Tag Archives: beach

Prachuap day 3, Christmas Day

Happy Christmas to anyone reading this.

It’s been a slow and pleasant day, waking to the lulling sound of the tide coming in and daylight breaking. In the kitchen I bump into Rita, the old German lady staying downstairs. She’s just come back from the market and inspires me to pop out at 7.45 to get a pineapple. I also buy some bags of curry paste. Much of the morning involves eating fruit and Chinese pastries on my balcony alternating with chatting to various guests from om’s and next door. Several of them are cyclists and I’m felling inspired to maybe do an extended cycle trip one day in Thailand. JJ turns up on her bike with some delicious home made pumpkin soup. I’m full, but manage to eat it then have a nap.

When I stir myself at 1.30 the overcast warm breezy weather has changed to blue sky, hot sun and blue sea. Once again I cycle South across the airbase and to the empty beach behind it. After a blissful float in the sea and some intensive reading, I’m roused by 2 military bods who move me in. Apparently this is a restricted area. Instead I go down to ao manou where the beach is now partially in shade. The sea is shallow and a bit choppy. Ok for wading but not so floating friendly. I read and dry out, then once more, like yesterday bump into Petra the German on the mountain bike I had coveted. We cycle and chat back to town. I feel ennervated by the sea and the sun. The light is beautiful and the temperature wonderful. I would like a few more days like this. Too bad that tomorrow I have to leave.

My Christmas dinner is a huge plate of rice and assorted stir fried dishes (a lot of spinach and Chinese mushrooms) which I bought as a takeaway from the vege restaurant yesterday. Stuffed and content!

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Prachuap day 2 continued.

Om's house seems to be a social hub, and I spend a clue of hours there after visiting monkey temple, city shrine, and the vege restaurant. I meet Petra, a German physiotherapist who is into cycling. Our paths cross several times later when I cycle out to wat ao noi. The conversations are backgrounded by the incessant on-repeat Christmas tunes from next door. Wat ao noi is out beyond the fishing villages and amid the extensive fish breeding pools. The cave temple with the two reclining Buddhas is nothing special, but the climb up through bourgainvillia and cacti is beautiful. The adjacent main temple building is also noteworthy, being made of dark wood and having a surrounding terrace encircled by spectacular entwined naga.

The evening takes shape when JJ invited peter and me to her friend's itaLiam restaurant. It's our Christmas party, replete with snowman deely boppers, and gifts for James, her son, and her friend's daughter. Funny how asian kids are so much more endearing than British ones. The ravioli and tiramisu aren't bad, but vastly overpriced. The conversation is animated and joyful.

Back in the seafront the tide has gone out, revealing a beach. We stop in the tuk-tuk to chat to some friends. And there I teach James some vocab. When I set off home alone along the promenade he runs after me and onto the beach, where I go for a last gasp if air. We high five several times before I go off to bed for a long looked forward to sleep.

Final day negombo

Today is scorching. The sand too hot to walk on at midday, my neck feeling burnt. I have a long day to fill till my 3am flight. So far it’s languid. An early morning stroll along the shore from my guesthouse past beached catamarans and men under thatched shelters mending fishing nets. Nice not needing to wear anything on my feet as I step out, but I’m wary of walking in the water as I seem to have got an infected cit on my ankle. My breakfast is my second visit to grace’s juice bar where I’m am introduced to more fruits ive ever come across before. She prides herself on providing fruits nowhere eels does. I have an ambrrella and soursop mix.

I spend the rest of the morning in a patch of shade next to some fancy resort where westerners lie on clean sun loungers batting away the hawkers or lording over them from their reclined position like Egyptian queens yeah ing or nayimg a succession of bright dresses and saris the local women produce from bags a nd spread out on the sand. It feels a bit alien to me, but there is no. Shade anywhere else. A helicopter comes in to land further along the beach, depositing guests at an even fancier place.
Last night I spend an hour or so after dark with Dave and Donna on the beach with beer, sitting on a parked boat. Behind us was a party at a hotel. A stage, a do, dancing, bright lights., Sri Lankan techno, sounding both Africana and West Indian, rockets fired into the air, flashes of smoke and light from fireworks illuminating the distant dancing figures and their cars. Ex decide to approach, aware already grooving, but the party is small and it’s all men, so Donna going gangnam style is likely to get a lot of unwanted attention. So, we keep our distance as the party unwinds
Today is a good indulgence day, and getting rid of my cash. Lunch again at Edwin’s, this time a green leaf curry, a bitter cucumber one. Now at ice bear cafe, a colonial mansion light and airy Strauss or Mozart plays. waiting for my ice cream: brandy, cinnamon, cashew, honey flavours. I’ve just been scooting around the harbour, two guys chopping up tuna on wood blocks amid a sea of drying silver fish and a wasteland of fish heads being picked over by crows and cormorants. I cycle around the fishermens house and suddenly hear a hello in my ear as a young boy has jumped on the back of my bike for a quick ride. The harbour is sleepy, the boats are in. Men doze in the boats or fix nets.
The beach is collier, windier, fine sand stings as it sidling on my back. A fisherman tries to sell me the jaw bone complete with razor sharp teeth of a 20 kg shark. So how would that fit in my luggage? A guy from kandy chats with me and has my pic taken with him. I have to sort out his phone for him to send me the photo. The sun slips down, never quite making the horizon once more. The end of my daylight in Sri Lanka. Back at graces juice bar I have bello and pineapple mix and spend some time talking with. Bulgarian couple about football. Just before I leave grave makes me a present of 3 wood apples.

Finding Dave and Donna is as easy as cycling done the street. I arrange to meet them in Edwin’s again, as I return the bike. The old woman at the guest hous asks me each time is see her where I’m from. After paying for the bike she even asks for money for herself. A guesthouse owner begging for goodness sake. I have a dosa which really isn’t too good, thick and gooey rather than paper thin and crisp.weshare some more beers,catch the end of some performance outside the church, then see Liverpool lose to Chelsea in a bar.
I’m now at the airport. 2.41 and pretty damn tired.
A splendid post script. After a tiring groggy 18 hours getting to gatwick I’m informed my bag wasn’t loaded. I’m without warm shows, socks, rain coat and worst of all, no door keys. My phone is out of juice and when I do get some small charge I can’t get hold of Fran who has my keys.useless. I phone my letting agency bit they are closing early so I can’t get keys from them. I’m cold, hungry, jetlagged, want to go to bed.but even getting to Brighton is a nightmare. No trains from gatwick, and I queue in the cold outside the airport with a growing mass of very disgruntled newly landed holiday makers.there is no system and a weedy Marshall thanking us for waiting. 30 mins there then another wait at 3 bridges for a slow train. I still have no idea how I will get into my flat. Oh and the conversations on the bus. A one legged squaddie prattling om to the driver about traffic and bills and getting pissed with his mates. I don’t care. Shut the hell up. Give me a crowded srilankan bus instead. How dare they make me pay the normal rail fare for this debacle. It is not good to be back.

Negombo 2

A good sleep followed bya. Cycle along the main road past Hindu temples, juice shops, cheap samosa stalls and churches to the fish market. Old women crouched by their plastic sheets with tiddlers, men at butcher blocks chopping the larger catch, a cluster of curious men and boys surveying a 70cm ray of some kind. Seems nobody knows what to do with it. Beyond on the beach are sheets of small silver fish laid out to dry under the right sun. By. The shore the small boatsarelandi g their catches and teas of me and old women are shank out the nets. Women and men are gutting and sorting larger fishes further along. Catches are ferried by pairs of men by baskets on poles to the sea edge to be washed. Everyone is working fast and the bosses are circulating and handing out pay.

The town is divided into tourist strip, commercial main road, a market full of fabric shops and residential streets stretching along the canal and shore of the lagoon, larger fishing boats moored here. I see home made nativities of straw, plastic figures and fairy lights at many street corners, some constructed on abandoned boats. I see small boys crossing themselves as they pass the crucifixes at junctions.
Back at Lewis place I have a juice in a place run by a half Filipino family which has a variety of fruits new to me. Must go back there. My dinner cum lunch at Edwin’s restaurant is a very. Good and interesting curry and rice which includes a pineapple and soya korma type affair. I catch up with Dave and Donna on a stretch of the beach near some fancy hotels. The sea is refreshing, the surfs.aps you hard and is bracing. A wedding banquet is being set up on the beach, photos of the bridal pair taken at sun down by some catamarans. Some ponies are ridden by, Russians on sand mobiles drive up and down. We play cricket with some locals in underpants by the waters edge as the sun descends turning into a glowing orange disc, disappearing into cloud just a before it hits the horizon. There are quite a few hawkers with Xl polo shirts,saris, shorts, necklaces. Closer to the road is a guy with a monkey on a chain and a cobra which he offers to tourists to hold. A couple of cocktails later, I’m back at the guesthouse which is deserted. The soundtrack is fire crackers and the roar of the increasing waves.

Negombo

Reached negombo by bus from Anuradhapura, a local bus described as semi luxury. I don’t really understand that definition. Maybe it was driven faster, maybe because I was able to take luggage with me. Regardless it was crowded with many people standing in the aisle, and hot and airless when crawling through the towns. I closed my eyes and absorbed the sounds and physical sensations. The whirl of the Diesel engine, the rush of the breeze through the open door at the front, the sway and swerve as it cut out then cut in around traffic invisible to me in the thick of the crowd. The bass heavy groove of singhalese dance music. When I shift to the windows seat I can lean out but the air is so hot and the sunlight scorching at midday. I see in the side mirror the face of a moustachioed brightly coloured shirted driver in whom I have trusted my safety.
Negombo is a busy road full of guesthouses and more upmarket hotels, occasional fake xmas trees festooned with lights, and flimsy nativity scenes. There are churches here too. My guest house has Xmas decorations, and a catholic shrine too. There are many options to stay. The first two I look at are dirty, smelly, unpleasant. The third is extravagant and costly. I settle for a family home stay guesthouse at the end of the row on the beach. A curious old woman with 4 teeth constantly milling around. I have at tv, not that I need it, but later watch highlights from yesterday’s premiership. The beach itself is grubby, firework debris and assorted packaging lie around, the tide leaving black rings on the sandy shore.almost immediately my attempt to chill out is disturbed by a hawker opening his bags of necklaces and carved elephants, spreading them out on the sand in front of me and refusing to understand the words ” I don’t want to buy anything”. He finally gets lost, disappointed. I do mangea. Read and a doze. A wind builds and I rouse myself just before sunset, the beach is busier and some groups of locals are playing cricket.
I managed to track down Dave and Donna finally. Having located their guesthouse and got through to the staff who barely spoke any English that I wanted to leave a message, we hol up in the evening to have dinner and beer, trade stories and compare tans.
Back at the guest house is talk to the boss, who calls himself Adrain and for the first time I meet a local who openly criticises the government. He complains about the scarcity and price of protein foods such as cheese and meat, laments the cost of attractions to and thus the negative imapct this has on tourism. He calls the president a war president and even compares his behaviour and publicity ( the images you see everywhere) to sadaam. His friends are in agreement.

Last day in Mirissa

Final day involves getting up late again. A habitual breakfast of roti and wood apple lassi. The woman at the food corner seems amazed at this request, telling me that wood apple doesn’t taste nice. She is wrong. Mahesh has a new business idea, and I’m wracking my brains to help him come up with a name and to find a way for him to market himself. Right now he stands behind a coloured umbrella and some tatty boards, meekly saying hi to the scant passerby.

I have a coconut, from the keep the doctor away stall. They have orange ones here, and green. Taste is the same. A dip in these a. It’s overcast, the water slightly cooler. A nice float. I walk to the other end of the bay. It’s here that the surfers hang out. I watch a long haired Sri Lankan with a bob Marley board ride the waves then paddle in. A posse of Japanese with a collection of cameras with long lenses photograph from the grubby scrub of the shore.

I return to poppies for a shower and a doze in the hammock.

My last jaunt to the beach coincides with rain.i take shelter at a reggae themed bar and have a couple of piña coladas made from fresh pineapple and coconut, meanwhile reading Ondaatje’s anil’s ghost. A story of an expat Sri Lankan forensic scientist returning home on a humanitarian mission, which results in the discovery of a re-buried skeleton, evidently the victim of a political killing. The book begins to uncover some of this country’s very murky past.

I spend my last night with mahesh talking through the next venture he has, ie whale watching on his friend’s boat. I create a Facebook page for him show him how to build a network, create an email template. I always seem to be at work!

I manage to wake up at a reasonable hour, with the sunrise annoyingly on my face.

I buy roti from a place I went to last night. The same old guy is there, with his half a mouth of teeth and his purple sarong. His eyes are less bloodshot than last night. Today he doesn’t ask me if I want any weed. Anyway we chat and ai take his photo. He wants me to send it to him and become my pen friend! His name is angas, 64 ( though I’m not sure about this as his English comprehension ain’t so good), dead wife, and works with his friends at the best roti house in town,he says.

Another wood apple lassi, and it politely refuse a throng of tuk tuk drivers who want to take me to Matara. I stick to my guns and wait for a bus with a Dutch couple. Several sweep past, horns blazing, conductors hanging off the footplate, passengers hanging out of the rear door. Too full to stop. After 10 mins a weligama bus stops and takes us to Matara.

Matara bus station is not very easy to navigate, but at least not full of touts. I find the bus….

Mirissa

After a hour lull in my hammock..it felt like drifting on the sea…I wander the beach at night and grab a cocktail. The tide washing around my table legs. The beach is quite low key, several bars, this one playing goldfrapp, a distant fire swinger. Everything has closed up on the road by about 8 pm.
I don’t feel sleepy and spend several hours changing my possible itinerary again. Sleep until 10.30 in the end. I get a whole fresh pineapple and some folded vegetable roti from a shop on the corner for breakfast. The young guy who runs the place joins me for a chat which goes on for hours.
His name is mahesh, born and bred in mirissa and his home is next door, with his mother, aged grandmother, she of one tooth, and 2 tuk tuk driving brothers. He is 24 and has learntenglish through doing this job. The guest house is newly built and looks ready for a second floor to be added. Mahesh’ dream is to have a place like this as his own. But, he earns around £150 a month. I talk to him about being patient, building himself a reputation, working on his skills. Afterallhe he is the reason I took the room here. He made me feel welcome. We have a long talk about developing economies and that his dream may be short sighted. I can see mirissa being exploited by monied big shots who will buy up, build and homogenise this place, squeezing out the small guys. He and his family should hold onto their land and house. Maybe one day a hotel group will make them an offer too good to refuse. I feel I have deflated him a little. He needs a dream, a we all do.. I’m sure there will always be a place for budget traveller guesthouses anyway. I need them, that’s for sure, and I’m not alone. I and so many others travel to be in places that are precisely different from what we experience at home. But, if money making is the over-riding factor, then he may well have to end up working for some faceless franchised operation that sucks up the local essence, repackages it and spits it out as something sanitised, familiar and profit making.
It becomes afternoon, and I take a walk. Up the steps to a little nondescript temple that shares it’s hill with a radio mast. The view is special. I carry on along the beach westwards, negotiate the narrow beach a nd rocks and find myself on some less visited beaches, lined with beached fishing boats, coconut stalls: a coconut a day keeps the doctor away, says the sign, a guy peddling massage, and a mother cadging cigarettes. I’m looking for the so called lonely beach and don’t know if I actually do find it. The guy in a store back on the road says there is no beach the way I’m heading, at least not a nice one. Opposite his store are the overgrown ruins of a colonial mansion. I cut down some dusty lanes and come out on a beach with a rocky shelf, full of pools and crazy geometric rock formations, lots of little fishes and eels skittering around. To return I climb a grassy hill studded with the ubiquitous palms bearing orange coconuts, back onto the sandy beach and wallow in the water, which surges a little too much to be relaxing. After a 30 minute read I walk back towards mirissa, breaking the walk up with a stop at the craggy outcrop I swam near the day before. This time I feel confident enough to wade out to it and climb up the top for a beautiful view of the bay. I clamber down the side where the crashing waves leave the black rock shimmering. There are scores of crabs scuttling across the rocks. I spend a while attempting to photograph them. Next, a float in the sea as sunset approaches, then I dry off watching another impromptu cricket match by the waters edge, played by local lads. Dinner is curry and rice, but the best thing is a wood apple lassi. New fruit, new flavour. Fab. As I leave for my room rain is in the air. 20 minutes later it comes pouring down. The air smells fresh, earthy, invigorating.