So one month into the trip, (it flew by, by the way!) I wanted to post some photos and tell you about some of the experiences. It has been awesome so far and the Philippines has exceeded my expectations, although in the last year two people who had come who I met told me it was their favorite country in South-East Asia, which is a bold statement.
The people are very friendly (not as friendly as my fellow Colombians, but very friendly!), and it´s interesting to see an Asian country with some Spanish influence (the Philippines was under Spanish rule for over 400 years and are actually named after King Felipe/Phillip), so although people don´t speak Spanish anymore (people tell me that up until the 80´s they taught Spanish in schools, and that many of the older people still speak Spanish). The people though generally are curious and smile and greet you and want to know where you´re from.
The language they speak here is Tagalog, and only a few words are the same like the numbers of 1 through 20…uno, dos, tres…etc. I’ve managed to pick up some basic phrases including one that I found challenging, but the big smiles I get in return make it worth it:
“Masaya Ako Na Nakila la kita,” which means, I´m happy to meet you.
Beside the local people, I’ve been blessed to meet some great people from all over the world, and since I stay in dorm rooms of hostels and have been very social since I´m traveling alone and if I´m not I´ll prob feel very alone, I’ve been meeting lots of people and noticed the majority are German, Dutch, French and a strong Canadian presence in the Philippines. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling, exploring, and partying with people from everywhere. It took like 3 weeks, but finally came across my first Colombians of the trip, and it´s always nice to come across my countrymen!
The food has been tasty, and they seem obsessed with pork, which is fine by me since I don´t eat beef, and love pork! Some typical dishes are vinegar and soy sauce marinated meats called Adobo (pork, chicken, fish), Curries, various fish, squid, etc. with rice… and some curious additions like spaghetti which are offered on most local fast food places (perhaps U.S. occupation influence, which I’ve been curious about and tried a few). I also sometimes just get interesting looking street food where I often don’t really know exactly what I’m getting which is exciting…and more predictable things like some skewers of pork on a stick, fried plantain on a stick, or try different street food made of rice or veggies, and a fruit shakes. Something interesting is that they don´t really use or offer knives. At eateries you usually get offered a fork and a spoon. An interesting dessert I´ve encountered is Halo-Halo, which means mixed together, and is a shaved ice concoction with lots of ingredients which you might not think of including in a dessert and with other ingredients like (Wikipedia description):
boiled kidney beans, garbanzos, sugar palm fruit (kaong), coconut sport (macapuno),and plantains caramelized in sugar, jackfruit (langkâ), gulaman, tapioca, nata de coco, sweet potato (kamote), cheese, pounded crushed young rice (pinipig). Most of the ingredients (fruits, beans, and other sweets) are first placed inside the tall glass, followed by the shaved ice. This is then sprinkled with sugar, and topped with either (or a combination of) leche flan, purple yam (ubeng pula), or ice cream. Evaporated milk is poured into the mixture upon serving.
The Philippines is a tougher to explore than most countries I’ve visited since it is spread out on around 7,170 islands, which make it a little more challenging to travel with the connections between buses and ferries, but it´s definitely worth exploring and it has had some of the best beaches I’ve seen in my life (the ones on El Nido on the Island of Palawan and Boracay are both legendary) and spectacular. As well as the north and It´s Mountains and famous rice terraces, and southern islands.
My route: I arrived in Manila and spent a weekend exploring it and it seems like a gritty city that isn’t full of traditional beauty, but it has character. After a weekend I took an overnight bus (around 10 hours) to the Northern Ifugao province to visit some legendary rice terraces in Banaue and Batad (a Unesco World Heritage site, for its famous rice terrace “amphitheater”, which are both beautiful and impressive for their irrigation system where they divert natural water ways to the terraces and the water trickles down from higher to lower terraces keeping the rice with enough water which is vital.
After that I went to Sagada a beautiful town in the mountains that had a great vibe and was easy to spend time in. I went with my new Canadian friend Kayt, and Anne and Jill from the UK and the US and we shared a room there and we explored the amazing caves nearby and then saw the famous hanging coffins (http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2014/01/mysterious-hanging-coffins-of-sagada-philippines/) then Kayt and I parted ways with Jill and Anne and headed towards the west coast towards San Juan, a surfing town. It was nice, but there were no waves and after four days of waiting for the waves and meeting amazing people from all over, I let a new Canadian friend, Jordan, convince me to go to the east coast to a sure thing surf spot called Baler. On a whim I said why not and we left a little later than we should have, but it was only supposed to take six hours and a 3 buses, but after around 8 hours and arriving at a city in between (San Juan) around midnight, we decided to stay for the night and were told by the locals to go to a hotel because this town did not have hostels. The good news was that the kind of fancy (20 dollars a night hotel) had an option that was called “Drivers Quarters” which we were curious about and saw it was a dorm for around $7usd, much like we were looking for, so that was settled. We told them that if other drivers came in the night we´d fight them to the death. Our intimidating threats worked.
The next day after a few more buses and hours we arrived in a surf town called Baler, and were soon in the water surfing. It was nice to surf again and let the ocean give me a welcome-back beating. I love surfing, and am very much a beginner as I’ve only surfed like 10 times, and have found that there is nothing in this world that is more humbling to me than surfing. The ocean shows me how small and insignificant I can be, especially with poor abilities of getting past the break.
Although I always take a beating, I come back with a smile. The next day was better and I caught a few waves and loved the beautiful green mountains and beach around.
The next day I was up by 6 and grabbing a bus to Manila that should take 6 hours, by 6:30. I wanted to take a 28 hour ferry that leaves once a week from Manila over to the island of Palawan. The ferry leaves at 5pm, and that´s what time my bus arrived in Manila after many delays and flat tires…. so much for the ferry.
After spending that weekend in Manila I went to Boracay, (which I wasn’t sure if I´d visit since some people said it was only a party place, that was home of the world famous White beach. I decided to check it out for myself and it was beautiful. I was also lucky enough to run into Agata, a lovely polish girl I had met in Batad on the beach in Boracay and it was amazing because I had no idea she was there and then we found out we were staying at the same hostel in Boracay and she was in the room next to mine. After we met some great people we went partying that night and that night I had a few too many rums and forgot to have dinner so, so naturally I lost my shirt (the next day went to ask at the bar we were at and they had it 🙂
After a few days in Boracay I wanted to go to the island of Palawan that everyone raves about and after arriving in El Nido I understood why. Wow. It is SUCH a beautiful place. One of the prettiest things I’ve ever been lucky enough to see.
When you go on “island hopping” tours around the Bacuit Archipielago area visiting gorgeous beaches surrounded by limestone Cliff Mountains all around. With some hidden beaches and lagoons that you have to enter going under water, etc. El Nido town is quaint and I met really nice people and beside the island hopping, we rented scooters and went to visit some nearby beaches which was fun, spent a few nights at the local reggae bar dancing inside it and outside on the beach, and I also played football with the local kids at the school, and even spent a night “camping” on a nearby island´s beach. Where after our group had enough rum and music and good conversation under the full moon and stars I passed out on the beach. It was a beautiful experience to go to bed under the moon and stars and wake up to such gorgeous scenery.
Before you know it I had come to the end of the 30 days the Philippines gives you to visit the country without a visa, and I went to extend my stay and get the stamp yesterday, only to find it was a national holiday and now I think I might have to pay a fine for overstaying since I have to wait until Monday to extend my stay. I think I´ll stick around town and around and do the extension on Monday and request my visa for Indonesia, before going off to explore some more south eastern islands of the Philippines. It has been a great trip so far and loving that it´s only the beginning!
I´m still trying to learn how to use this blog, and sometimes there isn’t Internet connection and sometimes it’s terrible and the uploading of the pictures takes a long time, so patience with me! But below are some pictures from the first month of the Philippines, as I´m not sure how long I am going to be here, but this morning I extended my stay in the Philippines (after a night out where I almost went from the nightclub to the Immigration office) and have another 30 days to explore this awesome country.
Here are some links of some videos:
Headfirst Cliff Diving from 50 feet / 15 meters:
Deciding my 2nd time Longboarding, I was good enough
to do it being pulled by a motorcycle:
And here is a responsible thing we did with some other people in our hostel in Manila, where we bought some food and took it to a nearby slum to give to the people and then even stuck around to play basketball and hang out…one of the better experiences of the trip so far:
The colorful and vibrant stalls of the Chinatown in Manila (supposedly the oldest Chinatown in the world). I ended up
buying a few irresponsibly really cheap things like $2 shoes and watches, etc…
Aaaamazing views and beaches near el Nido.
New friends we made playing basketball during our visit to
give food at the slum in Manila. It was fun to play basketball
again after many years. Probably due to U.S. occupation,
The Philippines is a rare non-football country, and is all about
Fruit stands at the Chinatown Market in Manila.
Children at the Chinatown market in Manila.
Colorful duck eggs at the Chinatown market in Manila.
Some chaotic looking views around the Malate hostel I stayed at which was a bit of a gritty, yet well located neighborhood I ended up
getting pretty familiar with.
Some views around the Chinatown market.
The Options for accomodation at a hotel we had to spend the night at after only making it half-way of our jorney to Baler… this town was San Jose . If you notice they have something called Driver´s Quarters, which was a bunkbed room that we would have to share with “other drivers” if they arrived. This is the option we chose..around $7 usd.
Description of how the Baler surf scene came about. Amazing story,
and beautiful surf town where the locals are super friendly to share the amazing waves in a beautiful setting of lush vegetated mountains and rivers meeting oceans.
Me all cleaned up and groomed on the way to the dinner
in the car they sent for me at the hostel. The shirt I am
wearing in the picture cost me around .80 cents Usd at
a 2nd hand place earlier in the day and I borrowed shoes.
The blades they put on the talons of the roosters for the cockfights…
this makes the fight quick and deadly, sadly enough. I even went to the clinic where the fighters are treated after and most of them don’t make it…