Around Halong bay. 10th to 13th March.

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Our home for 3 days.

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Mill pond flat.

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Going through a ‘hole’.

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A real one. Sadly we can’t keep it. Unless we give $’s.

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Home for fisher folk.

Ha Long bay. For some people the whole reason for going to Vietnam. UNESCO world heritage sight. Some people go to Halong Bay for the day.  A 4 hour bus ride,as much fun as root canal work with no local anaesthetic. 4  hours around the bay, and then repeat the dental work.  The area is huge, beautiful, quiet and needs exploring. 4 hours just is, well, crazy.  We opted for a 3 day, 2 night aboard the Halong Phoenix Cruiser.  In between sort of weather.  A few days ago the area was covered in mist, and it would have been difficult to see much at all. We had mostly dry but rather grey, none of the bright sunshine in the adverts.  Still, the scenery is spectacular with the vast limestone rocks rearing up out of the sea.  Ha Long means ‘Dragon teeth’, or, rather, it may mean that. Our guide thought that loads of things meant all sorts of stuff. Sounds good, though. There are vast stalactite and stalagmite caves to visit, along with all the other tourists.  Would be easy to spend longer and take some time to look around the largest island, Cat Ba.

It’s all very orderly in the Bay with all the cruisers and ferries stopping in the same places.  Off-piste is strictly forbidden.  However, with a kayak, we were able to explore  the hidden coves and lagoons, away from the boats. We did manage one lunch with not another boat in sight, well away from the crowds. Exceptionally quiet and peaceful.  We were amazed to see some wild monkeys.  Maybe macaque monkeys. Our guide wasn’t sure. On Cat Ba they do have langurs, but are very rare and endangered. We were keen to support their conservation project.

Treated to some very good food with lots of fresh squid.  Paul tried to catch some. Failed, but had a bit of fun with synchronised fishing with three Germans.

Would love to revisit the area again for even longer. Ideally when the sun is out and 10 degrees warmer.

To Quy Nhon, Fri, 26.2.16

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To Quy Nhon

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Great views, almost sunny for a few minutes.

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Free drinking water at lunch stop.

Weather still grey, grim and windy but no way are we staying at Scandia for another night.  Vietnamese tea definitely more quaffable than the Vietnamese coffee.  Poor Paul is stuck with water for breakfast with his cold fried eggs.  A quick clean of the rusting bike chains and off back down the mucky road.

At least the road is quiet.  A back road for part of the way before hooking back onto Highway 1.  As a major highway linking north and south Vietnam this is surprisingly light with traffic too.  Mostly it is trucks carrying hundreds of live pigs – lost count of how many passed us.  The smell lingers for a couple of minutes as the truck races by.  Other road users are the small minivans, the worst, with their loud persistent horn blowing and habit of overtaking on blind bends.  Second worst are the large green buses.  Heads down, against the wind we stick tight to the hard shoulder.  At least it’s not raining.

A nice detour through an unmarked fishing village.  Daily food market on the street with fresh veg on the ground, then the fresh fish and an enormous pile of shellfish being cleaned off by half a dozen women, but nowhere to eat.

Have one of our best lunch stops at a roadside stall.  Pointing and miming we manage to order large plates of rice with squid, prawn and veg on one and crackling pork and chicken on the other.  With two Pepsis the bill was only around £2.50.  Bargain and really tasty.

Wildlife watch today – Paul saw a large snake slither across the road.  Linda was busy in the bushes and missed it. Pah!

85 kms and some good hills.  We cycle down the very narrow village lanes to “Life’s a Beach”.  A brilliant spot.  An upmarket backpacker place and very well done.  A gorgeous curved sandy bay and our room upstairs is a bamboo hut with a veranda overlooking the beach.  The weather hasn’t cleared yet and still in the tail end of the big storm but the view is amazing and it is such a treat to sit watching and listening to the thundering waves crashing onto the beach.

Two days here we think, to hope the weather improves a bit.

 

Chilaw to Negombo.

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Chilaw to Negombo. 47.1km, 89m. Lovely flat cycle on “beach road”. Sunshine! Before the rain.

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Waiting for tourists. Sadly we will have gone.

Great to wake up to blue skies after 24 hours of torrential downpour.  Most of our kit is sodden or at least damp (really not smelling great).  Followed the beach road down the coast, fringed with prawn hatcheries and lots of fishermen.

Hotels very few and far between.  Lunch overlooking the waves crashing onto the barricaded water’s edge.  Only the two of us there, eating.  Not sure how these places are surviving.  We are told that the tourists start arriving 15th December.  We wish them luck.

Feel sad turning away from the coast heading to our last hotel before we fly out Friday am.  The heavens opened for a final dump on us before we pulled into the Tamarind Tree hotel.  Absolutely amazed at the sturdiness and reliability of our bikes.  They have been brilliant. They can rest and look forward to a good clean back in England. Hope they remain safe and have a good flight back.

Our blog will be continued, Jan 1st.

Thank you for reading this far.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Bloody hell. Sri Lanka is over. Great times.

 

 

Kite House to Chilaw

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Back down the same road, but wetter. If that were possible. 86km.

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Breakfast at The Kite House, with Anais and Manoj.

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Saying bye bye to Anais and Manoj.

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Main road from the Kite House.

Anais, from Barcelona and Manoj, Sri Lankan, arrived back home from Colombo after midnight.  Caught in the Colombo flooding – good job we left when we did.

Met them at breakfast.  Such a fun and interesting couple.  Incredible how much they have achieved in a few short months.  Anais and Manoj met in Kandy, his home town, had a dream for a business together and the Kite House was born.  Neither of them was aware of the kitesurfing community that had grown in this area and the number of travelers who come from all over the world seeking the perfect wind.  Offshore from the lagoon lives a thriving dolphin community and a number of different whale species can easily be spotted.  The beauty of the place is that it is currently uncommercialised.  Anais’ love of cooking draws  locals and  visitors to the area, to their friendly open air informal restaurant where she serves only local produce.  Manoj has now learned that avocados are not just a fruit to be eaten with something sweet and that 4 sugars in a cup of tea are unnecessary.  We wish them every success with their project and hope to be able to return for another visit and stay longer.

We had a longer ride than anticipated. Planned 40km, did 80km. Not quite sure how this happened. May have been getting lost in Chilaw, or the fact that Sri Lankan Km’s are a fairly unreliable measure of distance. Either way, we were getting a bit concerned, cycling at 5pm, getting very dark and the rain hadn’t stopped. We vowed the next hotel we saw we would go into, no matter what. Phew! 8km later a rather splendid 4* hotel appeared through the gloom. 80 bedrooms, a bit big compared with what we had been used to, but they had space! Yippee. In fact only 4 of the rooms were taken. Moderate discount agreed and a hot shower. Pure bliss. And a cold beer. Even better.

Last day cycling tomorrow. Sad but happy.

 

 

Negombo to Kite House

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Hard long day, but ended in The Kite House. Stunning position. Loved it. 7/12/15, Mon. 121.6km, 234m climb.

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7 am and all’s mellow. Anticipating 120k cycle ride.

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Early morning sail from Negombo beach.

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The belly loves it. The knees, not so sure.

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Once bitten, twice shy. Our hut for the night.

Keen to drag Paul out of the hammock to get going for long cycle ahead. Were  flooded out of our bedroom the night before and it didn’t get any drier heading north.  Risked a dodgy looking food stop 70km into the trip – so desperate for an ice cold coke.  Skipped on the hard boiled egg with rice (looked as though it had been sat there awhile) and had freshly cooked chicken fried rice.  Don’t see any other tourists in this area and definitely not on bikes. In fact one one cycle tourist so far at all, in 4 weeks. Odd. People still always so friendly, waving and calling out to us.

Have an Airbnb place booked up on the Kalpitiya peninsula – £13 per night yeh.  Our hosts emailed to say were heading to Colombo but “Sanda” would sort us out.

Took a wrong turning. And then another. And another. Soaking wet in a coconut plantation (owned by the St. Anne’s Shrine)  Lucky to knock on the door of a Russian kitesurfer who was able to direct us.  This peninsular is renowned as the best kitesurfing area in South East Asia.

Sanda and husband live next door to Ana and Manoj, speak no English and are absolutely charming.  Sanda had been tasked to cook us curry and rice and, wow, best meal so far.  Sat on the floor of their “chill out hut” with half a dozen different dishes of curry.  Doesn’t get much better.

The Kite House b and b is basic but very comfortable with cold shower and a fan.  Sadly, the fan does nothing to dry out our sodden cycling kit which is becoming “riper” by the minute.  Missing washing machines and tumble driers.

Hopefully tomorrow will see bright sunshine.

 

 

Wadduwa to Negombo

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Wadduwa to Negombo, through Colombo, yea. 72.8 Km, 125m climb. Sun 6/12/15.

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South beach team, fishing.

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North beach team, fishing.

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Fishermen are not wealthy.

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Garmin is closely inspected.

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The picture tells the story: hot and hard work. King coconut needed.

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RC procession

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Full steam ahead

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Sailing into the sunset.

Followed the railroad tracks and continued north.  Timber merchants line the side of the tracks.  Every little piece of wood is used, scraps for firewood and clothes horses up to finely turned balustrades.  Onto 3 lane highway into Colombo, with everyone else.

North of the city we took the Hamilton Canal path, a lovely respite from all the honking horns.  Lunch spot a very empty hotel with two rather sad little Christmas trees but a very nice seafood fried rice, and beer.  The manager turned on his Christmas hits melodies while we ate (yikes, less than 3 weeks til Christmas).

Into Negombo for the night.  We were last here just over 3 weeks ago. Feels a few days and a few months at the same time. The thunderstorm and heavy rain hasn’t managed to drown out the howling of the dog next door and the water is now flooding under our bed.  But, calamari and crab for supper.

Galle to Wadduwa

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Galle to Wadduwa. 89.5km + 101m climb.

 

Left Galle as the overnight monsoon eased up.  Joined the throng of traffic heading north.  Roads full of buses, lorries and tuk tuks squeezing past Saturday fruit and veg markets (with us caught in between).

Lots of kilometres pedalled as we aim to get close to Colombo to try and cycle across the city Sunday am hoping the roads will be less busy.

Cycled by more stupas and shrines and a mosque with loudspeakers booming out their chanting, rythmic and scary.

More fishsellers by the road, fresh and dried.  Also a few markets full of fresh fruit and veg. A whole lorry load full of pineapples. I guess all will be sold. Sri Lankans doing their weekend shop.

Reached as far as Wadduwa before sundown, trying to find a bed for the night.  First hotel horribly expensive, carried on down the road when the tap was turned full on.  Negotiated a heavily discounted rate.  Good news, we didnt’ have to get any wetter.

 

 

 

To Galle

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Mirissa to Galle. 1 hill, yea.

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Caught before we were even awake. Should pay his way today.

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Not an easy way to make money, easier to charge for photos, which they do, if they see you.

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Lunch, for two on a beach.

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Ramparts of Old Galle

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Lighthouse on Galle point.

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Another light supper. £12.50 in total.

Don’t feel as though we really deserved this huge feast this evening after only 40 kms of cycling today.  How does  Paul manage to sniff out a hill up a crumbling dirt track even on a “flat” coast road?  Linda was quickly shaken out of her post 2 beer lunchtime stupour.  A cheeky 50m up in 1 km.

Have seen women working on the sides of the roads, digging ditches and in downpours on the steep tea plantations hills.   Suspect the lacemakers have a slightly better time of it, though they’re never going to get rich.

Have a fine view across the ramparts this evening at Fort Galle, temperature at 9pm, 27 degrees, a welcome coolness after the 38 degrees while cycling.

The days are changing form rural Sri Lanka to a more touristy flavour. The people are still friendly but need more to get the best out of them. We say hello before they say hello back. A slight surliness from some is an unwelcome flavour, which we haven’t felt before.

Our plans had to stay in Galle for 2 days, but the vibe isn’t to our liking, so off north tomorrow to find a fresher Sri Lanka.

 

 

 

Around Mirissa, and snorklelling

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Around Mirissa, in and out, fast! Touristy. Surfer and dude spot. Note 1 km cycling on water.

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Mermaid, or siren?

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Mirissa harbour. Cost us 12p to get in.

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All working boats. No tourists here, except us.

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Swordfish. Not sure why he needs a woolly hat, it’s 32 deg c.

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Coast guard hard at work.

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Loads of boats, true colours.

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Just like Hampshire

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Butter fish, from sea to supper in 3 hours.

Paul, admittedly, is a proper snorkeller.  Linda is not and not planning to become one in crashing waves, with no buoyancy aid.  A Chinese couple joined us, equipped with smart new kit and full rash vest suit – 2 minutes later, vomiting.  Paul, meanwhile, loved every second and even had the chance to swim with a turtle (Linda very envious of that).

Discovered proper Marissa fishing harbour, so colourful, a real treat to soak up the sight (not the smell).