Monday, December 10, 2012

It's more fun in the Philippines


It has been an amazing couple of weeks (17 days) spent here in the islands. We have seen so many wonderful sights and done so many things, plus met many nice people. In no other country have we been invited for so many homestays. It is hard to pick exactly what the highlight of our trip would be: would it be the first few days spent hopping from island to island on a small sailboat eating the freshest seafood? Or perhaps our final 2 days getting an intimate, personal tour of Philippine life and eating as many mangoes as possible? Or perhaps it would be the amazing underwater sights that we had in the middle part of our journey? Tough to say!  But Julie says she doesn't see me happier as when I'm eating a sweet, ripe mango! :-) Too bad the first part of our trip was desperately lacking in the mango department but fortunately made up for in other local delights.
We start our long journey home today (currently somewhere in the air over Japan) and we're both sad to go home. We felt very welcome in Albert's family and probably could easily have spent a week there soaking up the hospitality of his and his wife's relatives. We were definitely lucky to be in the Philippines at the same time as him and his wife, even if our trips only overlapped by a few days. After travelling on our own and not knowing what everything is and how much it should cost, having Filipinos to guide us and answer our questions was so good. (We were like toddlers; what's that? What's this? Can I try?) Julie and I laughed, as we walked through a hot and crowded market yesterday, that we were cramming as much in as possible and going hard right to the end. Same same as always - we can rest when we get home ;)

Here are the highlights that spring to mind; ask us for the full story and pictures.
- the Palawan river canoeing and sailing adventure through the jungle and islands was stupendous, aside from the crowing roosters and annoying dogs in our humble accommodations - think open air bamboo hut; what it lacked in comfort was more than made up for in atmosphere. Our guide, Gener, is a great guy and fantastic cook. Each morning fisherman would arrive at our "doorstep" offering their catches and Gener would ask us what we would like to eat that day: squid, crab, tilapia fish, eel... then grill it for us on the beach.
- El Nido and the Bacuit Archipelago in northern Palawan are breathtakingly picturesque both above and below the water.  I hopefully won't forget the image of having a school of fish swim around me or the sunset from the bay when our boat broke down on the way back to town.
- meeting new friends and visiting them in a small village north of El Nido, amazingly videoke is priority one, even if generators are the main source of power.
- what they say about the traffic in Manila is true. Oh my gosh! 
- Puerto Galera is home to some great scuba diving and both of us were quite impressed with the abundance and variety of fishes, plus soft and hard coral varieties and the giant clams. We also made the best of a mild typhoon windsurfing!
- Taal volcano and the lake inside a volcano inside the lake inside the volcano makes for a lovely view.
- I saw my first field of pineapples in Tagaytay, where you can get a pineapple for twenty cents! Along with so many other tasty fruits at the big Mahogany Market. Don't forget a hot'n'fresh buko (coconut) pie!
- I became fluent in Tagalog, by which I mean I know how to say "pretty lady", "tasty", "what's your name" and "let's go!", and that got enough laughs out of the boatmen.
- going to the market with Albert was good fun, but standing (or swimming for that matter) idly will get you roped into impromptu group photos.
- the diversity of activities and amount we experienced in such a short time.

Philippines in general:
- I think that the Philippines is the most crowded place we have been. Hong Kong still claims the title as largest crowd but there are just people everywhere here, at nearly all hours of the day (even 4:30am on our way to the airport this morning). Driving here must be exhausting, as there is so much to take in and make instantaneous decisions about: cars, large trucks, motorbikes, tricycles, pedal-powered tricycles, bicycles and people, all moving at different speeds and directions. Fortunately the livestock is off the road, unlike Cambodia.
- it's not quite as cheap as I thought it was going to be. But a beer can be bought for less than a C$1 in the store, slightly over a dollar in a restaurant. And most everything else can be had for about half (or sometimes less) of what it'd be in Canada. Notably, mangoes are about C$2.50/kg.(110 pesos)
- if you're smiling, you're fine. If not they'll likely try hard to make it so that you will be smiling.
- it's hot here, and typhoons pass by faster than storms do back home.
- knock-off Oakley sunglasses can be had for ridiculously cheap here (about a dollar, I think is what I heard the tout say?) - too bad I bought mine in Hong Kong. - the pink/purple eggs for sale are died that way to indicate that they've been boiled in a solution of salt and termite spit. The partially developed ducklings in eggs are less obvious to spot but are worth seeking out for a truly local food experience - ask to see the video of me eating Bulot!
- as mentioned before, they love the karaoke here. At one store in the mall we couldn't figure out where the music was coming from until we walked further in and discovered a staff member singing into a microphone while another flipped through the songbook.
- contrary to other SE Asian countries we've been to, tourism in the Philippines is mostly done by Filipinos.
- also contrary to other places, the internet is not as plentiful or nearly as fast, as say, Vietnam especially.

1 comment:

JP said...

Philippines is now making our travel list!