Manila – Pollution central

International arrivals – the Smart (local sim) people were so darn helpful, they even organised my Grab taxi (like Uber) to my hotel. I think it took about 45 mins to travel 6kms. 

Traffic is almost permanently gridlocked. I think the traffic is officially putting Bangkok and Vietnam cities to shame. The excessive volume of cars is helping the Grab/taxi drivers lose a lot of money I’m told.

A very poor public transport system adds to the chaos.

One day I was busy editing photos in my room then all of a sudden there’s an almighty siren, that was reminiscent of WW2 Air raid sirens (I’m not that old but I’ve seen movies). I go out to my little balcony to watch two large street blocks of businesses and appartments being evacuated. Surely, not again?! Loads of emergency services turned up surrounding the blocks, but I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. I can only assume it was a bomb threat. Thankfully I wasn’t too close, but I was wondering how far a bomb blast would reach as I was only a block away from the action. Poor Ma, I keep texting her when these things happen. All these “events” are becoming a big joke to me now. There will be a blog on the events I’ve had along my travels.. it is funny and I’m one hell of a lucky solo traveller.

Domestic airport – terminal 4 is possibly THE worst airport I’ve encountered so far. What makes a bad airport?

Long fucking queues – there’s even a queue to get into the airport!

Slow operating personnel at check in, security checks (and there’s 3 of those), food stalls and the waiting area… blah! Many of us sat on the floor due to lack of space and delayed flights.

 

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Palawan – Puerto Princesa

A huge sigh of relief as soon as I exit the plane.. that was until the herd of sheep all decided to stand on top of me whilst I awaited my backpack. Whyyyyy? There was one man, a non Asian, who desperately tried to push in right beside me and 50 of my close friends. I suggested standing on the other side of the conveyer belt where the luggage was actually coming from and no people were standing.. but nope.. he just HAD to be where it was most inconvenient. Lucky my strong suit in basketball was defence. I kept blocking that dude – but he wasn’t giving up that easily.. so I moved. Is this an Australian thing where we are used to having plenty of space? I don’t understand the need to push and shove when there’s more accessible space close by.

Palawan Seaview Resort is pleasant. Again, I feel it’s pricey for such simplistic rooms but I’m guessing that’s because I was so spoilt for choice and quality at decent rates in Indonesia. The staff are forthcoming with incredibly helpful travel info. 

I was very sweetly sent a note to go out for dinner with an older gentleman that is residing at the hotel. Very old school letter invitation.. quite rare these days and very thoughtful.

We went to dinner in a food court at the local shopping centre (please try not to laugh – he paid). Interesting man – he is a law professor in Japan and predominantly deals with people (mainly women) whom have been wrongly incarcerated. FYI, he thinks there’s no doubt Schapelle Corby was innocent. I’m still not convinced.

Anyway, this guy (and numerous predecessors) prompted my new disclaimer that needs to be signed by EVERY male I meet…

 

Yes, I’m travelling solo.
No, I’m not interested.
Yes, I DO love being on my own. Lots.
No, I’ve never been married or had children.
Because I’ve never wanted to, simple.. no, you won’t change my mind – google menopause.
Yes, I am really 46 (mentally 26).
Just because I’m travelling solo doesn’t mean I’m desperate to find Mr Right or Mr You’ll Do.
Yes, I’m happy. Very!
Please don’t take my compliments or kindness as a green light.
I am a positive person and believe others (male or female) should be made aware of their positive traits.
This still doesn’t mean I’m interested in forming an everlasting relationship with you.
If you need viagra, you’re too old for me.
If you don’t need viagra, you’re too young for me.
Nope! Still not interested.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be told to back off – you are making me uncomfortable and I will throat punch you – Read my warning signs. 
You don’t need to tell me how good you are, I can figure it out for myself.
You are taking your life in your hands if you call me babe, bae, honey, darling etc etc….
Chew with your mouth closed or expect another throat punch.
Just NO!
Still want to talk to me? 
Sign here ______________________________________

 

 

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Away from Puerto Princesa city

Once again, it pays to talk to the locals. I was given directions to Nagtabon Beach and the beach was perfect. All the way over on the west coast of the island (I’m sleeping east side) and it’s more of a surf beach with only locals hanging out eating Sunday picnic lunches and squealing with pure delight while playing in the waves. Watch out for the sand flies though. Thanks Jerrold, you get a mention in the exclusive blog called Blinked Travel – just because he’s a hottie and gave me loads of insightful info. 

I decided not to head straight back to the hotel, instead in search of more secluded locations.. headed further North only to be met by big black rolling and thunderous clouds. I did a quick u-turn and flew like the wind. I even got up to 80kmph on my little 110cc scooter. I know! Such a speed demon.

As I got closer to home I noticed more big black clouds and that the roads were wet. Somehow, this time, Mother Nature wasn’t trying to kill me and I avoided all storms out on scooter.

2 hour Asian combination massage at the hotel was kinda brutal but feeling better for it now.. especially considering it only cost me $25 AUD – WIN!

I’m noticing lots of basketball courts around this island. For once, an Asian country that isn’t obsessed with football (soccer). Seeing Cavs and Warriors singlets are happiness to my basketball brain. I’m tempted to go play with some of these young fit basket ballers – only because they’re shorter than I am and I (wrongly) believe my body is still 26.

I joined a tour group to visit the underground river and whilst I was waiting for all the young softies to do a mangrove boat tour I jumped on the 750mt zip line across the crystal clear water. 🤘🏽

Surrounded by perfect azure beach on one side and lush green forest the other – we arrive at the underground river via boat just before the brief tropical downpour hit.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River – a more recent addition to the natural wonders of the world and listed under UNESCO Heritage. Established/discovered in 1999, this underground river is its own eco system. She covers around 22,000 hectares but not all of it is accessible – mainly due to lack of oxygen further inland. Filled with marine life, bats and snakes (saw one swimming and eyeing me as its next victim) and some of the highest cathedral-esque ceilings complete with water carved statues of Mary and other Christian “mythical” creatures.

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Now I’m at 4 (out of 7 listed) natural wonders visited… but really, countless numbers yet to be seen and some that should be listed. 

 

Kay’s Hot Springs – only one pool that wasn’t going to cook me in seconds. Do people actually have no feeling in their skin and use those stupidly hot pools? Who doesn’t love the smell of boiled human flesh?!

 

Travelling back roads and met with surprised looks and smiles everywhere on my scooter. It’s taken a while to get used to being gawked at, but it’s fun now. I feel safe and if I smile at anyone they grin back and usually wave.

Out in town with locals – playing pool (potting balls from 1-14), drinking Red Horse beer.

Plus the tequila shot from 65 yo Rod, the Filipino visiting from Chicago (with his wife back in his hotel room) and offering me his services because he has needs not being met. Rod, please see above disclaimer!

 

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El Nido – I love you

Stayed at Lally and Abet… Location and breakfast great, large room with patio – simple accommodation. $70 AUD pn 

Nacpan beach – another perfect white sand and turquoise liquid filled location. A few more tourists than other beaches, but I didn’t have to fight for space in the water. Although, I had an entourage following to palm shaded spots on the sand. (Insert eye roll – my personal space is a fictional barrier apparently)

Snorkelling trip with a group of divers, instead of doing the tourist island hop tour with one small snorkelling opportunity, was the best decision. Note to self… pack sunscreen, dufus. My already noticeably large forehead looks like a red-light hookers beacon now.

Sava Beachside Restobar for beachside, sunset viewing PLUS 2 for 1 cocktails. Pina coladas served in coconut shells, both delivered at the one time. Nobody likes to rush these things, but when it’s this warm one needs to ensure drinks stay cool during consumption. My excuse, don’t judge.

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Filipinos can SING! Have seen many of them in Thailand, but I’m talking about staff and just about every local you walk past. They’re always singing.. and it’s beautiful to hear.

Meeting the lovely Al and having a private island hopping tour. Being taught to eat my rice and chicken like a local, using my hands as utensils, plus teaching Al to swim. All beaches secluded and empty.. except for some grouper, turtles and a vehemently protective fish – whom bit me twice (he even drew blood – dude, you’re no mosquito, I can’t help you with babies). I googled him.. I must have been too close to his house. It’s ok, I understand personal space, buddy. 

Food plentiful and ever so delicious. Wonderful Adobo spices (which I have just learned actually derive from the Spanish!) – in the sense of many flavours, not heat – is to die for, as was their bbq chicken that sat marinating in Asiatic spices for hours.

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Again, the giving Al looked after me by organising his friends to take me and my bags to the airport on motorbikes. Sorry Al, as beautifully kind as you are, you also need to read above disclaimer. (Al is the one wearing the white t-shirt below)

If you ever head to El Nido, I promise you that Al, Gregg and Regie will take the best care of you. I can’t wait until they have their own boat to do personalised tours.

 

Live music at Pukka Bar was great. A two piece ensemble – acoustic guitar and female singer with a hauntingly beautiful voice singing alternative tunes which melted my heart.

 

 

Is it only an Asian female thing to be that scantily clad and over friendly to entice the foreign men to buy them drinks and eventually marry, then take them back to new countries? I’ve seen it all too often in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar – and have asked why. It’s all about the perception of what fat, bald, western men offer. Money. Who cares if the ladies are unhappy – it’s easier selling your body to the same man each day, right? 

 

Cebu City

Its quite the industrial hub and waaaay bigger than I anticipated. Lots of traffic plus dilapidated housing for the happy and friendly locals.

Great thunderstorms here.

Didn’t get out much due to monsoonal rains. Ran back to Palawan instead.

There are many places to go on Cebu Island, but it’s just that wet time of year, sadly. On the upside, I will have to come back just to visit the other islands.

Back to Palawan just to be hauled up in my hotel room for days on end due to more rain. It’s that bad I’m contemplating popping home for a week or two. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Clearly I was THAT bored… I went home)

Estrella falls – a substantial 90km motorbike ride away (each way) from Puerto Princesa, but well worth it. Fresh, warmish water filled with slippery rocks and, I’m pretty sure, those little dead skin eating fish you see in tanks around Thailand and Bali. Cheeky buggers liked my feet.

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Ala Amid Bed & Breakfast – don’t be fooled by the “buffet” breakfast… its pretty dismal. But if you order a separate meal from reception it’s really tasty. Great, clean and comfortable corner room with handy undercover balcony over looking the pool – great for those rainy days.

Sesakot falls – too cold to swim this day, but still enjoyable relaxation sitting in a broken down hut listening to tunes and sipping Red Horse beer with my buddy, Jerrold.

Hanging with locals again out in town… STOP PLAYING THE NIGHT BEFORE FLIGHTS!

 

 

There are many reasons to love the Phillipines: 

It was once ruled by the Spanish – so many words derive from espanol, making signage and language possible to understand.

The women are stunning here.. I truly enjoy being insignificant. 

Even the boys and lady-boys are hot.

The importance doesn’t lie within how good a house looks, it lies within just having a roof over their heads. Happiness in simplicity.

Many parts of these islands are untouched, so you can have jungles, waterfalls and beaches all to yourself.

Perfect beaches that the locals care loads about. One of my local friends posted today on FB that El Nido boats aren’t allowed to carry plastic water bottles any longer! 👍🏽

A basketball obsessed nation. I believe Steph Curry was in Manila during my stay on Palawan. Had I known he was coming I would have stalked the poor boy.

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Mostly perfect weather… well, you know, besides the biggest typhoon Asia had in recorded history.

Red Horse beer – meaty and evil! 6.9% alcohol content is a bit of a panty dropper. And at $2.50 AUD for a litre, it’s asking for trouble.

E-Republic Bar, where the locals go, is waaaay better than the touristy Tiki Bar. Some funny lady-boys and a live band, along with Red Horse Beer makes for a chuckle a minute… even if I didn’t understand most of the words.

One month is not anywhere near enough time to explore all these pristine islands. I’m going back. Sorry Thailand, I have a new favourite.

Hopefully dodging the super typhoon. Yup, just escaped that nasty, destructive beast by only a few hours.

 

It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit… ok, maybe not so much education here, but the island hopping is sublime.

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