Right....so. I've been hugely lax at keeping this thing updated with new content. FOr multiple reasons really.
The last year of course had the wedding and prep for that taking up my time, leaving little room for rambling up here for nobody to read.
I did suggest to the lady friend yesterday that I may just let the site expire. After all in this day and age of social media and Twitter accounts every man and his dog has an online presence. Why bother to keep around a blog that is nothing but home to nonsensical mutterings?
She decided to glare at me and threaten a slap to the head for doing such a thing. It appears that over the years she has come to see The Bauble as the invisible friend we know. A little thing living in the web that we had used as a shared interest.
Which has me sitting here, posting this, as a half-hearted late New Year's resolution: to try and post at least once a month. 2013 has a lot of months with nothing posted in them at all, purely because it was the year of the wedding. But the wedding has been and gone now.
So my plan is now this. I am, thankfully, getting back into the hobbies. My drawings and art have been in full swing in the last month and I have nearly completed my second novel. Meaning that I will at least be able to use The Bauble for that sort of stuff.
One thing that I will do is link it to my "writing" blog, since it's a bit pointless to be writing entries for one site and not posting them to both.
After all, ramblings are still ramblings right?
Part two of the honeymoon entries, now that we managed to return to the mundane way of life.
Stupid getting used to sitting around in luxury doing nothing all day but...nothing
After Sri Lanka we flew out to Thailand for the rest and relaxing end of our honeymoon. The first stop was Bangkok which is basically like a living, breathing, version of some city in Grand Theft Auto.
Once again we were met at the airport by a tour guide, but not one on the same level as our Sri Lankan guide. This lady, while nice, was only there to get us from the airport to our hotel in Bangkok and make sure we knew what time we were being picked up on our last day.
Getting to the hotel was the interesting part of the journey, I thought at least. Speed limits seem to be optional, to the tune of about forty kilometers. Everyone plays by this unwritten rule though, so at least they are all breaking the law together I guess. There is also some amazing lane changing skills, with most drivers deciding to use their indicators after completing the move.
Sure why tell others where you are planning on being?
One of the funky things I noticed during our drive was that an obvious genius of a man had built a metal frame and attached it to the side of his scooter. He then drove through the streets with a fast food set up in the trailer. As the traffic stopped at red lights he would sell some trailer-grub to drivers before the lights changed again.
Eventually we got to our hotel, The Park Plaza in Bangkok, and checked in. There was nothing funky to talk about with this part of the process, more or less the same old story. But when we went in search of the bar to get dinner, that's when the cool stuff kicked in.
The bar was located on the rooftop of the building, along with the most amazing looking pool we had seen on the trip so far. Not a bad way to spend your first night in Thailand, eating food and drinking under a night sky with a bustling city around you.
We had no tours planned for Thailand so the days were ours to do with as we pleased. Having seen a sizable amount of the Buddhist Temples in Sri Lanka we didn't really bother going to more in Thailand. However the Grand Palace is definitely something worth going to see. Using a map from the room we figured out the best route to it which involved taking a river bus for a nice leisurely trip.
Without too much hassle and exactly no getting lost we found the Grand Palace. Now the map had had a strange little message on it. It read something along the lines of "The Grand Palace is never closed for anything. No public holidays, no prayer time. It is always open." This was something we found to be a little weird, more so when we stumbled across this sign:
Something Road Runner would expect to see.
As we read it a female voice recording blared out over loud speakers that the palace was never closed. A message that seemed to be repeated in a half dozen languages. As it played this gentleman stepped up to us and told us that the palace was indeed closed, because it was prayer time, and that for a small sum he would take us to some other local tourist type things in his taxi.
Hilarious, but sure what can you do but politely tell the guy that you are not going to fall for the stunt and continue on your way.
The Grand Palace itself was an amazing place. The artwork and buildings, the amount of gold. It was a stunning place to see and stroll around in.
So much gold.
The next day we went on a trip to the River Kwai to visit some World War II stuff that the lady was interested in seeing. Being a pair of nerdy history heads it was really interesting to see some of things things around here. We even got to ride on a train and go over the bridge that spanned the river, something of a high point for the lady I think.
As part of this day tour we also got to go to a stunning waterfall on the way to the Tiger Temple. The water fall was like something out of Hook. A whole little village existed in the trees with huts acting as homes, shops and restaurants. The people in here were very friendly, although to one little girl I think I may have seemed like a giant.
Like being a visitor to The Shire.
Of course as is want to happen when walking on wet stones I managed to loose my footing and took a nasty slip on the rocks, scrapping the crap out of my forearm. Just what you want before going to see tigers up close, a bloody arm.
Anyroad off to the Tiger Temple we went, a place where some Buddhist monks raise up abandoned or orphaned tiger cubs who have, for whatever reason, no packs. They are brought in from a young age and rared up to be a bit more tolerable to humans being around them. Getting into the temple entitled you to go and get some photos taken with the tigers. The deal was you could queue up and get one photo taken with one tiger, or pay a thousand baht and get photos taken with every tiger in the place.
Considering a thousand baht was roughly the cost of getting a bus out of Dublin to Maynooth, we figured we would go for the extra package.
A bit like petting a dog, one that can eat you.
Sure you'd be mad not to.
After Bangkok we got driven out to Hua Hin to our last resort. A five star place that was like nothing we had ever seen or been in before.
Our travel agent had booked us into a private villa in the complex, basically a very fancy little hut in a walled off area. When we checked in the staff noticed it was our honeymoon and upgraded us from a "garden villa" to a "pool villa".
Meaning that we got our own private pool!
Nothing like having your own pool...less English folk hogging the deckchairs.
This place was just ridiculous. It appeared that wealthy people could not be expected to walk on their own to feet, so you got shuttled everywhere in golf carts. Shuttled distances that most people with zimmer frames would consider a short walk. It got to the stage that we had to politely tell the carts we were okay walking when they "caught" us strolling around the place.
All we did here was relax, read, drink, eat, sleep, swim and a combination of rinse-lather-repeat. When your food was delivered to your private villa whenever you wanted, giving you absolutely no need to leave it, why wouldn't you soak up such crazy relaxing moments.
Of course all good things have to come to an end.
But sure that just means that the adventure has begun...
The worst part about coming back from honeymoon at this time of year, apart from the whole coming back from honeymoon bit obviously, is that it is so busy.
Myself and the lady have been back for a little under two weeks now and we are nearly as busy as we were before the wedding. I thought all that free time I heard so much about was going to magically kick in once we got home. But between Christmas present shopping and family visiting we are just as busy.
I haven't had a whole lot of time.
So here is a delayed rant about our first leg of the honeymoon - our trip to Sri Lanka.
Now, I am not one for the sun holidays. It might be something to do with being akin to a vampire without the benefits of immortality and amazing brooding abilities, who knows. But thankfully the lady, while more than capable of absorbing some rays and getting a nice tan going, is not one to sit around all day on a sun holiday.
This works out nicely. Mainly because it means that when we do go on "sun holidays" it is just another way of saying we went "somewhere interesting with sun". Sri Lanka was just that.
Overall I really enjoyed our time in the country, with only one or two things (three possibly but you can probably smash two of them together) irking me.
It all began with the pair of us flying with Emirates, a first for both of us. These things are like floating castles in the sky. They are the most amazing airplanes we had ever been on and that was being in the cheap seats. Such comfort and service you would be hard pressed to find in a four star hotel back home.
When we landed in Sri Lanka, following a couple of hours in Dubai, we were greeted by our guide for the next five days.
A legend of a guide
He guided us through the busy airport and brought us outside. Now this was when we had our first experience that somewhat sullied Sri Lanka for us. Vishwa went off to get the car and came back in a matter of minutes, popping the boot before he jumped out of the car. However as the boot was opening these two guys, who wore no uniform nor badge to indicate they worked with the airport (because they didn't), picked up our bags and put them into the boot. Then started to demand a "tip" from us. One of them started pointing at a ten euro note he had, saying that was how much the "tip" was meant to be. While we had no rupees on us, nor euro, he spied that I had a twenty sterling note in my wallet and tugged that out. This I would have been miffed at, to the degree of knocking him out, had it not been for his buddy who had followed the lady practically into the car. I decided to let bastard number one keep the money, jumped into the car and forced the other tosser to get lost.
The win-win (kinda) of the story is that the twenty they had "got" was a Bank of Ireland note, only of use within Northern Ireland. As in you can't even change it for other money. So basically they had a note they couldn't use.
We still get happy at that thought.
Vishwa, fair play to him, did apologise for how that whole thing had gone down and explained to us the ways of Sri Lanka. Basically everyone everywhere expects to be tipped, no matter what they do or don't do for you. We had been forewarned about this by none other than H (of Roommate Chronicles fame) and her handsome man but didn't expect it to be so in your face upon arrival.
Luckily our guide gave us the rough guide lines to follow on who to tip and how much. Which was basically what we stuck with the entire trip there. I don't have a problem with tipping as such and generally tip when out for a meal or getting a taxi home, but it would definitely be a negative in the Sri Lanka column at just how much tipping you have to do.
Even the guy standing in the public toilets with a mop in one hand text on his phone expects a hundred rupees from you. For not even offering to wipe your arse, literally for doing nothing.
But such is the way of things.
The hotels that we stayed in during our stay were amazing. All three and four star but compared to Ireland they may as well have all been five star. From service to food to the rooms themselves, it was the height of luxury the entire time we were there. Sri Lanka was very much our "do loads of stuff" end of the honeymoon so we rarely stayed in a hotel for more than a night, checking out each morning and heading off on our tours. We did stop in one place in the middle of the week for two nights, a lovely little resort that had little villas all over the place as the rooms for guests and an amazing pool. This spot was the one that the lady did not want to leave at all. Probably because of the treatment we got on our second night there.
On our first night we went to restaurant, had a lovely meal just from the buffet, and got talking to our waiter. A gentleman by the name of Ravindra. Now Vishwa had said that waiters generally get tipped about 500 rupees for doing a good job, which isn't really a massive tip when converted back into euro. Ravindra was so good on the night that we gave him a thousand. He was delighted and even thought at one point we wanted change from it. When he thanked us a few times he asked what other parts of Sri Lanka we planned on visiting and would we be back the next night. We told him it was our honeymoon and we would be back there for one more night. Ravindra then told us to return at half seven for dinner.
The next night came and as we walked into the restaurant Ravindra greeted us and guided us out to a private table set beneath the stars and laid out for us. Complete with a menu he had gotten made up for us an a bottle of wine selected by the lady. We were then treated to a fantastic meal, with Ravindra as our personal waiter, for the entire night. At the end we tipped him a sizeable amount of rupees and went back to our room, where Ravindra had gotten some of the cleaning staff to cover the bed in rose petals.
Give a nice tip, get an amazing meal the next day
See I don't mind tipping somebody when they do a good job, more so when the tip gets an even better job the next time. Anyway...
We did a lot of stuff in Sri Lanka. Visited some amazing Buddhist temples and really remote sites that were just breath taking to see. We even got to ride around on an elephant.
Urge to crush all, rising
An interesting way to travel. Beats sitting in rush hour traffic
In another rant I talked about the Great Tea Conspiracy and my ever growing desire to kill the Tuc Tuc drivers of Sri Lanka, so I won't go over those again here.
Not enough good things can be said about our guide Vishwa though. He made navigating the whole madness of the country so much easier. Steering us clear of out and out scams. Showing us the better places to buy things (which actually worked out cheaper than the stores we were told to go to). He even had a few little gems off the beaten track to brings us to which were well worth the visit. Every trip to Sri Lanka should include him, because you really get looked after and it's nice having a local who is on the side of the tourist.
But I will say that if you ever were inclined to visit this fantastic country it would be definitely something I recommend doing, just bear in mind that the tipping culture is something to get used to. Plus be wary upon arrival for the guys just looking to rip tourists off.
Then again when you get to see a sunset like this you're not going to mind.
You couldn't paint this if you tried.