From the Arctic Chill to the Tropics

Ah, another bus ride worth remembering! I have arrived in the Philippines...

MONDAY 21: The first day was spent in Manila just hanging around. S and I went to see Intramuros, which is the old part of town. There are a bunch of cool old churches and whatnot as well as a fort where a revolutioniary of the Philippies called Rizel was held for some time before finally being executed. It rained the whole time we were walking around; we were soaked (August and September is their rainy season)! All we wanted was a nice hot coffee and lo and behold, what did we find...sadly enough, a Starbucks! I know, I know.... I hate Starbucks, but sometimes the old tried and true is...just too good to be true. After a nice hot mocha and some time to plan our next move, we went back out into the pouring rain. Next we went to the mall of Asia, which is either the biggest mall in Asia or maybe the whole world, I couldn't quite figure that one out. We didn't spend much time there - we got a massage, ate and watched a movie (all in English with no subtitles; it is just like being at home).

TUESDAY 22: Our next move was to go up to the north to a city called Banaue, where the 2000 year old, world famous rice terraces are. To get there, we had to take a 9 hour bus ride which left Manila at 10 pm. Now, having taken many bus rides in Australia and other SE Asia countries, I consider myself a pro at the bus riding experience. Rule number one: take warm clothes because they always crank up the AC on the bus. Rule number two: take a pillow on overnight rides becuase the seats are not that comfy. So I took a makeshift pillow and got ready for a long bus ride. I was not even close to being prepared. The bus was about 30 degrees inside the whole time. I was freezing! I finally used my pillow as a blanket, but was still not warm (and now I also did not have a pillow). I think over the course of 9 hours, I perhaps slept... 20 mintues. It was so uncomfortable! Finally we arrived in Banaue, found a place to stay, had breakfast and warmed up a bit. We took a nice tour of the rice terraces, which are soooo cool, and then had some food (the best veggie curry ever! I am not having too many problems with the whole vegetarian thing yet) and went to bed around 7 pm (yeah, pathetic, I know) thinking to just have a nap but ending up sleeping the whole night through.

WEDNESDAY 23: The next day we went to a town called Sagada, where there are hanging coffins and caves. We went caving and got to crawl through really small spaces, climb around on limestone falls and wade through water while holding our cameras high up in the air... We ate the "famous" yogurt, which was good but a bit sour, drank the "famous" rice wine, which tasted like apple juice gone bad and was not very good and hung out and played cards since it was still pouring down rain (who decided to come to the Philippines during the rainy season anyway?)

THURSDAY 24: Travel day... 5 hour jeepney ride on dirt roads from Sagada to Banaue, 9 hour bus ride back to Manila, 20 minute cab ride to the airport where we got ripped off by the cabbie when he said (after starting the journey) that his "meter didn't work", 1 hour flight to Boracay...

FRIDAY 25 and SATURDAY 26: Boracay. Finally, we arrive in a place where wonder of wonders...it is NOT RAINING!!! Yay. We found a bungalow close to the beach and have been relaxing, swimming, snorkeling and eating (a lot! I am a bottomless pit!) Today we plan on taking a sailing trip around the island, maybe renting motorbikes and riding around the island, doing some diving, windsurfing, kayaking... I am already sunburnt and perfectly happy about that... It is so nice to see the sunshine!

Next stop to be determined at a later date. S and I are planning on meeting up with Doyle and Rachel at some point, perhaps in Palawan or Cebu, two other islands in the Philippines. More later and photos will be forthcoming..!

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