We recently spent a weekend in Bali, staying down in Nusa Dua.
Highlight of the trip? Hands down the diving at Manta Point and at Crystal Bay in Nusa Penida. While we were cautiously optimistic of spotting some mantas at Manta Point, we did not dare to get our hopes too up, given our relatively dismal luck diving on recent trips. But the moment we plunged into the waters, we saw dozens of these enormous creatures gracefully swooping beneath us. It was glorious. We also spotted dozens of blue spotted stingrays on that same dive. There might have been macro creatures to gawk at, but our attentions were fixated on the mantas.
It was macro heaven though, at Crystal Bay. We swam in and out of startlingly cold thermoclines, but saw so much: a squid, flounders, a wobbegone shark, hairy crabs, decorator crabs, two leatherback turtles, and schools and schools of colourful fish. I kind of regretted not having brought my underwater camera along (it’d seemed like too much work to lug all that gear along for just two dives).
We also spent one day signed up to tour the major attractions of Bali – Ulun Danu Beratan Temple on the shores of Lake Bratan, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, and Tanah Lot Temple. To be honest, while the rice paddies were gorgeous to look at, we were very underwhelmed with the temples. They took forever to get to – our visits to the three sites took up the entire day, and we spent more time on the road than walking around the temples. To start with, we couldn’t even go into the temples themselves, so there wasn’t much to do except snap a few pictures. That said, I was grateful for the long cart ride, because I’d come down with a bad case of food poisoning the day before, and so felt pretty much out of it the whole day.
Still, food poisoning notwithstanding, we had a lovely short respite in Bali, and are very much looking forward to returning during Mola Mola season to see those astounding sun fishes!
I’ve never been very comfortable with street photography. But since we’ve moved to Singapore, the opportunities for landscape photography has shrunk quite significantly. At the same time, our goal this year is to visit more of South East Asia, havens for urban photography.
With that in mind, one of my goals this trip was to get out of my comfort zone, and take more street shots.
Alas, for whatever reason, my camera battery was drained by the end of our first day in Myanmar. And this was the same battery that had served me so magnificently at high altitudes and in the cold up on Kilimanjaro! So all the shots taken from Weekend in Myanmar: street scenes edition are actually from my Pixel 2 phone. None too shabby, if I say so myself. Nonetheless, as decent as the quality those pictures may look on the small screen, they don’t hold up too well printed out.
In any case, I was able to get in plenty of practice on our train ride to nowhere that first day….
Our trip to Yangon, Myanmar last weekend was somewhat spontaneous, suggested by our friend Jessie whose goal this year is to explore all the countries in South East Asia. We didn’t really know what to expect or do, beyond visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda and wander about the city. But we had a most wonderful time, and felt like we’d stepped back into the past, seen what Singapore could have been like in the 60s and 70s. Men still selling betel nuts and leaves by the roadside and hawking them on trains. Electric lines still criss-cross the streets, most of which still have no traffic lights, so everyone just brazenly jaywalks. Dozens of monks and nuns, dressed in their saffron or pink robes, walk around barefoot, carrying their aluminium tiffin carriers.
Our first day wandering around the city, we found the bridge to the Bogyoke market closed. The bridge was across some train tracks, and to get around them, we had to take a long detour – another 30 minutes under the hot sun. Later, when we decided to take the train that circled Yangon to get a better feel for the local life, we realized how blasé people were with the tracks. People were leisurely strolling along the tracks, or had pulled up plastic stools to sit right alongside the tracks – their version of people watching perhaps? And they didn’t have any qualms jumping off or flinging themselves onto the cars even when the trains had started to pull away from the stations.
We weren’t quite as brave. The “circular” train route we took turned out to be under construction, so the train was only running partway. We didn’t realize this of course, when we bought the tickets, not knowing any Burmese. An hour after we’d pulled away from the station, the train rolled to a stop at some random station near the airport, and most everyone jumped off, save a couple old men who sat unconcernedly on. After 10 minutes of waiting around, we got off to discover that the locomotive pulling the train had already been detached. Nobody we asked seemed to understand English either. Since we had time to spare, we decided to wait it out. Then a train came alongside ours into the station, heading back towards Yangon Central Station, where we’d gotten on. The conductor peered into our car at us, and motioned for us to climb onto his train. But it was already starting to pull away at the time!
Eventually though, the workers brought around another locomotive and reattached it to our train, in the direction of Yangon Central Station. So all’s well that ends well. Haha.
We were quite taken with these little nuns going about their business, in search of their evening meal, and followed them down the street.
From what we’d read online, one of the bustling areas in Yangon is Chinatown, the area roughly bounded by streets 18th through 24th. In the evenings, the streets are lined with rows of plastic tables and chairs and hawkers grilling meats along the sidewalk. We went right before the peak period, around 4pm in the afternoon, so while there were some hawkers set up on the street corners, some of the streets we walked down were almost eerily quiet. We walked by shuttered store fronts, and gates with faded and peeling paint that had seen better years.
The architecture dredged up memories of Chinatown in Singapore about 30 years before, before the government had revitalized the area by tearing down some of the older structures and repainting the remaining in vivid bright hues. My grandmother had lived in one of those 3rd storey apartments with the dim naked bulbs, steeply sloping eaves, and wet kitchen with its ever-present inch of water that refused to drain away. Even then though, I remembered the streets as being cleaner. Still, it felt like we had walked back in time.
A short two days, but it felt just right. The next time, we want to hit up the countryside, especially Bagan, with its over 2000 pagodas and stupas and lush greenery.
We visited South Wales this weekend. It’s incredible actually – after 2.5 weeks in the UK, this was the first rainy weekend we had. But the wet hardly dampened our moods; South Wales is incredibly beautiful and has coasts that rival that of its namesake, New South Wales in Australia.
Our base for the Saturday was at a bed and breakfast in the town of Swansea. After we arrived in the afternoon, we took a stroll through Singleton Park and the University of Swansea to the promenade where we picked our way across the wet flat banks of Swansea Bay towards Mumbles. It was low tide, and the beach seemed to stretch for miles; we could hardly see the finger of water beyond.
It was close to 6pm by the time we finished the walk, but daylight was for another 3.5 hours and the rain clouds had parted. So we picked up some sandwiches and drove to Three Cliffs for a hike to Pennard Castle.
It’s a stunning walk. We clambered across steep sand dunes to access the beach…
Hiking Three Cliffs, Gower Peninsula
…And up another series of sand dunes to get to the 12th century Pennard Castle, from where we were afforded a bird’s eye view of the entire Three Cliffs Bay.
Pennard Castle, Gower Peninsula
Pennard Castle, Gower Peninsula
Before the high tide completely covered our path back
We weren’t paying attention to the tides though. By the time we got back down to the beach, the fast rising waters had already covered most of the sand, completely blocking our path back to the carpark.
We approached a guy pulling along a fishing kayak on the opposite bank, to ask if there were an alternate path back – and also in hopes that he would give us a short lift back across the other side of the beach. While he didn’t offer the lift (ah well), he did point out a rather circuitous route back towards the castle ruins we had just clambered down from.
It was raining when we awoke on Sunday – drizzly with intermittent downpour. We kitted up and drove out to Rhossili Bay, reputed as the most beautiful bay in South Wales. Even in the mist and rain, it was stunning. Long, even sets of waves rolled into the bay below us, where dozens of surfers trekked down to surf.
During low tides, one could hike down to Worms Head, seen in the background in our photo below. But after our near mis-adventures the day before, and given that it was still mid-tide, we turned back around at the top of the cliff before the descend down.
Driving back towards London, we stopped by Cardiff to visit Cardiff Castle. The site has stood through history from Roman times to the age of the Normans (when the keep was built) to the Victorian era where the sumptuously decorated rooms still stand, and then to WWII where the townsfolk of Cardiff sought refuge between the thick city walls during air raids.