It feels like so long ago that I last updated the old blog my last brief entry was from Manila but I'll warn you now this one will be far from brief! So Manila was our stopover for a night on route to the island of Boracay a short 40 min flight away. One night was enough. I wouldn't go unless you absolutely have to I know that's a bit irrational given that we were only there a day/night but it was very dark and seedy even at 9am and from a Police Officers point of view it was far from safe...anyway we put all that behind us when we hopped on the plane to what I have to say is by far my favourite island thus far, Boracay. My god I've just been whistling along to Shakira in this internet cafe without realising...shoot me!! Oh I forgot there was one good thing about Manila the local transport..they're called jeepneys and were originally made from US Military jeeps left over from the second world war. They're long, crowded, colourful and flamboyantly decorated and one of the only things I took photos of in Manila!
Right, the Philippines. A few facts first for those that are interested! The Philippines are the second largest archipelago (An expanse of water with many scattered islands, and that's a new word for me Nicole) in the world. The country is divided into three main regions Luzon in the north, Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the South, the capital is Manila and the population is about 77 million with 10 million of those in the UK (according to the Lonely liar/planet). Rebel groups in the south of the Philippines have given the country a bad name and we were strongly advised not to go there...so we chose Boracay in the central region thanks to some good advice from Toby (STA) his quote "simply stunning" sold it for us! Although the Philippines are favourably located close to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia they never draw masses of tourists and the greater part of the country is still unexploited.... in a recent survey(although I don't remember being asked!) the Fillipinos came out on top as the happiest people on the planet perhaps that's why after all tourism isn't the be all and end all!
In saying all that we chose Boracay which is the number one tourist destination in the Philippines! (it's typhoon season so we thought it would be cheaper!) The island is 7km long and at it's narrowest 1km wide and the best part is the 4km long white beach, it's reputed to be one of the finest beaches in the world, I now agree. Although there are now over 350 resorts on the island it's no Benidorm and none of them are over the height of a palm tree, most are bamboo bungalows/shacks. So a short ten minute boat ride takes you over to Boracay from Caticlan where we landed. We then hopped on a motorised tricycle and arrived at white beach, stunning. Although the weather was overcast the sea was completely clear and surrounded by coral reef and I knew our journey off the beaten track would be worth it.
We had booked in at a resort called Frendz but when we arrived we were informed it was flooded by a recent typhoon, ummm perhaps this out of season plan wasn't so good after all, we were then shown four or five other resorts by a local and found one for 2 pounds each per night, not bad considering where we were in the world. We stayed at Frendz for the first night then transferred in the rain the following morning.
So the first night. Many of you that know me well know that a few dramas crop up now and again (largely relating to alcohol I'll admit but there's no harm in having a good time!) and on the first morning I woke up with a good old injury. Basically I fell over (in a tail end of a typhoon storm may I add it wasn't all down to the drink, strong winds and all that..) Problem was I fell into stagnant water and cut my leg so badly that it became infected. Once the alcohol wore off the pain set in and by the next morning I could hardly walk, not good when I have one of the nicest beaches in the world on my doorstep. So off to the local hospital it was. Will looked after me like one of my brothers and came with me. The island hospital was in the guide book as "for very minor injuries only" and when we arrived we could see why, you'll get an impression from the photos. The doc took one look at my leg and just said "infected" after a good but painful clean she prescribed me with 7 days worth of antibiotics and advised me not to go in the sea or drink alcohol for a few days more...ummm great start to our idyllic ten day break! The good thing was that when every vendor asked me if I'd like to hire a sailing boat or jet ski (in typhoon winds!!) I had the perfect excuse to say no and just pointed depressingly at my leg! Thankfully we were on a small island and there wasn't a great need to walk very far so I sat on the beach watching everyone else frolic in the sea for the first few days!
Right onto the weather, the main talking point of our first week was the rain. The island kept getting lashed by the tail ends of Typhoons and although we arrived at the end of the wet season we didn't quite expect so much water to constantly fall from the sky...needless to say with that and walking around like an invalid we did wonder if we'd made the right decision....in saying that the beach was still beautiful and the sea provided some great waves for Will and John to play in! Our resort was good enough to lounge in too and had more tv channels than I could cope with. So we started to feel at home and it was so nice to stay put in one place for longer than 5 days, living out of a bag isn't always glamourous and after over half a year of doing it it's been nice to have a rest. I know you're all working hard at home (especially the force!) and when I say rest you must think I'm having a laugh but travelling through 21 countries in 6 months takes it's toll!... Just another 12 or so to go now!
Right back to Boracay and my damn leg, I gave in to alcohol and had to have a drink, after three days of pain it helped. The antibiotics were slow to kick in and I don't think the humidity helped either, I couldn't not go to the beach it was on my doorstep so the cut had to be covered and cleaned daily, gradually the weather improved as did my leg and I ventured into the crystal clear waters for some good old sea salt. I went through enough bandage to last a lifetime as the shops didn't sell waterproof plasters (well none bigger than that to use on a 'borrowers' finger)
So weather and leg on the mend and things were looking up.Will and I spent our days beachcombing and Johno spent his days recovering. Ok I have to leave it here my time is up and the boys are off I don't fancy walking through the sreets of Manila on my own so I'll update this blog when we get back to Singapore tomorrow. Next stop after that is Darwin on Thursday my last country with this tour group!
OK I'm back in the land of the sterile, that being Singapore, an extremely clean city and a complete contrast to that of Manila, before I forget all the goings on I'll get back to Boracay and finish what I started a couple of nights ago.....
So all was finally improving on our beautiful little island, the weather began to pick up and we found a great bar by the beach to waste away our evenings after the sunsets. Happy hours are a plenty on Boracay and out local haunt 'Juice' provided us with cocktails for as little as 50p. The best thing we find about staying in one place in a smaler group is you get the chance to meet other people, when we travel with the E.O.E 'cocoon' we're all concious that we often make little effort to 'mingle'. Anyway Will and I met a couple of Canadian girls Erin and Carolyn (guys sorry if I've mispelt you) so we hung around with them during our final week not primarily to steal all their inflatable toys for the sea but they were great company even though I'm now saying Canadian slang "for sure" alot now!!
The 5 of us went for a snorkelling/fishing trip on our last but one day, the fishing wan't so succesful on my part but snorkelling around the reefs as always was tip top. We had a good afternoon which was followed by out final night at Juice and a few drinks with the locals, Erin and Carolyn. Make for it what you will from the pics! One particular local who we'll fondly remember is Ali the 'sunglasses vendor' as like most other beaches in the world these guys walk miles each day to make a sale. Ali was really nice though and never hounded us like the others he would always come and say hello to us on the beach in the mornings and throughout the day infact, we took a shine to him and invited him out for a drink on our final night, he was so flattered. His sunglasses sold for about 2 pounds a pair, if he gets a sale, he walks several miles per day in the heat and then goes home sleeps for two hours then works as a waiter for an 8hr shift and gets paid just over two pounds for the total shift, naturlly in our minds he deserved a drink although he's Muslim so he was more than happy with a fruitshake. He took Will and I by suprise by giving us both a shell necklace he had spent two days making, just goes to show not all vendors are hounds!! When we left our resort he met us at the gate and carried my bags to the main road and waited until we found a tricyle cab, he had tears in his eyes when we left he was so sweet and I think he just apprecited being given the time of day by two complete strangers.
I was sad to leave Boracay, the people were the happiest I have met on this trip and we were greeted every day by genuine smiles, not only this but every local greets you by Maam or Sir which took a while to get used to just being a P.C and all! One thing we didn't experience in Boracay was the great Filipino delicacy 'Balut' a boiled fertilised duck egg which non-Filipinos are pretty squeamish about. It's not like a normal egg since the shell contains a partially developed duckling complete with recognisable features. This famous and very nutritious snack is provided by pedlars on many street corners throughout the Philippines. You buy the egg crack it slightly eat the soup like substance inside peel more shell off them tuck into the embryo itselok for yourself on the pics...
So Tabs/Nick I would highly recommend you put the Philippines on your list along with Langkawi in Malaysia for your honeymoon...naturally I'll be adding to you extensive list over the next few months! I'm so glad we went off the beaten 'South East Asia track' and chose the Philippines for our truck break more so now having seen the colour of everyone else who opted for Bali, Thailand or Hong Kong! We win in the tan stakes!! (that includes you TP!)
So goodbye to Boracay and back to our final night in Manila which was interesting to say the least, we stayed in a hostel which had more rats and cockroaches than guests, no surprise there then. As I said travelling isn't always glamourous and I can assure you I slept with one eye firmly open mind you I had no choice Frome Police had a night out so guess who received texts (several of them) betwen 2.30am and 6am yes you clever lot I'm several hours ahead so whilst you were supping your pints I was on a top bunk (to avoid rats/bugs) watching out for srange guys in the same dorm, in saying that I was grateful to receive them as they helped keep me sane through the night!! Manila was as most places I sleep now very hot and humid and although there were fans in the dorms an odd ball decided he was keeping it to himself. I thought he was asleep so I moved the fan to oscilate on both of us then he peered out of his bed (he looked like he just woke from the dead he was that pale..) and said he wouldn't be sharing the fan, he looked so scary I didn't argue and hopped up top and Will took the lower bunk next to the oddball. By now it was about midnight. At 1am a guy banged on the gate in the front yard and demanded to be let in so he could park his moped, I let him in and he then walked off. At 2am a couple banged on the gate to be let in (we locked the gate from the inside as we weren't in the nicest of areas!) they then went upstairs to a room above me and couldn't get in eventually after trying the lock with about 50 different keys they were in. At 3.30am a girl banged on the front gate came in and decided to unpack re-pack and so on for about 2 hrs...meanwhile Johno and Will were sound asleep and I played night watchman, I've had better nights sleep put it that way. I didn't shower in the morning as the floor was littered with cockroaches so we got the hell out and then had to take a taxi ride, 3hr bus ride followed by a 4hr flight to arrive in Singapore about 10 p.m last night. Long day but thankful to be out of Manila.
I'm now in Singapore and we leave for Darwin in the Northern territory of Australia tonight. I can't wait to return to Oz it puts me even closer to meeting Maff in New Zealand and I'm looking forward to returning to the great outback itself. My trip with E.O.E is nearly over. Can't quite believe we drove to Singapore from London, I can still remember leaving London on Easter Saturday tears streaming down my face, hungover, thinking what the hell am I doing!! I nearly threw the towel in a few times (at Dover!!) but am so glad I didn't!! I'm not about to go over again as to what we've done and seen (like Nicole has said to me 'we all know you're on your holidays Raquel") but I don't think I could ever express just how good it has been and how far that orange truck has brought me. We all had a drink last night at our hostel (those that are flying out tonight) and as we're appraching our last country we've all been in a bit of a reflective mood.
OK blog entry done I'm now going to try and upload photos from Singapore and the beautiful Philippines I then have to find a chemist and buy yet more gauze as my infection has decided after 7 days of anti-biotics it's here to stay for a little longer...damn it!
Thanks as always for the texts and mails and facebook blurbs always good to hear from you even in the small hous Ad, Bex and P.C Kaye! (and I'm holding you to coming to see me in Rio!) TP/Maff yet more top updates cheers guys, Mum just two big boxes to come now from Kuala Lumpur and no doubt one more from Australia. Happy Birthday this month to Kim, Maff and Dave K if I've missed anyone sorry!! Curtis don't go looking in my parcels... I've bought you alot of presents which you'll get when I return in March! I know Halloween won't be the same without a good old Denmark Road bash but I hope someone out there has it in them to organise one...? I'm now going to be at least ten hours ahead of you all but feel free to text at any time I've learnt to put it on silent now! I'll be in Darwin until about the 19th when the truck will leave for Kakadu National Park then South towards Alice Springs.
My aim over the next 8 days is to rest my leg no I'm not being pathetic but I'm a bit worn out after 6 taxi rides, 3 flights and 2 bus journeys in 3 different countries over the last 3 days!! I'm planning to also phone home (sorry Mum/Dad I know it's been a while) and hunt down Kath and Kim (some of you will know what I'm talking about!) I've also got to check out my new car..I met a lovely guy called Darragh from Ireland he just arrived in Singapore form Darwin and he's given me his car!! He's got a friend to leave the keys for it under the wheel arch all I have to do is find it! He said it was left in a car park behind his hostel he couldn't be bothered to sell it on he said "you won't miss it it looks like postman pat's van!! Don't worry I'm not about to get myself arrested it's not registered but he said there's alot of camping equipment in the back so help yourself, thanks Darragh! Ming - I'm going to send you another 2 passport photos from Oz if you could take them up to Toby at STA he'll still be expecting you and thanks again! Dan and Donna good luck with your move on the 26th fingers crossed it goes smoothly!
Right I'm out of here I miss you all and I'm thinking of you gearing up for the Winter...honestly I'm really missing the seasons here in the heat!!
Take care of one and all
Lots of love Rach xxx
P.S Thanks to Off Exploring who e-mailed me and asked if they could use some of my photos for the company promos!