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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Arrival in Manila, Philippines

2/27, 2/28, and 2/29

After approximately 45 hrs of airplanes and airports I arrived in Manila at 10pm on 2/29/12. Got through immigration in less than 1 minute and customs in 15 seconds which has to be a world record. Miami took almost 2 hours for the same process.

Unfortunately i had forgotten about the international date line when i booked my hostel and was a little upset when I was told I had already missed my first night which I also had to pay for. But as I know well, it is not if something will happen while traveling but when. You just have to smile and make the best of it. The small price for traveling around the world.

Was not prepared for the karoake until 4 am at bars on the street. That is another price of staying in the young hip area when booking. 6 bed dorm but only 1 other roommate who came in around 4 pm. Looked like he had been SINGING karoake all night. lol

Must extend my visa while in Manila. The country gives us a free 21 day visa but you can extend it for another 38 days for a fee making the total stay 59 days. My return flight is April 24th which will keep me in the country for 55 days.

Will visit Manila downtown area and Manila Bay while walking from the hostel to Immigration to get my visa taking care of. Then perhaps overnight bus to Banaue which has the steepest rice terraces in the world. Hopefully I will be able to post great pictures while on the trip.

Sidenote: Continually speaking what little Spanish I know. Don't know how many times I have said buenos dias or gracias since I started the airplane portion of the trip.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Where 2 Next Hostel











3/1/12

My Manila home for a day or 2. The dorm is a little expensive at $14 a night in a 6 bed dorm but does have air con and free breakfast (continental). Luckily there is only 1 other person in the dorm with me so not very crowded and there is a private bathroom in our dorm.

Went to mall down the street to buy a light jacket for the cold bus ride to Banaue which is 8-9 hrs. At the mall I noticed Burger King had a hamburger pattie over a plate of rice with BBQ sauce and Diet Coke for $1.30. Wow, not a bad deal but street food is still about 1/2 that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

JEEPNEY (Philippine version of "chicken' bus)


These are everywhere and like the infamous chicken bus are painted in various colors. There are along with the city buses the main transportation in Manila.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Visa Extension Nightmare (more pain in ass than nightmare)


3/1/12

Walked almost an hour downtown in the Philippine heat to get my visa extension and save a few dollars. When I finally found the Immigration Office a sign said must not have on flip flops and shorts to get in. Which is my wardrobe of choice always.

Luckily a young entrepreneur walked up to me and asked if I would like to rent some sweat pants and a pair of shoes for $5. In no position to argue I agree. It took almost 2 hrs to get my 38 day extension and cost $80 including the $5 i paid the kid outside but at least it is over. Of course , then there was the hour walk at noon in the Philippine heat to get back to hostel but as I always say, "I have more time than money."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Overnight bus to Banaue

3/2/12

Will leave on 9pm overnight bus for 9 hr. ride to Banaue to see the steepest rice terraces in the world. Was really impressed in 2008 at the Longii Terraces in China so can't wait to see these. Will visit several spots and do some hiking around the villages and terraces.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Viewpoints of Banaue Terraces and Patao terraces

3/3/12

After the long bus and arriving at 6 am, checked into the Peoples Inn. Nice private room/shared bath with 2 bed for only 300 pesos ($7.50) a night. Then hiked 1 hr up to the viewpoints instead of taking the $5 motorcycle with sidecar. Incredible views which I will post when have free internet again. In the afternoon I took a tour in the moto trke to see the beautiful valley terraces in Patao. 1.5 hr ride on the worst roads that I have ever been on. That sidecar does not have shocks not that it would have mattered. Could hardly walk the next day. Beautiful views of the Banaue Terraces sitting on the restaurants terrace. Finally crashed after being up for 36 hrs at 6 pm.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Batad Terraces

3/4/12

After good nights rest, decided to go to Batad and visit what are supposedly the most spectacular amphitheatre terraces in the world. I met another backpacker and we went up to the Batad saddle by jeepney and then walked the additional 40 minutes to Batad. Truly is beautiful but little disappointed because the rice has not matured a lot yet so not real green at this point. I have seen the pictures though and its setup is spectacular. Hiked to the waterfall and the hike up was vicious. Straight up , probably 2000 ft. Also had to walk through the rice terraces to get there on the retaining stone walls which keep the water in. Everyone tried to be your guide and would give little info on exactly how to get there but I made it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hike Batad to Bataan and bus ride to Banaue























3/5/12

One of best hikes ever. Took Lonely Planets advice and did the hike from Batad to Bataan to catch the bus back to Banaue. Got lost in the beginning because the paths follow the retaining wall stones and it is hard to tell which is the path. After getting lost a few times and stepping INTO a rice paddy and getting one shoe muddy, I found the path. From there it was just 2.5 hrs of spectacular rice paddies and terraces. When I made it to the road I saw a local bus coming and stopped it. I climbed inside and it was full so I had to stand. The bus takes about 1.5 hours to get to Banaue. After the first stop, I asked if I could climb on top with 5 other locals who were already up there. He said yes reluctantly. With my backpack on top and my feet hanging off the side off we went. I know this road can not be near as dangerous as the "Death Road" but many places we went it seemed almost exactly like it. At some spot there was just only an extra 6-12 inches of road for the wheels to make it and the dropoff was at least 1500 ft. down. I was a bit terrified the first few times I looked between my feet and there was no road but a sheer drop off.
Then it became amusing and exciting and I had the best time. My back was turned from the front of the truck most of the time until the first limb almost knocked me off. Good thing I started paying attention because as we got to civilization, we had to duck over 50 electrical lines. Seriously, we had to lay down completely on a few occasions and twice the cable still touched my back. One of my best trips ever. Got back and cleaned up, bought bus ticket to Manila and leave at 7 pm for the 9 hr. ride.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Manila to Legaspi

3/6/12

Arrived from Banaue at 2:30 am and caught taxi to Arenata Bus terminal to catch the 5:30 "ordinary" bus, no air con", to Legaspi. Cheap room at $5 a night for fan and tv (hbo) but really hot. Leave in the morning for Donsol for beach time and to swim with Whale Sharks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Manta Ray Bowl





3/8/12

Went diving for the 1st time in 2 years to try and see the Manta Rays at the cleansing station in the Manta Bowl. This is a location where the current allows them to remove the parasites. (something like that) Unfortunately we had no luck seeing any Mantas but did get 3 more dives under my belt. May try again or wait for the ship wrecks on Caron.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Swimming with Whale Sharks





3/9/12

Hopeful that today's whale shark adventure is more successful than yesterday's manta ray bowl dives. Luckily we did see and swim with 2 enormous whale sharks which are in actuality fish.

We sat on the edge of the boat until the skipper and leader of our group said to jump in. They have a spotter on a flagstaff looking for large shadows in the water. It was a great experience but after second time I had enough. While the regulations say only 6 people per whale shark, when one is spotted EVERYONE goes in the water towards the shark. Sometimes 20-30 swimmers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Walking back from Whale Shark adventure

3/9/12

While on the 45 minute walk from the Whale Shark Interaction Center, 6 teenagers on motorcycles stopped and asked me if I wanted a ride. I told them I was just exercising when in reality I was saving $1 instead of using the moto tricycle. They asked me where I was from and when I said Louisiana, they started singing almost simultaneously, "When I was a little bitty baby my momma rocked me in the craddle, in those ole cotton fields back home. I was born in Lousiana, just a few miles from Texarkana..............................." I could not help but laugh. Then they said they had to go. They were on a journey to the center of the earth. It will take a few days to disseminate all this information and come to a conclusion. lol I have noticed in the mountain villages that the older people have a preference and it is almost constant, 1950's to 1980's Country Music.

My other favorite thing to do here is walk. Almost every child will say "Whats your name." Then they tell you theirs. I am guessing it is to practice their English, but they truly love Americans and will engage you in conversation whenever possible. After being asked my name, I asked a little girl her name and she said "Miley Cyrus". The Filipinos love to be inventive when picking out names. I heard of another whose name was Chivas Regal. At least in Donsol, the friendliest people I have ever met in the world.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Headed to Masbate

3/10/12

Realized that the only last boat this week from Mandaon, Masbate to Panay Island is Sunday so have to take the jeepney to Pilar and fast boat to Masbate town today or wait a week. Arrived in Masbate Town and caught a minivan to Mandaon. Straight to the Coast Guard office at the dock and checked on boats. No boats going to Roxas City where I had planned but will go instead to Estancia and bus a little further to Caticlan to catch the boat to Boracay.

Then started looking for a room for the night. A guy in the shuttle had mentioned a hotel but that it was $25 a night. After looking all over town I saw a sign at a grocery store that said lodging. I was only $3.50 a night but is in my bottom 5 on all time lodging places. I was the only one in what should have been a condemned house. There were no locks on my door and lucky to have a door as many didn't. Don't even want to talk about the bathroom. But had a fan, clean sheets and was really tired so made the best of it.

Travel Days

2/27/12

Took 45 minute taxi to San Salvador International Airport to begin my insane 40 plus hour journey thru 6 airports. Breezed thru security in 10 minutes (what!!!) and then had 3 hrs to wait on my flight to Miami. Arrived there 30 minutes early so had 3.5 hrs to wait there until my flight to Denver. Got here at 10:30 pm and been looking for a warm place to nap all night with no luck. Wish I had my jacket.

2/28/12

Gave up trying to sleep around 3:30 am and now waiting on McDonald to open. Leave at 6:30 am for flight to LA , then LA around 10:20 am to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Manila and hopefully arrive there about 10pm.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mandaorn to Boracay Island







3/11/12

Caught the 7 am "pump" boat to Estancia for the 4 hr ride with about 20 passengers and lots of cargo. Started out inside the boat but the fresh air and beautiful weather convinced me to climb on top. That was great for a few about 1.5 hrs until the rain and large waves started seriously rocking the boat. That is when the 4 hr ride turned into a 6.5 hour ride. Arrived in Estancia around 1:45 pm and then caught a minivan to Roxas City, then another minivan to Kailbo, then another minivan to Leticlan, then a 15 minute boat ride to Boracay Island, then a 15 minute tricycle ride to Frendz Resort where I have a reservation in 2 WEEKS.

Since my plans checked so quickly and did not have internet, I was unable to make a reservation at Frendz, which is the cheapest and best backpacker establishment. He told me there were no rooms available but that he would have an opening in 2 days and then I would be set for a month. Down the street I go with my backpack and no idea where to look. Place after place was $40 to $60 and this was at the cheapest looking places. I finally went back to Blue Bayou, ironic, and took the $37 room with private bath, tv and fan and free breakfast. The fact that I had not eaten a real meal in 24 hrs was adding to the problem. They only had a room for the night so will do this again on Monday.

If this had not happened many times before I would not be happy but part of the job.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New room plans.

3/13/12

Since there is no availability in the dorm at Frenz Resort tonight must still find other accommodations. Also, just found out Frendz does not have a pool which it lists as an amenity. This along with the cheap price are the two biggest factors why I chose it.

Luckily I found a great spot right by the beach with a private room/private bath, cable tv and air con for only $2.50 a night more than Frenz dorm. I know it is still $2.50 but as I get a little older my backpacking skills seem to be fading. lol 30 days in a dorm in Frenz was probably pushing the envelope. So I will do 15 days in private room at Bonzai Resort and then 10 days in dorm at Frenz. Chance to reinvigorate my youthful soul and share that great hostel vibe which I love, even though it comes with a certain loss privacy in the dorm.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Boracay Beach







3/12/12

Boracay Beach is incredibly beautiful, especially with all the sailboats, but the water has lots of seaweed. The beach walk where all the hotels, restaurants and bars are located is really busy all the time. There are many different restaurants of all price ranges from $1 to $9 unlimited seafood buffet. I still think that 3 mile beach on Koh Lanta in Thailand is still my favorite. There are sooo many tourists here and most are Asian. Move today to Bonzai Resort for 15 days ($17 day) including private room with bath and air con. Only 30 seconds to beach.