Filipine Frenzy

 

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!

 

IMG_7838

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.

IMG_7819

 

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.

Filippine Frenzy – Philippines solo travel

Here’s how solo travel in Philippines went down…

Manila

Pollution madness

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

Traffic almost permanently gridlocked. Traffic here in Manila is officially putting Bangkok and Vietnam cities to shame. The excessive volume of cars is forcing the Grab/taxi drivers lose a lot of money, so I’m told by my drivers.

A very poor public transport system adds to the chaos.

 

Discovering I still want to live:

So here I was, busy editing photos in the room when 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). From my little balcony I watched two large street blocks of businesses and appartments being evacuated.

Surely, not again?!

Plenty of emergency services turned up, enveloping the blocks, however, 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 life threateners happen.

All these “events” are becoming a big joke to me now. There will be a blog on the chaos I’ve had along my travels.. Amusing (now) stories – let me say that I’m one hell of a lucky solo traveller.

 

 

Domestic travel

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 (there’s 3 of those), average food stalls, the waiting area… blah! Many of us sat on the floor due to lack of space and delayed flights.

 

Puerto Princessa

Puerto Princessa

Palawan – Puerto Princesa

Exit plane, big sigh of fresher air and relief from chaos..

..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.. it was a necessity for him 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.

 

Accomodation Puerto Princessa

Palawan Seaview Resort is pleasant. I feel it’s pricey for such simplistic rooms although I’m convinced that’s because of being spoilt for choice and quality at decent rates in Indonesia. The staff here 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.

Dinner  in the local food court at the local shopping centre (no chuckles – he paid). A really interesting man – he’s 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…

 

Solo female travel disclaimer

 

True story, I am travelling solo.
No, I’m not interested.
Yes, I DO love being on my own. Lots.
Seriously, I’ve never been married or had children.
Because I’ve never wanted to, simple.. no, you won’t change my mind – google menopause.
I truly am 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. 
Please don’t 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.
Thanks for your kind offers, but just NO!
Still want to talk to me? 
Sign here ______________________________________

 

travel Philippines

 

 

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0322.JPG

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 about Philippines travel. 

 

As I return 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.

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Underground River

No solo female travel in the Philippines would be complete without visiting the Subterranean River.

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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Puerto Princessa’s Subteranean River now makes it 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 flesh within 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 skin?!

 

Philippines travel / solo female travel

Off the beaten path and safety

When you’re met with surprised looks and smiles everywhere whilst on scooter and it’s delightful. I confess that being gawked at in most countries has taken a while to get used to, but it’s entertaining now.

Safety is always important when you’re a solo female traveller. I can confirm that your security will rarely feel threatened here, consequently, make sure you smile at everyone as you will be met with such sweetness you won’t want to leave… ever.

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

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

 

IMG_7838

El Nido – I love you

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

Nacpan beach – another perfect white sand and turquoise liquid filled location. A few more tourists than other beaches, but you won’t have to fight for space in the water. Although, there was an entourage following to palm shaded spots on the sand. (Insert eye roll – 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 includes 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.

 

 

IMG_7812

travel Philippines

 

 

 

Local humans are wonderful

Filipinos/Filipinas can SING! Have seen many of them in Thailand, however the staff and just about every local you walk past are sweetly singing and it’s fabulous to hear.

Thanks to Al for introducing himself to me to enable some of the best island hopping and local experience I could have hoped for when I travel Philippines.

There’s no requirement for eating utensils when you’re taught how to eat like a local, using hands only. As thanks I gave Al some swimming lessons.

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.. it appears swimming near his house is tempting fate. It’s ok, buddy, I understand personal space. 

The food plentiful and ever so delicious during this solo travel expedition. 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.

IMG_7819

 

Once more the giving Al showed his true kindness by organising his friends to escort me and my bags to the airport on motorbikes. Sorry Al, as beautifully charitable as you are, you also need to read above disclaimer. (Al is the one wearing the white t-shirt below)

If you ever travel Philippines make sure you head to El Nido, I promise you that Al, Gregg and Regie will take the best care of you. By the time you get over there hopefully their operation will be even better once they buy their own boat to run these sensational private 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 could melt even the coldest of hearts.

 

solo female travel

Cebu City

Its quite the industrial hub and substantially bigger than 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 therefore I ran back to Palawan instead.

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

 

Palawan again

Why come back to Palawan? Because I love it and Cebu had relentless rain. The rain is so heavy 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 – perfect for playing cards on those humid 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!

 

travel Philippines

 

In conclusion:

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.. Insignificance is my new favourite feeling. 

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.

There are many places to visit that are crowd free. So you 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! 👍🏽

solo travel

A basketball obsessed nation.

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.

Escaping the destructive typhoon by 3 hours – Yes, I’m still that lucky solo female traveller.

travel Philippines

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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MALAYSIAN BORNEO – Nature lovers paradise

Finally, another destination bucket list tick! There’s only one thing on my mind… ORANGUTANS (and more recently, thanks to my buddy, Molly… the sun bears)

Left scary Lombok for chilli crab in Singapore for 3 days.. now I’m here.

Started in Kota Kinabalu.. thankfully it rained lots so I finally edited some of my 21 folders full of images.

 

KOTA KINABALU

City is named after the local mountain.. which is a beautiful sight when it’s not covered in cloud. Surprisingly much bigger than any other mountain I’ve come across here in Borneo.

Meh, KK – it’s a small city… more like Geelong but with skinny, tanned people and less visible butt tattoos.

The waterfront could use a revamp, but there are some cool restaurants and bars over looking the water and islands. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset.

I was “stuck” in bar because the rain came in horizontally, so being undercover outdoors wasn’t going to keep me dry.. inside I go and I think the rain stopped around midnight.. well, let’s stick with that guess. Chatted to another Aussie who had just come back from Uncle Tan’s Wildlife trek – (Bee (my bro) had only just mentioned this very same trek earlier that day) so after that chat I was sold and booked my tickets the following day.

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Breakfast of champions – substantial weight gain in Malaysia, the food is spectacular!

 

Uncle Tans Wildlife trek

Being covered in sticky, smelly and pointless bug repellant – the fuckers even attack through clothing and two layers of repellant.

The catfish jumping in the water around the huts sounded bigger than they actually were.

The tree roots that look like they’re shrouded in a greenish sheet and pretending to be ghosts at Halloween.

The birds! So many exotic, chatty, colourful birds.

Evil macacques, lots of evil monkeys.

ORANGUTAN in the wild.. not a rehab centre behind glass.

Probiscus monkeys – they look like someone stuck a penis on their faces

Squirrels – black ones and brown ones. Saw one in the camp’s resident cat, Putut’s, mouth and taken into someone else’s hut.

Mutant bugs that sound like airborne chainsaws.

The night noises so much louder than during the day – mainly teeny tiny frogs.

Being the only person in my tour ‘group’ – this place can hold up to 80 people.. I’m currently the only one here during the 5 hour transition of new and old groups.. so I get undivided attention and extra long safaris

Iddy biddy Bats dive-bombing you at night as you and your low battery torch find your way back to the hut or bathroom along the rickety, wooden, large gapped footbridge/track over water.

Being impressed by the guides that can spot an inch long frog in the dark (with torch) from 50mts away in a moving boat.

Bugs. So. Many. Bugs.

Learning which tropical plants are edible and which are topically medicinal.

Butterflies that float and actually glide in the breeze-less, thick tropical air as though they were eagles searching their prey whilst using the thermals to use less energy and keep their high vantage point.

No shower for 3 days – all weight gain from here was purely sweat, mosquito bites and repellant.

Bright starry skies at night without light pollution and no moon.

No rain starting from the day I arrived – finally Mother Nature’s weather isn’t trying to scare me off – just her mutant tropical bugs tested me.

Singing karaoke whilst the staff play drums – drums being the loose floorboard in a certain spot at the table along with the table top and tambourine – acoustic guitars and more tambourines.

I SAW A SLOW LORIS! Big hi-fives and even a hug in excitement from Otto for finding this little beasty.

Everything is damp. I mean clothes, but those parts of the body that don’t see much daylight didn’t see dryness the whole time as well.

Mosquitoes absolutely smashed my calves on my morning trek.. and I was wearing full length pants with one layer of repellant underneath and one on top. I’ve recently found out that it’s the female mozzies that bite and that blood extraction is purely to produce children. I can officially say I’m an egg donor and have children all over the world. On top of this new knowledge, these blood suckers have a thirst for beer swilling blood providers. Basically, I’m screwed.

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Fireflies. Little dancing fairy lights in the darkness.

Bioluminescent fungi! These little mushrooms, unassuming by day, lit the pitch black forest at night like Christmas trees

Honestly, I’m unsure if there’s anything that makes my soul happier than being in nature.

Is there anything Peppermint can’t do? This little oil has stopped itchies from mozzies in every country, and it is immediate relief.

The palm oil plantations… everywhere! Something like 80% of Borneo (Indo and Malay) was logged and turned into palm oil plantations. Now there are only 3 primary forests – but currently 10 secondary forests that were rebuilt starting in 1987 and hopefully more to come.

My hero, Otto, used to work in conservation and with the WWF, so he’s helped a lot in Malay Borneo to rebuild the forest and save the animals from extinction. A very knowledgeable man.

 

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Simple accommodation – usually shared, but I had this to myself. 🙂

 

THE ROAD TO SEMPORNA

An hour boat ride out of the jungle to the port we saw a few crocs along the river banks. The Spanish couple with me were so excited about 1-2mt crocs.. 😏 As we Aussies know, they’re just little ‘uns!

The Spanish couple had organised a car pick up so it’s just me to travel in the 22 seater bus alone (again) with the driver.

It’s an hour and a half trip to do the 100+kms into Lahad Dahtu. Pretty uneventful trip so I spent a lot of time frowning at all the palm oil plantations that have successfully ruined 80% of this island’s forestry.

I arrive at a petrol station to meet with my next bus. My driver, I’ve named Uncle Noddy, has been waiting just for me. There are only 5 of us making the journey to Semporna.. a measly 150kms away.

I’m given more royal treatment by being allowed to sit up front with Uncle Noddy and there’s a young Malay man who sits in the first row of the back of the bus and chats non-stop most of the way. Thankfully his English was pretty good so he acted as a translator at times with Uncle Noddy – whom spoke very broken English.

The chats turned to me being a solo traveller and not having a husband or children on so many occasions along with offers from him (36yo) and Uncle (60yo) to be my boyfriend. Uncle Noddy made sure I was aware of his.. umm.. stamina and power by using hand/arm actions!

After about 70kms, which has taken about 2hrs thus far due to the old bus’s ability to travel at approx 40-50kms p/h – any faster she’d overheat – the conversation has dropped off and I’m grateful for not being in the spotlight. That is until I see Uncle Noddy drifting off to sleep at the wheel.

There are only so many fake coughs one can do to help keep him awake and the rest of us alive. I offer lollies in the hope a sugar hit will liven him up.. nope. So I employ the help of youngin in the back to keep Uncle awake. A few slaps on the arm and more talking were starting to fail. Next option?

“Hey Uncle! Let me drive and you sleep.” Using charades and simple words to get my point across. He seemed keen on the idea so I waited patiently for him to stop and let me drive. After some time I kept pestering him and my translator to pull over and let me drive but the damn translator wanted to be dropped off before he’d allow a woman to drive.

Finally, we’re 60kms from destination and translator gets off. I take my chance – after the selfie request by translator – and jump into the bus’s drivers seat.

It seems Uncle Noddy has changed his mind and is nervous so we discuss for about 5 mins whilst I reassure him I can drive a manual (didn’t tell him that I’ve never driven a bus before).

Uncle gets into passenger seat after much reassurance from me and we’re off!

The remaining people on the bus (we had collected a few more along the way by this stage) were all wide eyed and staring at me in a nervous panic. The smoothest gear changes (I’ve possibly ever done) convinces the passengers and Uncle that I know what I’m doing.. all is well with the world.

Uncle kindly shares his snacks with me on our road trip – which I’m grateful for due to tight schedule and missing lunch. He’s much better as a passenger.

I do all the pick ups and drop offs, including into Uncle’s narrow laned village to drop nappies and snacks off to his family.

As I dropped one of the original passengers off I asked for his $35 ringgit – he found that extremely amusing.

Many people in cars, buses and on the side of the road clearly know Uncle and his van as he does this trip every day (and at that pace) so when they saw me driving there would be huge smiles or clapping.

Each time new passengers got on board their eyes popped when they saw who was driving.. until I take off.. then Uncle ever so proudly turns to the new passengers and gives them the nod. I think he’s proud of me and showing off a little!

After my 60kms we arrive at the bus terminal around 4:30pm and receive lots of smiles and hi-fives. Even an older female, original passenger, shakes my hand and says thanks.

I ask if I’m to catch a taxi to my homestay from here but uncle wouldn’t hear of it. He personally drove me in the bus to my accommodation.

Win! Although, I was still charged full price $35 ringgit.

And damn funny. I am now the latest of Marvel’s superheroes after the lives I saved.. they call me Blonde Bus-lady. Wonder Woman is envious I’m sure.

 

 

 

SEMPORNA

Even though this a tourist location I still seemed to be the only blonde wandering the streets. I finally understand what Tom Waits meant when he sang “I’m big in Japan”.. I’m so tall here!

Not much to the town. It’s dilapidated with many homes and shops scantily covered in rusty corrugated iron sheets and plastic.. and boasts a substantial amount of seafood eateries by the water. Makeshift markets taking up narrow laneways making the walk to certain areas longer than necessary due to the bottleneck of people shopping or trying to pass through.

Homestays seem to be the go.. maybe because most of Semporna is booked out with Chinese tourists – surprisingly something the locals don’t like. They prefer western tourists from what several of the locals have told me.

Hosanna Homestay was quite simple yet pricey for just a room with a bed with aircon.. bathroom was shared with 3 other rooms. The hosts very helpful and were in the process of prettying up the place.

$70 AUD p/n. Dependant on the type of solo traveller you are, there’s a room to suit your needs and budget with these homestays.

Kampung massage – Bayu Spa & Beauty – yesssssss!! More perfect SE Asian Massage. They tried to turn me away, but upon seeing my sad face they decided to look after me. On top of the awesome massage the very kind therapist gave me a small Aura Seri Spray to help with my stress. (May have something to do with Mother Nature trying to kill me… or the bus drive). More selfie requests from the staff made me feel special.

 

Officially THE worst “toilet” in SE Asia so far.

 

THE WATER

Went out for a day snorkelling trip with Borneo Speedy Dive tours and once again, this lucky solo traveller was assigned a guide all for myself. The lovely Victor was so sweet, kind, helpful and just as excited about finding the biggest turtles I’ve ever seen. If he had front teeth I’d consider being his wife #2. (Never mind the fact about becoming a Muslim)

I swear the more I snorkel the better the reefs and diversity of marine life… We swam with huge turtles that would have been close to my height – that’s if they were actually ninja turtles and could stand.

Saw a multitude of fish – tuna, crocodile fish, all the usual tropicals, angel fish as big as my head, a moray eel and the really punk (spikey) lion fish.

My super guide, Victor, took control of my new GoPro Hero5 – it’s friggen AWESOME! – and gained a lot of exceptional footage because he’s a free diver that can hold his breath much longer than my piddly 30 seconds.

What a day! They had to force me out of the water (Total of about 3 hours swimming over two locations) because all my Chinese counterparts wanted to go home. I suggested just leaving me there – this water is home to me.

The reefs are in great condition around these islands. Brilliant and bright colours showcased against the aqua expanse. These Malay people are wise enough to not allow people to wear sunscreen (other than a natural one), no standing on or touching any coral – even though I’m told it’s hard to control “so many stupid Chinese”! Not my words.

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I really wanted to visit Indonesian Borneo, but, due to my hasty exit from Lombok and not having time to research, it was too hard to get from Semporna – which is stupidly close to the Indo border – into Indonesia without going all the way to KL first. Madness I tells ya.

Overall I found Sabah kinda pricey for a SE Asian country that didn’t have the usual perks – like decent accommodation. But as usual all the locals are super friendly, kind and the guides I had went above and beyond to make sure my solo butt was well cared for.

A big shout out to Otto and Eim at Uncle Tan’s and for Victor at Borneo Speedy Dive tours. These guys all made me feel well looked after.

It’s funny how one day out in the ocean can make you change your mind about a place. Maybe, because I’m a water lover, my want to never leave the pristine coral and marine life made this place special.

 

 

What are your thoughts on Malaysia? I have a ticket to fly back there, but into Kuala Lumpur, and would love more feedback on where to and what to do… off the beaten path of course.

 

Its all about education of the mind body and spirit…. and being a water baby.