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Back to Manila & Parting Thoughts


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Back to Manla

With my flight at 1415 and an 1100 checkout, I took it easy in my room. My congestion was getting worse but it wasn't bad bad. I had a light breakfast of muesli and took my last saltwater (probably brackish rather than pure saltwater) shower before checking out and grabbing a sandwich from the guesthouse.

My tricycle to the airport turned up on time at 1145 and it was about 40 minutes to get there. There was not much queueing and I was airside in no time. Oh, there was a terminal fee of PHP100 which meant that I would be slightly short of money and would have to cash a little (not worth using the ATM for a small amount). Damn! I thought I was going to be "spot on' with what I had left before flying out to Kota Kinabalu tomorrow.

LAG restrictions are in force for domestic flights in the Philippines but it wasn't apparent in at Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524] T4 where they removed nothing from me.

Here they told me to finish drinking the water. But when they saw me trying to glug down two bottles, they told me I could finish it before boarding. We were entertained by blind singers and their guitars until boarding time; they also led a few prayers ... something which wouldn't happen in many countries.

The AirAsia flight to Manila went smoothly and I took a taxi to Red Planet in Makati for a change of scenery (as opposed to Ermita). The hotel was just outside the glam Makati CBD in a more typical area with more food and gentlemen's entertainment. For dinner I had Subway as I appear to have lost my apetite completely with this flu.

Parting thoughts on the Philippines

It is rather expensive for a third world South East Asian country:

1. To eat anything that's clean or that I'm comfortable with, it is usually PHP70 minimum but typically PHP100+. That's Singapore price, and far more expensive than Malaysia.
2. Then there's the PHP100-200 shakes.
3. Then Philippines AirAsia meals here are more expensive than its Malaysian counterpart.
4. USD35 gets you a nice 3 star place in Thailand or Vietnam but in the Philippines, it is more of a guesthouse standard.

I try to understand why. I reckon the poor are too poor to even attempt patronising any of these places and the pricing reflects what rich Filipinos and foreigners are willing to pay. Whereas in Malaysia, there is a large middle class that will spend.

For me, poverty, beggars and homelessness in Manila and the Philippines seem more apparent than say in Bangkok or Jakarta. Perhaps it is the contrast as the Philippines is nearly first-world in some areas like Makati CBD and resort areas. Or maybe it is because there is no highly visible middle class? Eg. in Bangkok or Jakarta you'd see lots of people with smartphones but here, there are still many old Nokias floating around.

Security is taken seriously in the Philippines too:

1. There are security checks at many malls.
2. There are heavily armed guards at beaches, malls etc.
3. Even my Panglao guesthouse had a guard in the evening.

Then finally one cannot but notice the plentiful number of older men and young Fiipino women. They do stand out as a large proportion of foreigners (backpackers don't make up such a huge percentage compared to say Thailand or Vietnam; and domestic tourists are plentiful). It is tempting to judge both parties involved here but I think everybody is looking for something, be it love, a better life etc. Even within the same culture, people do aspire to marry upwards. When I see an old western man and a young Filipino woman plus the woman's child/children, the relationship is more than just about sex. It takes a rather generous person to bring up someone else's child. Never judge a book by its cover!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Another lazy day


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large_5550_14926473303606.jpgAlona Beach is a broad white sandy beach lined with restaurants and small hotels.
I had set the day aside free for lazing around, doing an excursion I hadn't thought of or in case the previous days had been wet. But with my flu growing I decided to do nothing. In any case, the only excursion remaining around here were:

1. an Island Hopping trip including dolphin watching (from boat), Balicasag Island and Virgin Island. Virgin Island was the only one new to me at with an 0600 report it wasn't a goer for me.

2. a whaleshark watching trip in Oslob [Oslob-travel-guide-887608], Cebu whicn would require a 0530 start. It was more money than I'd like to spend at a total of PHP2000. However, it is a "guaranteed" affair as they feed the whalesharks. A little fake for some people!

I stayed indoors till lunchtime when I headed out for a light meal.large_5550_14926473444116.jpgAlona Beach is a broad white sandy beach lined with restaurants and small hotels.I checked out the length of the beach after lunch and found a broad quiet spot at one end where I could put my stuff near some trustworthy people. I walked into the clear water and it was just perfect in temperature. There was a bit of green seagrass near the water's edge but it wasn't a bother. The deep blue parts of the water was due to more seagrass underneath in the deeper areas.

A Spanish couple Manuel and Adriana chatted me up. They're from Oslo. We got talking and seemed to have lots of common interests in travel and diving. Manuel was a dive instructor and had done 400+ dives around the world and he says there's nowhere like Sipadan. "You might as well die now and die happy. There's no need to dive anywhere else unless it is a specialty dive like sharks, mantas etc.large_5550_14926473493010.jpgAlona Beach is a broad white sandy beach lined with restaurants and small hotels.Even Cozumel in Mexico isn't anything like it". Right, I've heard it from someone with authority!

I must have spent about 2 hours in the water chatting with them. A bit longer than I had prepared myself for in terms of sun protection so I was a little red. But it was heavenly in the warm clear calm water. I returned to my room for my rest; I had admin to do but I lacked the motivation perhaps due to my flu.

For dinner, I attempted a healthy meal of fish fillets with broccoli. It didn't quite work out as the fish was battered and fried. In the dim light, the worn photos on the billboard wasn't very clear and I thought it was unbattered fillets.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Two easy dives


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large_5550_14925627822477.jpgDinner by the sea.
It was good that I had picked today to go diving. I started getting a sore throat yesterday and today it was starting to burn while a little bit of mucous was starting to trickle down my throat. No sinus congestion, blocked nose or ears yet. In a couple of days, I may not be able to dive at all.

I headed to Go Scuba at 0800 after a full breakfast. The two dives were nice, easy and relaxing. For somewhere that wasn't Sipadan, it was quite good. We got back around 1430. I made my full payment then and chilled in my room till dinner time when I returned to Alona Beach [Alona-Beach-travel-guide-1312402] to try the Filipino Bangus Fish. It was a typical small fish (with a nice marinated flavour of probably tamarind and soya sauce) and was nothing to rave about.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Exploring Bohol


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large_5550_14925219019513.jpgTarsier.
All I wanted to do today was see the Tarsiers. However, to get transport there just for that was prohibitive. I didn’t want to rent a motorbike. The best remaining option was an all day tour covering a number of other places I hadn’t wanted to visit but am quite happy to. Cost was PHP400 plus entrances, plus a river cruise and lunch as an extra. I opted to prepay all the entrances out of convenience and that earned me a tiny savings.

My pickup came at 0920, a little later than the indicated pickup time range. It took 30 minutes to get to Tabilaran where there were a couple more pickups before driving another 1h30 drive to the Tarsier Sanctuary. It shouldn’t have taken that long but it did. As expected it was “full house” in the mnivan.

The world’s smallest primate is extremely cute.large_5550_14925219085128.jpgView of Chocolate Hills from the lookout.It can fit in the palm of your hand yet leap 5m, rotate its head almost 360 degrees and move its ears in the direction of sound. Wed did a short loop through the sanctuary and saw about four of the creatures and was back in the minivan within 30 minutes. But really, you don’t need much more time than that.

Next stop was Chocolate Hills. To me, this is one of those over-promoted areas. When I was in Cebu [Cebu-travel-guide-1293094] many years ago, people took the ferry over just to see this. It was too much of an effort just for a nice viewpoint. But from Bohol [Bohol-travel-guide-1292834] as part of this trip, it was worthwhile.

I walked up the 220 steps non-stop to reach the viewpoint and likewise backdown (which surprised me as I sometimes get knee pain coming down).large_5550_14925219121104.jpgHanging Bamboo Bridges.

We had just missed the rain in the last two stops. It was pouring when we got to the Hanging Bamboo Bridge. The driver said it was too slippery and we agreed to flag it. But as soon as we pulled away, the weather cleared so a few people asked for him to turn back. I was halfway across the bridge when it suddenly started pouring. I didn’t think of turning back but continued to the other side where I had to wait a while for the rain to subside before returning.

We made it to our lunch cruise at 1400. We got stuck into the Filipino buffet slightly before casting off on the Loboc River. It was quite a pretty area. Locals had set up two huts for cultural performances on the river bank and we called into one. Kids danced while the adults sang for us. My favourite of course is the famous Filipino dance where thedancers hop in and out of the four bamboo poles that are clashing rhythmically against each other.large_5550_14925219197426.jpgLunchtime cruise.

It was about 1530 by the tie we left for the Zipline which required a minimum of five participants in order for the driver to make the stop. I was hoping that we wouldn’t make the stop as I had done this before in Palawan. Even though we didn’t have the quorum but the driver stopped for us anyway. Only one person did the zipline (in a superman position) while a few others did the small cable car across the valley.

Next was the Butterfly Garden and Pythons. This was a two-in one place. The ladies had a bit of fun here with the dead butterflies sandwiched in a glass case; they stood in the distance and photos taken through the case making them look like they had butterfly wings :-)

The actual Butterfly Garden wasn’t that great compared to the one in Penang. As for the largest cobra in Bohol .large_5550_14925219261629.jpgLunchtime cruise... yes, it was large indeed but it was also albino and blind. We were all allowed to go into the cage and pose with it. Not so with the un-albino specimen.

Our last stop was a church museum which was closed as we were late. Some people took pictures from the outside and we continued back to Panglao [Panglao-travel-guide-888307]. I got dropped off at 1845. I had done surprisingly well considering I had woken at 0430.
I quickly made my way to the dive shop to confirm my dive for tomorrow. Even though I wasn’t hungry from the late lunch, it made sense to grab a bite and retire for the day.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Beach time


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large_5550_14924354088655.jpgJeepney near Alona Beach.
I had bought three mangoes and a box of papayas last night. I have two luscious ones remaining for breakfast which went well with my muesli and milk. With a midday flight, I checked-out at 0930 allowing plenty of time in case of long queues at the airport especially during the holiday season.

Terminal 4 was a bit closer than expected and the taxi meter read PHP130. It is an old building that has been tarted up; I recognise it from my first visit when I transited from CEB-MNL-HKG but it was very rundown then. The queue for bagdrop wasn’t long and I was in the waiting area in no time catching up on my writing.

I packed up about 50 mins before departure to get a siopau and with the long queue, it was boarding time by the time I mannged to get my food.

The AirAsia Philippines plane was older than the usual AirAsia standard and had non-standard IAE engines instead of CFM; I suspect it was inherited from Zest Air which preceded the current entity.large_5550_14924354126912.jpgAlona Beach.On the inside, there were signs in Spanish and Korean. The interesting thing about the Korean signs was that it employed a mix of hangul and hanja (Korean alphabet and Chinese characters) which I had never seen before! Checking with a knowledgeable friend, it is indeed very rare in the last few decades!

I took a private taxi/van to my guesthouse on Panglao near Alona Beach [Alona-Beach-travel-guide-1312402]. The rate was as recommended by the hotel and tourist counter. Quite far; PHP600 for 30 minutes drive. A tricycle would have cost about half that so I’ll do that for the return journey.

The Chill-out Guesthouse appears to have 8 rooms in their plot. It was adequately nice, clean and atmospheric. After a rest, I ventured out to Alona Beach which took 15 minutes.large_5550_14926109138319.jpgThe infamous Balut (step #1) which is a semi-hatched egg with its embryo inside. Make a hole at the top and sip the juice. Add some vinegar or sauce if you like. I checked out options for diving and a daytrip, both of which were much cheaper than booking through the hotel.

Alona Beach is a beautiful white sand beach the cloudy weather didn’t bring out the colour of the sea. I walked the length of it from one end to the other; both ends are demarcated by rocky outcrops. It was crowded. There were quite a few younger foreigners and it was nice to see that Philippines attracts more than older men in search of younger women.

I treated myself to a rather pricey fruit shake at PHP100; that was probably at the cheapest shop. Before heading back, I committed and paid for an excursion for tomorrow.

Around 1830, I returned to Alona Beach by tricycle (paid for by the guesthouse) for dinner. I tried to keep it healthy and opted for a grilled squid and plate of kangkung, accompanied with rice.large_5550_14926109111306.jpgThe infamous Balut (step #2) which is a semi-hatched egg with its embryo inside. Once you've sipped the juice, start peeling.All this was washed down with a bottle of San Miguel Lite advertised as being “only 100 calories” ... but research shows that their normal beer is only 140 calories. Not much difference, really.

On my way leaving the restaurant, I ran into some people eating balug (semi-hatched egg with embryo inside). I plucked up the courage to take a look (too scaredy previous visits to Philippines). I took some picturse for your educational purpose :-)

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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