Monday, 30 January 2017

At the beach

It seems strange to think I've been here less than a week, as I'm getting so used to it.

The best thing has definitely been the zipline over the sea but I also did several tours of the nearby islands and lagoon.
Tour C involved snorkelingand two hidden beaches. One in a narrow inlet and one I actually had to swim through a small cave to get to. On the way out from that I found out just how strong the currents are and had to be dragged back on course.
After a day on land when I did the zipline I went out on tour A where we got to kayak in two lagoons and camp overnight on a beach. Then in the morning, tour B including beaches, caves and a viewpoint on top of an island that was maybe 50m up.

Doing two tours with a night camping on the beach was great fun, though I very quickly missed being able to wash in water that wasn't salty.

The weather is far more overcast than you'd expect for a tropical beach resort and I was actually cold in the rain yesterday. I don't mind that at all as it's helping me adjust to the heat.

Friday, 27 January 2017

To Palawan

Internet is a bit slow here so updates may be sporadic but here goes.
Wednesday I flew from Manila to Puerto Princessa on Palawan. We boarded the plane early in order to have more time on board when take off was delayed and flew away from the city to a genuine tropical island. 
Landing it was instantly clear this is a much less rushed place and so it turned out. I got a minibus who started by driving round Puerto to find more passengers then stopped for petrol before starting the long haul north, with an hour break so the driver could have dinner. 

Arrived in El Nido in the dark and met up with my old workmate Holly.
On Thursday, Holly showed me a beach along the coast with even better views,  especially of the sunset. Then today I did a boat tour, including a beach you can only get to through a cave.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


The first thing to say is that Manila is not a city, it's several cities jammed together. So far I've made out four distinct types.
The first is the private subdivisions, like the one my hostel is in. These have guarded security gates, new range rovers with tinted windows and big houses. Next comes what I think of as the in between, which is basically a giant gridlock scattered with buildings made of breeze blocks.
The most interesting part is definitely Intramuros, the old walled area with Spanish architecture and museums. Which is where I spent most of the day. The fourth type of city I saw only from a distance but unlike the others it has skyscrapers. 

Getting in and out of Intramuros is an endurance challenge due to the gridlock and the fact no one knows where anywhere is resulting in taxis and buses doing U turns across the traffic, which really helps the traffic. 
I first looked at the cathedral, which seemed disappointingly modern. This turned out to be true since it is the 7th on the site and was only built in the 1950s. After that I decided the best way to see the sites and minimise hassle was to pick one guide to protect me from the others. So I got a three and a half hour tour in a kind of bicycle sidecar. This included the Augustinian monastery, which was much more what you expect from an old Catholic Church, Casa Manila - a replica of a 19th century house, and several parts of the old fortifications. 
Afterwards I ate at a road side café and chose the first thing on the menu. This turned out to be a pork bone with some meat and a lot of skin left on it, but it was authentic.
Next came the challenge of getting back. I started the journey in a motorcycle version of the sidecar taxi. Driven by an entire family complete with baby and able weave through the traffic. This would probably have been terrifying if it wasn't for the limited view. After 20 minutes or so they gave up and handed me over to an actual taxi. He of course didn't know the address and spent a couple of hours asking everyone if they recognised the card with it on. I'm back now and don't think I'll risk going anywhere for the evening. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Too much awake

So here's my first attempt at a proper blog post for this trip. It started easily enough with a train and bus, followed by a very comfortable nights sleep in the Ibis Heathrow.
In the morning I was taken to the airport by a Turkish  (?) taxi driver who seemed to keep forgetting he had brakes, usually as he was approaching a bus and had to veer round it at high speed with inches to spare. Check in was mthen made interesting by a computer that couldn't cope with my flight number but then I was on my way. The plane to Singapore was half empty leaving with four seats to lie down on,  though I still didn't seem to actually sleep and spent a lot of time playing with the on board wifi and the tv. Incidentally how can they have a programme like Game of thrones on a plane?  The tvs would be easily visible by a child in the row behind or a couple of seats along. I did check and there wasn't but still surprised they get away with it.
Singapore was cooler than I expected and raining, not that I got wet of course, Changing as ever is like a commercial version of the starship Enterprise. I had to get a shuttle bus and walkway to my gate then find coffee to allow me to function.

By the time I landed I estimate it was 28 hours since I'd actually slept. There was no sign of my pickup so I risked a taxi,  who ripped me off outrageously and stopped about ten times to ask directions.
He also gave me an introduction to what passes for taxi driver banter here. Telling me that President Duerte is a great man, very humble, who only kills bad people. There was a bit of interest Asian racism, which I hadn't expected, when he told me 'bad people' means mostly Chinese.

On arrival they were not pleased and wanted to know why I had not gone to the pick up point they told me about by email. Because  I hadn't even turned my phone on assuming that if it worked at all it would be extortionate! Still on checking via the hostel wifi,  there it was.  Sent of course while the phone was off.

I managed to get a free upgrade to an ensuite room and sleep for a couple of hours.
The location is fine, very close to the airport, not that the taxi driver knew, and in some sort of private estate where you have to pass numerous security guards to get in.
Tomorrow it actually gets interesting.