A Travellerspoint blog

Palawan - Philippines

DAY 43-52

semi-overcast 31 °C
View Julia and Frank on the Ro on Frankee's travel map.

Already from the plane we could see that this was going to be amazing!

The first hour in Puerto Princesa we spent searching for a nice place to stay. After that, it was pure fun!

The first day we went island hopping in nearby Honda Bay (nearby means 30 minutes noisy tricycle ride). We went to various islands and coral reefs for swimming and snorkeling. After feeding the fish, we had lunch (a fresh grilled red snapper) on one of the tiny islands, which have close to perfect white sand beaches.

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On our second day we went to a subterranean river at Sabang - one of the Unesco World heritage sites. After Vigan, this is the second Unesco site we visited in the Philippines (they've got plenty! ... six to be precise).

It was an interesting trip, although we had to take into account a 2.5 hour journey by aircon minivan (one way, circa 50 km) - but: including a "natural massage" (from the bumpy road). After the first section of the tour we went to the entrance of the subterranean river by boat, which took another 30 minutes.

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After a little walk through the forest, accompanied by monkeys and pretty large lizards, we finally got to the departure point for the river boats. These were a bit scary as they sank almost entirely into the water after all passengers had boarded. The excursion in the cave itself was a proper tourist happening. It was pretty crowded and the deeper we went into the mountain, the more boats we met. Apart from that it was entirely dark with the only light to see is the flashlight at the tip of your boat.
Our boat guide didn't sound like he did this trip for the first time either. In a monotone, record player like voice he kept on repeating

"Ma'am/Sir, if you feel something cold and wet falling from the ceiling of the cave Ma'am/Sir, it is mineral water - when it's something wet and warm Ma'am/Sir, it's bat shit."

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On the third day we went to Port Barton which turned out to be a way better deal then Puerto Princesa. Being a quiet fishing village with a beautiful white palm-fringed beach, it is a lot nicer and you can do the same things as from Puerto Princesa only with less efforts and probably cheaper as well!

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So we went island hopping again and as always were very lucky with the weather. Around the islands you can find beautiful coral gardens and plenty of sea life including sea snakes (what actually was the first thing Julia saw when she dove into the clear blue water) and dugongs (of which we only saw some marks they left from grassing at the bottom of the reef).

The other day we went hiking through the jungle to a waterfall with a little lake in front of it - just perfect for a swim, to cool down from the daily heat!

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Yesterday was the first stormy day we had on the Philippines, even some fisher boats sank at the beach front (now worries, they were only tiny). So we used the time to go to a cock fight which just took place for three days. It was cruel but impressive to watch at the same time. Julia fell in love with the local farm live ; )

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Normally there's not much going on at night in Port Barton but at the end of January you have no problems having a party and getting drunk: Today is the village's Foundation Day, so they're already celebrating it since a couple of days with nightly dance and sing contests (some families even take out a loan to pay the kids costumes!) on the town plaza.

As the ferry from El Nido to Coron all of a sudden stopped running (because of maintenance), we decided not to go to El Nido in the end. We also had to cancel Coron (because of the ferry problem there were no flights left), so no wreck diving here.

Our way back to Puerto Princesa however, just to give you an impression of local transport, took a bit longer than expected, due to a flat tire. There seems to be no such thing as a worn out tire. Philippinos reuse tires until they totally disappear! Not surprisingly, every 5km there is something like a tire repair station : )

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But still we were able to squeeze in a visit to the local crocodile farm. Very impressive! At the beginning of the tour we were shown a massive skeleton (about 5.4 m, that's 17 ft in length) of a crocodile which was caught in an area in south Palawan after eating a farmer. Crocodiles apparently only eat 1.5% of their own body weight per meal, so in farmers this is only half a leg. The rest is for later, which leaves you rotting until the beast returns for your second leg ; )
Those animals are pretty aggressive anyway. Even the baby crocodiles (about 40 cm/ 1.4 ft in length) were snatching after us when we came too close to their containers!
After having seen all this, if you want, you can also have a picture taken of yourself holding a baby crocodile. We thought however that the crocodiles were too .. erh .. small to be on a picture with us.

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Our next destination will be Legaspi and the area around Donsol in Southern Luzon, famous for whale shark watching and hiking. We are curious how much fun this is going to be as only 2 months ago there was a taifun in the same area and some parts are still affected by the damage. Local tourist officers however said that everything is almost back to normal again - we'll see ...

Posted by Frankee 05:55 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Manila - Philippines

DAY 42-43

sunny 31 °C
View Julia and Frank on the Ro on Frankee's travel map.

Our trip back to Manila was nothing much exciting - apart from an amazing massage we got at Laoag airport from a blind man whilst we were waiting for the departure.
However we had only a one and a half day stop over we already can say that Manila itself isn't very exciting as well. Our main occupation was checking out a local shopping mall (only one of the many) and prepare for our next destination - Palawan.
Still we managed to have a brilliant night out in one of the sleaziest bars we have ever been into (not only for this holiday). We joined some Australians we met at Kapuluan Vista Resort who had already been to LA Cafe, open 24 hours/7 days a week!

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It turned out to be a popular place for male Western tourists around the 40's to 60's (about 20% of the visitors) and semi professional pool playing Philippinos (around 78%) the other 2% was us.
The Philipinnos again were divided in circa 20% males and 80% which call themselves GROs (this stands for Guest Relations Officers ... use your imagination ;).

It was a fun night out but also showed us that we rather spent our time on the Philippine islands than in the capital.

Flying has almost become our favorite means of transportation by now, not only because we need a break from slow and noisy public transport but also because some islands are hard to reach by ferry and domestic flights are sometimes less then twice the price you'd pay for the ordinary bus (around 20 Euros that is).

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So the next day we took the flight to Puerto Princessa, the capital of the island Palawan, which is famous for being the last frontier of the Philippines and natural wonderland.

Posted by Frankee 05:24 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Vigan / Pagudpud - Philippines (North Luzon)

DAY 35-41

all seasons in one day 29 °C
View Julia and Frank on the Ro on Frankee's travel map.

Before we went to Pagudud we had a one day stop in Vigan. After a short visit in the city's hospital and an introduction on how do I get infected with rabies (Julia has had some contact with playing dogs on the beach, trying to catch her pony tail) we enjoyed our stay in this historic place a lot. It was interesting to see the mixed architecture of Chinese and Spanish colonial influences. We actually had more the impression to wander the streets of a Mexican village instead of being in a Philippine one.
It's really beautiful though and driving from one point in the village to the other by horse carriage, instead of a noisy tricycle, was a welcome change.

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After about 6 hours driving with a pretty noisy and overcrowded public bus we finally arrived in an almost abandoned Pagudpud at the northern tip of Luzon (it looks deserted at night as there are no street lights - so live pretty much dies out after the sun goes down). It took about 15 minutes negotiating a price for a tricycle - but as the drivers rather only went up in price instead of down (they started at 300 pesos - about 5 euros - and ended up at 700 ... ?) we arranged to be picked up by air conditioned 4wd from our resort (for 200 pesos).

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Our hosts at Kapuluan Vista Resort were very friendly and it was a brilliant place to stay and chill out. There was a nice reefbreak right in front of the resort and it really could have been perfect as there were only 2 australian guys staying there with us (plus the resort owners Mike and Alma - but there are no other resorts or local surfers in the whole area yet!). Unfortunately the break was only surfable on one day while we were there and was totally blown out the rest of the time. As the resort also offers shuttle services to other spots, we went to a righthander around the corner (about a 30 min. drive) a couple of times and could at least surf one session there.

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After Julia was shitting her pants because of her paranoia for jellyfish and Frank because of diarrhea we didn't do a lot of snorkeling either.
Luckily the resort was very cozy and comfortable, so we didn't regret our stay there at all and would definitely recommend this place and the beautiful stretch of coast to anyone who likes getting a bit away from it all or who wants to find some uncrowded surf.
For perfect offshore winds and consistent swells you'd better go there during the summer months from May to September (when the conditions are supposed to be really good).

Posted by Frankee 02:50 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

San Fernando / San Juan - Philippines

DAY 28-34

sunny 30 °C
View Julia and Frank on the Ro on Frankee's travel map.

The first impressions we got on the Philippines was a fairly hectic and crowded Manila. We were happy to arrive at our destination at the surf resorts of San Fernando, even when the bus trip itself was without any problems.
At our arrival, one of the first signs Frank read said firearms not to be carried inside in front of a restaurant. The next one, in one of the rooms which we considered renting, said that you shouldn't put any valuables near the window and if you want to avoid any un-welcome visitors at night it would be better to lock your door with a pad lock from the inside.
Also the beach here is definitely not the nicest one but we came here to surf and we will see some beaches of more beauty on the Philippines for sure!

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Hence we were a bit ueber-careful when we spoke to locals etc.
Philippinos are really nice, friendly and helpful. However they are not so much in your face as e.g. Thais or Indonesians. Also they don't only smile when they want to do business with you, they're just happy all the time! In the end we quickly picked up the laid back way of live (especially of the surfers) and are really enjoying ourselves! (despite security guards in front of banks, fast food places and even this internet cafe carrying (pump)guns)

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We stayed in San Juan for the past week and were mainly busy with trying to get up at dawn (stress is definitely on trying) to catch the best waves and to avoid the masses of about 20 other surfers in the line-up. Julia is fairly happy with the waves which aren't too big (around 3-6 ft) but are good to get started again.
Unfortunately there are quite some jelly fish around and she has made contact with 2 of them already.

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Frank did a beginners course which made him think he would be able to ride bigger waves as well. It ended in some bruised rips and a scratched knee. After a 3 days break he will go on surfing though, at our next destination in Pagudpud in the north of the island. There are bigger waves at that spot, so this could be fun regarding further demolition to Frank's body ; )

Other foreign surfers come from all over the world, especially the UK, Australia, Japan and Hawaii. We have met a couple from England which we are surfing with on a regular basis and might meet again when we arrive in Bali.

So much for La Union. We have already made plans for the rest of our travel, which unfortunately means that we had to cancel Sri Lanka, because of the rebels' bomb attacks. Instead we will extend our stay on the Philippines for another 2-3 weeks to be able to visit Legaspi, a place famous for it's vulcano and for snorkeling with whale sharks (no wories, they only eat plankton). Also we try to go to some famous dive sites where it is actually possible to come close to hammer heads (they eat humans as well). This however is certain only for one part, as the area around Legaspi was hit by a taifun badly, about a month ago.

Hopefully we will be online again soon, there is no connection to the Internet in Pagudpud, where we plan to stay the next week.

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Posted by Frankee 00:49 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

Penang to Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia

DAY 22-27

overcast 29 °C
View Julia and Frank on the Ro on Frankee's travel map.

Newyears' eve in Penang wasn't so exiting after all. Although there were thousands of people on the beach promenade and there was a massive stage for bands to perform, unfortunately there were hardly any fireworks at all. Most of the crowd left short after midnight and so did we. We were tired from travelling anyway and couldn't wait to get to bed.

The next day we hopped on the bus to the Cameron Highlands which are situated south of Penang, about 200 km north east of Kuala Lumpur.

Cameron Highlands are famous for the mild climate (about 24 degrees) and tea - actually 80% of the area belong to a Scottish tea company.

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But to Malays it is also well known for cultivating strawberries, which must be very exciting for them. You can find strawberries just everywhere: printed on billboards, as massive plastic replicas in front of shops and most of the time in combination with images of scorpions and other insects which are about 10 times the size then any insect in Europe! We went to visit them in a butterfly farm (butterflies here have a span width of as much as 15 cm (5 inches)! Other creepy animals we saw here were bullfrogs, snakes and tarantulas. To relax we went to a flower garden afterwards.
Actually we also planned to go hiking the other day but Julia forgot her USB disk in the Internet cafe and we had to go back the most boring bit off the track. We couldn't be asked to start a second try so we spent the rest of the day in our guest house, watching films ; )

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After 2 days we headed on to Kuala Lumpur, to catch our plane to Manila, Philippines. Unfortunately we planned only 1 day for this amazing city which could have kept us busy for another 2 days easily! We spent some time strawling on the night market in the chinese quarter but could resist the temptation of buying any fake stuff - although Rolex watches were really cheap! For about 10 - 20 Euros you can get an automatic one which will last at least 14 days!
The shopping malls however were really impressive - one of them even had a rollercoaster going through one part of it!

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We flew to the Philippines at 2 o' clock in the morning and arrived merely 4 hours later in Manila. Totally sleep drunk we continued our trip with a 6 hours journey by bus to San Fernando to go surfing. More on San Fernando and how we got on with surfing and with the Philippinos next time.

Posted by Frankee 04:42 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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