Days M251-257: The Isle of Serendipity

Mon 04.06.12 – Sun 10.06.12:  AT LAST! COUNTRY NUMBER 198! And in the grand tradition of saving the best till last, it is my duty to report that Sri Lanka is officially several shades of AWESOME. After sitting at anchor for a couple of days, the MV Kota Wirawan finally pulled into Colombo port on Monday afternoon. It would be 9pm before I was off and cleared. I said a fond farewell to Captain Heri and the crew and set off to find my CouchSurf host, the enigmatic Sachal Mir, owner of Sachal Mir’s Bed and Breakfast in Negombo, a beach town an hour and a half up the coast from the capital. It was about 11pm when I arrived and if first impressions are anything to go by, I’m going to have a fantastic time here. Sachal greeted me like an old friend and introduced…

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Day M249: Why I’m Not A Republican

Sat 02.06.12: Today marked the start of the 4-day Diamond Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year as Head of State of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Commonwealth realms. It’s given the British people a couple of days off work, a free concert and injected some much-needed joy into a otherwise perpetually depressed nation. There are some that argue that the royal family is an anachronism, that it’s irrelevant, that it’s out-of-touch. So would I! But then, let’s face it, those adjectives could be used to describe every political institution in the world, not least the United Nations. I’m not swayed by arguments wrung out by Daily Mail-types who believe that to criticise the monarchy is akin to collaborating with The Nazis. Nor am I swayed by arguments wrung out by tub-thumbing Trots screaming off with her head – these are arguments…

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Days M244-248: The War At Sea

Mon 28.05.12 – Fri 01.06.12: There’s a war going on. Did anyone tell you? Bet they didn’t. The UN wouldn’t tell you, because then they may be called upon to do something about it. The IMO (International Maritime Organisation) wouldn’t tell you, because then they’d perhaps feel a tad silly for issuing advice akin to the hilarious ‘Duck and Cover’ leaflets distributed in case of a nuclear strike. Your local retailer won’t tell you, because even if there is now a 20% shipping surcharge slapped onto every product you purchase, they still make the same amount of profit. The insurance companies won’t tell you, because they can now charge a hefty premium on any ships crossing the Indian Ocean. The only ones really losing out are the mariners, the people of an already war-ravaged East African country and YOU. I’m talking, of course, about the Somali…

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Day M243: The 10 Courts of Hell

Sun 27.05.12:  Today I met up with Maryanne, the CouchSurfer who shared Mike’s flat with me in Hong Kong. Together with Kuni and our new CouchSurfer Callum we headed over the Haw Par Villa Theme Park to go see the TEN COURTS OF HELL!! Hell isn’t an exclusively western concept. What happens to you after die has obsessed the upright ape since it first climbed out of the trees, touched the monolith and killed off all the Neanderthals. In some instances the fanciful fables of the hereafter have assumed the status of myth (that place religions go when they die), but for many people on this planet hell is as alive and as real as Disneyland. So why not make a theme park out of it? That was the idea of brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the developers of Tiger Balm, who came…

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The Ten Saddest Songs in the World

As every Morrissey fan knows, there’s nothing more fun than a good old bit of navel gazing to make the universe seem even more cruel and indifferent than it actually is. So kick back, relax and wallow in the happy misery of feeling blue as I take you through ten of the the best songs about love, loneliness and lunacy you’ll ever stuff into your brain. 1. Untitled (Hidden Track) – The Aliens Hidden away at the end of ‘Astronomy For Dogs’ and running for just over a minute, played with nothing more than the upper scales of a piano accompanied by a violin, this ghostly melody is a riff from ‘Honest Again’, just the words ‘how long will it be till I see you again?’ repeated over and over… it KILLS ME. After travelling around the world for three and a half years alone and…

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Day M242: Gotham City

Sat 26.05.12: Gangsters. I hate them. I hate their pathetic lust for money, their shocking insensitivity to the misery of others, their child-like desire for trinkets and weaponry. But I especially hate their taste – yes I may sound like a rambling old lord bemoaning the trashy habits of the nouveau riche, but sod it: these people are not just morally bankrupt, but creatively bankrupt as well. The kind of goons who would erect a tasteless golden statue of themselves as though it’s not going to be melted down the minute they shuffle off this mortal coil they’ve done so much to ruin for others. The kind of goons that buy cars that look like glorified roller-skates, spend more on sound-systems than looking after their kids, hang out with women more plastic than Barbie and wear shirts louder than Krakatau. One of the reasons I want…

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Day M241: The Arab Street Preachers

Fri 25.05.12: I lost my debit card last week in Bangkok. Foolish I know, but it’s only the second time I’ve lost my card since Dominican Republic back in February 2009, so don’t be too harsh. In fact, I lost both cards to the same lousy trick. Some cash machines have this bastard habit of giving you your money and THEN your card, rather than the eminently more sensible other way around – card then money. Because of the increased likelihood of you taking your money then wandering off with your card still in the ATM, there are very few countries that have this system. Dominican Republic is one, and Thailand is another. There is a circle of hell reserved for ATM designers who do this. Anyway, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; Dude, Where’s My Card? So today I had to trek…

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Day M240: Fish n’ Chips n’ Curry Sauce

Thu 24.05.12: PIL you are the BEST!! Not only did I awake to find an email granting me passage on board the MV Kota Wirawan, which leaves next Monday for Colombo, I have also been offered a place onboard a ship leaving Sri Lanka to come back to Singapore and then a third ship to Madagascar. Now I have just TWO more shipping jaunts to organise and I’m done: The Maldives and The Seychelles. Behind the scenes while I was on board the Mell Sembawang last month, Dino, Mandy and my Mum were working tirelessly to try to get me on a ship from Hong Kong to Colombo. Once it became clear that Hong Kong was a dead end and that I intended to head down to Singapore, Dino put me onto a mate of a mate of his, Philip. He had been looking for a…

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Day M239: Wednesday Night Social

Wed 23.05.12: I had arranged to meet with Captain Paneer of PIL, the shipping company responsible for my crucial forays to Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Taiwan. I wanted to thank him and the company for being so incredibly generous and helping me to over half of my final 17 countries. And so I headed over to the PIL offices in the business district of Singapore clutching a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. About 45 minutes later I walked out with a spring in my step. Captain Paneer had offered me a spot on a ship going to Sri Lanka. A few more days in Singapore and I’d be on my way. It was a huge weight off my mind. Country 198 effectively in the bag, I turned my attention to countries 199, 200 and 201. My current plan for The Maldives…

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Day M238: The Road To Singapore

Tue 22.05.12: One day, a British gent called Tom sat down before a map of the world. At the very tip of the Malay peninsular he noticed a small, jungle-covered island. Being a genius (a British syndrome if ever there was one), he figured that if he put a settlement there, one day it would be the shipping capital of the world. All ships travelling to and from The Far East and Europe would have to stop there to trade goods or pick up supplies. Tommy Boy convinced the British East India Company to get onboard with his crazy brilliant scheme and thus Singapore was born. I left the bus (a wave and a glad-to-never-see-you-again smile to Wolfgang the old Nazi, who responded with a ‘Sieg Heil’ as if it was funny… he’s probably at home now putting his cat in the oven) and headed over…

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