A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

BANGKOK to MANILA to CEBU to BOHOL

We flew from Bangkok to Manila on the midnight flight, two hour stopover! then flew on to Cebu. Then ferry to Bohol. Full night/day travelling.

Monday 9th December 13 (day 100)

Our flight from Bangkok to Manila was just over 3 hours long and pretty uneventful. I think I managed a nano nap and was hoping more was to come later. Arriving at Manila airport at 4ish am was our introduction and entry to the Philippines. Even though we had a thru flight we still had to clear immigration and collect our checked bags and recheck them in for the next flight.

Approximately 2 hours waiting at Manila airport for our next flight to Cebu which was only about 2 hours. Patrick was on a different flight to us which was to depart just 20 minutes after us. Still no sleep we landed in Cebu and after collecting our checked bags took a seat to wait for Pat's flight to come in. We had been sitting less than 5 minutes when he came walking up to us, he only had a carry on bag so did not have to waste time waiting for luggage.

We are not staying in Cebu. The plan is to catch a ferry to neighbouring island of Bohol.

I enquired at the taxi counter for price of taxi to the pier and was shown a set price of P475 = $12. I guess we should have taken a metered taxi but not sure if they would have been cheaper or not. Turns out the pier was a lot further away than I expected and was glad for the air con taxi cab. Driving through the outskirts of Cebu town was pretty busy and our taxi driver was of the kind that did not like to sit behind anything, so we made unnecessary good time to the pier.

The next ferry to Bohol was 11am so we had over an hour to wait. The price for one way was P520 = $13 or return P620 = $15.50 so of course we purchased the return ticket as we have to come back here to Cebu to fly out again on the 17th.

Luckily the water was calm and the just under 2 hour ferry boat trip was smooth sailing. All three of us were pretty knackered and running on empty. Arriving at Tagbilaran ferry pier we were met by Mike - a guy we are going to hire motor bikes from. I have been speaking with Mike via email for a couple of months and almost seems like an old friend. He is an older English guy who has made the Philippines his new home and has a very good business hiring motor bikes on a couple of different islands. And man could he talk. Seemed to chat endlessly the whole time as he drove us to the hotel which he had booked for us for the first night. Perhaps it was because we were overtired or perhaps he had not spoken to westerners for a while, but he gabbled on the entire time. Nice bloke all the same.

We checked into the hotel and had a little rest before heading into Tagbilaran City to find some food. There is absolutely nothing remotely close to our hotel where we can buy food so a trip into the city on a tricycle was the go. They told us at the hotel the price should be about 30 piso = 75c going into town and 80 piso = $2.00 coming back. We managed to squeeze into one at a price of 25 piso = 60c, with Lyn and I barely fitting in the side car and Pat sitting on the bike behind the driver. These noisy little vehicles are definitely made for the size of locals not the size of normal people - us tourists. The locals squeeze 6 to 8 bodies, where we really where sardined in just the 2 of us, but all the more fun.

The ride into the city was about 15 minutes, but seemed a lot longer due to our limited comfort and heavy traffic. We were dropped at what seemed to be the centre which was outside of a shopping mall. Patrick was keen to find another ATM and try his card that did not work in the machine at the airport, so we tried a few with still no success, so our next objective was to find food.

We had a walk around and supermarket that was in the shopping mall and were all astonished at the price of alcohol. Bottle of spirits going at $4, $3 and even $2 per bottle!! Unreal, surely this must be a nation of alcoholics with prices like this??

Next up we had to find food, which was not so easy due to a power outage a lot of places were closed or the places that were open were too dark to see what they were serving. A cop out I know but we ended up eating at Jolibee - which looked like a Philippino version of McDonalds - but at a fraction of the price. There actually was a Macca's in town also, but I thought at least going a bit local was better than going to an American chain. We ate fried chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, an ice cream sundae and a large pineapple juice all for under $5.00, try getting that at Macca's.

Lyn and I headed back to the hotel in a trike that I negotiated at just 30 piso = 75c and Patrick stayed on to try and find some night life!

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Tuesday 10th December 13 (day 101)

Feeling much more human after a good nights rest, I think we had caught up on any lost sleep.

Breakfast was included in our hotel price which was a fried egg and a couple of slices of sweet bread toast. Bummer Philippines has sweet bread too! Coffee was a instant sachet and some hot water, so not a great country for a good cup of coffee either. But not to worry we ate and then packed up our stuff cause our motor bikes were ready and waiting.

Lyn and I are of course leaving most of our stuff here at the hotel because there is no way we could possibly carry all of our luggage on a motor bike that is already carrying the both of us. So we packed one change of clothes, our togs, a few toiletries, camera and computer stuff. With the help of Patrick carrying one of our bags under the seat on his bike we managed to load up and were ready to hit the road.

Slight delay caused by an argument/misunderstanding with the price of the room. Guy who rented us the bikes quoted different price to what the hotel wanted to charge, but we finally got it sorted out 1000 piso = $25 for the twin room, 850 piso = $21 for the single. By now it was almost midday when we finally hit the road.

This was perfectly timed with the start of a rain shower. No wonder it was so steamy. We decided to head off anyway, the rain was light and it was cooling on the bike. First stop was for fuel for our bike, Patricks was full, but ours only half way so it's best to take off with a full tank.

Heading east along the coastal road, which was also the national highway, we passed through many little towns and villages. The road definitely hugged the coastline as most of the way even though there was no beach the water flush up to the road wall. Very pretty. The road surface was not too bad - cement road so a constant bumping along, but at least it was sealed and no major potholes. Considering we saw many big churches that have been half demolished due to the recent earthquake, there were no big cracks in the cement road that made it too uncomfortable. A few of the bridges along the way still seemed to be under repair, but they were still passable if only by single lane.

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We had to stop a few times along the way when the rain became a little heavier and the raindrops were stinging our faces as we rode along. But it was still light enough that the little bit of wet that we did get soon evaporated as we rode into a few km's of sunshine. And it was still very hot so not unpleasant to ride in the light rain. By late afternoon it had stopped completely.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to this island of Bohol (besides the natural beauty) was to see Prony the worlds biggest python snake kept in captivity. I had viewed many photos on the internet and watched video clips on YouTube of this beauty and was very excited to be able to see this animal in the flesh. Imagine my horror and disappointment as we passed a huge bill board announcing 'view the preserved body of Prony!' Preserved?? that means it's dead right?! Yes, unfortunately the giant snake had died just last August from a heart attack caused by too high cholesterol. I was so disappointed!!! But it sounded like the snake died from too good a lifestyle. We did stop and paid the P25 = 75c entry fee to see the big stuffed snake. OMG this beast was massive, hard to believe this taxidermic body was from a real live snake. It would have been such an amazing thing to see alive, but alas I was too late. We did manage to half hold another huge python that they are feeding up to replace the recently deceased giant, but although it was already a big snake it would be years before it was the size of Prony. We were also able to take photos with a smaller snake that was hung around our neck. Lyn was very brave, and after severe harassment from Pat and I she finally unwillingly held the snake. For some reason Lyn is not fond of holding snakes where I think it's cool. RIP PRONY!!

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There is still a strong Spanish presence here, evident in the style of churches, and the fact that the population of the Philippines' are very religious and practising Catholics. The giant stone church structures just about line the roadside. And the town names, we rode through places named Alburquerque, Lila, Valencia and Garcia Hernadez - where we stopped for lunch of a road side purchased rotisserie chicken P150 = $3.75 and some sweet bread rolls (there are no other kind) purchased from a bakery for P10 = 25c each.

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Moving further away from Taglilaran City we kept an eye out for an ATM hoping we would not have to return to the capital city to get money. There was a bank in every town and village but only the local bank that accepted local cards only. Finally we reached Jagna and found a different bank that had a visa, master card sign and we were able to get some much needed cash. The card I have worked just fine but the banks here hit you with a P200 = $5 fee every withdrawal - but that's life we just have to add it into the exchange rate we are getting. Patrick's card was again rejected, like it had been in Taglilaran last night. Worst part was his transaction shut down the ATM which kind of angered the locals who were also waiting to use the machine. He wanted to give it another try so after half an hour when the ATM come back online he again tried his card which again did not work and shut down the machine once more. We then had to wait another half hour for it to come back online so Lyn could draw more money on my card for Patrick. By now the locals waiting for the ATM were most unimpressed and I think were glad when we got on our bikes and left town after the final withdrawal. At least we managed to get some cash.

Around 5pm we made it to Anda, a place we were told had a beach. Although Bohol is an island there are only a couple of places around the coastline that has beach where is it pleasant to swim. The rest is either where the water comes right up to a brick wall that is supporting the road or it's mangroves and mudflats. We pulled into a resort to check out the price of a room as it would be dark in an hour and we did not want to be riding around in the dark looking for a hotel. The first place we stopped was owned by a English couple and they offered a bungalow for P4000 = $100 or an aircon room for P6000 = $150 but could not guarantee there would be a constant power source. These prices were way out of our league and this place did not even have a beach, just an 2 metre drop off to the sand and water below. We decided to go further even though they assured us they were one of the cheapest resorts around, yeah right!

Just outside Anda township we rode off the road on a rocky dirt track that lead to accommodation right on a lovely little white sandy beach. The manager was not there so while someone was off to find him we went for a swim in the lovely clear warm water. The sun was just starting to sink. It took ages for anyone to come so I went to the place next door and saw what they had to offer. I managed to negotiate a room with 2 beds for P900 = $22.50. By this time, which was an hour later the manager of the first place had finally showed up. They did not have a room with separate beds so my place was a better option for Lyn and I. Patrick felt guilty that we had summonsed the manager and then were not staying so he took a room there, which was fine as it was the same price for him in both places.

Our bungalow is basic, with cold shower, as they all were. But the shower water was not freezing cold and with the constant humidity and to wash off the salt from the sea it was just fine.
It's definitely hotter and more humid here than it was in Thailand or Sri Lanka - but not unbearable - not for me anyway.

It was well and truly dark by the time we had checked in and showered so we had dinner at the hotel. Nothing spectacular but it was easier than going out to look for another place to eat. P555 = $14 fed the 3 of us with a beer so pretty good value even though it was overpriced.

I headed off to bed early, a slight headache, not enough fluids today I think.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:32 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

ESCAPE FROM BANGKOK - we head to sleaze city - Pattaya

Wanted to get away from the city and head for the beach. But not a good choice perhaps!

Wednesday 4th December 13 (day 95)

Still having a few days left we wanted to get out of Bangkok and head to a beach to chill for a couple of days. And get away from the protesting, not that we really knew they were there, did not really affect where we were staying.

We took the stored suitcase back to the storage place to be sorted for another 2 months. This costs only 5 baht = 17c a day so is minimal.

Deciding on heading to the nearest coastal town to Bangkok we chose Pattaya. We heard it is over touristy but there is an island that we can visit from the mainland. The bus station we need to get a bus to the south was very close to the Philippines Embassy so it worked out perfectly we could collect our passports with visa and continue on to bus station.

Our problem again was getting to embassy as buses still not running and taking the long route on the ferry and sky train did not suit with us now carrying luggage. We found a taxi that would take us for a agreed price of 200 baht = $7, which actually worked out in our favour this time as he still had to drive via the protest area and very heavy traffic. The driver put the meter on and an hour later when we arrived at the embassy it was just short of the agreed 200 baht. $7 not bad for an hour ride in a taxi across town.

Our passports were handed over, visas enclosed and we got on the next public bus going the right direction as the bus station was just down the street a few km's. Good timing at the bus station saw us with tickets for a bus to Pattaya that was leaving in the next 20 minutes. It was more comfortable that expected and we both had a nap on the less than 2 hours it took to arrive on the coast.

No idea where to go from the bus station we got in a collective taxi that took us to the beach front area and where we could find a hotel. It was getting close to sunset and not wanting to do a hotel hunt we settled for the nearest hotel that looked ok and it had a pool. At 1200 baht =$42 a night, it was a little over budget but we thought we could find a cheaper one tomorrow or decide if we would stay on the island or not.

After dropping our bags we went for a walk up the road and really found out how seedy this Pattaya was. Walking street was just go go bar after go go bar with filled with cheap women and gross old men. This is the ugly side of Thailand at it's best. As we strolled along we were confronted with prices lists for ping pong shows and god only knows what else shows being shoved in our faces. With not that many tourists around they seemed to swarm on the small numbers that are here. I instantly hated this place, but hopefully the island would turn out to be a nicer place to be than this grotty street.

We found a back street to have something to eat and could not believe the price of food was double almost triple the price of food in Bangkok. Crazy, it was getting less liked by the second.

We ate and then returned to the hotel, hoping tomorrow we would find a better outlook.

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Thursday 5th December 13 (day 96)

Walking along the same street as last night it did not look as sleazy during the day due to everything being closed. We had to walk this way to get to the jetty to catch the ferry boat over to Larn Island.

The Pattaya beach was packed with beach chairs occupied by overweight Russian tourists or wrinkly old men with young Thai women in tow. The usual scene for a place like this. Seems to be an awful lot of Russians here and last night many times we were greeted in Russian by shop and restaurant staff. They are obviously the ones with money heading to this area in Thailand at the moment evident by signs and menus also written in Russian.

The boat ride out to Larn Island took about an hour and was fairly calm. Leaving Pattaya pier we had a good view of the long stretch of beach. Getting off the ferry at the pier on the island was a little more challenging as the swell was lifting and dropping the boat about 1 meter each time a wave passed under it. Trying to time stepping off the boat with locals pushing you from behind was a potential dangerous manoeuvre.

The water looked very inviting and after walking the couple of hundred meters off the pier to the beach we found ourselves a spot on the sand to put our stuff and go for a swim. This beach also was completely covered with beach chairs and umbrellas - which had to be paid for to be used. After our cooling off swim we went for a walk along the shore line which was a narrow strip of shops, restaurants and a couple of accommodation options. We checked out a couple of the hotels and were pleasantly surprised by the standard of accommodation they offered. All were charging around the same price of 2000 baht = $70 per night with breakfast, but all were spotlessly clean and very modern with flat screen tv's and refrigerators. I really thought the rooms on offer over here on the island would be a lot more basic and cheaper.

Again food was overpriced, and the seafood i.e. fish etc really did not look so appetising. We ended up having lunch from of vendor that sold an assortment of goodies all on a stick. Chicken, fish balls & sponge sausage - 10baht = 35c - can't ask for better than that. Asians love putting food on a stick.

When it got later in the afternoon we asked one of the vendors, if we purchased a beer could we sit on the beach chairs? As most people had already left it was ok for us to do this and we enjoyed a cold drink and another dip in the water. The last ferry was departing the island at 5pm so we had to make sure we were on it. The trip back was pleasant enough with smooth seas.

As we were walking back to our hotel we passed a big department store that was handing out candles that were to be lit later in celebration of the Kings birthday which was today. We took a free candle and decided to hang around for another hour and watch the festivities. Over this time a small crowd gathered and by the time it was dark and the candles where lit the footpath was covered with people celebrating the Kings birthday. The old guy turned 86 and I'm pretty sure he is loved by most of the general population. Although he did not look the fittest on the big tv screen that was showing a live broadcast of him with his family.

We had a very delicious kebab from a street vendor for our dinner.

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Friday 6th December 13 (day 97)

Deciding not to head back over to Larn island and not wanting to hang around Pattaya we hired a motor bike for the day and headed north a little way up the coast to visit Sriracha Tiger Zoo. This was a place I had found on the internet and looked worth a drive and a visit.

Due to us not leaving until midday and getting a little lost on the way trying to locate the place, we were late to arrive at around 3 in the afternoon. Still, we paid the steep entrance fee 450 baht = $15.60 each and as we had missed the last tiger show for the day we headed straight to the elephant show which was just about to begin. After seeing the elephant show we were a little happy that we had missed the tiger show fearing that it would have been a sad circus like performance making the animals do unnatural tricks and dances for the audience like they made the elephants do.

The crocodile show was not much better, although exciting as the performers put their heads inside the open jaws of giant crocodiles. The audience all gasped and secretly wished the giant jaws would close down on said heads and really make for a great show. But of course this did not happen as the crocs obediently, trancelike held open their jaws for the correct time before slamming shut once the said head was removed from their dental area. Commentary was in Thai only so no idea what was being explained during the show. I guess it was a pretty brave thing to do, trained animal or not.

Luckily we were just in time for the last hog races of the day. This was the event that caught my eye on the internet, but again a big let down as it was just a line up of pigs that ran a distance of maybe 20 meters while some incoherent Thai bloke called the runners like in a horse race. They only ran 2 races and it was all over within 3 minutes of starting.

The bored looking scorpion woman, whose dress bodice was covered in live scorpions, constantly checked her watch no doubt waiting for 5pm and the end of her shift to come. I wonder if these little critters misbehave do they end up on a stick and sold to silly tourists wanting to eat deep fried bugs.

We went and viewed the unhappy tigers in their cement cages, who looked up at us with sad, savage eyes as if to say 'please let us out and we will eat you'! They seemed to be overcrowded with what looked like too many felines per cage to me. However this zoo supposedly has breed over 200 tigers so they must be happy enough.

Because we were late arrivals we missed the explanation as to why they had tiger kittens in with a huge sow who was so cramped in a cage it was painful to watch her try to lay down so her piglets could feed. And in the glassed room next door was a full grown tiger with another lot of piglets who naturally looked absolutely petrified. Every time they tried to move the tiger would snarl and bear the most enormous teeth. I'm surprised the little piglets did not all die of fright or have heart attacks as I almost was watching the poor little beggars. Not quiet sure what the story was there.

We left tiger zoo with the expected disappointment and sadness you get after visiting most Asian zoos. Worst of all the zoo cafe was closed that had promised to feed us a meal of crocodile. Perhaps they punish the ones that have slack jaw and accidentally crush a human skull that has been conveniently placed inside their mouths. They've all been good so not currently available in cafe.

Back on the busy road, soon it was dark and more than an hours ride back to Pattaya. Whilst stopped at some traffic lights I spied a roadside stall selling duck and rice and suggested we stop and have some dinner. The owners were very surprised to see us sit down - guess they don't get many tourist eat at their stand. They spoke no English but we found pointing and smiling will always get you fed.

We made it back to the hotel in the dark.

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Saturday 7th December 13 (day 98)

Deciding to keep the bike for another day, after breakfast we went exploring at the next beach a little to the south. Lots of flash resorts and quite a nice beach where we stopped and had a swim. Must say the weather has been hot and sunny the whole time we have been back in Thailand.

We rode around exploring a bit more and came across a huge Macro supermarket where we had a splurge and purchased some Spanish Serrano ham and fresh bread rolls for lunch. Although expensive by Asian standards this Spanish ham was actually cheaper than the exact same stuff we purchased in Spain a month ago.

Later in the afternoon we rode to the bus station to book our transfer to Bangkok airport for tomorrow. They have direct coaches from here to airport and they will collect us from the hotel, bargain at 250 baht = $8.70 each. Tomorrow we are flying to the Philippines. Our original flight was for 8.40 pm Bangkok to Cebu direct, but this was cancelled and we are now flying just after midnight Bangkok to Manila (2 hours stopover) then on to Cebu.

After our first horrific impressions of Pattaya it turned out not to be too bad a place. As long as you stay clear of sleazy street it's an ok place. Nice change anyway, not having to stay in Bangkok.

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Sunday 8th December 13 (day 99)

After breakfast, we waited until the very last minute before 12 noon to check out. Our transfer was not collecting us until 4pm so we had a couple of hours to kill before then. As we had spent the last 4 nights at this hotel we decided we had the right to just camp out by the pool with our luggage until it was time to go. This did not seem to be a problem as no one told us to move on and when our transport arrived the receptionist come out to the pool to advise us of its arrival.

The minivan drove us back to the bus station where we transferred to a coach that drove us the 2 hours to Bangkok airport. Lyn's son Patrick is coming to the Philippines with us and he arrived at the airport not long after we do. We are super early and still have a few hours to wait before we can even check in. We head down to the airport food court to have some food. Nothing flash there, I had pork with crispy noodles which tasted ok but the texture did not look appetising as it resembled crispy noodles swimming in pork snot.

Back upstairs we were finally able to check in but hit a snag when Patrick did not have a flight out of the Philippines booked. They would not allow him to check in until he went and purchased a ticket to prove he was leaving the country. Luckily there was a handy ticket counter nearby and he was able to buy a ticket and check in. Surprising his return ticket was not much more than when we had looked on the internet earlier.

So good bye to our short stint in Thailand and hello to 2 months in the Philippines.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

2013 DEC THAILAND - GOODBYE SRI LANKA, HELLO THAILAND

WE DEPART SRI LANKA AND RETURN TO THAILAND for some real food and some unreal food - all on a stick

Sunday 1st December 13 (day 92)

Do you know the one thing that I hate more that having to get up at 4am for a 7am flight?? It's when the flight is delayed by 4 1/2 hours. That is exactly what happened to us today, but detailed for good reason as there was a problem with the brakes. Actually not only was it delayed but the plane was grounded and we had to wait for another flight to come in that we eventually flew out on. Not sure what happened to that scheduled flight as I'm sure Sri Lankan airlines do not just have a spare plane sitting around but not our problem.

We were collected by our tuk tuk at 4am and as we had packed and were ready to go we just needed to dress and load the bags into the vehicle. The airport was about a 20 minute ride away and at this time of the morning there was not much traffic so we arrived in plenty of time. Both Lyn and I had a baggage allowance of 30kg each so there was not the usual stress that we were overloaded, although I had read on the airlines website the night before regarding a one bag policy. As we stood in the bag drop queue this did not seem to be enforced.

We first became aware that something was wrong when our scheduled departure time came and went and we were still waiting in the departure lounge. Of course no one is there to inform the passengers anything, so we were all wondering what the hell was going on. Finally we did board and the Captain advised over the loud speaker the reason for the delay. No details were given just a technical problem with the brakes that was being seen to and we would take off as soon as they were given the clear.

So we waited and waited and next thing the Captain came on again and announced that the problem could not be fixed and that this plane was grounded,we would be going no where in this aircraft. However since we had already boarded they were going to serve breakfast before we were to disembark again. So we ate breakfast and were finally advised to get off the plane. Lyn and I being the last ones to disembark as we were halfway through watching a movie, however the hostie reassured us we would be able to continue the movie on the other plane.

We waited another hour in the new departure lounge and finally we boarded the new aircraft hopeful of a successful takeoff. It was with great disappointment that the same movies were not available hence we were not able to finish watching the movie we had started in the other plane. Annoying.

This plane seemed to be in good order and before long we were up in the air and on our way. It was only a couple of hours to Bangkok and we managed to dose a little during the flight, but we had lost the whole day. Instead of arriving in the middle of the day, we landed in Bangkok after dark. Not a big problem as luckily I was smart enough to book a hotel for us go straight to.

Standing in the taxi line for another hour we were really starting to wain. The driver didn't want to use the meter and told us a price of 700 baht = $24.50, but no I insisted he use the meter as they always overcharge when not using the meter. We had heard there had been political protests going on in Bangkok but had no idea it was in the general area of where we were heading. When all traffic came to a complete halt on the motor way with police cars and police bikes lights flashing zooming past our taxi driver, with very limited English skills, tried to explain to us the delay was due to the protesting. Meanwhile the taxi meter was slowly ticking away and when he said the delay could be up to 4 hours I instantly regretted not taking his offer of the 700 baht fare.

As it was we were only stationary for about 30 minutes, and soon on our way to our hotel. Alas again we were delayed by very heavy traffic that was moving at a snails pace. Turns out we had to drive directly past the epicentre where all the protesters where camped and the traffic was manic due to more protesters trying to join them.

A one hour journey taxi ride from the airport turned into a more than 2 hour mission to get to our hotel. We arrived at reception about 7 hours later than we had anticipated when we were up at dawn this morning. Check in was smooth and although we are staying in the cheapest rooms in a higher than our usual standard hotel, the room was a nice, clean, air conned room. Even though by now we were exhausted we needed to go out and find food, not having eaten since our breakfast on the plane this morning.

Bbq chicken and bbq potato from a familiar eatery filled the spot. We were still running on empty but decided to collect our suitcase, that had been in storage since we were here at the beginning of Sept, so that we could start to sort things out in the morning.

Bed was a welcome comfort when we finally made it in to them, but the level of tiredness we were at we probably could have slept on a cement slab.

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Monday 2nd December 13 (day 93)

Our main objective for today was to get to the Philippines embassy to apply for visas for our upcoming trip to the Philippines. On entering the country you are given just 21 days, but as we are staying longer it is earlier and cheaper to get a visa before entering.

I had looked on the internet last night with regards on how to get to the embassy via public transport. As there was a direct bus we did not hurry this morning and had a lie in and a leisurely breakfast. It could not be easier, we just had to walk to the end of Khao San Road turn right and get bus #2 which would take us directly to the front gate of the embassy. There was even a bus stop called Philippines Embassy so we could not go wrong. But of course we could be unfortunate enough for this bus route #2 to pass directly through the middle of the protest camp and therefore the bus not running at all! Which was of course the case.

Should have realised something was amiss when we attempted to walk to the end of Khao San and were told to turn back due to tear gas in the area. Just as we were told this our eyes began to sting and the pungent smell of mustard invaded our nostrils. No worries we could walk the long way round to the bus stop. We waited at the bus stop for almost 2 hours before we gave up on bus #2 not coming. We would have walked away earlier had it not been for a bus conductor who advised 'yes, bus still coming'. Guess they forgot to tell him too or perhaps he meant next week bus is returning to it's normal route after all the protesting is over.

Most exciting thing to happen at the bus stop was that as I was sitting on a step a giant rat ran across my feet. Very light footed he was too - creepy.

So today written off we walked away and went to find some lunch. The visa supposedly only takes 24 hours so we still had a few days up our sleeve.

We had some spare time so shouted ourselves a manicure and pedicure (omitted to tell my lady of the rat I had dancing on my feet earlier). Not bad a mani / pedi for just 300 baht = $10 each - not an overwhelming fantastic job but miles better than we could do ourselves.

We wandered, relaxed the rest of the day and ate locally that night.

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Tuesday 3rd December 13 (day 94)

Ok, our 2nd attempt at getting to the Philippines Embassy. Someone last night told us it was possible to get to the side of the city that we wanted by going down the river on the passenger ferry and then catching the sky rail to the road where the embassy is. This seemed like our only option as we had to get there and a taxi would have the same problems as the bus not being able to get through the protesters area.

We were up super early as we knew to take this route was going to take time. Short walk to the river and we boarded the ferry heading down the river that showed up not long after. It was pretty crowded on the ferry with school kids, workers and tourists, getting on and off at the numerous stops along the river. Our stop was the very last so an hour was gone by the time the ferry finally deposited us before returning on the same route back up river. A sky train station was right at the ferry terminal so we didn't have far to walk before purchasing a ticket and waiting for the next train to come. We had to make one line change which took us directly onto the street of the embassy.

Down on street level we needed to be at Soi 30 but of course walked up the wrong way before realising we actually needed to be on the other side of the road and back in the other direction.
Once at the Philippines Embassy we had to sign in at the gate and were advised to go to the visa building. Our forms were already filled in, so it was just a matter of handing them over with our passports and photos. We were told to wait and would be called up to pay the fee. Less than 10 minutes we were paid up and told to return tomorrow after 2pm to collect our passports and visas. Simple as that.

Not in a hurry to get back to anywhere, we just jumped on a bus that would take us back to the general direction of our hotel. Again of course this line was cut short due to the buses not going anywhere near where the protesters were camped. We were asked to get off at the last stop and decided we could probably walk from there. It was quite a long way but we had nothing to do anyway. And of course we ended up walking directly past the protesters camp which seemed to be peaceful enough at that time.

Sorting out our luggage, I wanted to get rid of some excess clothing that I was sick of wearing and no longer wanted to wear after wearing the same thing for the last few months. There is a stall in the street here that buys and sells all kinds of things that obviously travellers like myself have wanted to get rid of. I had a bunch of clothing that I would have just left in the room at checkout anyway, so I took them to him. What a shark, he only gave me 40 baht = $1.40 so it was hardly worth the effort but I was rid of the clothes and some smuck will buy them from him for 100 times what he gave me.

Also managed a visit to the post office today where we packed up and sent home the rest of the excess stuff we had that we did want to keep.

Beer o'clock and we sat watching the swath of tourists walk up and down the street. Lyn made a new friend - James - an ex British paratrooper, as he kept telling us while simultaneously lifting his T-shirt sleeve to reveal a paratrooper tattoo. Not sure if we were supposed to be impressed by this fact or what, but he did like to mention it every chance he got, ah and the fact that he now earned a lot of money. Claimed to be some kind of security for ships against pirates around Sri Lanka and India. Who knows if he was full of shit or not. Anyway, James offered to shout us dinner so not a bad bloke after all. He was most gobsmacked when after we agreed we took him to one of the street stalls to eat. He was kind of expecting us to go to a fancy hotel restaurant - obviously did not know us very well. We had a pleasant enough evening with him, we ate clams and then some assorted mushrooms on a stick also purchased from a street stall. Finishing off with a banana roti from yet another street vendor.

Later on sitting in a bar having a coldie Lyn thought it might be fun to try eating a deep fried scorpion. James was old hat at this having eaten a couple the night before. I left them to it. You can buy a street pad thai for 30 baht = $1 - why the hell would you want to eat a giant bug??!!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

THE DRIVE NORTH TO END OUR TRIP - FAREWELL HENRY

last two days was a mighty drive north to return Henry, with a brave drive through Colombo the busy capital

Friday 29th November (day 90)

We checked out of our hotel, thanking them for our 4 night stay most enjoyable. With Henry loaded up we drove down to our usual breakfast restaurant.

I guess Lyn is still a little spooked from our accident the other day and had a bit of a mishap when trying to park Henry for breakfast. It was only a small pole but enough to damage the wheel guard. Lucky it's the same side as we were hit on she said to me, but sorry no it wasn't, so now Henry is scratched and dented on both sides.

The day looked a little overcast and the sea looked rougher than yesterday, so it was a good time to be moving on. Just out of town we stopped for fuel and one of the guys from the restaurant where we have been spending most of our time was there too. He asked if we were leaving and when I said yes he thanked us for spending time at his place. Aw, nice guy.

We drove into Galle at around midday and had a short half hour stop to have a quick walk around a bit of the old Portuguese/Dutch fort, which is the main attraction here. Funnily enough we ran into a couple who had also spent the last few days at the same restaurant as us in Mirissa.

We drove along the coast road that leads up to Colombo. As I said earlier tuk tuks are not allowed on the toll motor way so our journey is a lot longer than it should be. It was obvious by the amount of buses along this road that they also do not use the motorway, which was the same for trucks as they were both clogging up and hogging the tiny road we were trying to enjoy. Perhaps the trucks don't want to pay the tolls so they use this road. Thing is these buses and trucks are a lot larger than little tuk tuk's like our vehicle and the drivers of the former know this so they act like they own the road. Even coming in the opposite direction when passing they expect us to move off the road even though they are on our side. The rule must be the bigger you are the more road you can take. We did not want to mess with these guys so dutifully moved over when they were coming head on or when they tooted their horns behind us. It wasn't just our tuk tuk they demanded this extra road space from it was all and sundry that were smaller than them.

The roadside stalls here are mainly fish, fresh fish and smelly dried fish. And also a lot of coconut stalls have replaced the fruit and vegetables stalls we saw earlier in our travels. Makes sense considering we are on the coast. Still the constant presence of stray dogs everywhere.

Our only other stop was for a drink at Hikkaduwa beach. This was also a touristy spot, mainly for the surfing. The cafe that we stopped at had photos on the wall showing pictures of their building being wiped out in the 2004 tsunami. Totally flattening!!

We continued up the coast through biggish towns where the traffic was getting us ready for the encounter of chaos in the capital, but that will be tomorrow.

I chose a stop at a beach called Mt Lavinia, which is just 10km outside of Colombo. A friend had mentioned it a few days ago to me on facebook that they had visited many years ago. It was as good a place as any and we needed to stop before the capital and it was now close to 5pm.

The hotel run around was fun, lots of very very flash out of our price range hotels here and lots of dumps as well. Managed to find a dump that was a cut above the rest and an alright price.
We walked along the beach which was full of Sri Lankans, more than on any of the other beaches we have visited in the last week. One end is the very fancy Mt Lavinia Hotel (is this where you stayed Marcia?) and at the other end of the beach in the far distance we could see the sky scrapers that must be the Colombo skyline.

The restaurants on the beach did not really grab us and we ended up having dinner at our hotel. Almost every accommodation in Sri Lanka has a restaurant attached or will serve guests food. Pretty handy if you don't want to go out and usually the prices and choices are much of a muchness.

So tomorrow we have the 10km drive into Colombo and have to head out the north of the city. I am hoping there is a sort of ring road that avoids the main centre of the city as the traffic this far out is already full on.

We have to give Henry back tomorrow, so will have one more night in Negombo before flying out on Sunday.

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Saturday 30th November 13 (day 91)

A bit of excitement first up this morning as we navigated our way through the middle of Saturday morning traffic in down town Colombo! Being a Saturday I'm not sure if the traffic was more or less than on a weekday or if it makes any difference at all.

We did pretty well with Lyn weaving and avoiding collisions in the traffic with me in the back yelling out directions as I followed a map from our 10 year old lonely bastard. Lucky we had something as there were not many road signs to guide us on the correct path. Not even signs to direct traffic to the airport which I thought there would be and was going to make it an easy transaction.

Love being in a tuk tuk except in traffic, because in heavy traffic we are just the right height to have a direct injection of exhaust fumes from the buses and trucks - of which there were many. By the time we have transversed the city which only took about 35 minutes my throat felt like I had just sucked back 3 packets of camel extra strong cigarettes. But we made it ok and were soon on our way north out of the city and towards Negombo, 40 km away.

The road was still pretty busy and this meagre 40 km took us about 1 1/2 hours to negotiate. When we reached Negombo it was another half hour for us to find the beach, but soon enough we were driving down a recognised street and down the lane way to the first guesthouse where we had stayed that was housing our luggage we left behind 2 weeks ago.

We were greeting with a big smile by one of the attendants, and first up we ordered a pot of tea in celebration of our success in making it back. Maybe not all in one piece - with Henry having a few extra dings and scratches but otherwise not too worse for ware.

We had not yet eaten so after the tea we decided to head up the road to drop off Henry and find some food. I had messaged Rocky and he was going to meet us at the office. While waiting for him a couple of his employees waited with us chatting about our trip and the accident that we had.

Rocky arrived and greeted us with a handshake. He looked at poor Henry crumpled right side and was not too concerned as he said insurance would fix. He asked questions about the accident but still was not very upset and happily gave us back the $100 aud we had left as deposit.

Then it was time to discuss the 2nd little bingle that was on Henry's left side. This was only a small ding (the one Lyn did against a pole at breakfast 2 days ago), but it was still a ding. Rocky said he wanted to be fair but this one was additional to the first one and said we really should pay something towards the repair of this. Fair enough, really this was totally our fault although I think he would be able to get it fixed on the same claim as the bigger ding. But that was beside the point, it was our fault and we should really pay something. Rocky asked what we think we should pay and I said, honestly I have no idea you tell me an amount you think is fair. He answered with a gingerly Rs3000 = $25 and we immediately agreed. This was nothing - what repair can you get for 25 bucks?? Maybe here a lot or maybe it was just a gesture, but we were both happy with the amount and anyway we are getting a free transfer to the airport in the morning which is the equivalent of $25 so we have really lost nothing.

We thanked and bit farewell to Rocky, one of his staff would be the lucky bugger to have to collect us at 4am for our 7am flight.

As we are now tukless, we had little choice but to walk up the street to find some food. We didn't go far and were soon seated at restaurant that advertised hamburgers. Thankfully they did not take too long to prepare and we were soon filling very large holes in our stomachs.

After we had finished lunch we headed back to the guesthouse, not wanting to do anything else. The internet there was good and I needed to catch up on some blogs and photo loading. Just as we sat down and ordered a pot of tea the rain started to fall, so good timing there for us. It rained for a couple of hours, clearing up again just in time for us to head out at about 7pm for some dinner. Earlier on our return walk from lunch we had spied a restaurant that was just bringing out food to a table and it looked very nice, so we came back to the same place for dinner. I ordered grilled jumbo prawns and Lyn ordered grilled calamari - and then we shared. The food was wonderful and another one of the rare meal highlights we have had in this country. Unusual for us we finished the meal off with a dessert of banana pancake and ice cream. On leaving I advised the waiter it is a shame I am flying out tomorrow otherwise I would be back again tomorrow to eat. Great place called Petite Restaurant - hope they are on trip advisor as the food was the best.

A little walk after dinner to the ATM as we had paid the hotel and had dinner but fell short of the Rs3000 we need to pay Rocky's driver tomorrow.. Not wanting to have any local currency left over we tried to draw out just 1000 rupees, but it would not give it, then we tried 2000 rupees but still would not give it. I guess on an international card it will not give small amounts, or the machines were down - the ATM did not really give reason why it would not supply the funds.

We will try again in the morning or otherwise we have $20 Australian and the little bit of rupees we have left will cover the amount we owe.

It was 10pm by the time we walked back to the gate of our guest house which was now locked. We are the only guests here tonight and the attendant soon came running over to unlock the gate in what we think was his pj sarong! He confirmed we want a 4am wake up call and bid us goodnight.

Shit 4am wake up call, I'd better finish off and get a few hours sleep.

Tomorrow in the early hours we will say farewell to Sri Lanka and fly back to Bangkok for the next stage of our travels.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

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