A Travellerspoint blog

December 2008

Palawan, Philippines

…xmas and crocodiles…

sunny 30 °C
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Palawan (the dot at the end of the dotted line) is a beautiful part of the Philippines. We flew with Seair from Caticlan after the boat trip from Boracay. It’s lovely to check in and not have to prepare for an argument. Seair sticks to its policies, and simply weighed our bags, and charged us for the excess weight. Simple! The airport in Caticlan is about the size of a postage stamp, and was pretty full as we waited in the “free” terminal waiting area, which cost us 20 pesos each to get into. Of course, you have to go through the “free” area to get on the plane, so whether or not you use a seat in the waiting area, you have to pay. Seair doesn’t have the newest planes…my armrest was taped on with some clear packing tape.

The hour-long flight was lovely – flying over all the Pilipino islands and clear water. Some of the islands are no more than a thin, snake-like strip of sand poking out of the water. The airport in Puerto Princesa is equally tiny – a good thing for baggage retrieval. The staff of the Hibiscus Garden Inn met us at the gate, and carted us off to the hotel.

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At $30/night, the room is fantastic, spacious, clean, and most importantly, it has air conditioning! It’s about 10 – 15 degrees (F) hotter here than on Boracay, so it’s NECESSARY! There’s no bar or restaurant at the hotel, though they do serve breakfast – I recommend getting the eggs scrambled over fried, as the fried eggs were a bit undercooked for my liking.

We snorkeled all over Honda Bay, a 45-minute tricycle ride away. Our driver, Wang, is cheerful and knowledgeable of the areas in and around Puerto.

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We hopped onto the boat with 2 crew members and hit the choppy sea. Snake Island, Starfish Island, and Lu Li were the spots we stopped.

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For xmas lunch, we went to Shakey’s Pizza and consumed more spaghetti and meatballs than anyone should, and downed a pitcher of beer.

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We proceeded back to our room for a nap and movie, then headed out for dinner, more pasta! We ate at the Blue Marlin, a cute little garden restaurant, which also has an indoor seating area. I think that’s the first time I’ve eaten inside in the last 3 weeks! You may be thinking, sheesh, sounds great, eating outside all the time. Give it a try sometime, you may change your mind! Fighting off flies, ants, mosquitoes, spiders, and cold food, you try in vain to tuck your napkin (aka toilet paper) into your shorts leg so it doesn’t blow away, only to find that the bit of skin you’ve exposed is not covered with mosquito repellant, and you end up itching throughout the entire meal! ...I love eating indoors….

Folks here are fantastically friendly, almost everyone says hello, and lots of people wave as you’re driving by. It has a much more down-to-earth vibe than Boracay seemed to me. The night we arrived, we were looking forward to having some peace and quiet – all day every day, you can hear the cacophony of roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing where we were staying on Boracay. Of course, that night was the big night to have xmas parties – including the staff of our hotel!!! They had REALLY loud karaoke, and of course the home on the other side of us has a live band, that seemed to not understand what those little thingys on the neck of the guitar are for…and the drummer couldn’t count to 1, let alone to 4! They were truly horrible. The upside is that we were invited to join in the festivities at our hotel – they even had a whole pig on a stick!!! Now that’s my idea of a party.

The town of Puerto Princesa is a tidy little place with concrete streets – some of which are not in the best shape. It really has a small-town feel to it, even though there are 120,000 people living here. It seems the preferred method of transport is the tricycle – a teeny motorcycle with a big sidecar soldered onto its side.

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These are definitely made to fit a more petite Pilipino butt, as mine and Mike’s barely fit into a seat built for 2! Today we took one out to the Butterfly Garden (50 pesos/person) and the Crocodile Sanctuary (40 pesos/person). I even got to hold one of the babies! His name is Chopper.

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There were lots of other animals at the sanctuary as well.

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We head to Sabang tomorrow morning - Sabang is the location of the Subterranean River and lots of jungle hikes and beach front beauty.

Sending hugs!!! Life is good!!

Posted by kmpossible 03:18 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Boracay

The little island with the big garbage problem

sunny 27 °C
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Arriving in Caticlan via Seair from Manila, I was hopeful. Hopeful that Boracay was not going to be as over-developed as I had imagined it to be. I met up with Mike and his dad for a brief coffee and breakfast across the road from the airport, and then Jim had to take off for Manila, and back home to the UK. Mike and I proceeded to the dock area where we were to catch the boat to Boracay. After buying 3 tickets each, boat ticket, terminal ticket and environmental ticket (not sure where that money is being spent), we strolled along the short bit of beach to the waiting boats. After a 15 minute boat ride, we arrived on Boracay and were shoved into a teeny little tricycle-type thing. It’s a little motorcycle plus a sidecar with a roof, and my huge kite bag was strapped precariously on the top.

We drove through the interior of the island, through lots of bombed-out looking building sites, shanty-type lean to buildings/homes, and garbage everywhere you look. Simple is one thing, dirty is another. There is building going on everywhere – you can see jagged bits of concrete and rebar jutting into the blue and cloud-spotted sky. On these building sites are piles of ‘stuff’…bricks in a big heap, logs in another, rebar in another, and trash strewn about throughout. On first sight, I was a little disgusted with this island, which was obviously once beautiful.

In my experience so far, the island’s only redeeming quality is White Beach, and even that bears the heavy scars of over development. The beach is wide, white, sugar-soft sand with a few sparse palm trees between the beach and the hotels and shops. The water is the clearest I’ve ever seen. So many trees have been thinned to make room for all the buildings that the tree line looks a bit manufactured and unnatural. It’s sad to see that this place has been destroyed by improperly supervised development.

Bulabog Beach, on the opposite side of the island from White Beach, is completely different, aesthetically speaking. The thin strip of brown sand is strewn with coconut shells, debris from the ocean, and lots of bottles, broken glass, fishing gear, and food wrappers and packaging. The beach is about ¼ the size of Mui Ne beach in Vietnam where we just came from, and there are just as many kiters. This makes for an intimidating kiting experience for me, and I have yet to brave the fetid waters to try it out. Ok, I don’t know if the water is ‘fetid’ or not, but Mike got a cut on his toe, and within 24 hours, it was infected. The water is brown looking, especially when compared to the pristine water on the other side of the island, though the water seems quite clear further out from the beach.

The food is good here – we’ve found that the food in the “D’Mall” area is much better and cheaper than the food along the beach. Samba, on the beach, does a nice margarita, especially if you’re a light weight and only like your glass half full. Order the pitcher of frozen margaritas – more bang for your buck. Watch out for the brain freeze! Our lovely little room is located near Bulabog Beach – Blue Bayou is it’s name. Our weekly rate is about $36. We’re totally stoked to have a kitchen and have been cooking breakfast in, and usually one other meal as well. Smoke is a fantastic place to get a little bowl that packs a big punch. One bowl of chicken curry and rice costs about $1.50, and I can hardly finish it. Very filling for such a small pile of food – excellent value, excellent flavors!

Last night while cooking pasta for our cold tuna & pasta salad, Mike accidentally spilled boiling water on his foot – the one with the previously infected cut, and a more recent scrape that’s still healing. OUCH! We alternated running cold water over it and soaking it in the frying pan (it was full of cool water from the fridge). It still blistered, and looks pretty red and burned today. The foot is having a hell-of-a two weeks!

On the 23rd, we’re heading out to Palawan, an island southwest of Boracay. I hear it’s what Boracay used to be before the over development. We shall see! There is a subterranean river there that is thought to be the longest in the world (8km), though one in southern Laos was recently discovered, and may trump this one.

Posted by kmpossible 21:40 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

My brain is sprawling across the floor in Vietnam

And my head, in Manila, misses its companion

sunny 27 °C
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...I just found this entry...enjoy!

Jet lag is better than any drug out there…and trust me, I’ve done them all. (Keep up here..kidding!) Have you ever been at a day party on a Sunday, and unwittingly engaged in conversation a person who hasn’t seen the inside of their own eyelids since Thursday night? …well, maybe for that few minutes when they passed out on the toilet at the club…. I’ve got about half that amount of attention span right now. I was just sitting in a really crowded area next to the sandwich shop here at Manila’s international airport, when another traveler started talking to me. Turns out I had accidentally sat on his girlfriend. (No, not really…come on, keep up.) Scott, from Australia, here on business – you know, that work stuff. Anyway, we were making idle chatter, and he mentions that he was training people here to do some sort of computer/electronics repair (see, can’t remember, no attention span), to which I replied, “Oh, do you speak Vietnamese?” Mind you, we’re in the Philippines. He took the question in stride, obviously he had noticed the luggage under my bloodshot excuses for eyes – or maybe he thought I’m just dumb? No matter, I laughed it off and said something real smrt like, “So….. …..uhhhh…..how ‘bout them ‘9ers?”

I raced off to my hibernation spot at the other end of the airport, between the smoker’s quarantine and the Manila cigar stand. I can actually see the opposite end of the airport from here…it’s only about 150 yards away. There’s only one place to get actual food, the rest of the places serve pastries and fruit n yoghurt smoothies. When I say ‘actual food’, I mean some greasy noodles w/ “tomato sauce” topped off with some weird combination of processed cheese & gravy. Luckily, that was my lunch. =( It was hot as hell when I took it to my little table, and in my stomach, as lava tends to do when it cools, it became some sort of stone. Why do I eat when flying? Seriously…next time I’m just gonna fast…it’s for the best!

I’m $150 poorer too. Had to pay for “excess baggage” on Philippine Airlines, even though I only have a backpack and one bag to check. I guess my kite bag was a couple centimeters too long, and they decided I should pay. That and the fact that I have a fakey golf bag (says such and such golf on the outside) checking in right next to 3 guys with ACUTAL golf bags. Danm! I guess I should feel lucky, this is the first time I’ve had to pay for the big bag, and it’s almost always over the weight allowance.

Posted by kmpossible 05:33 Archived in Philippines Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

Gobble wobble...

...Thanksgiving with cosmos

overcast 11 °C
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I unwittingly spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco last week. Flying back to the west coast for interviews, I needed to be in town and getting over jet lag before my first interview. Virtually everyone I know was gone for the holiday, so I ended up taking myself for a motorcycle ride that day, and then treated moi to a tasty turkey dinner at the House of Prime Rib, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Since I was flying out to Seattle and Portland in a couple days for the interviews, I took my notebook full of practice questions with me so as to get some studying done over dinner, and sat there with my cosmo and the biggest plate of food I've ever seen, mulling things over, and talking to myself. I'm sure folks thought I was mental - gesturing across the food trough and talking toward an empty seat across from me.

Seriously, that was more food than I've seen at one time in the last 6 months. While the food was quite delicious, the sheer quantity was a bit....well...disgusting. Honestly, it put me off my appetite the second it came to the table - it looked like a platter for 4. If you're planning on going there, I recommend SHARING a plate! One cosmo was all it took, and I was tipsy. Thankfully, the food caused a sort of mini heart attack in which my heart started pumping like mad, and seemed to take care of the alcohol in short order.

I proceeded to drive home and pop a bottle of champagne and watch Napoleon Dynamite for the hundredth time. It was a relaxing day, though I did miss the antics of my family - never a dull moment, with shots of whiskey over the turkey deep fryer, food fights, and pie stealing, my family takes the cake (or pie) when it comes to entertainment value during Thanksgiving.

My friends, who graciously allowed me to stay in their house while they were away for the holiday, came home a day early, so I got to hang out with them. It was an unexpected and fantastic surprise, especially since I haven't seen them in about a million years! Their friend Steve, who they introduced me to, was hilarious, but made me yawn a little bit. ;-)

I'm now sitting in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Seattle...right next to a really irritating fountain that's making me have to pee. I had the first of 2 interviews yesterday, and the next one tomorrow in Portland. Half way there!

Posted by kmpossible 15:06 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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