I miss living in Asia: visiting The Philippines

philippines-mapSince being back in South-East Asia in The Philippines, I’ve realised there are a lot of things I miss about living in this part of the world:
– The easy living, relaxed lifestyle
– The cheapness of transport, food and accomodation. For example, a meal costs about 70 pesos (2 AUD, £1), to get a tricycle anywhere in town is about 10 pesos ( 30 Australian cents or 15p).
– The chaotic traffic with no lights and winding between vehicles
– Driving a motorbike easily and freely
– The friendliness of people wanting to say hello or have a conversation
– Unfortunately (or maybe for some people fortunately), I do receive a lot of attention for several reason 1. I’m foreign 2. I’m a women 3. I’m young 4. I’m blonde. Walking down the street, I get a beep or a wave or a hello or a wolf whistle or a comment about how beautiful I am, literally every minute.
– The hot, humid climate. I love this sort of weather.
– How early the day starts and finishes
– How things change so quickly. For example, I was meant to get the only ferry to another island yesterday and it was cancelled due to ‘big waves’.
– Being able to be in dresses and flip-flops everyday
– The on-street food establishments at the side of the road
– The scenery
– The dirt track roads
– No safety rules
– The lack of jay-walking fines
– The lateness of everything (this use to annoy me but now I just embrace it)
– The different currency
– I would say the food but The Philippines doesn’t have the best food
– Just having no plans and seeing where the day takes you
I mean the list could go on and on. I hope one day, I will be able to live in South-East Asia again. For now I will just embrace this beautiful country!

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The Philippines: Bohol

img_20160824_120408A few hours passed before reaching Bohol. It was nearing the end of the day so the sun was starting to disappear. I managed to grab a Jeepney, which took me to my hostel about a 45 minute drive away over the bridge.

The hostel where I stayed was in the jungle with little wooden lodges with bed and outside bathrooms. It was such a cute place. Once I had dumped my bag in my room, I sorted out a Scuba Diving trip for the next day, spoke to some people at the hostel and ordered some grilled fish with sweet potato fries.
Excited about my scuba trip, I woke up early trying not to wake the two others in my room and headed to the social area to lie in a hammock.

Then I got ready for the day, showering and preparing my bag. My breakfast was ready as soon as I walked to the common area. I was surprised by the brekkie: it consisted of eggs, sweet potato, rice, banana and some other vegetables. It was so filling and delicious.
After breakfast, I got collected and taken to the scuba resort, which was stunning.
I met an older Australian guy there, who was going to be doing the same dives as me. Along with the guide, we sorted out our gear: BCD, goggles, wetsuit, flippers and regulator.

A group of us jumped into a Jeepney and rode through the town to the place we were departing from. Normally, we would go from the resort but as the sea was so rough, it would have extended our time massively to get around the island.
We took a small boat, where we transferred to a bigger boat to cross the water to our first spot. As the boat was hurdling over the waves with water spraying my whole body, I lounged at the end of the boat, talking with fellow divers.
It was time. Standing at the edge, stepping into the unknown of the ocean with my gear covered me, I held the button of my BCD and sunk under with my guide and an Australian guys.

The ocean was incredible, seeing stone fish, turtles, trumpet fish, green and red nudi branch, frog fish and flat head scorpion fish.

Still getting my buoyancy just right, I dappled through the waters for about 50 minutes. Time goes so quickly and with a 3 minute stop, my head peer over the sea.

On the boat, we rested as we were taken to the next area. The view of the island was so picturesque, looking like paradise.

Our next dive, we did the same motions until we were 18m deep. We saw turtle, frog fish, devon scorpion fish, flute fish, zebra mooray eel and bat fish.

After resurfacing, we just relaxed on the boat with the sun shining as the driver got us back to shore. Somehow a French guy from the boat offered me a lift back to the resort on his motorbike, which was just exhilarating as he was speeding along the path.

By the time I got back to the scuba centre, it was mid afternoon so I sat around chatting and eating some noodles from my hostel.

When I returned back to my hostel, I decided to go for a walk to the nearest beach about 1km away. The beach was peaceful with not many people there. As there had recently been some small natural disaster, there was rubbish and dirt on the sand, which ruined the whole golden look of the beach.

In the evening, I spoke to the girl from the previously day, where we had some dinner. I hung out and chatted for a bit but I was ready to sleep.

On my last full day in Bohol, I wanted to see as much as possible. I had arranged to meet the Australian guy from the scuba trip. I hired a motorbike from the hostel, which I was super excited about driving.

The first place we went to was a bee farm with a cute little shopping area with a café and ice-cream shop. I didn’t care that it was only 9 in the morning and it may not be an acceptable time to eat Ice-Cream. I ordered an Ube (famous fruit in the Philippines) ice-cream, which was a bright purple colour. We walked down to the water front to take some photos then headed back on the road.

Next, over the bridge, through the town then winding through the roads in the magnificent countryside, we reached out next destination: Tarsier Conservation area. On the way, we went through the man-made forest, where there were high pine tree on either side of the road, shading the whole road. It kind of felt enchanted.

Tarsiers are small little animals like gremlins, which are nocturnal and rare. As we walked around this forest, we could see some cuddling the trees with their huge eyes staring at me. They were so cute. It think they were well looked after and as much in the wild as they could be.

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We drove further down the road to the Butterfly sanctuary, where there were butterflies just flying around. There were beautiful butterflies just fluttering around. We sat down for a coffee before heading off again.

Then we drove through rice fields at high speeds to the famous Chocolate hills, which are loads of small greeny-browny hills popping up everywhere. From the view point, up about 50 steps, was an incredible view of them.

We decided to drive further around the island to look for a particular river but unfortunately it had all dried up so we decided to head back. As it was mid-afternoon, my stomach was feeling empty and in need of food. We found a little restaurant at the side of the road over-looking the rice-paddies. We were in the middle of nowhere so there were no people. It was a peaceful place where I had a noodle and fish dish.

After about an hour or two of driving on our motorbikes, we ended on the main touristy beach, where the Australian guy and I went in different directions. I parked then walked down to the famous beach on Bohol Island. I was slightly disappointed: the beach was dirty and it was just a very touristy spot with loads of bars and restaurants. I’m glad I saw it but also happy with the fact I was stayed slightly away from this part. I bumped into a couple of people from the hostel along the promenade.

While walking back to my bike, a sign lured me in to buy a waffle with peanut butter on. It was delicious but I definitely didn’t need to eat it.

Back at the hostel, I chilled for a bit before meeting the English girl. Together, we got picked up, which took us a decent drive away to see the fireflies on the river. Even though I have seen them in Thailand, I wanted the experience of kayaking to find them. However, they didn’t tell us the correct price so it was so much more expensive than expected so we did the boat cruise instead. It was an open round bus with chair nailed to the floor, looking in one direction. We saw clusters of fireflies, glowing in the trees around the river. It was so cool. Some of the other people on the boat caught them in their hands but I wanted to just leave them to be free.

When we returned to our hostel, a group of us sat around chatting and drinking dark rum, which was super cheap. I didn’t stay up too late as I was getting up early for a flight.

The Philippines: Dumaguete

With my alarm waking me up early, I arose and got ready for the day. I ate brekkie then left the hostel walking to the main road to catch a Jeepney to a ferry port. At the port, I bought some new flip-flop then purchased a ticket to go to Cebu Island. I had decided to go to Oslob to see the whale sharks. The journey was pretty stand with loads of people of the boat. I managed to easily board the bus to take me to the view area.img_20160818_131129

In no time, I was at reception, where I paid for a ticket then changed into my bikini. There were masses of people around, and, now, I wasn’t sure I want to see them. I had completely mixed reviews. However, I soon realised it was basically a tourist attraction, where they were taking money and not treating the whale sharks well.

After an initial safety talk, I waited until my number was called, grabbed a life jacket and steeped into the small boat with about 8 of us in. looking out from the shore I could just see about twenty boats filled with people. At a closer look I realised there were other boats with guides feeding the whale sharks and directing them, pacing back and forth. When I got in the water, it was cool to see the whale sharks, and pretty spectacular how close I got but I just felt like it was all for a show. You get about 30 minutes in the water before they demand you to return to the boat, where they take you to shore.img_20160821_142850

Once I had put some clothes back on, I managed to catch a coach back to the port and cross to Dumguete.

During the afternoon, I walked around the market then hired a motorbike for the next 24 hours. I had been told about a few places to go to on a bike as you can’t get public transport to them.img_20160821_152913

I drove back along the main road passed the ferry port then turned off on to a country lane into the hills. Motorbiking through the picturesque scenery overlooking the ocean was just bliss. Miles along the path, I reached a little cabin with people taking admission fees, where I then continued up the mountain to the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao & Danao. The weather was still a bit overcast but the the lakes were pretty. I bush-walked around one of the lakes, over huge rocks and narrow paths, to find the view point of both lakes. DCIM114GOPROIt was really nice and there was no one there so it felt really peaceful. On the hike back, I bumped into a few groups including some younger Filipinos, who wanted to take a photo with me. they invited me to stay with them but I felt a little self-conscience. Instead, I returned back to the hostel, stopping at a clothes market on the way back and buying some fresh fruit.

I felt exhausted by the time I return to my hostel so I literally just grabbed some food and went to bed. My hostel hardly had any people staying there and the people who did stay all were local people rather than travellers so it really wasn’t social.img_20160822_084219

I rose pretty early to do two last things before going to the ferry port. First I drove to the Casaroro falls, which was easy to find as it was just up a main road. However, the last part of the track had roadworks so I was confused where to go When I arrived it seemed like an abandoned area but spoke to a guy who directed me to the start of the walk. They tried to convenience me that I needed a guide but I knew I would manage. After about 200 downward steps, I reach the bottom where I had to navigate myself over the water, climbing and jump on enormous stones in flip-flip. As I was crossing the river, my flip-flop got stuck and two minutes later, it was no-where to be found. I searched and search but it was a hopeless case, praying that it wasn’t much further to the waterfall. Luckily, it was just around a bend, where huge water fell. I tried to take some selfie but I think I failed miserably.DCIM114GOPRO

As I was hiking back, I had my eyes fixed on the water to see if I could find my shoe. There in the corner under a rock I could see this red strip. Yes, I had found it! Now just to get to it over the slippery rocks and through the water. I left my stuff on the path while I struggled to reach it but I was determined and finally retrieved my flip-flop. I was so happy. The rest of the walk was not as entertaining but I was huffing a lot as I climbed back up to my bike.

I was debating what I should do next. Did I have time to go to the hot pool? Yes, why not?DCIM114GOPRO

I drove through the windy roads, getting slightly lost, surrounded by mountainous views with light rain filling the sky. I didn’t really think about what this place would be like. With high cliffs and a shallow river, the Red Rock Hot Spring was perched on the side overlooking. When I walked in, I felt out of place with group of Filipinos in the outside hot pool. I pushed these thoughts aside, striped and dunked into the water. It was just amazing with the hot water flowing around me and the cool air above. I wish I could have stayed here forever. In the pool. I had a conversation with a younger girl in her late teens and an older guy who was with his family. He had some wise words.

Soon enough, I had to drag myself away knowing I needed to return the motorbike. Once I had returned the bike in the centre of town, I bought some food from the supermarket then collected my bag to go to the ferry port. I was waiting around for my boat but when I went to walk through the terminal, the guards told me the ferry wasn’t departing today. When I went back to the kiosk where I bought my ticket, there was a sign sayind that the boat was cancelled due to ‘big’ waves. Well, this was annoying and not on my agenda as I wanted to get to Bohol Island today.img_20160818_111513

There wasn’t anything I could do about it so I headed back to the same hostel and re-checked in, staying one more night. There wasn’t anything else to do in Dumaguete that I hadn’t already done so I just relaxed, wrote and had a nap before having an early night.

There was no real need to get up as early as the previous day so I had a lie-in, ate my complimentary breakfast before walking to the port to see if a boat was heading out. They didn’t know for sure but were hoping to as the sea had calmed down.DCIM114GOPRO

By the shore, I popped into a coffee shop to enjoy a latte but I was slightly disappointed. It was nice to gather my thoughts and rest (even though I didn’t need anymore rest).

DCIM114GOPROBack at the hostel, I gathered my belonging and headed back to the ferry port. It felt like Deja vu. Anyway, they decided to run the ferry, which was super awesome for me.
After kind of checking-in, I waited in the terminal room for what seemed like forever as the ferry was late arriving. The ferry was surprisingly smooth with a movie playing in the background.

 

The Philippines: Siquijor Island

img_20160820_113136The next day I got up pretty early to meet the Italian guy from my scuba trip because we were going to explore Siquijor Island on the same day.img_20160820_171939 I might as well have some company while visiting the Island.

img_20160820_113130After we got our tickets, we waited for our ferry to take up. The journey took about 2 hours even though it wasn’t too far away. When we disembarked from the ferry, we ere in search of a motorbike hire place, which was easy as we were surrounded by them. Somehow we started talking to a police guy who sorted out a bike for us. We decided to share a bike as it was cheaper. DCIM113GOPROOur aim for the day was to travel round the whole island, stopping at all the touristy spots.

First of all, the guy I was with started driving around the Island, where we picked up some petrol and stopped first at one of the beaches, Paliton. It was so quiet. I think partly because it was overcast and partly because there were just no tourists around.

Next, took a break at Banyan tree, which is 400 years old and believed to be enchanted. img_20160820_130157There was a pool to dunk our feet into, where little fish came to nibble the dry skin off my feet. I have done this multiple times before, and yet every time I’m a little bit squeamish. Randomly, there was also a monkey in cage, which is just cruel.

After, we headed to Cambugahay falls, passing Lazi Convent and church. When we reach our destination, I was sure we were in the wrong place but once we had climbed down the unstable step, we were visioned with a DCIM113GOPROview of the magnificent waterfall with not too many people. We took some photos, then walkedto the top part, where we jumped in to the pool for a swim, exploring under the fall. There was a swing but it was maned by some local and they wouldn’t let backpackers have a jump unless they paid.

Next on the motorbike, we drove around to find several quiet beaches, where we got lost at first but eventually we found these beautiful secluded beaches: Maria beach and Kagusuan beach, where we just chilled.img_20160820_144000

The last stop of the day was Salagdoong beach. Here, we ordered some Filipino food as we were starving by mid-afternoon, and spoke to a few people we met as we travelled the island. There was a huge cliff dive of about 20m, where initially I was going to jump as I was feeling cold and didn’t want my hair to get wet.DCIM113GOPRO However, I got over this and decided just to jump. It was probably one of the highest I have jumped, and I managed to scrap my toe the second time but it was extremely fun.

We had to get to the port by a certain time to catch the last ferry back to Dumeguete. As the sun was dawning, we sped through the countryside, along the beach to fulfill our mission of completing a whole circle around the island. At one stage, I didn’t thing we were going to make it as it felt like a never-ending road.

img_20160820_151436Once we had returned our bike and brought out ticket, we waited for our ferry. Soon enough, we were back in Dumguete, where we walked along the coast at night time before I headed back to the hostel. As I was getting some food, it started to chuck it down. My flip-flops had broken so I had to navigate myself bare-footed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see well due to the darkness so I stepped on some glass,DCIM113GOPRO with a few pieces engraving into my foot. It wasn’t too painful, just more annoying.

It didn’t take me too long to arrive back at my hostel, where I just chilled and showered before heading to bed.

The Philippines: Travelling and Dumaguete

img_20160818_110919Off on another trip. About a week after I returned from my 2 month travel around Australia and Fiji, I booked a flight. It was a cheap flight so it justified. Plus I also wanted to go to The Philippines.

After several weeks of double, I took off 12 days to go to The Philippines. I boarded the plane late morning from Sydney without any hiccups. The flight was direct but also a decent amount of time. As I had bought a cheap airfare, there was no food or entertainment included. However, lucky, I can make time fly pretty quickly without really doing much apart from listening to music and writing.

When I landed, it was already dark. Receiving a new stamp in my passport, I passed border control with ease because I only took hand luggage. My first mission was to get to my hostel, which was meant to be in proximity to the airport. You would have thought this was an easy task but no. First, I took a free transit ride to a hostel which was apparently walking distance. It wasn’t so I thought the easiest way would be just to take a taxi which took me back through the airport with thousand of cars surrounding me. After about an hour of waiting in traffic, twiddling my thumbs, and directing the driver, I arrived at my hostel.img_20160818_084835

Next I banged on the door multiple times, where eventually a guy told me to wait while he rang up. Finally someone came down, asked for my name then closed the door  in my face to return back up stairs. I didn’t feel like I was in the safest of place in the dark with many local hanging out on the street. The receptionist returned, let me in and I checked in. I found out I was sharing a room with a family. For me, it wasn’t a problem but it did feel a little bit awkward and I could tell they weren’t impressed.

By this time, I was super hungry and tired as it was late at night, so I popped outside to find the nearest food establishment: Jobilee, a popular Filipino fast food restaurant. After being stared at and ordering food, I decided to eat back in the tiny hostel. Once I gobbled the tasty spaghetti down, I decided to call it night because I was getting up early the following day.

With my alarm waking me up at about 5am, I had a shower then took my bags in search of a taxi to take me back to the airport. This time, it took about 10 minutes. I checked in to the flight, bought a coffee and waited to board the flight to Dumaguete. It was a pretty stand flight with no much to report on.img_20160820_195735

When I arrived at the tiny airport, I stepped out into the scorching heat, flung my bag on my back and hopped onto a motorbike to take me to my hostel. This was just lush with the wind blowing through my hair and the exhilaration of riding again. This is totally one thing I miss about living in Asia.

Once I got to the hostel, I checked in and placed my bag in my shared dorm. The hostel was great with a lovely outside area and a kitchen to cook for myself.

One reason I came to the Philippines was to go scuba diving so my first port of call was to book a day trip to Apo Island. After speaking to reception, they pointed me in the right direction to organise a trip.img_20160818_104448

I found out the best place was in the centre, only 10 minutes walk away. After booking a scuba diving trip for the next day, I wandered around the centre, which was nothing special: normal kinds of shops, heaps of traffic, friendly people, the dusty air with high humidity. Walking along the promenade area looking over the water with ferries awaiting people was beautiful and tranquil. There really wasn’t much to do or see.

As I strolled back to the hostel covered in sweat, I stopped off to get a bite to eat. I rested a little before taking some more time to explore, where I went to the beach in the opposite direct, but it was disappointing with dirty sand. There were Filipinos just in small hammocks, where I felt I was intruding their space so I turned back.
On the way, a guy on a bike stopped to chat with me and invite me to his bar but I felt a bit awkward so didn’t end up going.

For the rest of the day, I just chilled, scoffed some food and have a nap. I was placed in a 4 bed dorm with the bed being thin and uncomfortable. The outdoor space looked onto a large gardens and the cabins of toilets and showers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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