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Philippines

Exit out of Philippines, Hello Thailand!

HI FOLKS,
JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW I AM HAVING MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH SENDING THIS BLOG. ALSO I AM STILL A FEW COUNTRIES BEHIND, AS WE ARE CURRENTLY IN CAMBODIA AND NOT SURE IF THIS IS THE CAUSE OF THE INTERRUPTION OR NOT. I WILL TRY AND SEND MORE WHEN POSSIBLE, BUT AM NOT ABLE TO INCLUDE PHOTOS, YOU WILL NEED TO GO TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE AND VIEW THE CORRESPONDING DATES TO SEE PHOTOS.
THANKS CINDY.

WEDNESDAY 29TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 151)

Bit of a boring day today, we are relocating from Manila to Clark so that we are close to the Clark airport for our early morning flight tomorrow back to Bangkok. It's a bit of a waste of a day, but impossible to do the transfer in the morning, so we waste today in transfer.

We checked out of our home for the last few nights. Boulevard Mansions had started to grow on us and the age of the facilities soon became unnoticeable . One last crappy breakfast, at least there was bacon for our last day so cannot complain too much.

With luggage in foyer the doorman flagged down a taxi to take us to the bus station where buses to Clark leave from. After loading it up with all our bags and our bodies he drove 50 metres down the road and when he found out where we wanted to go did not want to take us there on the metre. Wouldn't be so bad if he quoted a reasonable price but it was not, so we told him to stop the car and we got out - of course taking our bags with us. Luckily another taxi drove up and this guy was willing to drive us to the correct bus station, again not on the metre but quoted a more appealing fare. These guys really have you over a barrel, they know you have to get there and if they have already had a couple of good fares (previous tourists they have ripped off) then they would rather miss out on a fare rather then do it at a fair price. Not to mind we did find a good one, who on arrival at the bus station told us to wait in the cab until he checked that we were at the correct station and buses were leaving from here heading to Clark.

As luck would have it a bus was about to depart any minute, so after paying the cabbie we transferred our bags to the bus and took a seat. We were able to spread out as the bus was almost empty.

Can't remember how long the journey was, a couple of hours I think, but the bus station was not anywhere near the centre of Clark, it was on the outside next to a huge flash shopping centre. The tuk tuk / taxi sharks were at their most vicious here. They all know they have tourists who arrive here over a barrel as they need transport to get anywhere in or around town. The attitude of these guys pisses me off and I tend to get just as nasty and aggressive (believe it or not lol). All the prices quoted were way out of the water and I flatly refused to pay any of these the circling predators. Finally a little old man who was not interested in making any money from unaware tourists told me we could get a jeepney into the centre of town for just 19 peso = 50c each, this was a better option than the over 1000 peso = $25 they were trying to con out of us.

Into the back of the jeepney we load all our bags, much to the disgust of the other passengers (locals) also traveling on this jeepney as they had no baggage at all, but bad luck, I was by now over everyone. The centre was only about a 10 minute ride away so those thieving bastards would have made a killing with us had we caved and gone with one of them. I smiled to myself - a small victory was won. However, now we are stuck in the middle of town, no idea which direction to head or how far our booked accommodation was. Ah yes, we had been clever enough to pre-book somewhere so we at least knew we had somewhere to go. The hotel looked ok on the internet and was a bit of a 'different' kind of place on arrival. But first we had to get there.

Gave into a jeepney driver who agreed to take us right to the door of our hotel for 100 peso = $2.50, this seemed like a rip off also but by now we had little choice and after we were delivered outside the hotel it did not seem such a rip off after all. The hotel was way out of the centre of town and in the back blocks that I would class as sleezeville. Our chosen hotel obviously catered to the western man who had found himself a local woman for pleasure or relationship - all was welcome here. So when 4 single western women showed up we sort of stood out like sore thumbs, but never to mind it was just somewhere to sleep tonight close to the airport. The owner of the hotel was an american expat who just happened to be very pissed by the time we arrived. Perhaps he is always pissed we will never know, but he gave us a free welcome drink - lemon beer - gave us room keys and repeated himself many times in the next hour or so before he left to go to someones birthday party. He went to great detail to tell us that he had purchased a birthday cake for said birthday boy and the cake had been sitting in his car for hours waiting to go to the party. But it was all ok as he had left the motor running and the air conditioning on to preserve the cake.

It was by all accounts an interesting place to stay but we were glad it was just for one night as it really was not our scene. We went out into the nearby streets looking for food and our suspicions of the neighbourhood were proven correct - sleezeville!

We found some food (roast chicken sold on side of the road & bread from 7-11) to buy and take back to the hotel to eat including some fried chicken from a street vendor, who also sold deep fried chicken heads (beak still attached). We passed on the head and went for some other unidentifiable deep fried body part. Couldn't have been too bad we all survived.

Before the hotel owner had left for his birthday party we requested he organise a taxi to take us to the airport early the next morning. He advised this was booked and would be there at 5.30am to collect us for a fee of 300 peso = $7.50.

We had an early night, after a busy day travelling, a few beers and a very early morning to come and nothing to do anyway, we went to bed.

Check out the photo of the message that came up on the television when I turned it on. Could not manage to find any channels that worked, but in hindsight I think that may have been a blessing.

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THURSDAY 30TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 152)

Of course it was still dark when we got up and were waiting in the foyer of the hotel for the taxi that was booked for 5.30am. Of course it never showed up, but lucky for us the night watchman was able to contact another driver who did come at this ungodly hour to drive us to the airport. It was not far and we made it in heaps of time to checkin for our flight. The replacement driver was not happy when I paid him the agreed 300 peso, but I told him to go see the hotel and fix it up with them.

Unfortunately there was a 500 peso = $12.50 airport departure tax per person and although we had pooled all remaining cash we just did not have enough to cover it. Lyn changed AUD$50 which meant we had ample cash for the tax and to buy some breakfast once we had cleared customs and immigration.

Clark is only small el cheapo airport and the choices for breakfast were limited. We ended up with toasted ham and cheese sandwiches (which were actually not too bad) washed down with coffee and tea. Sitting in the small departure lounge it brought home again the sleezyness of the area as we were the only western women waiting for any flights. Majority were overweight, disgusting, aged men from assorted countries who had obviously come to this country to find a wife (no self respecting woman from their own country would have these dropkicks) or just for a sex holiday. I regrettably overheard 2 creeps behind me comparing notes from their time here in the Philippines and it was almost enough to turn my stomach. Had I felt the urge that my toastie was going to make a reappearance I would have had no problem expelling it all over these pair of animals, as that was what they deserved.
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When our flight was called, we walked across the tarmac to the aircraft. It had not been light very long and I don't want to say we were happy to be leaving the Philippines but that we were happy to be heading towards a new country and adventure and perhaps the thought of some decent food, hot showers and 24 hour electricity.

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This had been Lyn & mine second trip to the Philippines and it was a very different experience to the first time a few years ago. The fact that this time we had visited less tourist developed islands compared to last time made a huge difference. Manila had not changed much and is still one of the poorest countries we have ever seen, the amount of people (families) living on the streets here is very sad. As you may have gathered from my ramblings the food (with some exemptions) is nothing to write home about and as for the beaches, there are nicer one in other countries (really Australia has the nicest beaches in the world so it's hard for other countries to compete). I didn't hate or not enjoy the time spent in the Philippines but maybe it was too long in limited facilities. Weather was kind to us for the majority of the time and they did have lemon beer and the unforgettable Boracay Rum at an unbelievable $2 a bottle. I think we all will have some good, great and shit memories of our time spent in this country.

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Flight to Bangkok was only about 2 hours - had a bit of a nap on the way, it was still mid morning when we arrived.

Our plan from here was to head straight down south to the islands. Lyn's son Patrick (who came to Philippines with us) has been staying on Koh Samui for a few months so we are heading down there to have a look. We caught a metered taxi from the airport that took us straight to the train station (360 baht = $12.85) where we managed to get tickets for the overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and on to Koh Samui. We were able to get a combined ticket with included a ticket on the sleeper train, then coach transfer from train to ferry and ferry over to Samui for 1083 baht = $39.

Now we just had the day to kill in Bangkok and be back at the train station for the 7.30pm departure. First requirement was food, Dolly suggested a nearby shopping centre where there would be a food court. We headed up the road and after about a 20 minute walk entered the air conditioned building and found food. Pad Thai is always a safe bet and we were all happy we were back in a country with enjoyable food again. We had a bit of a stroll around the shops but not being interested in retail therapy hit the streets again in the direction of the river. Walking along, it was remembered that we had spoken about treating ourselves to a pedicure and this became our objective as we strolled the footpath to find a salon. It was not long before we came across a few shops in a row offering all types of massage and the wanted pedicures. We chose one that could accommodate the four of us at once and took seats in the large recliner chairs while little Thai ladies proceeded to pamper our feet. It was lovely, the air con, the pampering, the everything - lovely and they had free wifi! Less than a hour later we were all scrubbed, clipped, callous shaved, nail filed, nail painted and as Dolly referred to as 'feet beach ready'! And for a meagre 200 baht = $7 each!

Close to the river now we found the nearest public ferry station and boarded the next ferry heading up stream. The public ferry is a great way to see Bangkok river life and for a price of 15 baht = 55c the cheapest ride around. We spent about an hour on the ferry as it meandered its way up the river stopping and crossing the river letting passengers on and off at their chosen ports. It was crowded as usual with an even mixture of tourists joyriding and locals using it as transport from work/school to home. We disembarked at the stop near where we usually stay when we are in Bangkok - it's around the Khao San Road district. We know and like this area and getting off here would provide the loop we need to return to the train station. Also we knew a good place to sit, have a drink and people watch to use the rest of the time up.

Nothing like a couple of cocktails to while away the time and pina coladas at 70 baht = $2.50 each did just the trick. We had to drag ourselves away from our favourite kerbside bar to get a tuk tuk to the train station. We even managed to find one that would take the 4 of us for 100 baht = $3.60.

Back at the train station we collected our luggage that we had left in storage, Lyn adopted a frog (see pics) and we walked to the platforms in search of our train. Correct train & carriage number found, we also found our seats once on the train. Departure was on time and our dinner was served in our seats about an hour into the journey. Soup, cashew chicken, rice, curry duck and fruit for 160 baht = $5.70. Not the best food in the world but tasty and filling enough and the novelty of eating on the train was enjoyed also.

It was not late when the porter converted our seats to the lower bed and the upper bed was lowered. Beds come with linen, including bottom sheet, pillow with pillow case and a blanket. It's a nice way to travel and doing it this way we manage to kill 2 birds with one stone by having a nights accommodation as well as transport towards our next destination.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:02 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

LAST DAYS IN PHILIPPINES!

Still in Manila we enjoy sights and sounds of the capital and beyond.

TUESDAY 28TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 150)

Yeah, finally there was bacon at breakfast!!!

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After such a good start to the day and as yesterdays excursion was such a brilliant success we decided to hit the road again and head out of the city.

Today destination: Pagsanjan Falls. Lyn & I had visited this place before on our previous trip to Philippines, we actually stayed here overnight. But today we were doing it in a day excursion out of Manila. The attraction of this place is the river boat tour where you are taken up stream in a narrow canoe to view the Pagsanjan Falls. Spectacular scenery and the novel way of traveling are the draw cards, and supposedly this is where some of the film Apocalypse Now was filmed.

From our previous visit I knew we had to catch a bus from Manila to Santa Cruz then a jeepney on to Pagsanjan - easy. With instructions from the hotel staff we walked a few blocks in search of a jeepney that would take us to the correct bus station where buses leave for the town of Santa Cruz. This seemed easy enough except perhaps the instructions were not as accurate as they should have been and the road where we were instructed to go to catch a jeepney was completely devoid of jeepneys. We walked back to a busier road that we had crossed and seemed to have an abundance of the vehicles in question.

Sure enough we were soon in a jeepney heading in the general direction of the bus station. Some very friendly female locals on this transport were happy enough to talk to us and advise exactly where we needed to get off and explained where we needed to walk to, to catch the bus. I think they were fascinated by female tourists of advanced ages who were venturing out on public transport for such a day trip. I guess most tourists would have opted for a all inclusive day trip, which was of course an option for us also, but at a more expensive price than going on public transport and much less exciting experience I'm sure. Isn't there a saying its not the destination but the journey getting there that makes it more exciting??

So we exited the jeepney when advised and proceeded to walk up the busy road in the direction being pointed out by our fellow jeepney passengers, also while waving goodbye and saying thanks to them. It was only about a 10 minute walk before we came across numerous buses parked along side the road and in a makeshift bus station. When the bus touts asked our destination and we replied Santa Cruz we were instructed to go to the buses parked around the corner. Low and behold there was the bus we wanted. We boarded, found seats and did not have to wait very long before we were on our way heading out of the city. I paid the conductor on the bus during the journey which took just over 2 hours to travel from Manila to Santa Cruz. From there we again needed to catch a jeepney which took us from Santa Cruz to Pagsanjan town, only about 20 minutes ride away. We were assisted by the bus conductor who rode along in the jeepney saying he lived in Pagsanjan and was returning home. It was not long before it became obvious that he was also a boat trip tout and when we aligned from the jeepney pointed us in the general direction of a certain boat dock.

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As we were not yet ready to go on the river we thanked him and walked away back over the bridge to the centre of town. Now the touts really came out and even when we entered the tourist office the guy there who looked like he was on staff tried to point us to a particular boat place. These guys are tiring, and we were stalked by one particular guy on a motor bike as we walked around the small town just having a look around. We wanted to find somewhere to eat and ended up back at the restaurant that was recommended by the original bus conductor / tout. We had an interesting meal of a whole chicken which had been deep fried while still whole. It tasted ok.

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So after lunch it was now time to head off and choose a boat tour. One good thing is that the price of these tours are regulated and are all a set price, so at least there was no haggling or chance of getting completely ripped off here. Each person was 1250 peso = $32. Passengers just had to decide on an amount, if any, to give to the boat men as tip at the end of the trip. These guys work pretty hard I guess, but they can also lay on the puffing and panting really thick. And in the last 10 minutes of the river trip they continually ask if you had a good time and if you did you should give big tip. They push pretty hard, but also are aware that there are signs up all over town warning tourists against harassment / overpricing and force-tipping from boatmen. We gave them 100 peso = $2.65 each, which was more than enough.

I won't go into detail about the boat ride and scenery but will just let the photos do the talking.

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Once at the top of the river at the actual falls we were transferred onto a bamboo raft that was dragged by rope directly under the falls. It was exhilarating (cold water) to say the least, and of course we all got absolutely sopping wet. The trip back downstream was a lot easier on our boatmen and of course went a lot quicker travelling with the river water flow.

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Our return to Manila was the same as the transport coming just in reverse order. By the time we were back on the bus with the air conditioning freezing us, due to our clothes still being wet (who thought to bring a change of dry clothes?? - not us as we forgot we stayed overnight last time and did not have to travel anywhere in wet things), we were again hungry. It was now close to dark and we had not eaten since before our strenuous adventure. Luckily for us food was brought onto the bus by vendors at every stop and we were delighted when we were able to purchase a warm banana cake from one such vendor. Next stop was even more a treat when I announced a girl wearing a KFC uniform had just boarded with a basket of goodies. A KFC burger has never tasted so good!

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What another great day we had, what another big day we had. Sleep came easy tonight.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:33 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

A couple of days in Manila

We arrive in the capital city of the Philippines

SATURDAY 25TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 147)

Breakfast was included in our hotel rate and was served in the Japanese restaurant attached to our hotel foyer. An egg, bacon or ham (but no bacon available and ham was the pre chewed variety) toast and tea or coffee.

After our delightful breakfast we headed out to the nearby Robinsons Shopping Mall to purchase some supplies. Our hotel rooms came with kitchenettes so we were able to cook basic meals if so desired. Craving for potatoes (I have vowed to eat no more rice!) would be satisfied here.

We had a walk around the streets surrounding our hotel, ogling the sights and sounds and smells (all of which were putrid) of Manila. A walk through nearby Rizal Park finished off a quiet day.

Tiny potatoes, pork chop and gravy cooked in our room kitchen was dinner. We had 24 hour power, hot showers and cable TV so staying inside our room was a luxury.

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SUNDAY 26TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 148)

No bacon again at breakfast.

The weather is lovely and sunny without being too hot to walk out and about. We had a nice long walk today all along the waterfront boulevard. Again taking in the sights, sounds and unwanted smells of the streets of Manila. This is one of the poorest countries we have visited and like our last visit many years ago we noticed there are lots of people, not just single people, but whole families living on the streets under tarps or some even cardboard shelters. A real eye opener with such contrast between the haves and have nots.

Today is Dolly's birthday so what better way to celebrate than with a lunch at where else but Jollibee!!??

Later in the afternoon we when outside our hotel to the pedestrian overpass to get a birds-eye view of the religious holiday parade. One side of the road had been closed off for the procession which lasted well over 2 hours. Bands playing while locals danced in colourful costumes and others carried assorted dressed up statues of religious significance. It was all pretty happening, and we watched until the sun set and then the parade lit up and continued on.

We walked out a little further for dinner tonight to find most places completely full due to the large crowds still hanging around from the parade and festivities. We managed to find an empty table at Philippines famous Shakeys Pizza Parlour and enjoyed another fine meal to celebrate Dolly's birthday.

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MONDAY 27TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 149)

OK enough of this total idleness, today we head out of Manila for a excursion to Taal Volcano.

With the help of directions from the guy at the hotel we managed very well on public transport.

Walking across the arial walkway down onto the correct side of Roxas Boulevard we flagged down a white van (20 peso = 52c each) that took us to the correct bus station. A bus departing for Tagetah was just about to depart, so we boarded and paid 74 peso = $1.95 each for an almost 2 hour ride in air conditioned comfort.

The touts were out to meet us at the other end as they know tourists only come here to visit the lake and the volcano. Having no real idea what the going rate was or where we were supposed to go to, we ended agreeing to pay 20 peso each for 2 trikes to transport us down to the lake. The price had started at 100 peso each, but this seemed a lot so my bluff worked until the price went down. Little did we know that this was a 30 minute drive down a winding mountain road that led to the lake. These were different to any another trikes we had seen before, with a very small side car (really only room for one) that was very low to the ground. Dolly and Robyn took the inside seats as Lyn and I sat on the back of the motor bikes behind the driver. What a ride down the hill it was! The adventure had begun. At the bottom we exclaimed what a great ride this was for the price, not realising that the trike drivers get good commission from the boat companies that transport people to the island in the lake.

Now it was time to bargain with the boat operator, but this time I did have a bit of an idea price wise as I had done a little investigating on the internet last night. Made the deal at a price of 4500 peso = $118.20 for the 4 of us which included boat ride to island and return, and horse ride up to the crater and back. Seemed like a fair enough price to us for just less than $30 each - a price we were happy to pay anyway.

We had a quick drink and then boarded the bangka boat to start the trip across Lake Taal to the Taal volcano island. As soon as we cleared the dock our captain pointed to large sheets of plastic that were folded up on the back of our seats. Via sign language he instructed us to use them to protect ourselves from the water splashing up caused by waves breaking on the front of the boat. Within minutes we may have looked hilarious but were mighty grateful for these sheets of plastic as we would have been well and truly drenched by the experience by now. The water not very rough and any little bit of water that did wet us was soon taken by the heat of the sun. It was an exhilarating experience.

We were met on the beach by the horse operator and as this was included in our package were let straight away to our waiting steeds. Mounting said steeds with the aid of a cement wall to bring us up to the correct height as to make the task easier. Having not so comforting memories of my last experience on an equine creature in Mongolia I was not really looking forward to this part off the volcano experience. However after getting into the saddle and starting off the apprehension gave way to adventure and already I was enjoying the experience. It was a dusty track that the ponies followed up the hill and at the start of the track ladies were trying to sell face masks to combat the inhalation of dust. I managed to fashion my sarong into a face mask, noticing Dolly and Robyn had gone the (tena lady) face mask option. Lyn also opted for the very fashionable face mask.

Each pony had its own guide who led the pony or jumped on the back to avoid the climb up hill themselves. It sure was dusty, with the hooves kicking up dust from the well worn pathway. I didn't time it but I guess the ride up was close to an hour maybe more. Views on the way up were great, and it was possible to see just how big the lake now below us really was. And it was much bigger cause we could not see all of it even from this vantage point. About halfway up there were a couple of vent holes with steam coming out that my guide informed me was the volcano. On first sight I just thought it was clouds of dust from the trail, but getting closer yes I guess it did look like steam and there was a faint odour of rotten eggs associated with sulphur and volcanic gases.
Almost at the top and we dismounted, but still had some steps to climb before reaching the top which was the crater. Climbing the steps and looking down into the creator I think we all expected to see a sea of molten lava bubbling away inside (as you would think of seeing when staring into an active volcano). But almost disappointingly we were greeted by a huge crater lake, but not disappointing was the magnificent views that we now had almost 360 degrees around.

After a photo session it was again time to heave ourselves onto our waiting four legged vehicles for the ride back down the hill. The ride down was just as dusty as the one on the way up and face ware was again needed. At the end of the track dismounting was a little jelly legged (for me at least) but not too saddle sore, and my experience in nags had been a little restored as it had been an enjoyable experience.

After tips to our guides had been distributed we were pointed back to the general direction of our boat after advising the guy who greeted us that he would not be receiving a tip for showing us the way back to the beach.

The trip on the boat back to the shore was a little more exuberant than on the way over, causing us again to be very thankful for the use of the supplied plastic sheet. All in all it had been a fun experience even if the volcano part was not exactly what we or anyone would expect when visiting the smallest active volcano in the world.

Back on mainland the fun began again, and we soon found out why the trike drivers waiting around waiting for a commission from the boat operator after we paid just 20 peso each to get down. The price we were first quoted for the trip back up the mountain to the town was a crazy 100 peso each. We walked along the road beside the lake in search of an alternate transport but numerous people told us the curvy road was way to steep for jeepneys or any minivans to travel. More like the trikes had tied up the market and now were able to charge any price considering everyone had to get back up to the town and they were the only way to do it. After a few arguments / discussions with several trike drivers, we had no choice but to agree on a price of one trike to carry all of us for 300 peso = $7.50. Still pretty cheap, but a sight more expensive than the 80 peso = $2.10 it cost for 2 trikes to get down. Robyn & Dolly this time had to squash inside and share the seat for the thrilling ground level ride, while both Lyn & I sat on the back of the bike behind the driver. It was indeed a thrilling if not very comfortable half hour to the top, but just another experience to add to this eventful day.

We were dropped in town at the bus stop and had a quick bite to eat in Macca's before getting on the bus as it would be 2 hours in transit before we reached Manila.

It was dark when we arrived back at the bus station in Manila and as our hotel guy had not advised us we had to cross the road to get a white van going the other way, we were not able to get a minivan that would take us. Frustrated we decided it was a good idea to start walking up the street and try to wave down a taxi. Of course the street we chose did not have a taxi in sight so when walking past a restaurant I jumped into a taxi that dropped off at the restaurant. It was just a short way back to the hotel.

A quick, crappy dinner at Slice & Dice restaurant and bed was not far behind. It had been a full, action packed day and I'm sure we all went to sleep with contented smiles on our faces at the enjoyable day we'd had.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:51 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Back to Puerto Princesa we go!

We say goodbye to El Nido for the last time and head to PP via TayTay, then on to Manila.

WEDNESDAY 22ND JANUARY 2014 (DAY 144)

Couldn't possibly leave El Nido before a last last last breakfast at Squidos!! Have to say I am going to miss the place, and just as sour face was starting to become civil and almost cracked a smile - either that or she had wind.

We are not travelling very far today, just the 75km back to TayTay, but it is along the dirty unsealed road. Still it should only take a couple of hours so we hung around our guesthouse until it was time to trike to the bus station to get a bus. We did this around 1 o'clock, and managed to get tickets for the next air conditioned bus leaving at 2pm.

There is a wet market at the bus station and having a look around this killed some of our waiting time.

We arrived at the TayTay bus station late afternoon and before heading to our booked accommodation we enquired about a minivan to Puerto Princesa tomorrow. We were advised to be back at 10am in the morning for a minivan. That sorted, we climbed into one trike and rode the short distance to Pems Bunglows. We had stayed here on the way up when on the bikes so knew is was ok and I had emailed a booking to them yesterday.

There is not much to see or do in Tay Tay, we are only staying the night to break up the long journey to Puerto Princesa into 2 days. However the one sight of the town was within walking distance, only about 100 metres down the street, almost right next door to our accommodation.

This lonely attraction was the old Spanish Sta Isobel fort built in 1667, and so worthy of a look see since we were in the neighbourhood. Minutes almost seconds after we had entered the fort the rain started to fall. It was only light rain and we managed to scurry around the sight for a little while before the heavens really opened up and after initially sheltering under some trees we decided to make a mad dash for some shelter with a solid roof and hope the rain would ease a little. After about half an hour is did ease but just a little and it was decided we may as well walk the short distance home as this could continue for hours.

Back at Pems and dried off it was time to finish off a couple of already opened Boracay Rum bottles we were carrying and a fresh one we cracked just because we had it anyway. The hotel did not have any mixer but the little shop over the street did quite well out of us as each time a drink was poured we would venture over for a couple of bottles of coke or sprite as needed. I knew this rum was going to be a hit.

We had a tasty dinner at Pems, remembering from our last visit that the food was quite acceptable.
We retired to our 2 bungalows to have our last cold showers knowing that tomorrow we would be back to luxury of hot water.

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THURSDAY 23RD JANUARY 2014 (DAY 145)

During our breakfast at Pems just before 9am we were advised that our pickup for minivan to Puerto Princesa had arrived. We had no idea there was going to be a pick up and this was a different company to the one we were going to go with. But hey if they turn up here and save us a trip to the bus station we are happy to pay them the fare. And this way we get to depart an hour earlier also.

Again we seemed to be lucky in the fact that we had the minivan to ourselves as they did not seem to want to wait around to see if there would be any other passengers going our way. For a little extra we negotiated to get dropped off at the airport instead of the bus station, this was a little further for the driver, but would save us time and the price of transport from bus station to airport and as we were the only passengers this was not a problem. Reason we needed to go to the airport was the fact that our flight for the next day from Puerto Princesa to Manila had been cancelled. Now I had not been advised of this, but Dolly who was booked on same flight had received an email a few days ago. When I had checked online it showed that our flight was completely cancelled and we had been given a credit, not re booked onto another flight. I had attempted to contact Tiger Air by phone, but after being on hold for over 10 minutes I gave up. The best way was for us to sort it out at the airport.

The only other worrying thing was when I checked our next Tiger flight from Manila to Bangkok for a few days time, this was also showing as cancelled. Trying not to stress out for the last few days we had no choice but to wait and get it sorted at the Puerto Princesa airport.

So minivan trip was pretty comfortable as there was heaps of room in the van, and this time we made the distance without any mechanical breakdowns.

Much to our relief after visiting the Tiger Air desk at the airport we were all sorted out and rebooked on a flight the same day just earlier in the day. We were originally booked to fly early evening arriving in Manila after dark but now the flight was for mid morning which meant we would arrive early afternoon - a much better time for us in the daylight. However they could do nothing to assist with the other flight Manila to Bangkok advising we enquire about it on arrival in Manila. That was fine, at least we knew we would be escaping from Palawan. I for one, felt like I had been on this island long enough.

It was now just a short trike ride to back to our Casa Mila Hotel where we were welcomed back with smiles. After checkin it was still early enough for us to head out to Robinsons shopping mall for some last minute purchases. While there we bought some supplies from the supermarket that we were able to have for dinner to avoid having to go out again. A cooked roast chicken and some raw baby potatoes (that we were cheeky enough to ask the hotel to cook for us and which they did at no extra cost) and a few rounds of lemon beer!

Tomorrow we head to Manila and say goodbye to limited power supply and cold showers - we are heading to the Philippines big smoke.

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FRIDAY 24TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 146)

Early start this morning as we were booked on 12.30pm flight out of Puerto Princesa to Manila so had to be at airport by 10.30am. After we were served our last cold breakfast (don't think they will ever get it right) we packed our bags and were ready to go, so loaded them and us into the hotel van for our free transfer to the airport. It was only a 10 minute journey away so before long we were at the TigerAir check in gate passing over our luggage and passports to be given boarding passes and the disturbing news that our flight had been delayed until 3.30pm. Bugger! Not wanting to wait around hours at the airport we were advised it was ok to leave and come back later in the afternoon.

Our only alternative was to head back to the hotel where at least we could sit comfortable and use the internet to kill some time. The hotel staff were not exactly surprised to see us back within half and hour of departing and were happy enough for us to use their facilities as a waiting area.

A few hours there and then we caught a trike into the Main Street to have some lunch before getting on the flight. Last chance for Jollibee, finished off with an ice cream cone. We were back at the airport by about 2pm ready for our 3.30 departure which surprisingly was on time.

The uneventful, short flight to Manila had us landing when it was still daylight. However, due to the time it took for me to re-organise our ongoing flight, it was dark by the time we loaded our bags into a taxi that would take us to our pre-booked hotel. I don't always like to have accommodation pre-booked, but at times like this is it nice and stress free to have a place to go to and not now have the drama of finding accommodation.

Our original flight back to Bangkok was cancelled (reason unknown or at least untold to us) so we now were booked on the next available flight that gave us a few extra days in Manila. Luckily for us this was not a big problem as we were not really on any strict time schedule, or currently had any ongoing travel booked.

Sitting in the taxi we traveled the relatively short distance in almost bumper to bumper traffic the whole way to our hotel. Manila traffic is crazy busy at the best of times, but we were lucky enough to be driving in the evening peak time as well. Finally arriving at Boulevard Mansions we checked into our age worn but comfortable rooms and went out again shortly after to find food. Not wanting to venture too far we ate at the 'Slice and Dice' restaurant just around the corner.

Again another exhausting day of travel, again not that we had done much except wait and wait and sit in transport, but when it takes all day to get to one place it can be exhausting!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 05:07 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Fun days in El Nido!

Weather is good, lemon beer and Boracay rum is available so we are happy!

MONDAY 20TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 142)

It was a very slow and lazy morning after yesterdays big effort. It was late late morning by the time we were up and organised enough to go and have some breakfast.

We decided on having brunch at Squidos on the hill. Same owners 2nd restaurant at the top of the hill just 2 minutes out of town. We opted to catch a trike to take us the short distance and it struggled fiercely with the weight of all 4 of us in one trike and the steep ascent of the hill. But the climb was not over yet, there were still about 100 steps to be negotiated before we were rewarded with a wonderful view of El Nido bay from high above. We seemed to be the only restaurant patrons and were surprised to see sour face lady from downtown Squidos greet us with a 'ah nice you could make it up here for a change.' I'm almost starting to warm to the old cow.

Anyway our food order was taken and thank goodness we were not in a hurry as it took ages before we were to eat it, which made us think perhaps they had to go downtown to get it. Not that we minded much really, we seemed content enough to sit and enjoy the view from our vantage point. At some stage while waiting for food to arrive we were even entertained by a couple of monkeys in the nearby trees.

It was a good couple of hours before we had eaten and left the hill top. Coming down the stairs somewhat easier than the climb up earlier. We even managed to walk the steep down hill roadway back into town.

That about sums up the excursion for today. We ended up as usual back at OG's for a few drinks and dinner on the beach with our feet in the sand.

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TUESDAY 21ST JANUARY 2014 (DAY 143)

After the wonderful time we had the day before yesterday on the island hopping tour we decided to do another day tour our before we depart El Nido. Not so lucky this time we had to share the tour with some unfriendly Russians and some others who stuck to themselves but didn't really dampen us having a good time.

Also the weather was not as kind today. The sky was dark and cloudy all day and we encountered rain on and off most of the day. It was so bad on the way home that we had to come into a bay just around the corner from El Nido as it was too rough to attempt to come in the normal place. The trip back had actually been a little scary with big waves crashing in onto the boat and everyone was soaked and freezing cold by the time we made shore.

However it was still a great day, lunch was again very enjoyable and plentiful - even with the full boat. Again pictures tell a better story than my words. Because the sea was a little rougher it was not as easy to swim at all stops but a good time was still had by all.

Back on dry land we enjoyed our last meal at OG's and said a farewell to El Nido as we will be leaving tomorrow starting to head south back to Puerto Princesa.

I had spent quite a bit of time here in El Nido in the last month - about 3 or 4 weeks all told. And although it's probably not a place I would super rush back to, I would also not distract people from visiting either. Perhaps the length of time I stayed is not needed, but if you happen to be in this part of the world at anytime, I would recommend you come and do a island hopping tour, eat mud crab at OG's (insist on getting 2 claws) and drop by for a great breakfast at Squidos and say hello to the lovely lady owner there (told you I was warming to her!).

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:07 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

NORTHWARD TO EL NIDO!

Goodbye Sabang, Hello El Nido!

Hello Readers, as you can see I am finally starting to catch up on a few more blogs. Am still a month or so behind but at least they are coming. You will also notice they are bulked out by photos - 2 reasons for this 1. I can't remember back that far to write much and 2. the photos explain more than I could in words. Enjoy!

FRIDAY 17TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 139)

Awoke to another beautiful day. I may not be mentioning the weather but this just means that it's sunny and hot, tend to only complain about the weather if it is not enjoyable. We had breakfast at the beachside restaurant today, bacon and egg of sorts.

Long travelling day today, starting off at 10am in a jeepney from Sabang to the junction of the highway where we pick up a van that will take us to El Nido. The traveling time a few days ago from the junction to Sabang in the minivan was approximately 35 minutes, today in the jeepney it took almost 2 hours, but we would not have missed the experience for the world. Crammed into the forward facing bench seats, which we had to climb over from the back entrance to get a seat, it was not the worlds most comfortable ride but an experience to say the least. There are no allocated bus stops in Philippines it's just a matter of showing interest for the bus to stop or lifting an arm and yelling out. People literately step out of their front door and step into the jeepney. Not to worry if your neighbour was also getting on the vehicle, the passenger did not have to go to the trouble of walking the 10 paces next door as the jeepney would just stop again 3 meters up from it's last stop. This is why the journey took so long. Travelling through a small village covering about 100 meters of road we must have stopped at about 6 different places for a pick up or drop off. This seemed to be the normal procedure so who were we to question it?

It was close to midday by the time we reached the junction and were advised by the minivan agent that our van was on it's way from Puerto Princesa but just running a little late. Not a problem for us we bought an ice cream and sat waiting.

Before too long our minivan arrived, already loaded with passengers from Puerto Princesa and we were somehow crammed into the vacant seats in the back of the minivan. I tell you the jeepney may have been slow and have no windows but getting into this cramped minivan where the air con did not reach the back was no picnic. But we grin and bear it - after all it was only supposed to be another 4 or 5 hours to our destination El Nido, hahahaha.

Approximately 3 hours along the road, after there had been a pit stop for lunch at Roxas the driver abruptly pulled the vehicle to the side of the road. We were requested to get out of the van and were shown to a local house where we were introduced to the drivers mother and family. They could not speak any English but made us very welcome by offering us coffee and big smiles. This was a very odd stop indeed, and within minutes it became obvious it was a much needed pit stop as we found out the brake pads in the van needed to be changed. Brings new meaning to roadside mechanics as this really was roadside mechanics as a couple of blokes from a nearby repair shop aided the driver in changing the front brake pads. Only in the Philippines would this happen, but at least we stopped somewhere pleasant and were entertained the hour we waited by the families farmyard animals. Chickens, roosters and piglets roamed around freely for our amusement.

Unfortunately this breakdown and repair did slow us down and it was dark by the time we arrived in El Nido after having travelled the last 70 km on the rough dirt road. It was again difficult to convince a taxi driver to take all 4 of us and luggage in the one trike but in the end they were game if we were.

We were taken into El Nido town and I requested we be dropped near OG's guesthouse, the place we had spent all the time at during xmas & new year. Of course this place was completely booked out but they were very helpful in assisting us to find another place, which although was in the back streets well away from the water, looked ok and very clean at 1000 peso = $25 twin room. So we opted to take 2 rooms it for at least tonight as it was too late to go looking elsewhere after such a draining day. I know we had actually not done anything today except sit around waiting for or travelling in transport, but even that can be very tiring.

We walked the short distance back to OG's to have dinner looking out over the night ocean view, after a short detour to the lemon beer shop. The staff at OG's were happy, welcoming and a little surprised to see Lyn and I back again. We had mud crab at 200 peso = $5, and a couple more lemon beers to celebrate survival of our long minivan trip. I had a bit of a run in with the waiter regarding my crab as it was short one claw - which as any crab eater knows is the tastiest part of the crab. They claim there was nothing they could do as the claw was not to be found so the crab must have come without it. Not to worry I deducted 50 peso = $1.25 from the bill for the missing limb.

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SATURDAY 18TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 140)

How happy was the crabby old crone at Squidos to see us back, and the fact that we had bought 2 extra friends with us almost put a smile on her face. There had been a total change of staff so my timid little girl was not there to take our order, replaced by a girl out of the kitchen who did not speak much English and made me nervous that our breakfast would be a shambles. However the food all seemed to be in order and we enjoyed a big breakfast.

We enjoyed a leisurely day in El Nido today and I am amazed that we managed to kill the whole day with a stroll around the few streets of town and the beach.

In the afternoon we enjoyed a sundowner on the beach with our feet in the sand - OG's still had stock of lemon beer and we purchased a bottle of Boracay rum that we enjoyed back at our hotel.

We have decided to stay in the rooms here at Ricgem Place. Although the owner would not bargain and give me a better price on the rooms he is going to discount the island hopping trip we want to do so that was good enough.

Dinner at OG's again, mud crab at these prices need to be enjoyed while we can. I was sure to tell the waiter to make sure that my crab had both claws or there would be hell to pay. Imagine my shock horror when the crustacean arrived with not only one but both claws missing. Feeling a little irritated, especially after I had advised them to make sure all body parts of my crab were present, I spat the dummy and said I would not pay unless replacement claws were produced. This seemed to cause a little upset in the kitchen, but low and behold before our meal was finished 4 smaller claws were presented to me on a little plate. I'm guessing that some poor sap who ordered crabs after us was presented the beasts without the nippers and did so without an outburst, but OG's staff was wise to appease me as I make a lot of noise when dissatisfied. Writing about it now the whole episode sounds very petty of me, but be buggered - the claw is the best bit!!

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SUNDAY 19TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 141)

Another good breakfast at Squidos, we were up much earlier this morning as today we did a island hopping boat tour organised by our hotel owner. Actually the hotel has it's own boat that does the tours so that is why they have the power to give discounts on the assorted island hopping tours.

The same tours are offered all over town at an identical price, you just have to be lucky or canny enough to find someone who will give discount. Of course if you book directly with the operator or boat owner there is more chance of this.

It was a brilliant day, with just enough cloud cover to make it hot without being unbearable in the sun. The end of the day we had a little bit of rain but not enough to dampen our spirits.

Somehow we managed to wangle what seemed like a private tour as we were the only 4 passengers on our boat. We made several stops - I will let the photos do the talking. Swimming, snorkelling and discovering hidden places. Although not much to see underwater the clarity of the water was breathtakingly inviting.

Lunch which was prepared and cooked by our crew on a scenic beach was amazing and included bbq squid, bbq pork, salad, fruit and a huge bowl of local mussels which were absolutely mouth watering. We were all pleasantly surprised by the standard of lunch.

Last stop was a beach where we could purchase a very overpriced beer and reminisce about the great day out we had just enjoyed. And it was a great day, we'd had lots of laughs and an all round fun time.

Totally exhausted after showers Miss Robyn hit bed early, the rest of us had a quiet dinner at a local cafe where Dolly was able to convey her order of egg and chips for her dinner, we were all not far behind in laying our heads to rest. It had been a strenuous day, but a goodie.

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Dinner that night:
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:17 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Well Hello Dolly & Miss Robyn - Welcome to Philippines

Our two new travel companions join us today from England and Australia via Bangkok and Manila.

MONDAY 13TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 135)

We had another electricity filled day at the hotel. Using internet, watching TV and sitting in the air conditioning. There was no need for us to go out today as we had purchased supplies yesterday while at the shopping centre to have for lunch.

This evening our travel companions arrived from Bangkok via Manila. Dolly (from London) and Robyn (from Brisbane) arrived at the hotel at 6.30pm and we were all given a welcome drink by the hotel. Lyn and I missed our welcome drink at checkin due to the late hour, but they were happy to give us a glass now - on tasting it I understood why.

The four of us are going to be travelling together for the next couple of months and we raised our glasses (some kind of fruit punch) in celebration of the experiences to come!

We decided to stay close and had dinner at the hotel. It was a nice introduction to the Philippines for our two new travel companions staying at this comfortable 24 hour electricity hotel. We advised them to enjoy the air con and hot water and daytime electricity while they could, as the standard of comfort would only go down once we left Puerto Princesa.

TUESDAY 14TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 136)

After another serving of a cold breakfast (sure they cooked it an hour before serving even though we could elect the time we wanted it served) we decided to try and squeeze the 4 of us into a trike and head off to the Robinson shopping centre for a look around. Again easing the new ladies into the Philippines, this was a show of civilisation that would disappear as soon as we left the main town.

After a bit of negotiating with the trike driver, first to take all four of us at once and then for a price that was agreeable, we all managed to squeeze into said trike and take off.

It was a warm day and the air conditioning of the shopping mall was appreciated. And this was the prime opportunity to introduce our friends to the culinary delights of Jollibee. Although I think in reality I was the only real fan of Jollibee, but they were gracious enough to try it.

Back at the hotel in the afternoon we had cheese and crackers (complements of Miss Robyn who brought them from Australia - big thank you) and Lyn & I introduced the ladies to the local Boracay Rum that we had already grown to love. Of course this was a hit with Robyn and Dolly as well and would set the mood for the rest of our travels in the Philippines.

A bottle did not seem to last very long now with four of us drinking it. 2 drinks each and the bottle was empty. Good thing it was only 100 peso = $2.50 per bottle. The mixer was almost as expensive as the rum.

We also enjoyed an absolutely delicious fruit cake that Dolly had bought all the way from England. Unfortunately, everyone liked this cake as well so it did not last very long either.

Later on, we again all squeezed into a trike to go to dinner at Kinabuch restaurant. Sizzling crocodile and some other dishes were all washed down with a couple of lemon beers which were also soon to become a favourite when we could find cold ones.

Our last night to enjoy hot showers, TV and all day electricity for awhile as they will all be a longing memory of the past when we move on tomorrow.

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WEDNESDAY 15TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY137)

The hotel receptionist asked us last night what time we would like to have breakfast served. She did not seem to understand when I asked her what time was it going to be cooked and we would like it served at this time. There was a nervous giggle as we tried to explain we wanted it when it was just cooked and still hot. A time was agreed and we went to bed with fingers crossed we might be served a hot or even warmish breakfast.

Hahahaha - breakfast is obviously a meal served cold!! We were dreaming!

The hotel was happy enough to store some of our luggage since we had paid for another night which we would use on our return the night before we flew out to Manila.

Our plan for today was all 4 of us squeeze into a trike (this time with luggage) and go to the bus station to catch a jeepney bus from Puerto Princesa to Sabang. En route to the bus station I negotiated with the trike driver to stop at the office where we could purchase permits for Robyn and Dolly to visit the underground river. This went to plan with the trike driver, after stopping for fuel, happy to wait while we went inside the office.

First hiccup, due to bad weather the last few days trips to the underground river had been cancelled and they were still working on the backlog so we would not be able to get a time slot for tomorrow. We had to settle for Friday instead. Not being in any great hurry, but also knowing that there is bugger all in Sabang, we had little choice but to agree to booking for Friday. Good news was the ladies did not have to pay for the permits until arrival in Sabang just in case the weather was again bad and trips cancelled.

By now it was lunch time and we were dropped off at Robinsons to have some food before getting on the bus. My vote went for Jollibee and no one else seemed to have the energy to suggest elsewhere so that's where we had lunch. (think I am starting to turn them).

Lunch over another trike to the bus station, we arrived just as the rain started. It was not very heavy and seemed to cool it down a bit.

Second hiccup, of course there is only one jeepney a day to Sabang and it left early in the morning. Next option was to get a mini van but of course they were booked out and we would have to wait a couple of hours to get the next available free seats. Little choice but to hang around the bus station and wait our turn, glad in the fact we had stopped and had some lunch.

Finally we departed and were on our way to Sabang. I recalled the last time Lyn & I rode on this same road was on the little 50cc motorbike that I was sure would never make the distance. It was a much faster journey in the minivan, albeit not as exciting. 2 hours later we were there.

It was late afternoon when we arrived in the one street town and started looking for suitable accommodation. Funny we ended up in the same guesthouse as where we stayed last time with me convincing the young lad in charge that the boss (who was currently on a trip to Puerto Princesa for a drink or 14) would only charge us as much as we paid last time for the 2 rooms. He did finally relent and agreed to my price and we put our stuff in the rooms.

No power on here yet as it only comes on at 6pm. We went out looking for a cold drink and found some semi cool but the best the town had to offer. We remembered from last visit a cafe that sold lemon beer but it was closed for a few days holiday and we mentally cursed the owner as his was the only establishment in town that sold lemon beer.

Dinner we enjoyed at the lechon/chicken shack with a few beers and a few more laughs.

Cold showers all round here tonight - welcome to outback Philippines Ladies.

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THURSDAY 16TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 138)

Power went off at 6am.

Breakfast today was a burger from the burger stand near the beach and a fruit shake. Pretty good and the burger was a lot warmer than the pre cooked food we have been having the last few mornings.

Even though Robyn and Dolly were booked for an underground river tour tomorrow - Friday - I suggested they go and try and get there today. It was just a matter of going to the port authority and paying the permit fee plus port tax and they were able to go today. This was good news as it meant we did not have to spend 3 nights here in Sabang, only 2. Not that it's a bad place, but just nothing to do or see except the underground river, that's about the only reason anyone comes here and most people do it in a day trip from Puerto Princesa.

Now was just a matter of sharing a boat with others to avoid paying the full price for entire boat and then wait your turn. Getting in with a tour group was easy but we did have to wait over an hour before their boat number was called. Still there was nothing else to do and it was a prime spot for people watching and putting shit on Russian tourists.

When the ladies were called to board the boat Lyn & I went off to try and find a way to get to our next destination. Waving the ladies off, we notice that within 2 minutes into their trip that their bangka boat had come to a complete stop in the middle of the water. It was soon realised that something was amiss and another boat is sent over to them where they had to transfer mid ocean from one boat to the other. Once everyone was transferred to the second boat they were again on their way.

So back to finding info for next destination. I was thinking of trying to get to Port Barton, a town north of here on the west coast where we had not yet visited. Like Sabang to get to this town you need to travel on a small road off the main highway which travels up the centre of the island. But the road to Port Barton is apparently in pretty bad shape and they do not have a regular minivan service there as the road is too rough for minivans. Apparently the only way to get there is by bangka boat from here in Sabang or by hiring a private 4 wheel drive to take us there. Both these options were very expensive and after viewing the boat they wanted to put us in for the 4 hour sea option my interest in Port Barton waned somewhat. Then considering the price requested for the 4 wheel drive my interest just about disappeared completely.

The decision was made that we would just bite the bullet and do the run all the way up to El Nido in one day. We managed it with 2 of us on a 50cc scooter a few weeks ago so it would be a much easier excursion in a minivan. Tickets were purchased at almost the same price for four of us as it would have cost for one of us to get to Port Barton.

A few hours later Dolly and Robyn returned after having enjoyed the excitement of their boat breakdown and seeing the underground river.

After dinner we had a small celebration in our room to a successful day, toasted by a few drinks enjoyed out of another bottle of Boracay Rum. Cold showers all round did not dampen our enthusiasm for the coming adventures.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:58 Archived in Philippines Comments (3)

2014 JANUARY PHILIPPINES - Not all cruises are enjoyable!

As we wave goodbye to Coron and sail to Puerto Princesa we endure a rough sea voyage, only to recover with a few days of 24 hour electricity to return us to humans.

SATURDAY 11TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 133)

Today we are on the big ship from Coron back to Puerto Princessa. Managed to purchase tickets online and just made it to the 2GO Travel office yesterday after our boat tour to get them printed out. It is compulsory to show up with 2 hard copies of tickets booked - not really sure why but it stated it boldly on the email. I literally ran from the boat dock to the Main Street of town to discover the closed sign on the door. I saw movement inside and they let me in as I approached the door.

Departure time was supposed to be something like 7.30am and we were told to be at the port by 6.30am for checkin etc. This meant getting up very early and negotiating the board walk from the hostel across the mud flats in the dark. Once on the street it was surprising we instantly found a trike to take us to the port, guess they are used to people being up this early to get the boat.

In true Philippino style the ship did not turn up until after 8am, never mind about the 7.30 departure. It was closer to 9.30 by the time we started to board and I guess closer to 10.30 by the time we were waving goodbye to Coron town.

Our ticket was for 2 berths in a share 4 berth cabin and 3 meals. Of course we were allocated to separate cabins but not long after take off we were advised I could move into Lyn's cabin if we wanted to be together, there was just one other person in her's and 2 in mine so I moved.

Before departure we climbed the stairs to the aft deck to have breakfast, which consisted of dry rice (of course), a hard boiled egg and something in the shape of mini sausages but not sure of the meat content of them - processed to within an inch of their existence. Of course everything was pre cooked, pre packed and served cold in true Philippino style!! No coffee or tea available, but we had brought our own and there was hot water available for free.

We found out at lunch that because we had a cabin ticket we were entitled to go to the restaurant for our meals which were of a bit higher standard. Silly woman at the breakfast counter was not kind enough to tell us that at the time, or thought we might be wanting to slum it with the cheaper ticketed passengers. lol The cheaper ticketed passengers were also given a bunk but it was a dorm sort arrangement where the whole deck was row upon row of bunk beds in a dorm sort arrangement. Literally 100's of beds all in rows.

Again it was smooth sailing until we hit the open water where it was crazy rough. We tried to sleep it away again, but when we went to the 3rd deck for our lunch in the restaurant the waves were breaking up onto our window - so the seas were big. Tables and chairs in the restaurant slid across the floor as the giant boat crashed into yet another wave. This was even more scary than the death boat that took us from El Nido to Coron, mainly because it was on a much bigger scale. From our vantage point in the restaurant we noticed that we could view no land regardless of which direction we looked. Scary, not a comfortable experience as all. We gained very little reassurance from the waiter who advised us this was normal for this crossing - always big water here.

After lunch Lyn was quite ill - the throw up variety and spent the rest of the time her bunk. Only getting up for wall crashing trips to the en suited bathroom as she tried to make her way to it. Another advantage of having the private cabin. If she was having to share the public toilets with the two hundred or so other passengers it could well have been a more horrific experience.
As everyone had a bed there was not really any public seating areas, except on the back deck, where we'd had breakfast, but the waves were so high and movement of the ship so rough it would have been easy to end up overboard or at least very wet.

I tried to have an afternoon nap - mainly because there was no where else to go and sit. Laying in my bunk I could really feel the movement of the ship. Five seconds I would be light as air and then the sensation of dropping from a great height back down onto the bunk as the ship crashed into thundering wave after wave. This was not a good feeling and I was just grateful that I was able to stay prostrate as Lyn made several trips up and down to the bathroom.

At dinnertime I bravely ventured up to the restaurant for some forgettable meal (with rice) before returning again to the cabin. Passing by the dorm beds there were quite a few sad faces which had quite a green tinge to them, so we were not the only ones suffering. There were many roosters in cages stacked up outside on the deck and these birds were making a hell of a racket when we first noticed them this morning. But now the pathetic sounds and limp feathers coming out of the cages now made me feel sorry for these poor animals also. They were suffering the tossing around like the rest of us.

Due to our very late departure and delay caused by the big seas we encountered en route the ship was hours late arriving in Puerto Princesa. We were supposed to dock around 8.30pm however it was closer to 11.30pm by the time we came to a standstill dockside. Then the delay in evacuating hundreds of passengers must have taken at least another hour. I was saying a mental thank you to myself for having the hindsight in booking a hotel room for the night of our arrival. So it was just a matter of finding a trike and getting there. I didn't even have the energy to bargain against the ridiculous price he quoted us, just loaded our luggage and said take us there.

It must have been close to 1am by the time the security guard unlocked our room and let us in. Ah we are back to air conditioning, hot showers, tv and 24 hour power!! It had been awhile since we had been in such luxury! But the luxuries would have to wait until tomorrow to be fully enjoyed.

We had a hot shower and crashed into bed.

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SUNDAY 12TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 134)

We slept late and ate our cold breakfast at the table outside our room. No surprise the breakfast is cold, used to food being cold now - don't enjoy it but we are used to it.

We didn't do much today. Enjoyed the air con, tv and all day electricity.

Lunch time forced us out and as the hotel is in the middle of nowhere we had to get a trike to take us to the shopping centre. We had a wander around the shops and enjoyed (or at least I did) lunch at Jolibee!!

Worth another mention, we enjoyed 24 hour electricity - amazing how such a little thing nearly all of us take for granted can be so missed and so welcomed back when it's returned to us.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:31 Archived in Philippines Comments (5)

ANOTHER DAY IN CORON ISLAND HOPPING.

Yes, another magic day island hopping

FRIDAY 10TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 132)

Another fabulous island hopping boat tour today. Weather was again beautiful and water again clear as! Cost of tour 650 peso = $16 each.

Again pictures are better than my words could every be.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:18 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

A few days in Coron.

The weather remained beautiful and we took advantage by doing a few boat trips.

TUESDAY 7TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 129)

The location may have changed but the habits did not. We did not do much today, were we recovering from the boat trip yesterday or just relaxing?? Either way, all we did was have a walk around Coron town and market area, this took at least 20 minutes - this reflects the size of the place.

Rest of the day we hung around the hostel and read our books. The hostel is an authentic native Philippino house built on stilts up over the mud flats. The usual one big room of the entire house has been divided up into several small rooms containing a bed and that's about it, but at 500 peso = $12.50 for the 2 of us per night it's a bargain. The walls are made of woven palm fronds, so as you can imagine there is no noise privacy of any description. We are surrounded by locals who have also built or are still building similar dwellings all around us. There are the sounds of kids, adults, animals including cats, dogs, chickens, roosters and pigs all of which could possible be just on the other side of the very thin walls. Hence it was no surprise when in the middle of the night when Lyn started to snore she woke the occupants of rooms of our 3 adjoining walls. I found it amusing that they then tried to make noises to wake her up and perhaps stop the snoring, these sounds included unnaturally loud clearing of the throat and one guy even started to whistle.

I lay there amused for a moment listening to the cacophony of different sounds all around me before rolling over and shutting them all out completely and going back to sleep. It was heaven to me to be able to try and sleep to so many different sounds rather than just the snoring I usually get to endure.

Lyn & I both had to laugh the next day when we heard a Japanese girl request a room in another part of the house because where she was is too noisy.

WEDNESDAY 8TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 130)

Today we did a boat trip 1500 peso = $18 each. Weather was great - the water here is like crystal clear, hence Coron is a very popular diving destination, but ok for snorkelling too.

Hidden lakes & pristine beaches - great day. Pictures say it all.

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THURSDAY 9TH JANUARY 2014 (DAY 131)

After yesterdays full on day, we had a relaxing day today. The young girls at the hostel are very friendly and find it hilarious that we sit around and do nothing all day.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:26 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

2014 - HAPPY NEW YEAR - SAME SAME BUT SAME

THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS OF THE NEW YEAR WERE MUCH LIKE THE LAST COUPLE OF THE OLD YEAR!

Hi Folks, I must apologise to any of you that may be interested in the reason for the abrupt end to my blog. I'm afraid the new year came and I seemed to be too busy doing bugger all to warrant writing anything and then it just snow balled from there, as when we did do something of note I was too far behind to document it. And then I became busy with investigating future movements (travel movements that is - not bowel movements as you may have thought and not something I want to investigate in any way) or booking onward movements (again I mean travel movements, as we are unable to book future bowel movements as much as we would like to.) But I digress! and possibly you don't really need to read about our investigating and booking of travel or bowel movements!!

So, today Wed 12/2/14, I find myself with a few spare minutes maybe hours (when clearly days are needed) to try and catch up a bit.

As my memory is short lived, alcohol damaged or just trying it's best to forget as much crap as possible the following blogs will not be detailed or maybe not even very entertaining, however I will try to fatten them up with photos - all of which have been previously posted on FB (sorry for the repeat if you are a FB follower).

WEDNESDAY 1ST JANUARY 2014 (DAY 123)

Happy New Year!!

No breakfast at Squidos today!!

We slept late and then relaxed some more.

The first day of the new year was a beautiful one!

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THURSDAY 2ND JANUARY 2014 (DAY 124)

Back to Squidos for breakfast - sigh of relief for us both.

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Day passed same, same. It's getting to the point now where we only seem to move from OG's to venture out to get food. The furtherest we go is to the bakery during the day 200 meters away and the night market at night 100 metres away. Not that El Nido is that big for if we were to walk another 100 meters past the bakery we would be out of town.

We did get all adventurous and head down to the other end of the beach to a bar we had seen on our day of arrival that was advertising cocktails P60 = $1.60 and 2 for price of one. It seems like a mission to get to this far away destination that was maybe 200 meters up the beach - we really have gotten lazy. lol

Anyway after all our effort turns out I remembered the sign incorrectly and the cocktails were P60 each for local rum and mango, local rum and pineapple, and gin and tonic. The cocktails that were 2 for the price of one was the cocktail of the day that was picked from the normal list of cocktails priced at P160 = $4.20. So still being a steal 2 cocktails for $4.20 I asked the rather effeminate waiter what the cocktail of the day was. When he told me I almost fell over and repeated the words back to him to make sure I heard correctly. When he answered yes that's it, I asked for the menu as I wanted to know what was in this foul sounding cocktail. Much to my relief the waiter pointed to the cocktail named GIN FIZZ. The name I had understood and repeated back to him was GINS PISS!!! We had a bit of a laugh and we ordered a couple of beers, just to be on the safe side.

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We had intended on eating at this bar also but the prices were over the top compared to every other place in El Nido (European owned) so we ended up at the night market and had something - of course with rice.

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FRIDAY 3RD JANUARY 2014 (DAY 125)

Breakfast at Squidos - but not as usual. Breakfast today to put it mildly was shit. My shake tasted like I image yesterdays GINS PISS cocktails would have. I complained to the waitress and all she said was sorry and walked away in a panic. The food was ok, we have the same breakfast every morning but in the two weeks we have not been served the same thing. There is always the correct elements but the quantity varies greatly each day, but we can live with that as it is all there in some form. Today however, we were served 2 eggs instead of one and then charged extra. This was the error of the waitress and pissed me off as we have been coming here every day for what over 2 weeks?? And still they do not know what we order. Anyway I was not having it and asked to see the crabby looking mama-son who usually is sitting in the restaurant glaring at us. She was out back and did not want to come out but instead sent another lacky who apologised and refunded the overcharged amount. Still I was angry and my last words to the waitress was we have been coming every morning for so long, every day the same you know this. This was answered with a blank frightened look. I finished with saying we will not come again!

That was about the most exciting thing that happened today.

Rest of day was same same as usual.

Ah we did make a trip to the pharmacy today (not far from the bakery) to get some poo pills for Lyn. She still is all clogged up and hopeful these will help.

Dinner was bought from a different cafe tonight, Lyn didn't eat, but I had some pork dish, of course with rice.

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Monday 6th January 2014 (day 128)

Lyn set the alarm for very early this morning, so that we could boil the kettle before the power went off at 6am. We wanted to be able to have a hot drink before commencing the boat journey to Coron. At 7am we obediently chewed up the dramamine sea sickness pills, even though the sea from our bedroom window looked like a mirror. Huge relief seeing calm water but the pill was taken just in case. No idea what it would be like out in the open water.

Joe, the guy who sold us the ticket, advised us we should get to the port by about 7.30am for the 8.30am departure. It was only a short distance and since we did not have too much luggage, but mainly due to the fact that this was the first time in the history of us going out onto the road there was not a trike driver in sight, we decided to walk to the port. Usually the trike guys are tripping over themselves to offer us a ride just to get across the street, but today when we might have considered paying 50c to get to the port there was not one of the buggers in sight. So we walked the short distance and still managed to get there minutes before 7.30am.

We were ushered into the terminal building where we were forced to pay P20 = 53c each and told to sit and wait until we were called for boarding. So we waited and waited and waited, finally boarding commenced around 8.30 and after loading up with passengers and a motorbike at around 9am we set off. It looked like a beautiful day and smooth sailing as we departed from El Nido, not sorry to see it go, knowing we would be back again in a couple of weeks.

We managed to nab a couple of forward facing plastic seats that would turn out to be quite comfortable for the duration of the journey.

About an hour in' after we had cleared the bay with it's numerous islands' the sea became a little more active and the crew put a wooden board up over the front hatch to keep out the waves that were crashing over the bow of the bangka. By 11am we were served 'lunch' which surprisingly enough was a little better than what I expected. Of course rice, with a bit of stewed vegie and I think I spied a piece of meat that suspiciously had the texture of liver, so no doubt it was. A lovely banana and small bottle of water was included. Like I said more that what was expecting. It was a little rough trying to eat as now the boat had a nice rock and roll motion going on. Lunch finished I decided (or more like the sea sickness pill I had taken decided) it was time to have a little nap, and to tell the truth I slept for most of the rest of the way. Waking every now and then when the movement of our vessel was enough to almost knock me out of the chair. At one stage when I woke I realised that all the windows had now been boarded up to avoid us getting completely dowsed with seawater which made the inside of the boat warm and thick with stale air. I think this atmosphere aided in my slumber.

Doors and windows were again unveiled as we entered the sheltered bay in our approach to the port of Coron. It had been a rough trip taking over 10 hours and it was dark by the time we disembarked and went looking for a trike to take us into town. The trip had been ok as far as I was concerned as I had slept through most of it. Lyn had a small encounter with sea sickness forcing her to take another pill, but not so bad that she lost her lunch over the side.

I thought I had booked the hostel but on arrival they did not have a booking for us and also not a free room, however if we were happy to hang around for an hour we could have a room that had been booked but maybe the owners were a no show. We walked back up along the main road and found somewhere to have some dinner, returning later to be given a room on the outside of the hostel.

Although we had done nothing all day, except sleep most of the way, we still both seemed to be exhausted and managed to crash once our heads hit the pillow.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:24 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

2013 DEC PHILIPPINES - EL NIDO - LAZY DAYS XMAS AND NEW YEAR

RELAXING BECOMES THE NORM AS WE DO NOTHING IN EL NIDO, WE END THE YEAR QUIETLY.

Tuesday 24rd December 2013 (day 115)

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Breakfast of bacon, egg and toasted bread from a little restaurant in the street behind our guesthouse called Squidos. Not a huge meal but it had all the elements mentioned and at a cost of P90 = $2.40 a tasty bargain. Complimented with a banana shake for P70 = $1.85 for me, and hot tea at P25 = 65c for Lyn, we knew this place was to become a regular breakfast haunt.

Rest of the day was pretty much doing nothing. Amazing how you can fill in the day doing nothing! Amazing how fast the day goes doing nothing!

It's pretty hot here during the day, but not unbearable. It was also a little cloudy and spits of rain fall sporadically throughout the day.

Lyn and I did walk to the next beach around the bay today. It was a little calmer than our beach out front. Lyn went for a swim but I held off still wanting to keep my foot dry and doctors orders not to swim for a few days. Every day it gets better.large_AF1C72032219AC6817AE7EF8AD29EAAB.jpg

Luckily we have a fan to sleep with at night. Power is only on in El Nido from 2pm to 6am everyday. Some businesses have their own generators - most don't. Funny, some of the restaurants and juice shake shacks turn on the generator only when they want to use the blender to mix up drinks.

This afternoon it bucketed down with rain so heavy the islands out in our bay became invisible! But the sky cleared again for us to go out for dinner.

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Last night after Lyn and I had retired to our room Patrick went out and came across a night market that was selling food so that is where we ate tonight. Food is cheap, Lyn and I both ate for P270 = $7.10 we had a fish and squid with rice. There are several different food stalls basically selling the same thing. They all have fish, I guess the catch of the day, they all have chicken, and they all have pork. They all serve all meals with rice, and that's about it! It's basic, cheap and good enough for us and half of El Nido who filled the streets this Christmas Eve.
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Wednesday 25th December 2013 (day 116)

Merry Christmas!!

Patrick came knocking on our door early this morning bearing gifts. He gave Lyn & I coffee cups! And you know what, they are one of the most useful and wanted christmas gift I have ever received. We always travel with a kettle to boil water for coffee and tea but we did not have any cups, so it was a very thoughtful present to receive indeed. Thanks Pat!

Breakfast at Squidos same as yesterday!

Relax all day. Blue sky and sunny.

Afternoon amongst the 3 of us we managed to polish off almost 3 bottles of Boracay coconut flavoured rum. Unreal that these cost P100 = $2.65 each and the mixer 1 litre bottle of coke is P55 = $1.45. We even managed to buy some ice for P5 = 13c, but had to drink fast as the ice was melting fast. So we had a bit of a merry christmas!

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Happy hour drew us downstairs for a couple of beers and Lyn & I shared a huge burger. What a view! Feet in the sand we spent the rest of the afternoon here and stayed for dinner also.
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Another Christmas down the drain but what a way to spend it.

Thursday 26th December 2013 (day 117)

Breakfast at Squidos, starting to see a pattern here.

Rest of the day flew by doing nothing, another pattern?

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Friday 27th December 2013 (day 118)

Breakfast at Squidos as usual.

Weather is looking very crappy today, been raining most of the morning which would not usually be a problem except for the fact that Lyn and Patrick are leaving today to take the motor bikes back to Puerto Princesa 275km. Patrick is flying back to Thailand tomorrow out of Puerto Princesa via Manila and both bikes have to be back on the 28th. I am going to stay here in El Nido because there was no point in me going back also as we plan to spend more time here. Lyn will ride down with Pat and stay the night and then come back up here on the bus.

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Due to the first part of the road being total shit and the distance they are leaving a day early incase they have any problems with the bikes. They had delayed departure until 2pm hoping the rain would stop or at least ease off, but of course today it has been and still is as they ride away a constant down pour. They are both sopping wet before they are even out of my eye sight.
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Ironically, the rain stops about 30minutes after their departure but I was to hear from them later on that it followed them all the way south for the rest of their journey that day. They stopped overnight in Roxas which is about half way and although exhausted and sopping wet they were happy they did leave a day early as Patrick got a flat which delayed them and had it been the day of his flight may have been disastrous.

My time spent alone was watching a tiny boat being totally destroyed by crashing waves and another smaller boat being bashed into by the rough seas. By the end of the day the boat was almost totally filled with sand and submersed in the water.

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I went to the night market for dinner and had some pork on a stick - of course with rice!

Saturday 28th December 2013 (day 119)

Breakfast at Squidos alone!

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Relax all day. Blue skies and sunny. Few rain showers during the day.

Heard from Lyn that Patrick got flight ok, she was spending night in PP and would be on the bus at about 9 tomorrow. Bus takes about 6-7 hours so she will be back here in the afternoon.

Dinner at night market for me, chicken, of course with rice.

Sunday 29th December 2013 (day 120)

Breakfast at Squidos - alone. Yesterdays boat almost completely buried in the sand now.

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Weather same as yesterday, sunny, blue sky, little clouds, couple of rain showers.

I went for a short walk to the beach just before El Nido, but it was not much. I've still not gone in the water, really want my foot to be completely healed before I get into it again.

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Lyn arrived late afternoon.

We had dinner here at OG's. Mixed seafood kare kare, bit like a seafood stew - very yummy, comes served in a clay pot - of course with rice.

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Monday 30th December 2013 (day 121)

Breakfast at Squidos - as usual. We have the same thing everyday but still they go through the motions of giving us a menu and taking our order. You would think by now... although I did at some stage switch from banana shake to mango shake but this was the 2nd or 3rd day.

Much the same as yesterday, we did bugger all.

The day after we arrived here in El Nido I did a quick round of the hotels to find books for us to read. This is no easy task, finding books is not so hard but finding books in English is very difficult. Almost all the accommodations have some kind of shelf or pile of books but most of them as I found were in Russian or German. I did manage to get a couple but its almost time to do the rounds again as we have been spending most of our days relaxing and reading.

Lyn is not feeling the best, has a bit of a blockage problem has has put her off her food.

I had takeaway chicken from the night market, of course with rice.

Tuesday 31st December 2014 (day 122)

New Years Eve!!

Breakfast at Squidos - same same.

Had a very quiet day today. Purchased 2 bottles of rum in anticipation of tonight but with Lyn off sorts it was a fizzer. We had a really quiet night.

We may have had a quiet one, but El Nido did not. Of course the beach and all it's restaurants were packed. Fireworks were being let off sporadically during the night leading up to midnight when 10 minutes before until 15 minutes after the skies around the beach were lit up by a magnificent display of continuous fireworks. I kid you not this was a display to rival the show they put on in Brisbane city to welcome in the new year. However, here the fireworks were purchased by all an sundry. For the lead up to christmas and new year fireworks have been for sale on the road side. And I'm not just talking little bangers and hand held fire crackers, these were the real deal that went off with a thunderous thud that shook your chest cavity and exploded high in the air into a million stars of assorted colours. It was great!!

Unfortunately, for Lyn she slept through it all and so ends 2013!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:21 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

UGONG ROCK CLIMB AND SUPERMAN ZIPLINE, THEN NORTH TO EL NIDO

STUCK ANOTHER DAY IN SABANG WE VENTURE OUT TO FIND SOME EXCITEMENT IN THE FORM OF ADVENTURE. THEN LONG DAY RIDE FROM SABANG NORTH APPROX 200KM TO TAY TAY & THEN ON TO EL NIDO.

Saturday 21st December 2013 (day 112)

We were thinking about moving on today, but had a bit of a problem with Patricks motor bike. He had contentiously put on the steering lock as advised by the hire guy, but now could not get it unlocked. A couple of helpful locals tried to assist but no one could get it to budge. They ended up phoning the hire guy who must have told them to do what they could to get it unlocked. When Patrick spoke to him he said Pat should go back to Puerto in bus/van and collect another bike. This was not really an option that Pat was interested in besides the cost of the bus/van he was not interested in travelling back to Puerto and then having to ride back here to Sabang again. He told the guy to bring the new bike to him. Yeah right this was not going to happen either.

Finally after whatever some mechanic guy did the steering come loose and the bike was ridable again. However, by this time it was after lunchtime so we decided to stay another night in Sabang, much to the delight of the hotel owner. Like I said I don't think many people come and stay here overnight and even fewer would stay more than one night.

Having exhausted the main sight yesterday, we decided to ride back out on the road we came in on to Ugong Rock. I had read there was a zip line there!!! Turns out that you actually climb up the inside of the rock to the top and then have a choice of 2 zip lines to get back down again. This was so cool, climbing through caves up the middle of one of these huge limestone karsts was amazing. Some of the spaces we had to squeeze through were a bit of a worry but we did make it to the top which gave us a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and rice paddies. It cost P200 = $5.30 to climb up and then P350 = $9.20 to zip down. There was a choice of a sitting zip line which they claimed was the fastest zip line in Asia. I reckon the only reason this was the fastest was because it was the steepest and again I had visions of not stopping until I had nose dived into the earth below. The other one, and the one we all chose, was the superman zip line. I liked this one because instead of being upright it was a lay down position (much like a flying Superman, hence the name). This was the same position as the one we did in Bohol and it's just different to the previous zip lining I have done. Anyway all that did not stop me from screaming all the way down and having a mini heart attack just before reaching the end of the line in a panic that I was not going to stop. It was great fun!

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We rode back to town and I had bit of a relax with my foot up. Lyn and Patrick went for a late afternoon swim before we had dinner and a quiet evening except for the music that blared again until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday 22nd December 2013 (day 113)

Today we did manage to depart Sabang. It was a big day on the bikes riding all the way up the north of the island to Tay Tay.

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Twice during the day we were caught in pouring down rain but it only lasted a few minutes and we were dry again before we knew it as soon as the sun came out again.

Riding through a little crossroads which had a few shops I spied an ice cream vendor and we stopped and had an ice cream cone. These cones are a real bargain at only P10 = 26c for 3 flavours which we found out later are mango, taro & cheese. Yes I kid you not, cheese flavoured ice cream. But to tell you the truth all the flavours just taste like cold sweet stuff - not offensive or spectacularly delicious, but yummy enough. And the break from sitting on the bike for 10 minutes was good too.

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We stopped at Roxas - 2nd biggest town on Palawan - which was a grotty unwelcoming looking place. There is nothing for tourists here except the promise of an ATM machine. This machine was located in the bank in the Main Street and was covered in plastic saying it was out of operation and apologised for the inconvenience. Shit! I say shit because the only other ATM on the island is located in Puerto which was now about 150km away and guess what - we were out of cash!!

Saving the day Lyn remembered she was carrying some Australian dollars cash with her so we took this to the money changer who promptly advised she could not give me the exchange rate for Australian dollars because they did not exchange Australian dollars, only US dollars. Double shit!!
Lucky for us there was another money changer in the town that was happy to exchange our AUD for local currency so we were again cashed up and on our way.

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We rode into Tay Tay around 5pm, as El Nido (our final destination) was another 70km away on a road we had heard was not the best so we decided to stay the night here. Patrick found us nice bungalow accommodation at Pems hotel for P600 = $15.80, although he should have looked at both bungalows before agreeing to stay here as his was a bit sub standard. Ours was basic too, just a couple of beds and of course cold shower. In case you have not noticed cold showers are pretty norm here in Philippines unless you are staying in an expensive hotel. When staying in budget places the best you can hope for is a fan to keep you cool at night (during the day there is no power anyway) and a cold shower. Some times there is a shower head, some times it even works, otherwise it's a bucket shower job.

We had very tasty dinner at Pems hotel with an assortment of sizzling dishes which fed all 3 of us with a few beers for P785 = $20.65.

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Monday 23rd December 2013 (day 114)

After a breakfast of toast and jam at Pems, it was time for us to hit the road and tackle the 75km to El Nido. This is the stretch where we were advised the road was not the best and this was not by any means an understatement.

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Although some of it was sealed - actually more than I had expected - the rest was dirt, rocky and very bloody uncomfortable to ride on. And of course much slower going. Just when we thought we would be shaken to pieces we would be lulled into a false sense of easy riding by a half or sometimes even a full kilometre of sealed cement road.

It was exhausting for me trying not to be bounced off the back, god knows how draining it was for Lyn trying to keep us both upright on the bike in these terrible conditions. Even worse was the fact that most of the time the road was only one lane due to the fact there were road works on the other lane that was closed off to traffic. So you had to be aware of oncoming traffic also. And this was the national highway so all traffic to and front El Nido was using this incredibly inadequate road.

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We finally reached the little township - hamlet almost - of El Nido and all I saw was paradise. Perhaps I was blinded by the dust and grim kicked up from the road or just the pure joy of not having to go any further on that incredibly uncomfortable bike seat on that incredibly war torn like road, but it looked like a lovely spot to me. The look on Patricks face told the story of what he thought of the place. A complete SHIT HOLE that was reached by an ridiculously undeveloped SHIT HOLE of a road. I'm afraid Pat is a new comer to travelling and still expects places to look exactly like the pictures in travel brochures and associated propaganda advertising. White sandy beaches with crystal clear water. Welcome to the real world these photos are taken in extremely fantastic conditions and then the picture is photo shopped to within an inch of the truth just like a supermodel on a magazine cover. It rarely looks like the pictures!!! In all my travels I have only ever been to one place in the world that was a facsimile of the postcard, so my expectations of most places are appreciate what it really looks like and don't always believe the advertising.

Anyway this was the end of the line so we were going to be here for a few days so we needed to find a place to stay. Being just a few days away from Christmas and New Year proved that most places were booked up. We really wanted to stay along the beach front so we could at least enjoy the view. No point in being here and stuck with a view of a street or building. I did the rounds up and down the beach and then gave up, sitting down on the beach to have a drink, finding nothing really. The only places I found with an available room were over $100 a night, that's why they were still available I guess. Patrick ended up coming to the rescue and finding a good place directly on the beach/waters edge. Fan room with 2 beds for Lyn and I for P900 = $23.70 per night and a room next to ours for him for P700 = $18.45. Well done, I must admit when it came to finding rooms Pat has done pretty good. So our home for the next week or so is OG's guesthouse! And there is no cold shower, only because there is no shower, it's cold bucket washing for us - man such luxury!!

We sat in OG's restaurant watching the sunset colours behind the huge karst mountains surrounding us. You cannot actually see the sunsetting because it's behind these mountains. But we sat in the beach restaurant with our feet in the sand drinking happy hour beers. Happy hour is from 2pm to 7pm - San Miguel Lite P40 = $1.05 (usually P55 = $1.45).

For dinner we found a stall on the street that was selling Lechon (roast pig) for P480 per kilo and we bought 1/2 kilo at P240 = $6.30 and some bread rolls from the bakery for P20 = 53c each and that was dinner. Even managed to find some instant gravy that we were able to boil water for and mix up. Great dinner - welcome to El Nido.

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BTW the one place in the world that I have been that looks like the postcards is Lake Banff in Canada. Picture postcard perfect. I would love to hear from anyone else who has visited any places that are exactly the same as the picture in the travel brochure or postcard.
Please comment on here.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:17 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

UNDERGROUND RIVER - SABANG

THE WEATHER WAS NOT LOOKING THE BEST BUT WE BRAVED THE ROUGH SEA TO VISIT THE UNDERGROUND RIVER.

Friday 20th December 2013 (day 111)

After breakfast we decided to go and register for the trip to the underground river. The car park was just about chocka block full of minivans filled with day trippers from Puerto. We took our permits which we purchased in Puerto and our passports for proof of ID and had to pay another P40 = $1.05 environmental tax. After we registered we were told to go and line up for a boat to take us to the river.
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Deal is, a bangka boat ferries you about 2km north up the coast to a beach where the underground river meets the ocean. There are no roads to this place, the only option you have is to take a boat. These boats carry 6 passengers and cost P700 = $18.50 for the whole boat. When we got to the head of the line to put our name on the list for a boat, we asked if we could share a boat. Surely there would be other people who were not in multiples of 6 who would be willing to share. Lucky enough there was and we were advised we would be tacked on to a large tour group who happened to have 3 spare places. We just had to wait about 30 minutes until it was their turn to load into boats. This was fine with us because our permit actually said 2.30pm so if we could go earlier that was fine with us.

It was very busy with boats constantly being loaded and unloaded. Actually getting onto the boat was very tricky. The boat was brought up to a cement slab and held in place by a couple of crew men in the water, physically holding the boat. The slab was awash with water with every incoming wave, which by the way were no little ripples. These waves were big enough to cause the boat to rise and fall half to a meter with each swell. Of course assistance was given in the form of another couple of crew men who would hold your hand and another was there to pull you aboard. In any other place but Asia this would have been considered too dangerous an option for boarding a vessel. But this is Asia, so as per usual most of the safety regulations that would apply elsewhere are not considered here. There is probably a very good chance that no one has ever been hurt, or even washed away, but it just looks really dodgy.

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I managed to get on the boat literally with a hop, skip and a jump, timed between waves as I really did not want to get my sore foot and its dressings wet. It took about 15 minutes for us to reach the beach where we had to get out, crossing the short distance in some rather large waves. So much for wanting to keep my bandages dry, there was no cement slab at this end. The boat just pushed into the beach as close as was possible where we were expected to get out into the water and then struggle onto the beach. I had no option, I had to get out into the about knee deep water and somehow managed to hop ashore keeping my foot in the air and using Lyn as a crutch to lean on. This was no mean feat as we also had to do this with great haste so as not to get caught in the incoming breaking waves. My foot remained relatively dry and gave a few people including us a good laugh.

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Again we were registered and placed in a line up for the little boats that would take us into the cave that housed the the underground river. We were registered with the large tour group that we shared the bangka with so just had to keep an eye out for when they were called. It took about an hour of waiting around. There were monkeys here that everyone had been warned about and there were also signs everywhere reminding people to be aware of the monkeys. They were very aggressive and obviously were used to being fed so any bag left unchecked or just sitting quietly on anyones back would be ransacked by these cheeky critters. Can hardly blame them, unfortunately they have gotten used to being fed by previous visitors and now associate humans with free food. There was a big sign and we were told before we left that under no circumstances were we to bring anything in a plastic bag as the monkeys recognise the sound of plastic and will attack to get at it. There were also a few giant monitor lizards to have a look at while waiting our turn.

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Finally we were called and we were put into a narrow row boat that sat about 16 people. The cost of this boat trip was included in with the permit fee that we paid at the beginning. The tour was about 40 minutes and took us about 3km into the cave which was pitch black. Our boatman was guide, commentator and comedian trying to point out different aspects of the cave which were spotlighted by the passenger in the front seat. Turns out this person was either a nervous wreak or did not understand the guide telling them what to point at. We ended up getting a disco view version of the sights of the cave as this idiot waved the spotlight around like a strobe light. Still it was pretty cool and interesting. I did like one particular piece of information that the guide told us, he advised that the water dripping down from the ceiling is water being filtered through the limestone and adding to the water in the river. He also mentioned that if we do happen to look up that we should keep our mouths closed, as not only water might be dropping from the ceiling as there was a good chance it could be bat shit. As he said this there was an audible shutting of all mouths onboard.

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Just as we emerged again from the entrance of the cave into the daylight it started to pour down rain. Our boat and a couple in front of us lingered, but it was not going to let up in a hurry so they rowed us back out into the rain and where we had boarded the boat.

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The guide was very kind after I told him I did not want to get my foot wet (silly really at it was drenched from the rain downpour)he told me to wait until everyone had stepped out of the boat and then moved it closer to the sand so I could step out and not get it wet. I should not have bothered because guess how we had to get back onto the bangka to get back to Sabang. Yes via the water. With the rain and a little more wind the waves where now crashing onto the beach and there was no way possible for me to get into the boat with out getting half my body wet, never mind trying to keep just me foot dry.

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Waves were a little bigger on the way back and my main concern was the thought that we had to get out the same way we got in, via the cement slab. There was a line up of bangkas trying to unload and when it was our turn, no longer concerned with keeping my foot dry I was more concerned with stepping off the boat and not being washed away by an incoming wave. All went well, no one was washed away and no one was hurt. They do this everyday many times, but still - only in Asia would it be like this.

After I cleaned and re-dressed by foot it was time to put it up, so the rest of the day was relaxing.

Lyn & I had a mudcrab for dinner, first one we have seen here in Philippines. It cost P400 = $10.50 and was small by Australian standards but tasted pretty good all the same.

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Seems it's the towns christmas party tonight. The main square where the bangkas load passengers to take them to the underground river was now filling up with tables and chairs from all around. Food, drinks and people were pouring into the area. And of course there was a very loud DJ who played music well, well, well into the night. Not sure why these local people are listening to pop music at full volume all night, but I guess having to listen to christmas carols at that volume until 3am would have been worse.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:09 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

GOODBYE BOHOL AND CEBU, HELLO PALAWAN!

WE FLY NORTH TO THE MOST WESTERN ISLAND OF THE PHILIPPINES, NOT REALISING HOW DIFFERENT THEY CAN BE.

Tuesday 17th December 2013 (day 108)

Up and at breakfast by 7.30am I must admit I was surprised that Patrick had already arrived from the beach side accommodation. I thought for sure with no one there to wake him up we would be in a panic that we would miss the ferry with him not having showed yet. Turned out he had not yet been to bed, so slept in the most of the transport we traveled in today.

Mike came to check bikes and Jay the hotel owner drove us to the ferry pier. Again another smooth crossing and on the Cebu side we had a little moment finding a taxi that would use the meter. Found out why as soon as we arrived at the airport and the meter was only P220 = $5.50, which was somewhat less than the P475 = $12 we paid to get there a week ago.

Again we were at the airport early and again our flight was delayed. When I originally booked the flight was departing at 3.15pm, we received email stating this had changed to 2pm which suited us better as less time to wait. However at the airport it we were advised it was delayed until 3.15 and did not actually leave until 3.30pm. One thing about these cheap flights here in Philippines you definitely have to keep on checking them. We learnt that from our last trip here a few years ago when flight times were changed with no notification.
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The flight from Cebu to Puerto Princesa, Palawan was only 1 hour.

There were a hoard of trike drivers at the airport all yelling at the fresh disembarked passengers coming out of the terminal. I had not pre-booked accommodation so we just needed to be taken into the centre, which we kinda were - near a hotel. Standard price for trike P50 = $1.25. Because of our luggage Pat opted to take a trike of his own, I think he is a little wary of these squishy transport vehicles.

It was almost dark so we just took rooms at the hotel where the drivers dropped us, luckily because we were procrastinating the drivers left and our room price dropped from P1500 = $37.50 to P1300 = $32.50. I guess this P200 = $5 would have been the commission the hotel would have paid the trike had we taken the room while they were still hanging around. Room was with air con, hot shower and TV. We did not have hot shower in any accom in Bohol so this was a real treat.

After we checked in we went out walking into the centre and had chicken and rice at a local eatery.
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It had been a long day travelling so after dinner we returned to our hotel to relax a little and watch some TV in the aircon.

Wednesday 18th December 2013 (day 109)

Breakfast was included with our hotel room, however when we went down stairs to have it our only option was rice - they seemed to be out of bread. Not happy as rice first up in the morning is not an option for me I went and spoke to the very helpful receptionist who soon had them out buying some bread for us. I hate to be a bother but cannot do rice three meals a day and first thing in morning is definitely a no go.

Mission for today was to find a doctor and get my foot sorted. Back when we were in Pattaya, Thailand (almost 2 weeks ago) I managed to get a small blister on my left foot from my footwear (thongs) and this has now become infected. I think the infection is caused by swimming in the ocean with an open wound as it's the exact same thing that happened to me on a previous trip to Vietnam. Anyway my foot is septic, blown up like a football and unlike last time the wound is painful.

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Last night we stopped at a pharmacy hoping to be able to purchase antibiotics over the counter but that was not possible here without a prescription. We asked our hotel receptionist where we could find a doctor and she advised we should just go to the emergency ward at the hospital.

So off Lyn (she had nothing better to do than come along with me) and I head in a trike to the hospital which was just 5 minutes down the road. Wow what an experience that was, not that anything bad happened, but what an eye opener going to a hospital a third world country is. We just don't realise how lucky we are to have the facilities we do in our home countries. And that hospital smell we have at home, well these places can only dream of that clinical smell and standard of hygiene that we have. Yep we are very lucky. Anyway I was led into the emergency room and surrounded by about 6 very young, eager looking, face masked, white uniformed student nurses. I knew they were students because they told me. They asked me questions about my wound and then there seemed to be a bit of a squabble to sort out who was going to take my blood pressure. A smiley eyed (couldn't actually see her smile under the face mask) young girl won the honour of performing the blood pressure ritual on me. As I watched her pumping up the band around my left arm another set of smiling eyes was lifting my right arm to slot in a temperature gauge. Both were normal. I was advised the doctor would be along shortly.

5 minutes later the doctor did show, at least I think it was the doctor as she did not speak to me at all. Just some older woman who stuck her head inside the scrum of students surrounding me and spoke to them in Philippino. One of the students answered her queries and relayed back to her in English the answers to the questions they had asked me earlier about the wound. Again the woman spoke in Philippino then withdrew her head from the scrum without even making eye contact with me or my gross looking wound.

There was another little tussle between the students and I soon realised it was a fight to see who would clean and dress the wound. The winner having very smiley eyes like she'd won the lottery and it was an honour to perform this disgusting task. I must admit this was the last thing I would ever fight over to do, as the wound was weepy, pussy and really gross! I was received to see her don clean rubber gloves and the instruments used to clean my would all came out of a stainless steel sterilisation unit on the bench nearby. Swabs and bandages also were freshly open sterile packets.

So freshly cleaned and dressed, I awaited further instructions or a prescription for antibiotics. But sadly was told by yet another student that the doctor said they could do nothing for me here as the infection was too advanced and I would need to see a surgeon as it may need to be cut! Their words. Someone scribbled on a piece of paper the name of a medical clinic where I could find this other doctor. I'm sure something was lost in translation as I was sure that nothing needed to be cut!!

Outside the hospital we climbed into another trike which drove us five minutes up the road to the medical clinic. This place looked a little more, how should I put it.., western like. I found the reception and told the lady I wanted to see a doctor. She asked me what for and I lifted my swollen, bandaged foot in the air for her to see. She told us to take a seat and went off down the hall, coming back to advise we would have to wait 30 minutes to see a doctor. This was fine.

Being Christmas time the clinic was decorated with an assortment of Christmas cheer. A very apt and clever idea was a Christmas tree decorated with tiny pill bottles and empty syringes filled with colourful pills and capsules. A bit scary though was the nativity scene under the tree included a soldier figure complete with automatic weapon.

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Before being shown in to see the doctor, his receptionist took my blood pressure and weighed me. The doctor I got to see did not introduce himself and was not very amused or really all that interested in me. I noticed when entering his cubical I had interrupted his internet time as his laptop was open to a Facebook page. He was professional enough and since he was listed as the diabetes doctor after inquiring about my wound the first thing he asked was when was the last time my sugar levels were checked. He looked nothing short of horrified when I said, um never. So before any further consultation I was ushered out and down the hall for a blood test. I had to pay for this in advance P310 = $7.75. The results took less than an hour and came back all good and normal.

Perhaps this disappointed the diabetes' doctor as he then with a very heavy hand did a more thorough job of cleaning my wound than the lovely smiley eyes had done at the hospital. He confirmed the foot was indeed infected but I was glad there would not be any cutting necessary, although a lot of pushing out the puss was necessary. Unsympathetic to my pain he had a good old dig around with a swab and some peroxide.

He wrote me out a prescription for some antibiotics (at last), told me to keep it clean and covered - adding the Philippines is a fly blown country and not to leave an open would uncovered. Suggested I rest it up as much as possible and no swimming for a least 4 days. Sorted!

We took a trike back to the hotel where I spent the rest of the day with my foot elevated, sitting in our air conditioned room watching tv.

Lyn met up with Pat and had a bit of a wander around town while I rested.

We all went out for dinner to a famous place called Kinabuch, famous in Puerto Princesa, that I had read about on the internet. Specialities of the house are sizzling crocodile and wood worm. We also had a squid dish and Pat ordered a goat meat dish. The food was indeed very nice, although we all tried the deed fried wood worm I noticed it was the only plate not empty at the end.
This was a pretty expensive meal for us, flashiest place we have eaten in Philippines. Meals and a few beers cost a total of P1320 = $35 for the 3 of us.

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BTW the wood worm tasted a little like oyster but it's hard to get over the worm like appearance.

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Hot shower back at hotel, have feeling this will not be the norm.

Thursday 19th December 2013 (day 110)

Yesterday while I was resting my foot, Lyn and Patrick were out and about and organised a couple of motorbikes for us to hire so we can explore Palawan on our own. P500 = $13 per day per bike.

Imagine my disbelief when I discover the bike they have hired for Lyn and I to travel on is a small 50cc scooter. I thought there is no way in hell this underpowered bike is going to be able to carry the both of us and our bag. I was very sceptical. And knowing that me being the passenger, the hills that this bike was not going to make it up, I was going to be walking up with my supposed to be resting dodgy foot.

We went for a test run around the town and although it seemed to be able to carry us both I was still not convinced as the town was flat.

We rode out to get our permits for the underground river we wanted to visit in Sabang tomorrow. These permits were P250 = $6.50 each and must be purchased here in Puerto, not available anywhere near the river.

Back at the hotel reception they phoned the bike hire guy to see if we could perhaps get a bigger bike. Of course no other bike was available and of course he was not willing to refund our paid in cash rental money so we could try another hire place. He explained he may have another bike available tomorrow but we would have to wait until then to see. Lyn spoke to the guy and he seemed ok with us overloading his little bike when she explained where we wanted to take it. We really did want to get away from the city today and were booked in for our river permits tomorrow so it was decided we would go for it.

I must admit we left town, Lyn, I and our 1 big bag (we left rest of our luggage stored at hotel) against my better judgement. But Lyn felt comfortable riding the overladen bike so off we rode!

Sabang was 74km away, we left at 2pm arriving just after 4.30pm. The roads were not too bad, all sealed, and the scenery was jungle beautiful. Surprisingly, the little bike made it without me having to get off and walk at any stage, even though there were quite a few hills. The last half hour we rode in light rain, but at least it was warm. By the time of our arrival, we were all a little bum sore, but that was about it, besides my foot having ballooned up to the size of a football.

Sabang is a one street town with an assortment of accommodation lining the ok looking beach. It was late afternoon and not many people around. Just about the only reason for coming here is to visit the underground river and everybody usually does this in a day trip from Puerto Princesa. It's much much cheaper to do this independently by getting your own permit, like we did, and getting public transport or ride here, like we did.

Patrick found us a place to stay at the end of the street. Fan room with cold shower P800 = $21. Oh and there is only power here between 5pm and 5am. This power situation was the same for the whole town unless the business had a generator - not many did. Perhaps that is why most people only come for a day trip. Although there is a Sheraton hotel and another very posh place slotted between the other beach shacks. So if you want to pay $100 plus a night you can still have luxury, including continuous power and with a hot shower, unfortunately our budget does not cover such extravagances.

We ate at a beachside restaurant with a limited menu due to low supplies. After Bohol this place seems pretty primitive.

Lucky the weather is hot and humid so after a few breathtaking gasps and squeals the cold shower is refreshing. To say the least.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:15 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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