stops. It’s a different number but I assume it’s still him. I don’t really get phone calls these days. I call the number back. No answer.
I call again and a person picks up. It is the same guy but he sounds COMPLETELY different, like takes on a different tone, etc. He says “Hi, I just missed a call from this number, who is this?”Are you flipping serious? He doesn’t even know who I am.
Now, I have realized this man has terrible business/organizational/etc. skills and I am really not interested in working with him but I say, “You called me actually, we were talking just a few minutes ago.”
“He says, are you calling about khkdhilj?” (I couldn’t quite understand so I said “what??” several times.) It sounded like casting and I am thinking this guy probably runs some stupid side thing. I say, “No, I am calling about the digital marketing position.” “Ohh.” Then he starts talking to me again about it and explaining that it is commissioned based and I will get a percentage of money I bring in without explaining how I would know if that is happening (ew.) Then he says, “I am about to go pick up a friend, can I call you in just a few?” “Umm…” (We will be getting in a taxi to go to the airport in like 3 minutes.) “OK great bye!” *Insert Michelle from Full House voice* “How rude!” (Inside my head.) I looked at my phone and hung up. Kyle asked, “Why did you hang up?!” “Really, Kyle? I’m the judgmental one? He hung up on me.” The guy did call back a couple times later but I was not available and I am not interested in either the position or working for the person so I did not return the calls.
Now that I have wrote this I will research this guy and post my results:
It’s a wonder that I hadn’t researched him previous to writing the roundup because I really enjoy researching people. This time it was not quite as fun because it was so easy. To note: I did tell Kyle my more specific judgement in advance and it was correct. I didn’t think he had to be something specifically but was in this sort of business (in addition to his “professional” one.) Anyway, after researching him, I have found that he runs an escort agency, a sugar daddy dating service, and a “three-way” dating club among other things. Several prostitutes complained about him on a forum. All I had to do was google the numbers he called me from- and yes, it was him. The business websites listed these numbers. That is actually what I expected because I have found these types of people are actually often ridiculously indiscrete. If you look at his linked in profile, it says none of this: he is an “e-commerce” principal and “business consultant”, of course. It is really of no concern, though. It actually is not so atypical of my experiences job-hunting to the extent that I don’t even really find the whole thing noteworthy but I thought I’d include it here, anyway as this is just how things go when you try to get a job sometimes. I didn’t mean for it to be so long.
I am only upset that I did not know before putting in the effort to apply and talk on the phone. In this case, there really were not any indicators in the posting that I was dealing with some type of scam artist (which yes, he was a scam artist because he was going to try to get me to do work and believe me, he wasn’t going to pay me anything- again, just trust me.) It was from Craigslist but I can’t ignore Craigslist because nearly every successful job outcome I have had originated from there as well. Now, it was CL Tampa which, honestly, I think that perhaps should have been the indicator. I don’t trust that town. Don’t trust it at all. I was kind of excited to have an interview at all. Maybe I should have known better simply because I actually got an interview!!
Now you may think, as Kyle thought, that this is not a normal experience but I had to remind him that even he has had such experiences. I say to Kyle, recall this: Kyle messaged someone about a job. They talked on the phone, emailed back and forth quite a bit and decided to set up an interview. The guy even had a legit looking website. When it was getting time for the interview, I told him, “Don’t go.” Why? I just knew. Kyle said, “No, I am going. This is a job. It could turn out really well.” “It will not turn out well, Kyle. I know. Listen to me. I have a sixth sense.” Kyle usually refuses to listen to my sixth sense which really annoys me. I think I may have inherited it from my Native American roots. I also am good at naturally making connections in my head and sometimes they happen without me realizing it. So, of course, I have to go research the guy to find some info to convince him. I find that not only is he planning to conduct the interview in his apartment, but he is also a convicted sex offender, several times over and he likes boys. Kyle was still quite young-looking at the time, could barely grow facial hair etc. Even after this I had a slightly hard time convincing him not to go. Jeez, Kyle! On another occasion, he had a similar experience that I had except it was with a freelance client. I also predicted problems with specific clients of his in the past. Ask him, it is true.
Back to current work. I have an semi-annoying potential client. He emailed me a few months back asking if I could help him out with some essays. We set a rate and everything was agreed upon. Then he stops talking to me, even after a couple follow ups. He emails me again a month later asking if I can still help him. I say yes, just send me the details and I will start now! He doesn’t respond. This month he messages me again telling me that he went with someone else but he doesn’t “like their attitude.” Can I still help him? Again, I say yes, please just send me the details and I’ll get started. No response. It’s just kind of a waste of time. Kyle actually has to deal with things like this all the time. So many people don’t care about wasting a freelancer’s time. I may have a person returning for essays, though which is good.
On another note I am somewhat interested in pursuing photography so I have been trying to make some progress in that area. I wanted to do this in California and I actually had a few things set up for the end of the year, including a budget wedding in November but then Kyle was laid off and we left the area. So I thought, we will be back at the end of the year, I will start seeking potential opportunities and advertising now because obviously people plan in advance for these things. Well now, of course I actually do get some messages (which makes me happy) but they are people who want things done “this weekend,” or even “tomorrow.” I guess people in Florida procrastinate or don’t plan as much as people in the bay area. Or maybe they experience more cancellations. I don’t know. I have also realized that real estate photography is also a big field because I get messages about that (I also realized that in California) but that is not happening with my film camera because 1) it usually wouldn’t be worth it in terms of cost of film and development 2) it wouldn’t give them the fast turnaround they want.
There are many other things I would like to work on but it just hasn’t been possible with us moving so much! I am quite stressed! I have also been in such a mood lately to just work, but there is just not enough time. I just want to sit down at a desk in a nice area by myself and work/try to find work until I drop. Is that so much to ask?? When we are in these places for short periods of time, the first/second day we unpack, get settled, find the grocery store, etc. We want to go out and do things at least a couple days because we don’t know if we’ll get a chance to be these places again and then the last day is packing up, getting all the info and transportation figured out for the next place and that doesn’t include planning the activities or working on the blog. Add in the Airbnb hosts demanding we socialize and it’s a wonder how we get any work done at all. I will be happy when we can finally stay in one place (in Cyprus) by ourselves for a couple months. In Ja-Ela we were able to work a little more because there was not much around us to do so we mostly just took walks as a nice de-stressor and way to see the area.
Health and Fitness:
Fortunately we did a little hiking and, of course, a lot of walking with month. We have not made any directed efforts towards exercising, though.
We frequented bakeries as per normal but also kept up our intake of fruits and veggies. Balance.
TV: We finished up Season 2 of Kimmy Schmidt and watched Last Week Tonight. Documentary: I watched Twinsters on Netflix. It was a sweet show. Podcasts: We listened to a few episodes, mostly Extra Pack of Peanuts. Books: I started reading the Secret Garden and Kyle attempted to read the Illiad and Don Quixote but couldn’t get through them and started Time Machine.