Doesn't get much better
Philippines: Definitely the most underrated Southeast Asian country. I myself did not have a burning desire to go to the Philippines. But last January Lisa said "Let's go to the Philippines for Golden Week." I thought, sure...beach, sand, fun....let's book it! So for Golden Week this year (I guess you could say the Japanese Spring Break. There are three national holidays in one week so many people take the time to travel travel travel = expensive prices!) Lisa and I, with two late additions Misha and Ryan, headed out to the Philippines! What an incredible, beautiful, and wonderful country. I hope that my entries about our trip and the photos can do it justice. I seriously can't wait to return someday, and I hope it is in the near future. Fukuoka: Never a Dull Moment!
So our adventure technically started on Saturday morning. Friday night Lisa and I stayed at Stirling's apartment, and woke up early to catch the train to get to the Fukuoka airport. Lisa and I go to get on the train, but some misled instinct in my head told me it was the wrong train. So I ran up to check the schedule, found
So this was our trip to Taiwan, great country!
out it WAS the right train. I ran down the stairs, see Lisa yelling my name from the train car. As I run to step on the train, the doors close in my face. Lisa and I are looking at each other through the glass door, helpless, as the train pulls away, Lisa waving good bye to me. It was straight out of a movie. Now this was very entertaining for the Japanese people to watch. No big deal though, trains leave all the time for the airport! I jump on the next train, but I swear it was the slowest train and I could have run faster than this train. I had taken the train to Fukuoka before and it only took an hour. Apparently I must have been on the express train, because these trains were taking days. Time quickly sped by....and we were still not at the airport. T-minus two hours, still not there. Yeah you can bet I was starting to panic. Once we arrived in Fukuoka, we had to take a subway to the airport, then a bus to the international terminal. I was sweating bullets. Good thing Lisa doesn't worry like I do! We
One of many of the churches on our horse carriage tour.
check in, were told to get in the security line that could only be rivaled by the Southwest Airline Security Check-In in LA. Within 10 minutes they come by looking for passengers for our flight to come to the front. After that we jumped right on the plane. Minus all the paranoia, it was the best check in ever- no waiting when usually we spend hours at airports. Bottom line: we should have taken the shinkansen from Shimonoseki to Fukuoka! Manila
After a brief layover in Taiwain (GREAT COUNTRY!) we arrived in Manila! It was sunny and humid- a wonderful change from cold Japan. We went to the airport taxi service to help us get to our hostel. Lisa and I were immediate attractions and 4 potential boyfriends within the 3 minute time-span we were there. Driving down the main street of Manila it was smoggy, hot, congested, and all together absolutely wonderful, pumping with energy. The Philippines is infamous for their jeepneys. These are like the tuk-tuks of Thailand and widely used by all the locals because they are so cheap. They are these huge bus-like vehicles that were left in the Philippines by the Americans
Mode of Transport
Here we have Lisa, Karen, Me, Marc, and our horse Rambo
after WWII. Now they are painted elaborately with all sorts of designs and themes. We definitely wanted to take one, but not knowing exactly where they went our what 'system' they followed, we were going to save that for our return trip to Manila (read Manila round 2 for more on our Jeepney experience).
We arrived at our hostel, the Malate Pension. I would definitely reccommend this hostel to others. It is in the heart of the Malate District (going out area), the owners are super friendly, and very cheap. Some rooms are bad bc they are facing the club that doesn't stop playing loud music until 3, but since we were out late and super tired, it didn't bother us. Lisa and I met up with two other English Teachers from Japan, Marc and Karen. The four of us headed to Intramuros, the old part of the city. We decided to take a horse carriage ride. This was a very good investment because our guide told us the history of Intramuros and Manila. Him and his horse Rambo, were also very friendly. While on our journey Lisa and I picked up more marriage proposals from male nursing students
(who we enticed and then sped away in the carriage, we are such teases), learned that most of Manila was destroyed at one point in the past 70 years by fires or WWII, Manila has been controlled by the Muslims, Spanish, and Americans (rarely in the hands of the indigenous people), and saw about 8 Catholic weddings going on. We considered being 'wedding crashers' but opted out. I was very surprised by the huge Spanish influence in the architecture. We could have been in southern Spain if we just looked at the buildings. The humidity was death. Definitely were not used to it yet!
Post sightseeing we went for drinks- 2 pitchers of beer for like 5 bucks....the Philippines is CHEAP!! I was waiting for my prince charming to arrive from Clark airport which was located 3 hours outside of Manila (silly boys). Around 9 he pulled up to the hostel in his chariot-like taxi. My Asian romance to continue from this moment on! After dinner we got some drinks and hit up some bars. A very fun evening in an absolutley crazy city. Next stop, the Visayas. Bohol
Upon arriving in Bohol we were greeted
So beers in bars were 2 dollars, beers in 7-11s were 50 cents. You do the math...yeah we are cheapskates!
by numerous drivers who were more than willing to drive us anywhere- for a highly overpriced fare. You see, Lisa met the most interesting German on the plane named Wully. He was returning from Manila where they were performing some weird healing ritual and also owns some roosters for cockfights. Since he knows the area well, he told us what prices we should pay and settle for nothing less. Most drivers looked at us like we were crazy when we said the price, then comes along the best driver we could ever get: Pancha. He drove us to Alona Beach for the price we asked for, then when there were no accommodations anywhere, he drove us around for another hour and a half until we found one! An angel! We also arranged for him to take us sightseeing in two days to Bohol. The next day we woke up to a beautiful morning, beautiful beaches, and turquoise water. We were actually changing our accommodations, and while waiting me a group of Filippinos playing guitar. I wandered up, sat with them, and was immediately offered gin/lime juice, pig head, and some random fish. Called over the rest of the crew and
While park drinking met a bunch of the cutest Filippino kids
spent the morning trying to figure out what songs we both knew. That afternoon was spent enjoying the beautiful sand and water along Alona Beach. PURE HEAVEN!!! Later that night we met up with our singing companions and spent the evening drinking cheap beer and singing songs on the beach- could not have asked for more fun.
The next day we took a day trip to Siguijor- supposedly famous for its witch doctors and healers (according to the Lonely Planet). In the morning we went dolphin and whale watching, and were fortnuate to be gliding above a pod of dolphins. No shamu in sight. Once on Siguijor- even more remote than Bohol- we met with our driver who took us to a cliff, to some waterfalls and to the beach. About mid-day at the waterfalls we discovered we were not going to see the healers. Bit of a bust of a day since we failed to see what was intended, yet still it was a ton of fun and very beautiful.
Day 3 (yeah we never rest do we, had to cram it all in!), we called up Pancha and he drove us into the heart of Bohol.
Yup, the Filippino families we met sure beat the bars.
The morning started with going into some caves that were similar to the ones up at Shasta Caverns, just not as well preserved. In these caves they really don't care if you do touch the stalagmites, whereas in Shasta Caverns if you do they will cut off your arm. Next we went to see this HUGE snake called Pawny. She was cool, but what was more entertaining was the lady-boy who told us all about the snake and other random creatures, aka freak show, that the place had to offer. Favorite fact of the day: Pawny's poo was the size of a big cake and is white. Next we went on a Loboc River cruise. At port they had an abundance of the cutest little furball-marsupials I have ever seen. Ryan heard about these lil buggers, called Tarsiers and talked about how he was going to make one his lunch. Upon seeing these lil guys they were even smaller than expected, and would have just left Ryan even hungrier- so he opted to hold out for our all-you-can-eat cruise. I fell in love with these little guys and wanted to take one home- yet Japanese customs will barely let me
back in the country, let alone a random marsupial. On the riverboat cruise they played horrible music, so Misha took over on the mic, and decided to tell the entire boat it was my 28th birthday and dedicated the next song to me. He sang me "Gloria" by Van Morrison, putting my name in everytime he the name Gloria came up- how romantic and fun ;-). Post riverboat cruise we headed up to the the Chocolate Hills- one of the main reasons we came all the way down to Bohol. They are called the Chocolate Hills because during dry season the grass dries up and they turn brown, like CHOCOLATE. All 1608 of these hills are a natural phenomenom. They honestly look like they are man-made and some crazy burial site, but they are all natural. They have a huge viewing stand. We went up there and Lisa and I became celebrities. A Filippino family- we are talking aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandmas, half cousins etc etc, were on a trip and decided they wanted to take a photo with us. The more I travel in Asia the more I feel like I am famous! It's fabulous! For Misha, looking
Misha has some Competition!
While roaming the port we ran into this guy with a guitar. So poor, with so little, but so happy.
at the hills was not enough. He purposely brought his hiking boots to hike a chocolate hill. On our way back to Alona Beach Misha spotted the hill he wanted to climb. We started off-roading in Pancha's little truck. A bunch of kids saw us drive up and we told them we wanted to hike the hill. They took us to a path around the back. Without these kids, there was no way we would have been able to successfully climb the hills. Similar to the cables at half dome, these little kids just scurried up the side of the hill. It was slow and go for the foreigners! Still, we made it to the top! Mt Everest eat your heart out...we got to the top of a chocolate hill! After our successful summit we made it to the bottom, encountered a flat tire, but soon enough made it back to the beach. Definitely one of the best days of the trip.
We opted for one more swim as the sun started to set... the next day we were headed back to Manila. The Visayas, Bohol, Siguijor, and Panglao to be exact, were phenomenal. Beautiful beaches, few tourists, crystal
A typical house near the port
clear turquois water, and tons of stuff to do. Our only complaint was that we wish we had more time. Would have been awesome to snorkel or scuba dive. I must say the Philippines turned out to be a lot more than I ever expected it to be, and is a hidden treasure among the Southeast Asian backpacker path- and would reccommend anyone to make the trek there. Romantic getaway aside (bc well that was really amazing), southern Philippines was incredible!
Next stop: Cebu, Manila, and Banaue.....the adventure continues
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