…….The World Without Boundaries

Hunting for Whales in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

You know, something that I didn’t mention about in my previous post was the whale-hunting that we did while we were in Mirissa. It was totally unplanned but I knew I had to go for it the moment the receptionist lady at the hotel that we stayed in mentioned it to us. I mean, sighting of whales back in Malaysia requires such a great deal of luck. In fact, I never saw a whale in my entire – at least not in their wild or natural habitat – so I was jumping in excitement when I found out that sighting of this wonderful creature is possible in Mirissa.


We were picked up from the hotel at around 7.30pm and was at the harbor about half an hour later. There was a little bit of name-checking before we were allowed to go on board which was more like a junk than a boat or a ferry. It was good for at least 50 people at a time and it was almost to its capacity when it pulled out of the deck and off to the open sea.

It was rocky right from the beginning but it became worse as it moved further out into the sea. One of the passengers had to be sent back to the land because she couldn’t take it any longer. Her whining and howling every time a wave rocked the boat continued to haunt me for a very long time. Urghhhh!


I really thought it wouldn’t take long before we reached the area where whales could possibly be sighted and everyone was holding up against the rough sea. But when one hour turned into two and later three, I was beginning to get quite worried. In fact almost everybody on board was beginning to throw up and I was holding to the last thread of my ego before I was forced to join them too.  It was like being on a roller-coaster, only worse because there was no way of knowing when it was gonna stop. It was without doubt the worse boat-ride that I’ve ever been on in my entire life.

I was running out of patience and was actually on the very verge of throwing up before one of the crews yelled out and pointed out to somewhere while everyone else turned to look with long over-due eagerness and anticipation. There was a sudden surge of excitement among all the passengers. I joined some of them to run up to the open deck upstairs and wobbled my way in a zig-zag while doing it so that I could get a good view just in case a whale really was there to catch a glimpse of. But I saw none and so did the others judging from their confused and disappointed looks. Urghhhh!


Just when I was about to return to the lower deck where it was less rocky, a commotion put me back to where I was earlier. And then, there it was. It started with the tail flipping elegantly up in the air – and for a moment it stayed there, frozen – before slapping back down and splashing water out of its way. Then it disappeared before flipping out again, this time higher than before. Then the head – spurting out a fountain of water from its blowhole or whatever it is called. It really was magical and everybody was cheering in excitement. Seeing the biggest animal on earth going live in action right before the eyes is certainly an experience not to be easily forgotten. We saw quite a number but they’d all disappear after awhile, probably sensing the presence of something that doesn’t quite belong to their group.

I was quite disappointed that I didn’t see any of them in full – like the whale that jumped out of the water right in front of Pi in the Life of Pi, may be because they don’t really have the capability of jumping right out of the water in full after all – I mean not in real life. Or may be they do. I don’t know. But then I can say now that it’s not really all about the whales after all but the experience of being on the boat at such a terrible condition.

We made our way back to the harbor at about mid-day and used up my last ounce of energy in the process. I mean, being in a rough sea even in a comfy chair on an over-sized boat has proved to be quite tiring. I had butterflies in my stomach waiting to be let out through my ass and my intestines felt like they have convoluted a thousand times over. Stepping off the boat and back on the land again was more relieving that I thought it would be. But then, it really was a great experience. At least I could always say to people that I’ve seen whales – live – right before my eyes, in an open sea, in their natural habitat.


We left Mirissa with some sort of accomplishment – not quite a pre-planned one – but it was still an accomplishment. Whales. I’ve seen some of them. Heh.

Back to Sunshine in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

The highlands of Sri Lanka were so beautiful but there were times when I really missed the brightness of the tropical sun that I was so accustomed to back in my country Malaysia. Of course, being a Tropical island itself, Sri Lanka is nothing short of the hot tropical sun but of course it can only be fully acquired in the coastal areas.

Coming down to the coastal areas of Sri Lanka from our last stop in the highlands (check out my post on Ella) was not easy. We took an air-cond-less public bus so it stopped like every now and then to drop off and take in passengers along the way. It was quiet empty in the beginning but it became heavier and heavier as more and more passengers came on board. In the end it was fully loaded so many of the passengers had remain standing for hours on end.


It might only be around 5 hours – and I’ve been on much longer bus rides before – but somehow it felt like forever. Thanks God I was seated on the front row so it was probably less shaky compared to those at the back rows. I had a nice chat with a local Sri Lankan who was so eager to know what I thought of his country. Like most of the passengers on board of the bus, he was coming down from his village in the highlands to one of the coastal towns where he was working in. Read more →

That Place called ELLA

Ella was one of the places that my travel buddy Audrey had suggested us to go when we were touring the beautiful highlands of Sri Lanka. To tell the truth, I had never heard about it before Audrey mentioned it to me but of course anything with mountains and tea plantations turned me on so I was quite excited.  We went there by train after hiking across the beautiful grassland of Horton’s Plains and I could never get enough of the beautiful scenery that we were served with while cruising on the fast-moving (or slow-moving, depends on your expectation) train. I mean, seriously, the beauty of Sri Lankan highlands really took me by surprise. The train ride itself was very exciting. Every now and then the train would cut right through a hill in an underground tunnel and the screeching sound of the rails was deafening but of course it was part of the excitement.trainride (Copy)

Ella that I found out was more like a village which was about to turn into a small town. It was far from developed but the tourism industry seemed quite promising with more and more tourists coming in. A cab took us to a beautiful guesthouse which was very much strategically located on the side of a hill. The view from the veranda was just so breath-taking I really couldn’t get enough of it. It was quite unfortunate for us to be there during a long drought when Ella was not at its best look. I was told that it had not been raining for the last 6 months so the whole area was quite dry and dusty. A waterfall was supposed to be seen streaming down the hill and made it such a perfect picture for a postcard but still it was breath taking even without the waterfall. Read more →

jipp February 13, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

Sandakan – The Mecca for Foodies

Nobody comes to Sandakan without feeding himself with seafood. Sandakan is said to have the best seafood in the State – and probably in Malaysia – as told to me by some seafood enthusiasts. They told me how seafood in Sandakan is better than those in Tawau or Semporna – the other two major seafood-producing towns in Sabah. I’m not quite sure what they mean by good or how exactly they do the comparison but I know for sure that seafood is a thing of luxury back in KL so I had to go all out savoring myself with it (seafood) while I had the chance.


The famous Nasi Kuning at Taman Rimba to begin my food adventure in Sandakan with..

Of course one of the things that I still can’t find anywhere else is seafood Bah Ku Teh. I know at least two restaurants that serve good Seafood Bah Ku Teh in Sandakan. One is Nah Chai Restaurant in Tanah Merah and the other is called J4 (or something) at Batu 4. I had the impression that they were related to each other, that the one in Batu 4 was a branch to the one at Tanah Merah but I was told that they were actually not (related). Of course the one at Tanah Merah was the pioneer so I knew I had to go there first. Read more →

jipp February 13, 2015 Leave A Comment Permalink

Back to Sandakan

It was so good to be back to Sandakan again after my last goodbye to it four years ago. I was stationed there for four years and I gotta say it had shaped me a lot as a person – the experiences that I gained while I was being there were invaluable. Before coming to Sandakan, the eastern part of Sabah was quite alien to me so I was eager to explore. And true enough, my job had required me to go all over, even traveling far out into the ocean and spending hour after hour after hour on a boat ride which could turn rough at times, to remote islands that I never knew existed and to villages that could only be reached by river.


It really was a down-memory-lane for me. I went to those places that I used to go to when I was still stationed there. I loved Sandakan back then and I still do when I returned again 4 years later. Sandakan has not really changed much. I mean, there are new buildings here and there, with new hotels springing up like mushrooms after a long rain but overall it still looks pretty much the same to me. I noticed the existence of McDonald’s, Secret Recipe, Kenny Rogers and even Big Apple of which all I missed having around back then. Read more →

jipp February 8, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

Hanoi Again after 5 Years

When I first came to Hanoi 5 years ago, I found myself instantly intimidated by all the surrounding. Thanks God I flew in from Ho Chi Minh City where the traffic was probably crazier so I did manage to hold on and find enough time to gather my senses without losing my mind in the process. There were people everywhere, all running to wherever they wanted to go and that constant honking took a little bit of time to chew in. I had to remind myself over and over again that I was there on a holiday so I didn’t have to keep up with them – that I had to go about things in my own pace only then I’d get to really enjoy all the things that the city had to offer.


Arriving in Hanoi. Yippie!

But I liked Hanoi almost instantly, even more than Ho Chi Minh City, which I thought was quite too modern for my taste. Hanoi on the other side is very oriental yet so European, thanks to the French who had turned it into the Paris of the East. I could gaze and marvel at the architecture all day long without getting bored and believe me, Hanoi is not all about the architecture but a combination of so many other things that are hardly found in any other city. It is a very big city, probably bigger than KL, but somehow there’s something so rustic about it, with a strong flavor of kampong charms, at least in its people who look more like farmers that live in a metropolis that Hanoi is. Read more →

jipp January 10, 2015 Leave A Comment Permalink