Travel blog image for Dec. 27, 2014 in Goa, India
Dec. 27, 2014
Direct flight New York to Mumbai, caught the surreal transfer bus to the domestic terminal passing dense slums practically hanging over the airport fence, 2 hour ride from Goa airport through festival traffic to meet new and old friends for mojitos.
Dec. 28, 2014
Got our dance on at Sunburn music festival - one of the top 10 electronic music festivals in the world - in the hot afternoon sun, to get cheap early entrance tickets. Old school heroes Sasha and Paul Oakenfold, new schoolers, and Indian DJs.
Dec. 29, 2014
Bad Sean's last day before turning 30, he decides he wants a nipple piercing as one final defiant act of his 20s. It seemed like all was lost when no piercing shops were open after dinner, but as fate would have it, the beachside club we went to had a piercing studio!
Jan. 2, 2015
Having worn our dancing shoes (and livers) thin from Sunburn and New Year's festivities, we made a rare daytime appearance, terrorizing the streets and beaches with our motorcycle (ok, scooter) gang.
Jan. 3, 2015
Left the trance and debauchery of Goa behind for a calm Saturday night in the Sri Lankan capital. Almost missed our connecting flight thanks to the inefficiency of terminal transfer at Mumbai airport, one final reminder of Indian chaos.
Jan. 4, 2015
Finally with decent internet, spent the afternoon in Cinnamon Gardens working at a cafe and people-watching/sniffing cinnamon trees at the park. Amazed by the genuine friendliness, cleanliness, and order compared with neighboring India's capital.
Jan. 5, 2015
Got my Jaffna permit from the Ministry of Defense and walked around the old Fort district before surveying passengers at the bus station whether to head east or south. 2hr A/C express bus to Matara compared with 6-8 hours made it an easy decision.
Jan. 6, 2015
Wandered the coastal roads of tiny Polhena until bumping into the crew asking for directions at the neighborhood noodle stand. Tuk-tuk to Meddawatta beach to meet Slovakian friends for dinner, catered by a Sri Lankan Bob Marley toking a coconut bong.
Jan. 7, 2015
Private car ride from an Electrical Engineer up into the hills of Ella, passing the President's town with its larger than life campaign posters. Made ourselves known at Cafe Chill over mojitos, arak, and wonderful eats from the modern, open kitchen.
Jan. 8, 2015
Having fled from the big cities for this contentious election day, we enjoyed some afternoon reading in the gardens of our guesthouse before hiking up to Little Adam's Peak for our first lookout over the Sri Lankan hill country. By night, we triumphantly returned to our adoring staff fans at Cafe Chill for another round of arak and mojitos.
Jan. 9, 2015
Early morning stroll down train tracks closed by rainy season mudslides while locals proudly proclaimed they had a new president. Climbed past hornets nests to the highest view in Ella before hopping on a bus to Nuwara Eliya while celebrations filled the streets, people tearing posters of the old president off our bus and pasting on the new pres.
Jan. 10, 2015
Pre-dawn shuttle to Horton Plains National Park to hike across the moorlands to the famous viewpoint at the World's End. Beautiful, but well-trekked and arguably not worth the money and effort. Explored the fields of one of Nuwara Eliya's big tea plantations in the afternoon before reuniting with the crew for dinner and drinks at a shady town pub.
Jan. 11, 2015
Standing-only tickets on the train to Kandy, leaning out the door into the breeze as we wound through the hill country. Witnessed the city's jubilation as the new president paid respects to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The presidential caravan later drove past us down a narrow alleyway as we happened to walk by the head monk's house.
Jan. 12, 2015
Escaped the heat to work in a cafe while Row and Harry went to check out the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Unknowingly took Harry to what was apparently make-out point, before accidentally going to a strange cultural dance show in an old auditorium instead of a temple night ceremony. Washed down the confusion with beer at a rooftop Chinese pub.
Jan. 13, 2015
Private van to Sigiriya, stopping for roadside coconuts, a lunchtime curry feast, and a spice garden growing everything from hair removal herbs to supposed cancer cures. Once in Sigiriya, bought a few beers and walked into the bush to take in sunset at a tranquil, empty lake with a view of the famous rock, before smashing out countless card games.
Jan. 14, 2015
Explored the frescos, carvings, and 1.6 hectares of ruins of the monastary built atop the 370m rock pillar at Sigiriya. Gorged on a lunch buffet and indulged in naps before popping into the only village bar: a dindgy open-air hut with beer and arak behind a barred window. Clearly not a place foreigners frequent, we were instant celebraties.
Jan. 15, 2015
Said my goodbyes to our crew as we took buses in opposite directions, and headed to the ancient Sri Lankan capital. Rented a bike to peddle around the massive complex of temples and dagobas without hardly a foreign soul in site. A group of kids dressed in their orange monks robes ran me down to take a group picture on their phone. Surreal reversal.
Jan. 16, 2015
Embarked from the art-deco Anuradhapura train station in relative travel luxury on the newly reopened 1st class train to the capital of the Sri Lankan north. An indicator of just how recently the civil war ended, my map had no train station, only a landmark for 'train station ruins', since the fighting had left the now rebuilt station in shambles.
Jan. 17, 2015
From day 1, I found Jaffna to be incredibly rewarding. Because the war that ravaged the region only ended a few years ago, I expected a tense, solemn, post-war feel. Instead, I was greeted by friendly, positive, and laid back people who were as interested in us as vice-versa. Not many foreigners make it here since you need a travel permit to visit.
Jan. 18, 2015
Started at Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil (Hindu temple), where we were drawn in by cacophonous music, chants, and incense of the daily prayers, with locals keen to chat and take us to their homes. Had a somber walk through war ruins of a govt building rife with bullet holes, then cheered up eating curries from giant bannana leaves by hand for $1.
Jan. 19, 2015
Rode motorbikes around the North, getting off the main roads to outlying villages where adults stared agape and children waved frantically. Crammed onto ferries that were little more than platforms. Helped an elderly man get to Jaffna hospital to visit his wife. Wound down chatting with regulars of a natural outdoor mineral spring. Amazing day.
Jan. 20, 2015
Took a final look at the countryside as we traversed Sri Lanka north to south on the fan-cooled 2nd class train back to Colombo. Made a quick shopping run for cheap clothes and sprung for a classy art concept restaurant, making the most of the relatively cheap Sri Lankan prices before heading to the much more expensive Maldives.
Jan. 21, 2015
Arrived late in afternoon to Male, the Maldivian capital, a truly surreal site from the air with high-rises jostling each other to house more than 150,000 people on an island less than 6 km sq. Passed the wildly inefficient immigration with its strict islamic rules list at nightfall, and took a water taxi from the airport island across to Male.
Jan. 22, 2015
Explored the markets and pieced together myriad ferry schedules from terminals on opposite sides of the island, while receiving conflicting information about private charter options at every turn. The difficulty traveling between atolls is that every boat begins/ends at Male, and few are timed with the thought of making connections the same day.
Jan. 23, 2015
Wandered the streets of the conservative capital, overcrowded with scooters and cars jockeying for position on the limited road space the island provides. All services shut for Fridays, the holy day. Popped into the Grand Friday Mosque and had an informative tour from a young, open-minded and fully-bearded man. Received about 20 pamphlets on Islam.
Jan. 24, 2015
Finally managed to arrange a speedboat to Rasdhoo Island, a scuba mecca for hammerhead shark dives. Met up with a Swiss diving shop manager for sunset tea and learned about the island's incipient growth, the diminishing hammerhead population, and how tourists ask to use his boat to drink since he has a license to serve offshore (booze is illegal).
Jan. 25, 2015
Early morning scuba dive with sharks, rays, and beautiful coral, just the dive master and me. Checked out the 'bikini beach', a strip of coast sanctioned for tourists to dress down (completely empty), then kayaked out to a couple uninhabited neighboring islands, including the gorgeous Picnic Island. Dove down again at twilight for a wreck dive.
Jan. 26, 2015
Sunrise hammerhead dive down past 30m, unfortunately the hammerheads didn't come out to play. Poked around tiny Rashdoo for an hour (a 5 minute walk from coast to coast) before taking the ferry back to Male. Missed a connecting boat by 10 minutes since there is no communication between boats, so stayed another night in Male.
Jan. 27, 2015
Arrived to Maafushi, and were instantly blown away by how much more tourism there was than on Rasdhoo. Maafushi was one of the first islands to open up to independent tourism, and has quicker, more frequent ferry connections with Male since it is in the same atoll. Whereas Rasdhoo had small 6 guesthouses, Maafushi easily had 40-50. Gorgeous sunset.
Jan. 28, 2015
Maafushi's bikini beach is an interesting sight. It is directly beside the main road, but has a thatched fence physically and symbolically separating the half naked tourist 'sinners' on the beach from the locals on the other side. It stands in stark contrast with the bikini-forbidden public beach (burka beach?) on the opposite side of the island.
Jan. 29, 2015
Speed boat early in the day to get Mappy to the airport for her flight to Israel, and I decided to spend the day on Hulhumale, an artificial island constructed next to Male to relieve population overflow and future concerns of rising ocean levels. It felt empty compared with Male, and very functional with big anonymous, numbered apartment blocks.
Jan. 30, 2015
Quick 14 hour stopover in Singapore en route to Bali. Gorged myself on noodles in the cheap food courts and spent an evening walking along the quays, aghast at how expensive beer has become since I was last here in 2007. Also experienced the final day before a 'no drinking in public places' law went into effect. Always finding ways to get stricter.
Jan. 31, 2015
Picked up from the Bali airport by Kimo and his lady who dodged the insane Balinese traffic through pouring rain to Uluwatu, where I spent the next 10 days surfing, watching the most unbelievable Super Bowl ever, having daily sunset beers, and scooting around between beaches and abandoned resorts.
Feb. 10, 2015
Feeling somewhat guilty for living the surf life without yet taking in any cultural places, I headed to Ubud in the hills in central Bali, famed for its temples, rice paddies, and dance. Some of the coolest guesthouses I've yet to experience; ornately decorated rooms that appear like mini temples in a complex surrounding a central family shrine.
Feb. 11, 2015
Went to check out Monkey Forrest, which though certainly a tourist hot spot, has some beautiful foliage and monkeys absolutely everywhere, swinging in trees, playing, screeching, and begging for food.
Feb. 12, 2015
The fantastic month and a half adventure comes to a close as an equally exciting 6 months in Australia begins. 5 countries with completely different religious practices and culinary delights, some world class surf, epic train journeys, gorgeous seas, and countless work vistas; not a bad way to kill 7 weeks en route to a new city.

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