On the look for whalesharks

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March 23rd 2014
Published: March 23rd 2014
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Wednesday January 29
Flight 1 Day 1 traveling from China to The Phillippines

I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for my very long, but exciting traveling day. The previous night I was so excited I drank a late evening latte and stayed awake for quite awhile. I ended up falling asleep at around 3 AM so by the time it was time to wake up I was pretty sleepy. I got dressed, had my last cup of coffee with milk and double checked that I had everything and left for the Quing Guai ride to Jin Jia jie and then a taxi to the Dalian airport. (I should have triple checked because I ended up forgetting my athletic sandals ahhhh!) The train ride and airport wait was smooth and pretty normal . I read, listened to music and played on my ipod and soon it was time to board my flight to Guangzhou. I arrived at Guangzhou around 2:00PM and spent quite awhile looking for wifi, plugs and a place to sit down to eat and use my laptop, I could not find anything. Guangzhou in spite of being one of Chiba's major economical and International cities, The airport is not foreigner friendly. No western affordable food and only one charging station (crowded with Chinese teenagers playing video games.
I ended up sitting down on the floor near the charging station and near the international check in point also a floor above an express Mc Donald's only cheap western food I found! I decided not to use my laptop and ended up watching some very cool BBC discovery videos about the ocean life, in preparation for my very exciting first discovery dive!

Flight 2 Guangzhou to Manila

At around 7:30 finally Cebu Pacific opens the counter and I lined up and checked in. I had another 3 hours to wait so I decided to go in the security point and try and eat something, but again everything was totally overpriced. My flight to Manila ended up being delayed like 45 minutes and totally overbooked. I slept for most of the plane ride and tried to stay warm with my hoodie and scarf/sarong, but the AC was freezing! I arrived to Manila international airport and I immediately felt the heat, warmth of air and the lightness of its people. I waited in the immigration line for about an hour chatting with a French family with two little girls living in Guangzhou. Finally, my turn I gave the immigration officer all my details of my trip and was cleared to enter the country.i walked around the airport looking for a place to sit sleep and rest for my second long layover and settled down on the floor near the stairs where it was less crowded. The airport was a craziness. I felt in a third world country. Locals sleeping on mats on the floor. Smelly bathrooms. Low security. People listening to loud music. It was an experience. I could not sleep so I listened to music and read for most of the night. At 5 am I went tithe food court and had a doughnut for 18 pesos (.25cents) and a very expensive latte 140 pesos (3$).

Flight # 3 Manila to Legazpi
Finally at 6:00 I checked in and went into the boarding area. I found some cheap snack vendor got myself some water, cookies and others and settled down to wait for my flight.
The flight was on time and uneventful. It landed at 8 :50 at the Legazpi airport. A one building airport with a single baggage carrousel that was small shaped oval the view from the carrousel was the amazing most perfect symmetrical volcano: The Mt.Mayon. I grabbed my backpack quickly and got a map of Legazpi and went to get a trike. I got to the van terminal and paid for the ride and went to get some more money for the weekend in Donsol. I wandered around taking pictures and noticing the life of the locals in Legzpi making some time for more people to fill the van to Donsol.

Legazpi is a major city in Luzon. It is busy with jeepneys, vans and trikes The area of the terminal was dirty and full with smoke and combustion gases from all the vans and jeepneys. I walked around saw a couple of Filipino malls, supermarkets and local snack shops. I walked back just in time for the van to leave and hopped on for the 1.5 hour ride. It was half filled with Filipinos and half tourists: me, a spanish couple and a Dutch girl and her boyfriend from Australia with a Trinitarian family background (I later met up with them the next day). We got off the van at around 12:30 and both the Dutch girl and I had to go find a bathroom ( which they call here 'comfort room'😉 we walked around trying to get a hostal but some were overly pricy. I ended up staying at Agualuz homestay for 600 pesos (13$) a night. The man in change of the house was super nice and told me where to go to register for the whale sharks, told me how much I should pay for a trike and offered food and his house like a family. I took a shower and rested for a bit as was tired of almost 24 hours traveling and headed out to register for the whale shark spotting. The trike ride was super bumpy. Let me explain what a trike is: it is a motorbike with a little cart attached that has one more wheel, so it is basically a tree wheeler. It looks like the batmobile. I signed up at the register center and took a long walk by the beach. I had to climb through some boulders and rocks and it was hard considering I was wearing flip flops (forgot my athletic sandals) , but it was fun and exciting. I ended up at a small fishing village and little kids were following me saying picture picture! I make a right to try to get to the highway but I never found it. Instead it was a paved road along a small village with a large elementary and high school. At some point. I stopped to ask and see where this road lead to and they locals said no where so some family of three on a motorbike gave me a ride to the tourist center. They were super friend and actually knew Venezuela and Chavez! They lived in Israel and now had a small business in Donsol. I got to the tourist center and asked at the dive shop about a discovery dive and the lady there was so excited she convinced me to do the open watercourse so I filled and signed lots of forms and started to watch some diving instructional videos , but I realized it was intense for 2 days and I really wanted to relaxed so that said I talked to the instructor a Filipino diver and he suggested 1 -2 dives to really be secure I wanted to do the whole course . (Which I plan to do half of it on my next leg of the trip at Apo island!) I finalize all details and caught a motorbike ride for free back to my guesthouse for the night. I started to watch some shows and wrote my blog , but feeling tired and sleepy I crashed pretty early for the night.

Day 3
Scuba diving and snorkeling
I woke up at 5;30 to get ready for my first ever dive! I packed everything and by 6:00 I was already put the door. Took a trike for 30 pesos to Amor guesthouse where we would meet. I got there pretty early and was the first one there so I walked around and took photos. Suddenly I realized that my snorkeling gear was missing so had to get a trike back to guesthouse to get it. The trike was only 20 pesos this time. Quickly grabbed my gear and ran down to catch my third trike in less than an hour. I walked to the dive shop to see what the plan was and they had just started setting up, so I walked back to Amor and took more photos. Until around 7:00 I met Al the dive instructor and the rest of the group who were advanced divers a d two were getting certified. We got together heard the plan for the day from Al. Then he gave me some pointers and skills to learn and we were ready for the boat ride. The tide was too low for the boat to come in the shore so we had to walk to it and literally the water reached my thighs. I was worried my backpack was not waterproof and my stuff (a.k.a iPod) would get wet. It was all fine as I put my backpack on top of my head and it was ok. We waited on the boat for like an hoe and a half waiting for the coastal guards to. Clear our boat. Yesterday a typhoon landed in Surigao and Mindanao area and the weather was cloudy, gloomy, drizzling and chilly so to be safe the guard wanted us to wait. The group was basically from Singapore (Chinese -Singaporean) and they were very loud and funny with each other. Finally at 9:00 AM we parted to Buena Vista for the divers to do their dive and me to go snorkeling. I was pretty tired so I slept for most of the boat ride. When I woke up we had reached the area for the dive. The overs went to do their thing and I stayed chilling and relaxing and doing snorkeling. The weather was a little better and we could see a bit of the sun, but the wind was strong and caused waves so the snorkeling was tough as I had to deal with current and waves up ad down. The divers came back and we headed for lunch to a tiny little beach village. I needed to use the bathroom so the other two girls and I went with a Filipino woman to get water and show us the toilet. The village was quite small with huts to sleep and cook (there were different areas) and the toilet was a very small hut with a kind of western toilet here you squat and flushed with bickers of fresh water that came from an underground well which the women pushed and pulled to et water. It was a hard job for such a skinny, small and of age woman , but she didn't with pride and strength! Necessity 1 covered we headed for lunch necessity 2. We had a kind of picnic at the beach. The food was basic: white rice, Chicken and salad. We hopped backbone the bus and the otters had coffee and heads back for my dive skills and shallow dive. The others went diving while Al helped newish my gear BCD, buoyancy weigh control, mask, flippers and respirator. I spent with him about 25 minutes doing breathing exercises, gong over the respirator recovery skill, clearing the mask (which was Very tricky worth the current waves coming up and down. We submerge for 4 meters and it felt great. I went back to the surface to rest and now not was he the mod the two people getting certified so while they did this i waited and chilled when they got back they rested for a bit and drank warm sweet coffee and then we wee ready for the final dive with me! How exciting and nerve wrecking at the same time. And so I put on my wetsuit, my newly bought flippers and snorkel and a mask with eye correction (from the dive shop) and put on my BSD, respirator, and all necessary equipment and was ready to dive. The others divers started to jump off he boat and he dive instructor Al did too. I waited. Then the other dive master told me it was my turn so I stood up and got into position, but the BSD was really heavy and I could not. I was too scared and nervous so I decided to jump without equipment and let Al help me put it on in the water. This way worked well. The others began their dive and I stayed with Al. I was breathing well, but I was too nervous to go deeper and just could not relax and did not do it . The group went for a short not too deep dive as I waited on the boat. I felt really crappy because I really wanted to do it and I just was scared to try (big sigh!) the instructor was super patient and kind and he actually said I was doing all basic skills fine unjust needed to relax. I think I just need a friend or known person to do it with me just to feel safer. Sad face :-( Anyway the others got back and it was starting to get dark and the sun to set, so I took a few nice shots of the sunset from the boat and we headed back. The ride back was chilly and a little bumpy and we got to the resort at around 6:00 PM. I said my goodbyes and headed to find a trike to head back to homestay. I wanted to get water and a few snacks but apparently everything in Donsol closes at 6:00 PM so I went to the homestay took a shower and chill for the night. I was too tired to even eat dinner. Tomorrow will be my last day in Donsol and to see whale sharks. I am keeping my hopes up, fingers and toes cross and all my positive vibes on . Night night!
Day 4
Last day in Donsol and an evening in Legazpii
I woke up at 630 AM ready to try again the whale shark spotting. It was my
last day in Donsol so I really wanted to see the whale sharks. I got on a trike to the tourist center and went to pay for the boat. My surprise the boats' departures were delayed due to coastal guard warning of low pressure and bad weather. The irony was that it was the best day so far since Friday. I waited (feeling little hopeless) and bought a T-shirt, some souvenirs and postcards and cookies and juice for my breakfast. About 45 minutes later it was announced that the boat would depart at 8:30. YAY!!! My boat's BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer) name was Gerardo, the other tourists were a group of Chinese (three guys and a girl), a creepy kind of oldish American guy and me. We headed out. The Chinese were extremely exaggerated with all the gear they had! They were wearing wet suits, weighs for buoyancy when diving, booties, gloves, head caps extremely big flippers, tech underwater cameras, etc. To me it was a little useless as diving is prohibited with the whale sharks and for snorkeling you don't need any of that stuff. Leave it to the Chinese to bring all unnecessary equipment. As always there were group introductions and it turned out the Chinese were from Dalian! What a small world! After a few minutes on the boat it stared to get foggy and cloudy with a little drizzle and suddenly the Chinese girl fell off the boat! It was bizarre and so so weird! The BIO checked that she was an ok swimmer and turn around the boat to pick her up! Ah Chinese!!! The boat ride was for about 3 hours and we did not see any whale sharks. What a disappoint (sad sad face :-() we went back to the tourist center, I washed my feet, bought some water and took a trike to my homestay. I quickly packed up everything while my electronics charged and paid the owner of the homestay, thank him for everything and left to catch the 1 :00PM van to Legazpi. I have to recommend with very high notes Agualuz Homestay in the Main Street of Donsol. Marylin and her dad made my stay so pleasant and nice! It was wonderful!!!!

The ride to Legazpi was smooth and uneventful. I chatted with a girl and her mom from French Canada and the girl happens to be a teacher in Macao. I arrived to Legazpi at around 3:00 walked around to find a hotel and settle for a room for 800 pesos (15$) in The Legazpi Tourist inn. I took a shower, washed some clothes and charged my electronics. I took a walk around the area to the main port and took some cool pictures of Mt Mayon at sunset. I ended up in a mall called Embarcadero, which had a souvenir lane where I bought a few small things. I took a trike to Albay district (where the fancy restaurants and hotels are and also near the airport ) to find a small place to eat dinner recommended **by LP called Small Talk Café. I ate a delicious meal consisting a of mango shake, a fish with garlic and soy sauce with rice for the small amount of 200 pesos ($ 4.9) Then I walked a few meters to a coffee house called La Mía Taza and had a caramel latte and some typical “pili” but cake for dessert for 160 pesos ($3.92. I took a trike to my hotel and chilled for the night. My flight leaves from Legazpi at 7:20 AM the next morning. Night night from Legazpi, Philippines

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