We are not in Lagazpi, back on the big island of Luzon. We arrived last night and will be leaving tomorrow morning for Naga.
There is actually some neat stuff to do here, but it is all pretty involved requiring guides (usually very expensive) and travel on jeepnys and tricycles to and from. While we are getting the hang of the transportation system it is still difficult to get from A to B because there are no street signs and it is damn difficult for us to see out the windows because everything is just a bit to small for us. Anyways you could take a two day backpacking trek up the volcano here, which we would love but don't have the time, or visit some limestone caves, but we need a guide and again it takes time. Maybe if I am ever back here I will make the time.
The volcano, Mayon, is very active and it is also said to be the most perfect volcano. It is pretty much round and symmetrical all the way up. Its biggest eruption was in 1814 destroying a huge area and killing a lot of people. The story is that many people looked for safety in a church on the south west side of the mountain which ended up being engulfed in red hot ash and lava leaving the church in ruin and killing those seeking safety. What is the point of this history lesson? Well today we made our way to what was left of that church and visited the ruins. They weren't super cool like the Mayan ruins would be or all the ancient castles in Ireland, but it was a fun way to spend the morning and we got some cool pictures. We did have two kids fallowing us around trying to sell us pictures of the volcano and its surrounding. You know stupid touristy pictures. They were persistent and in the process gave us a tour of the ruins, listing off facts about Mayon and the church that they clearly had memorized for just such an occasion. They were slightly annoying but over all harmless and provided some interesting info. When we were done looking around Alex broke down and bought a couple photos and gave them a big tip for the guide. I guess they were working pretty hard. As soon as we paid them they were gone though. Hmm, funny how that works.
That is about all the exciting things we have done recently, but I thought now I might entertain you with some more observations that I have been meaning to mention.
Waiting and transportation schedules: Here nothing is ever on time, so we do a lot of waiting. Schedules are never posted and we never know when something is supposed to leave and no one can seem to tell us for sure so we wait a lot when we are early or just miss one bus and have to wait for the next. And despite the fact that no one can seem to tell us exact schedules all the locals seem to show up on time so they never have to wait. They know all the prices even when they are not posted and we always have to ask and make it more obvious that we don't belong. Needless to say never have a plan when you are traveling in a country like this because if you are like me and you have a time table and you want to stick to it you get frustrated when that time table goes to hell. So just don't have a plan, have a general goal and hope that you get there in a decent amount of time that way you can just roll with the punches. You'll save your self a lot of pain.
Bathrooms: One, here they are referred to as comfort rooms (often abbreviated as CR) or toilets. They bathrooms in all our hotels are one room with a shower head, a faucet right below the shower head (not like a bath tub like an outside faucet), a toilet, a sink, a big bucket and a smaller saucepan size bucket with a side handle. There is no separation. You shower generally bumping into the toilet. And always use the toilet before you shower other wise the seat ends up all wet and you have to dry it off (at least if you are a girl). Most bathrooms especially public ones don't supply toilet tissue and about half the time the toilet doesn't flush. So we always make sure the toilet will flush prior to putting TP in it. If it does not flush the TP goes in a trash bin in the bath room and you have to fill a provided bucket with water and pour it into the toilet bowl.
This brings me to the strangest public bathroom experience of my life. Generally I attempt to wait until we reach our hotel before using the rest room, but on our trip to Cebu I just couldn't hold it so I decided to use the public comfort room at one of the bus stations. First I had to remove my shoes and slip on these little wooden bottomed shoes provided by the bath room attendant at the door. I am sure this process was meant to keep the floor, and bathroom in general cleaner, but the shoes were to small (as I have ginormous feet compared to the average Filipino woman) and it was quite a feet to keep them on. Then there was no toilet seat so I practically fell in and no toilet paper. The toilet also didn't flush so I had to leave my stall fill a provided bucket with some water and use that to flush my toilet by pouring it into the bowl. Finally on my way out an older slightly angry Filipino woman bathroom attendant informed me that the use of the facilities required a 3 peso fee. So I had to wear to small weird public shoes, had no toilet paper, had to use a bucket of water to flush my toilet and I had to pay. It was so bizarre.
Well I think that is enough time at a computer today. I have more observations that I will share with you later and I will post all my pictures when I return. Alex is posting his as we go (he had the foresight to bring his camera cord) so you can check his out on his website (www.statravelblogs.com/acho)
Our itinerary for the last few days here is to make it to Naga tomorrow, spend the day there, leave for Lucena the fallowing day and spend the 9th there then on the 10th make it back to Manila where we will spend our last day and half exploring the biggest city of the Philippines. Hopefully it will be better than our first experience now that we know the part we want to be in and have adjusted to the culture a bit.
By for now.