The Philippines was country number 9 for us, moving us into the 7th month of our travels. We had a flight to Clark airport (no relation) with Air Asia, assuming that it was in or close to Manila, but little did we know that Clark airport is actually a 3 hour bus ride from Manila, so we got off the air bus and onto the road bus, and arrived in town at around 7pm. We told the taxi driver where we wanted to go and stay, and on route we were told by said taxi driver that we were staying in the middle of Manilas red light district. So there we were, in the heart the capital city of such a catholic country, surrounded by hookers and bottle shops, with seed grey haired wrinkly old European men lurking in the shadows with their pockets filled with Viagra, welcome to the Philippines.
We only stuck around for the one night in Manila, we spent our time there organising the 4 flights we needed to get around over our 3 weeks here, then sadly I had to leave my guitar checked at the hotel, and we took an overnight bus south to Donsol, where 14 hours later we arrived in the seaside town, chock full of tourists looking to swim with wild whale sharks, our objective also. We found a place to stay, and spent the arvo snoozing off the overnight bus ride. The next morning however, we were on the water at 7am, along with 30 other boat loads of 6 pax, all in search of whale sharks. It was a pretty exciting 3 hours, we were in the water within 15 minutes of cruising the bay, along with 50 other people, but didn't see anything. When there was a sighting, it was every man for himself, every boat on the bay would move full speed to that spot, and there would be 100+ Asian tourists in there fluorescent life jackets, kicking and splashing around like it was bloody preschool swimming lessons, people yelling, getting kicked in the face with fins, people who possibly have never seen the ocean before were freaking out because I don't think they could swim, no wonder we hardly saw anything. It wasn't until our 4th sighting that anyone other than the guide actually saw anything, and it really was amazing. I dived down a few metres and really got a good look at this incredible beast, it was only maybe 6M or so long, considerably small for a whale shark which can grow to 24M, but enormous none the less. We went back out the following morning, but didn't see anything, that's the luck of the draw.
A couple of days later, after a long bus ride back to Manila, and a flight to Kalibo airport, a bus to Caticlan, followed by a short boat ride, we found ourselves on Boracay Island looking for accommodation at 1.00am, we eventually got something average, and first thing the next morning we went and found something cheaper and better, right on the beach. Boracay is a big tourist spot in the Philippines, on one side is White beach, which literally is a white beach that stretches for a few km's and is rated as one of the best in the world, and on the other side of the island is Bulabog beach, which for 6 months of the year receives consistent 20-30 knot winds, perfect for kite surfing, so we did kite surfing lessons, however we arrived at the end of the wind season and didn't get to complete the course, but we plan on finishing it in Melbourne when we return. We made good friends with a couple of Kiwi fellas and an Aussie fella (fookinnn plummmmssss), and had a big night out drinking Boracay rum with them, first hangover I've had in a while, and it kicked in when I was doing my first kite surfing lesson, wasn't great. The remainder of our time here was spent doing not much, when we weren't bumming around on the beach, we were waiting for the wind, or watching one of the insane thunder storms that lashed the island while we were there, or getting eaten alive by mozzies.
Our next stop, was the island of Palawan, notably a small town on the northern tip called El Nido. El Nido was the perfect place to spend the last few days of our trip, it was really chilled out, had heaps of places to eat, we had decent accommodation, and the area is truly a paradise. The harbour, although chock full of Bancas (outrigger boats), is quite clean, has a magical backdrop of limestone cliffs and green jungle, and the water is the colour of blue Gatorade. We went on an island hopping tour for a day, which basically involved hiring some snorkel gear, jumping in a banca, and spending a day cruising through the Bacuit Archipelago visiting 5 different beautiful remote islands or beautiful beaches, or insane reefs. One reef in particular that we snorkelled was like jumping in the most colourful lively fish tank you can imagine, the visibility was at least 30M, and there were hundreds of different coloured and shaped tropical fish. It was a real shame that I didn't have a water proof camera, it was so amazing that I was nearly going to try and take my regular camera down there. Tara on the other hand didn't have the best day, where she spent most of it curled up in a ball with a sore belly, but I think I had enough fun for 2 people. The remainder of our time in El Nido was spent lazing in the sun, drinking Red Horse beer, swimming in the blue Gatorade, or smashing open coconuts on the beach and eating/drinking them, a nice way to wind out the trip.
Leaving El Nido officially commenced the beginning of the end of our travels, we had our last long bus ride yesterday to Peurto Princessa where we stayed one night, flew back to Manila this morning where we stay tonight, and then tomorrow we are up and at it at 4am, fly to Singapore for the day, then back to Melbournes putridly cold weather on Thursday morning!
I think its been exciting for both of us to head home and see family and friends and pets and our bed and not have to hunt for accommodation and live out of a bag, but I think Tara is more excited to return than me, and I could quite easily head off somewhere else. Just thinking about going back to the norm is a bit depressing, but I guess I will have to get planning for the next trip, or the next adventure.
Anyway, I'm going to leave the blog there, all I can say is that we are looking forward to seeing everyone, I'm hanging for some decent bread, a parma, a Melbourne bitter, vegemite, decent milk, decent coffee, etc, thanks for anyone who actually read this blog, or looked at our pictures. We truly are very lucky to have done this trip, not everyone gets to up and travel for 33 weeks. Although it has been hard work at times, it's truly been rewarding on so many level. The places we have been, the friends we have made and the things we have done won't soon be forgotten! Looking forward to doing it all again soon.
Peace and love!