Published: February 6th 2012January 22nd 2012
So the Hundred Islands is this range of islands in the Philippines, and it is pretty much as awesome as it sounds.Beautiful white sand beaches, mushroom islands, delicious fish, yadda, yadda, yadda….
To get there, we took a multitude of forms of transportation. From San Juan we took a trike to downtown San Fernando, a local bus to Agoo, a Victory Liner bus to Dagupan, and finally another Victory Liner towards Santa Cruz but we alighted at Alaminos, the terminal bus stop for us. We took a trike from there out to Lucap, the town on the mainland next to the Hundred Islands National Park. We had heard from so many people about how the Victory Liner buses were so much better than the other companies, but they didn’t seem so much better to me. In any case, my bar for safety is so ridiculously low from my time in India. Once we got to Lucap we wandered for a bit and found this nice place with AC and decent beds. We went for a wander and came back to our hotel for dinner.
In the morning we hired a boat for the day to take us around the
islands. On the shore we bought a packed lunch of two squid (big disappointment) and a milkfish stuffed with vegetables (orgasmic – best fish of the trip so far), all of which was cooked by our boat driver. Or rather, all of which was cooked by the captain’s young assistant.
Our captain claimed that he races his boat competitively, and that didn’t really seem like such a preposterous statement. The boat could clearly fly if given the beans. It was the most beautiful boat out on the water, and was immaculately maintained, which made us feel at ease.
The first few islands from the mainland are quite a distance by boat, even at high speed. Before we arrived at the 100 Islands we had thought we would kayak out to the islands, but were very, very glad we didn’t make that decision. It would have been quite a kayak ride.
On the first big island we went for a walk while the captain’s boy did the cooking, grilling the squid and the milkfish. And then we were off, and we headed out to the giant clams for a spot of snorkeling. Luckily Caroline’s camera is waterproof so
we have a few photos to commemorate the snorkeling. Neither she nor I are very adept with the snorkel, and my flippers were too big, so it was a bit of a challenge. The #1 problem was these little invisible jellyfish that would sting you constantly. Caroline got some welts from the stings, but mine just hurt. But it was worth it, since the views of the giant clams were worth it. Also, under the raft there was an abundance of aquatic life.
We got back into the boat and headed out to an underwater cave. Ok, underwater is a bit too strong a word, more like half-submerged cave. The course along the shore to the cave was covered with sharp rocs which were no problem for Caroline since she was wearing her canvas shoes, but did a number on my feet and knees. Once we got there, we swam around for a bit (with more stinging jellies), and Caroline climbed up this rocky slope to go out a hole in the top of the cave, but I couldn’t manage it in bare feet and I swam back the same way I came in, scraping up my feet some
Next stop: nutrition. Our captain found us a white sand beach on a nice quiet island where we set out our spread of two squid and the milkfish and a portion of rice. The squid were not too tasty, so I had most of one, and gave the rest to our captain and his assistant. But damn, the milkfish was delicious.
We set off again in our boat for a wander around the islands, at one point ending up back at another half-submerged cave. This one was abandoned, and was cool since there were a bunch of bats in the cave and lots of schools of tiny fish. The way out of the cave was through this narrow shaft of water with maybe a half-meter of headroom, and it was quite dark. The first time I started going down it, I flipped and turned around, but the second try, I made it. The exit from the cave is through this tiny hole, but by some miracle we all made it. It wasn’t really that bad. But I don’t think I would want to do it again.
We drove around aimlessly for a while, ultimately settling down
on another beach with a Filipino family. They were white, but have been in the Philippines for a few generations (of Spanish ancestry) and were super friendly. They were having a grillout and offered us beers and grilled food and we sat down and talked for a while. The guy was quite interesting, working in mining in the Philippines for quite a while, and lived in Australia for a while as well. He had a lot of interesting insights to share. They were short on drinking water, and we had extra, so we (mostly Caroline) worked out a trade of 1 liter of water for the wife’s sunhat. Win-win.
After all that, the hour was getting late so we headed back to the mainland. We got cleaned up from our day’s adventures and went for dinner at this nice place right on the water. The owner was around and we got into conversation with the older couples at the table next to ours. One of the guys (American) had married a Filipino, and was complaining to us about the overall terrible-ness of the American healthcare system. Join the chorus buddy. But the more surprising point was how much
he like the Filipino health care system. He had a deformed hand, so I imagine he had quite a lot of medical expenses. All covered by the Filipino health care system. Quite a splurge meal for us, but well worth it.
There are more photos below