I have returned from my odd combo-holiday: Oman and Sri Lanka! (Or more precisely: Oman, Sri Lanka and various intermediary airports. Turns out it’s possible to be both delayed by four hours and still almost miss your flight… a feat I managed in Dubai. But I digress.)
Oman first, to visit Sophie who’s been living and working in the capital Muscat.
This was my first time in the Middle East, and the most striking thing was the almost complete lack of ‘city’ in the European sense, i.e. a central touristy bit where you can walk around narrow streets without cars. There is an old section, but it’s very very small, and so the city kinda resembles American suburbia but plonked in a desert. (It wasn’t unbearably hot, but that’s probably because of all the air-conditioning – outside it does feel like a hairdryer is switched on in your face.)
That said, the people were all pretty relaxed and friendly, and when Sophie was working I got driven around by some of Michele’s friends thrice removed, Abou and Wangchuk. (Dear AIESEC, I contribute nothing and just freeload off your enviable social connections. I’m sorry. Love, Dom.) We saw the Royal Palace, found somewhere you could drink (foreign hotel bar) and then hung around on a beach until the sun came up 🙂
It sounds ridiculous, given how many mosques there are in London, but I’m pretty sure this trip was the first time I’ve heard calls to prayer in real life. (From the beach we could hear them start just after 4am, which is just too early for anyone to be contemplating anything.) On the way to the airport I also risked another lateness incident by squeezing in a whistlestop trip to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, so you can finally have a photo which looks a bit more Middle Eastern:
And then it was on to Sri Lanka to hang out with my cousin Josh (who I haven’t seen in two years!) and his friends Saul and Ella. We spent a little time in the capital Colombo, but to be honest there isn’t a great deal to do there and my most memorable moment was getting laughed at by a giant group of schoolchildren for being white. (Joke’s on them though: by that point I was mostly sunburnt red with some attractive purpley mosquito bites.) Instead we mostly hung out in two beach resorts further south, Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna.
These were relaxing and chilled days – with not many people about as we were outside the tourist season – and consisted mostly of beach, beer and curry. For short journeys, we got around by tuk tuk, which are cheap and kinda thrilling – unlike being a passenger in car you don’t lose your connection with the outside world, and indeed can contemplate just how close you are to colliding into that outside world and toppling over.
On my very last day I felt bad for not having seen any elephants (you can’t go to Sri Lanka and not see elephants!) and so we got a driver to take us sight-seeing: the elephant orphanage, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. Although the elephants were cool, it was actually more of a thrill to come across monkeys in the park the same way you might come across squirrels here.
The journey home was a mind-numbing four flights long, but I did at least get to spend the bulk of that time with Emirates who – I’m almost disappointed to report – are actually very good. Their boastful luxury branding almost made me hope they would be rubbish, but I have to admit that coming home on their double-decker plane was one of the nicest flights I’ve ever had. And it gave me a chance to catch up on some films, so I’d like to round off this post with a cheap imitation of Abbi’s Film Friday juggernaut:
Dominic’s Unconnected Thoughts On (Mostly Disney) Movies
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
A poor corporate governance regime leaves sprawling business empire OsCorp (never trust a company with ‘corp’ in their name) in the hands of emo Harry Osborn. Harry is angry at Spiderman for refusing to poison him, so teams up with Electro (giant, blue, somewhat electric, also angry) to get revenge.
I actually enjoyed this, despite not having seen the first film in this ridiculously premature reboot. Fun fact: we saw it in the cinema in Colombo, where for some reason they project a countdown onto the centre of the screen shortly before intermission.
Unable to control her power of magically freezing things, Elsa (in my head played by Natasha Self) goes all cold on her little sister Anna (in my head played by Katie Self) instead of saying “hey, I’m scared that I might accidentally kill you if we play the magical freezing things game again, so let’s try badminton instead”. To pass the time, Anna sings some damn catchy songs before falling dangerously in love and triggering a disastrous explosion of magical freezing.
I loved it, though, and I don’t care who knows it. I’m so glad Disney got back into its groove with Tangled and the like.
Oh, you know this one. On the run after nicking $40,000 from her employer, Marion Crane checks into a creepy motel run by Employee-Of-The-Month Norman Bates and participates in Iconic Shower Scene. Gripping, suspenseful and with a twist ending which I miraculously avoided having spoilt for me before finally watching this, Psycho is a justified classic.
I’d heard mixed things about Brave and I have to agree it’s not one of PIXAR’s best. Rebekah Brooks lookalike Merida is a fiery princess who quite naturally objects to her mother’s plans for a forced marriage. Turning to a witch for help, she requests a spell to change her mother which unexpectedly transforms her into a bear.
You can see where they were going with this – it’s a valiant effort to do a good mother-daughter story – but the problem is that Merida herself is sometimes pretty off-putting. And I’ve been wondering if that’s some deep-rooted sexism in me wanting female characters to be ‘nice’, but actually I think I would be a bit perturbed if a male hero took so long to feel apologetic for deliberately poisoning his mum too.
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