Gokarna, India

Gokarna is like a small little chilled out Goa, which in a way is really nice but also super quiet so, I imagine, could get boring after awhile. Fortunately I was only there for 2 nights with my friend Tobs.  We drove down on a Royal Enfield from Arambol which is awesome and I highly recommend doing if you are brave enough for the Indian traffic. In total it took 5 hours and would have been nicely uneventful if it weren’t for Tobs’ DSLR camera falling out my backpack   and smashing into pieces on the road!


Other than that and stopping for some food and beer we pretty much drove straight through. We arrived just as sun was setting, parked the Enfield and went to explore Kudle Beach (pronounced cuddly).  We hadn’t planned ahead or booked anything and quickly found most places were full, so we caught a tuk-tuk to Ohm beach, about 1km away, but had no luck there either! Eventually we settled on a cheap 500 rupee room on Kudle beach which I thought was fairly decent and even had a view of the beach.  Tobs wasn’t too stoked about the shared bathroom but we were out of options by that point.


After checking in we joined some other friends at a nearby restaurant on the beach for some beers and food.  Towards midnight the power went out and it was completely pitch black and deathly quiet. Nobody even said anything, we just sat in silence and stared upwards at a night sky more dense with stars than space.


The next day after a decent breakfast we embarked on the 5km walk to Paradise Beach, a beach only accessible by foot along a rocky coastline path.  The scenery along the way is unbelievable – by far the best I saw while in India and strong competition to most other coastlines. We stopped at a tiny beach shack along the way on the otherwise-deserted half-moon beach and had a coffee and some biscuits.  

Paradise beach turned out to be a small, secluded cove full of palm trees, with some hammocks here and there and a Hindu shrine.  Some other travelers were hanging around and there were a few tents, indicating some were sleeping here. There were also a number of locals who presumably lived nearby, selling coconuts, drinks and snacks.  I must say, by comparison to the Koh Rong island beaches in Cambodia, ‘Paradise beach’ might be a slightly presumptuous title. However, I could totally see myself camping here for a few days – dependent on how intrusive the locals are (in India, camping can turn you into something of a spectacle).

 


After chilling for a few hours enjoying coconuts, snacks and playing with puppies we decided to join some others on a boat back to Ohm beach, rather than try hike the 5km again in the fading light. This turned out to be a lot of fun, with the sun setting and some big swell coming in.  

It was Shiva Ratri festival that evening which is one of the most sacred Hindu festivals so after getting back we walked down to town to investigate.  Unfortunately queues to get into the temples were huge but we did enjoy some local music and went to one smaller temple on a hill with nice ocean views.  While there we bumped into my German friends from Goa and chilled with them for a bit before getting food and heading to bed.


I’m sad I didn’t have longer to spend in Gokarna as I would have liked to camp on Paradise Beach and I think there is a lot more to the surrounding area to explore.  It’s also super chilled out and quiet, which is a nice respite to the rest of India. If you have a chance to visit I would recommend spending 5 days to a week. It’s slightly cheaper than Goa too, except for alcohol.

 

Goa

Goa is a small state on India’s west coast, 600km’s south of Mumbai.  After the Indian independence of 1947 Goa remained under Portuguese rule for many decades until eventually voting to become an autonomous region as recently as 1987. The north Goan regions of Bardez and Pernem are the most popular amongst tourists and ex-pats, especially the towns of Anjuna and Arambol.

Goa is a unique place in that it has much of it’s own laws which are somewhat contradictory to the rest of India. It’s very liberal, has some of the cheapest and most readily-available alcohol in India and appears to be far more tolerant to certain behaviour than most other regions.  As a result it’s also a very popular destination for wealthy out-of-town Indian men and students from up north who come to drink and party on it’s shores.

I initially spent five days in Anjuna, at an incredibly cheap hostel called Bunkin Hostel that cost only Rs99 a night (about £1). I spent the time getting to know the area and finding out where the good bars and music venues are. Anjuna is primarily focused on psy-trance music and culture, although some places occasionally play techno or progressive house.  The clubs and bars are often dirty and a bit run down in contrast to Arambol which is significantly more up-market and organised. However there are certain places along the Anjuna beach front which are quite decent, including Shiva Valley at the far end of the beach, Nine Bar in Vagator, Eva Cafe (which does health foods and expensive coffee) and Nyex Beach Club which I didn’t visit but looks ridiculously posh and expensive.

Other bars and clubs worth mentioning are Shiva Place, Chronicles and UV bar – all of which have regular psy-trance nights that can go on well past sunrise for those looking to party all night. There are also a number of areas in which people organize illegal ‘squat’-type trance parties, although these usually get shut down. While I was in Anjuna about half the parties I went to got shut down, but there is always somewhere else playing music until all hours of the morning. As a result of this non-stop party scene Anjuna can be a bit tiring – most people are either wasted or hungover at any point and so meeting people, making friends and maintaining decent conversation can be difficult. For this reason not many ex-pats live in Anjuna but rather base themselves in Arambol and visit Anjuna for the occasional party.

UV Bar

Other affordable hostels in Anjuna include Wonderland, Caterpillar and Lost Tribe – all of which are around Rs400 – Rs600 (approx £5) a night. There are also many places where you can get private rooms for around Rs1000 (£11) and if you are brave enough there is a place that rents out high bamboo stilt beds built right on the beach, which I didn’t get the opportunity to try but looked very cool!  A guesthouse called “Hideout Anjuna” deserves a mention as it provides very good, clean private rooms for excellent value. The only issue being that it’s in a slightly strange location – hidden a bit away down a dirt road in a field, but maybe you might like this opportunity to get away from the chaos.

Alcohol in Goa varies massively and can go from Rs80 for a beer in one place to Rs250 in another, but overall is still very cheap by European standards. However the best way to really save money is drinking before you head out or sneaking small bottles of the cheap local rum or vodka into parties – 200ml bottles of Old Monk rum cost only Rs40 (50p). The local Kingfisher beer from a shop costs about 50p a can – so by comparison the local spirits are incredibly cheap. I wouldn’t drink too much of them though or you’ll likely go blind!

Food ranges from cheap local dishes at around £1-£2 each to more western dishes like pizza, burgers and kebabs for £3-£4.  or breakfast I mostly ate 20p samosas from a nice road-side stall near to my hostel and £1 Veg Thali’s from various local places.  If you’re not a big eater you could quite easily get by on about £2 a day for food.

After five days of non-stop partying in Anjuna I headed over to Arambol to relax a bit amongst the largely music and yoga focused crowd. There seems to be a never ending supply of instructional classes for every style of yoga you can imagine, and every night there are different gigs by all ranges of musicians, collaborators, DJ’s, MC’s and singers. It’s one of the most artistic and vibrant places I’ve ever visited.

Riva Beach Club

I spent a few nights in a private room over-looking the main street which was at least relatively clean and only cost Rs500 a night. The beach in Arambol is busier but slightly less interesting than Anjuna. It’s just long and flat with lots of very similar bars mostly catering to the large Russian crowd. Notable places include a resort at the far end of the beach called Riva which does a pool party with DJ’s every Sunday, ‘Garden of Dreams’ which is a beautiful outdoor restaurant just off the main street and an awesome German Bakery down by the north end of the beach where a lot of local ex-pats meet, and where I spent most of my time.  Nearby ‘Sweet Lake’ is a short scooter ride away and a great place to chill for the day on the banks of a beautiful natural lagoon.

Garden of Dreams

While almost everywhere in Anjuna and Arambol are accessible by foot, most people hire scooters or motorbikes to get around. Prices range from Rs300 – Rs400 a day for scooters, and Rs500 – Rs800 a day for bigger motorbikes like a Royal Enfield. A licence is not required when hiring a scooter but if the police stop you they will try get money out of you. Take note though that this is a bribe, not a fine, and the police will eventually let you go if you just keep telling them you have no money. That said, I would never advocate driving a vehicle unlicensed. I hired a Royal Enfield to drive down to Gokarna for a few days and I must say – if you can handle the Indian traffic they are exceptionally fun motorcycles to ride!

Hilltop Festival

Goa is an excellent destination if you want a cheap beach holiday with a bit of party thrown in, but I would be lying if I said there aren’t better beach resort destinations.   If you happen to be in India and it’s on your route then Arambol is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a musician or really into yoga.

Sri Lankan South Coast – Surfing and Sunsets

Sri Lanka is GMT+5:30 and uses the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). £1 = approx 200 LKR

Arrival in Sri Lanka

When exiting Colombo airport there are loads of taxi’s hanging around outside offering lifts to Colombo city centre for 3000 rupees (about £15), but you can get the bus from just across the road for about 100 rupees (50p).

The bus drops you a short walk from Colombo Fort station where you can get trains to pretty much anywhere in Sri Lanka, except parts of the north and east coast. I bought a ticket to Weligama for about 70p and then found a little shop nearby selling sim cards with 8GB of data for 699 rupees (about £3).


Weligama

In Weligama, I dropped off my bags and went to meet my friend Mike. We had a few beers and then made plans to go meet his friends in Unawatuna, about a half hour tuk-tuk ride away. Stupidly I was a bit drunk and gave the tuk-tuk driver two 5000 rupee notes instead of 500’s. Rookie mistake! Always take some time to get to know the notes when travelling to a new country. That was a £40 waste that I could ill-afford.

Sri Lankan sunset
Sri Lankan sunset

That night we partied on Unawatuna beach with Mike’s friends and then headed back to Weligama in the morning, ensuring we paid the correct amount this time. At my hostel, we got chatting with a fun group of people from all over the world, including Germany, the US and Iraq.  A bottle of whiskey appeared and a few drinks later we were all quite drunk and decided to go surfing.  We rented boards from Surf Mania on Weligama beach for 250 rupees an hour (£1.25).  Needless to say, I didn’t catch many waves.

Surfing Sri Lankan Style
Surfing Sri Lankan Style

Solo Christmas Party – Sri Lankan Style

That evening I moved to a new place nearby called The Classic that had private rooms for only 1000 rupees (£5).  Everyone had gone to sleep by then so I headed out on my own to find a Christmas party on the beach. I could hear music and see lights from miles down the beach so I walked for about half an hour amongst fishing boats, tripping over ropes until I finally reached what turned out to be just a few Sri Lankan guys dancing to very loud, cheesy rave. Turns out this is standard at any party around here. At least they had a tiny make-shift bar so, I grabbed a few beers and ended up having a great time practising break-dancing with them until about 1 am.

Sri Lankan Yoga


Sri Lankan sunset
Sri Lankan sunset

Read more of Sri Lanka here: Outstanding Beauty in Central Sri Lanka

Need somewhere cheap to stay? – Stay : Sri Lanka

 

Sri Lankan street parade
Sri Lankan street parade

After checking into our rooms at Space Garden Hostel, we were surprised by an awesome Sri Lankan street parade passing by! They had lots of dancers, musicians and even elephants (although the elephants didn’t look too happy). Unfortunately, at the end of it a fight broke out and a guy got smashed in the head with a bottle which was a bit of a downer.

Space Garden Hostel
Space Garden Hostel

The day before New Year’s Eve we bumped into an Austrian stuntwoman who had just arrived and we all decided to head down to the beach, where we spent the day chilling in hammocks under palms trees, drinking beer and chatting to another English couple.


Sri Lankan New Years

On New Years eve daytime, Mike and I headed down to the palm tree area and put up the slackline. We spent the majority of the day slacklining and attracting the interest of various people until eventually, we decided to grab some quick dinner before heading back to our respective hostels to prepare for the evening.

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach

For once the music was actually decent and all the people we had met in the past few days were together on the dancefloor. We celebrated at midnight with hugs etc and then continued to drink and dance until about 3 am when I decided to call it a night. I left Mike and the others sitting on plastic chairs on the beach as the ocean washed up around their feet. That night I slept on a makeshift bed on the rooftop under the stars and full moon, which turned out to be a great way to enter the new year.


Sea Turtles and Slacklining

A friend of mine arrived from France the next day and that evening four of us went for dinner on the beach and saw a giant sea turtle wash up right next to the bar we were at.  The staff asked us not to take photos though as it scares them away and they’re trying to find somewhere to lay eggs.


We spent our last day in Mirissa swimming, slacklining, relaxing in hammocks and chatting to a hilarious Australian couple from Alice Springs – proper bogans, in the best possible way!

Slack-lining
Slack-lining

Unawatuna and Camp Kush

After Mirissa we headed north-west and booked 3 days in Unawatuna at a cool little place called Camp Kush, which is made up of tipi’s built around a campfire in a clearing amongst palm trees and a mangrove swamp. It has a few private rooms for £20 and five-person shared tipis for £7 per person.


There is a main covered sitting area with sofas and a dining table, and the lovely host Buchi tends to your every need – offering tea, coffee or beer at every opportunity. The facilities are fairly basic in a campsite kind of way – cold water, outdoor showers and only two toilets…. but if you aren’t too picky you’ll find it more than sufficient.

Camp Kush
Camp Kush

The first evening we took a tuk-tuk to Jungle Beach, where apparently you can snorkel with turtles. We didn’t see any turtles unfortunately but we had a great time swimming and drinking on the beach anyway.  After sunset, we headed back to camp for an amazing pasta dinner and partied the rest of the night away with some other guests who had arrived.

Surfing, Sri Lankan Style!
Surfing, Sri Lankan Style!

Attempting to Surf

The next day we went to Martin’s Surf Point (MSP) near Galle to do some surfing. I spent most of the day swallowing sea water and not catching waves since I can’t actually surf, but it was good exercise. The board hire is only 300 rupees an hour (£1.50) and they are very relaxed about it – so much so that we almost forgot to pay when leaving and nobody even said anything. That evening we again joined everyone at the campsite for dinner and afterwards had quite a few drinks, including a fair amount of the local Sri Lankan coconut rum, ‘Arrack’, mixed with coke – known as Arrack Attack!

Wijaya Beach
Wijaya Beach

On day three in Unawatuna, we finally got to swim with giant sea turtles! Typically my GoPro battery was dead so I didn’t get any footage, but it was an amazing experience none-the-less. We then watched the most amazing sunset from Wijaya beach and took photographs of the stilt-fisherman silhouetted against the horizon. That evening after dinner we decided to explore the nightlife in Unawatuna and went to an awful bar called Happy Banana, playing music so bad we endured it for only 15 minutes until deciding to call it a night.

Sri Lankan Stilt Fisherman
Sri Lankan Stilt Fisherman

Hikkaduwa

I spent a few nights staying in Hikkaduwa at a place called Hilda’s Guest House, run by a Swiss woman.  It’s a bit pricier than most places but has a swimming pool and includes a free breakfast of eggs, toast, fresh fruit and yoghurt.

A friend and I spent an evening having traditional Sri Lankan fish curry at a beach restaurant called Drunken Monkey. Very affordable too – large 620ml beers for £1.75 and curry for just over £2. Then we explored a bit of Hikkaduwa town before heading back to the guesthouse to swim and drink until midnight.

I also spent a few days with a group of friends at a large Airbnb house called Casa Hikka Villa, a few kilometres outside of Hikkaduwa.  It has a huge swimming pool, kitchen, living room and BBQ facilities, and is exceptionally good value for money if you have a large group.

Mirissa
Mirissa

 

The Southern coast of Sri Lanka has some of the most beautiful beaches and awesome surf spots I’ve ever seen! It’s still relatively cheap and unspoilt by tourism so if you have the chance I suggest you get out there soon!

 

Read more of Sri Lanka here: Outstanding Beauty in Central Sri Lanka

Need somewhere cheap to stay? – Stay : Sri Lanka

 

,

Dubai

Dubai is GMT+4 and uses the dirham (approx = 20p)

Wow, what can be said about Dubai! What a crazy place.

My trip started off very well, getting off the plane from Turkey I was the first to customs and went straight through – luckily with a British passport they just stamp and you go – no visa required. Ofcourse that just meant I had to wait longer for my luggage, which I never usually check in but annoyingly Pegasus airlines only do 8kg onboard!


Once through the airport I got a cheap coffee (don’t buy £5 starbucks – there’s a £1 coffee vending machine just next to it!). I drew some cash (500AED, approx £100) and found the little shop where you can buy a silver ‘Nol’ travel card. This works out cheaper than buying individual tickets, even if you just do one trip. As I had landed at Terminal 2 there was no metro stop so I had to get a bus to Nadha station. I quickly found the bus just outside the door and across the street and within 15 minutes was on the metro. Dubai is very clean and efficient and the metro is no different – it gives the London tube a run for it’s money.

25550609_10159862723155220_9183737823973357910_n

One thing I didn’t realise about Dubai is that it’s massive! I mean, like HUGE! I think people make a mistake of seeing it on the map near the coast in a long thin line and think it’s small like Barcelona – it’s not. The metro is basically one really really long line and has about 50 stops and takes about 2 hours end to end. Also you can’t walk anywhere in Dubai because it’s just massive buildings and huge 10 lane highways everywhere and very little sidewalks. Luckily the metro is relatively cheap (75p – £1.50 per trip).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I was staying with my friends Mike and Lizzie who live in Dubai Marina, which is the very touristy, foreign area (although Dubai is 80% foreigners so I guess everywhere is the foreign area). I got off at Jumeira Lake Towers and walked about 15 minutes to their high rise block (everything in Dubai is a high rise block). It was still early morning but Lizzie stayed home to let me in before heading off to work. Since I had the day to myself I went for a stroll along the beach which is just a few minutes from their house. Initially I was suprised by the amount of people but then realised that even though it’s winter this is actually Dubai’s busy season because summer is way too hot. I walked all the way down to a bar called Zero Gravity which looked really posh and was strangley playing house music at 10am. Then I walked back along the beach, bought some relatively affordable (£3) McDonald’s and then wandered along the marina, which has a nice canal-side walkway flanked by expensive yachts and fancy apartment blocks.

25443061_10159862723405220_6449972182340960343_n

The next day me and Mike went shopping for a phone at one of Dubai’s many malls and I was suprised to find electronics are very affordable in Dubai – in fact cheaper than London for the most part. I didn’t end up buying one though as they didn’t have what I was looking for – that is, a cheap phone with an excellent camera – about as rare as a unicorn.


In the afternoon we walked about an hour to a bar called Barasti, which reminded me a lot of Ibiza – big comfy sofa’s around a swimming pool on the beach with house music playing and a sun setting behind palm trees. Oh and also excessivly expensive drinks! Mike was kind enough to gift me a few beers. 🙂

25507832_10159862723110220_7544790985679206586_n
That evening I bought some ingredients at a local store which were not too expensive and made lasagne for Mike, Lizzie and their housemate. Then we got rather drunk on free wine Mike had been given by a client he did some work for.


We spent the next few days on the beach, exploring some other malls, the Burj Al-Arab, the Palm Jumeira and visiting a tattoo artist to plan Mike’s next piece. We also had some excellent cheap food at a Middle-eastern restaurant and drinks around the exceptionally posh swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton. On Wednesday we watched an endless stream of skydivers from JBR beach diving from the Skydive Dubai plane that takes off about every 20 minutes. I would love to done it but it’s way out of my budget.


On Thursday Lizie left to go to Greece for Christmas and Mike left for Sri Lanka, where I would meet him in 2 days. At the same time I got very sick so I spent the next two days just lying in bed and updating my blog.


On my last day I went past the Burj Khalifa on the way to airport and watched the dancing fountain show that they have every day at 6pm. I don’t suggest doing this with all your luggage – I didn’t realise that the fountains are actually a really long walk from the Burj Khalifa metro station, although fortunately the walk way does run through the biggest mall in the world and so has aircon and travelators all along the way.

25593825_10159875750370220_8478707873845344557_n

Dubai airport has some of the cheapest duty-free I’ve ever seen so it’s a good place to stock up on cheap alcohol, cigarettes, cologne and all the other crap they sell at duty-free. They also have comfortable reclining seats in the waiting area so if your flight is delayed due to the abnormal mist that only happens once a year at least you have some nice to wait. It was totally worth it though because the view of Dubai in the mist from the airplane might possibly be the most surreal thing I’ve ever witnessed.

25550174_10159875588885220_6361670881417576109_n

 

 

 

 

A Wedding in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

12096117_10156762550835220_3436346047139880738_n

We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

225597_10156762548660220_87430267711748597_n

As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

12832559_10156740097360220_1829164436593995399_n

The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.

 

 

 

A week in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

12096117_10156762550835220_3436346047139880738_n

We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

225597_10156762548660220_87430267711748597_n

As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

12832559_10156740097360220_1829164436593995399_n

The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.