Bohol: Land of the Green Chocolate Hills

After a few very relaxing days in Boracay, S and I headed back out to the airport for our second of many crazy interisland flights. The plane we were on holds about 20 people max and the maximum altitude is 15,000 feet, which is less than one of the skydives I have taken (18,000 feet) but for some reason that doesn't really make it feel any more safe. We safely arrived in Cebu City, Cebu, where we had to battle the barrage of people trying to overcharge us for a taxi to the pier. We finally found an honest (??) taxidriver who used a meter which was not broken and made it to the pier just in time to catch the ferry to Bohol. We were met at the ferry building in Tagbilaran, Bohol by a man with a sign(!!) bearing our names. It was a nice change; usually you have to battle all the dishonest taxi drivers before finally settling on a still overpriced fare to get anywhere. This guy knew who we were, knew where we were going and didn't overcharge us too much. We arrived at the Bohol Divers Resort where Doyle and Rachel were supposed to be staying. The resort did not have anyone registered in either of their names, but did remember a white girl/Filipino guy combo who had checked in the day before. Luckily it was them and we found them without too much trouble.

The first day we took a tour around the island of Bohol, which included a trip up to the Chocolate Hills (a tour guide laughed at us when we said we wanted to go there - "they are not chocolate right now," he said, "they are GREEN chocolate". Well, green or not they were quite impressive) where we even hiked to the top of one of the hills, having to go through a local's yard to do so. We also got to see the world's smallest primate, the Tarshier, which is a tiny (smaller than my hand) monkey-like animal with eyes bigger than its head. We saw also a man-made forest, the area of the Blood Pact between the Spanish and the Filipinos and the oldest stone church on the island.

The next day we went island hopping for the day. We spent the day snorkling, laying around, eating fresh caught grilled fish and drinking San Miguel Beer. I got totally burnt and Doyle almost got sick on the boat ride back to the mainland (it was a little bit choppy). The entire time, I was waiting for him to unclench his hand from the railing. Either that or to put on snorkel, mask and fins in preparation for a dip in the deep.

The last day we went scuba diving twice. Both dives were wall dives, and there were a lot of things there that I had not seen before. The wall dives are also very cool becuase you can look down and the wall just goes down, down, down, but you cannot see where it ends. There were tons of glow in the dark fish and corals and all in all, we got to dive for almost two hours. The boat ride back was fun; the water was pretty choppy and so every time it went down a swell, the water would come crashing up on deck. The only place to avoid that is the very front of the boat, so I rode on the front where you get a good 6 feet of air sometimes when the boat goes over a big wave.

Things I learned in Bohol: S is deathly afraid of crabs (I plan to put one in his bed sometime before the end of the trip). Sinigang (sour soup) is really good (who would have thought!). Doyle and S both take longer than me to get ready in the morning (it is a toss-up as to who takes the longest - I am betting on Doyle). When driving, if you lay on the horn heavy and long enough, you can run over, go around or pass anything (legally/safely?). Philippine time = + at least one hour past or 1/4 of the proposed time. Lancones (sp?) is a fruit that we definitely need to get in the US.

Things I want to take home with me when I leave this country: a baby (they are sooooo cute!), a monkey (not quite as cute as the baby, but close!), a massage lady (for obvious reasons - can you say...daily massage?), a boat hand (they may be smaller than me, but their bodies are nothing to sneer at!)

Next Stop: the island of Palawan!!


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..!


On my way to S-E-A

The trip begins:

It began in San Franciso, where I flew first to Seattle. S took me out to his neighborhood bars, introduced me to all his crazy engineer work buddies and took me to Pike Place, where they throw fish... Honestly, the fish thing was really the only touristy thing I wanted to do while I was there and it was fun. We also went to the Red Hook brewery, where we somehow added ourselves to a group of beer connisouurs. They go from brewery to brewery sampling beer and finding out everything about the particular brand. We arrived at Red Hook and it was too late to take a tour, but one of the guys in the group invited us to go with them so we got... a free tour and lots of free beer! Good times.

We leave for the Philippines on Friday, where we will hang out at the beach, do some scuba diving, snorkling, kayaking and other water sports. We also plan to meet up with Rachel and Noel, who are currently in Palau, but will be arriving in Manila on the 27th.

More later and hopefully I will be able to upload some photos once I have some!


Go Fish!

Fishing...is something I have not done in a long time... When I was a kid, my dad and I used to go all the time and sit next to the Feather, put a hook up some poor worm's little butt and cast off. I remember (from pictures mostly) catching lots of shiny, happy, rainbow trout, gutting them, frying them up, eating them...Mmmmm. Good times! And fishing is so relaxing; you get to sit by a moving body of water, in the shade, daydreaming and enjoying being "one with nature". At least that is what I thought until two days ago, when I once again went fishing with my dad.

First there was a 3 mile gruelling uphill-both-ways hike to the summit of the mountain. Then the trail dips down and starts heading downhill and you think "joy, a reprieve!" But it is not meant to be. The trail that we were hiking on has not been maintained in probably 20 years or so and about 6 years ago there was a huge fire, which wiped out the brush...but, the brush grew back 10 times worse the next year. So our whole downhill "easy part of the" hike was spent bushwhacking through scrub brushes, branches and woe-of-all-woes POISON OAK. Yes, poison oak. And you go to avoid one clump of it just to fall off the side of the trail, then when you try to clamber back up onto the trail, you have to grab ahold of something and what is near you? Poison Oak.

So we finally battle the horrid poison oak, branches and scrub brush (and lose horribly - I am wounded, scratched and bleeding) and get to the creek, which is nice and shaded and cold as ice. Now, things have changed a bit since I was a kid. Where we used to stick the hook in a nice fat worm and let it lazily drift around in the water, now we actually have to have a bit of finesse! Today, we fly fish.

Now, fly fishing is not a lazy, relaxing sport. You have to sneak up on the fish and whip your pole about and then just at the right moment, set the fly right on the water so the fish thinks it is a bug and then.....when the fish takes a taste, you snap the pole backwards, hook him and haul him in. This is easier said than done. First, sneaking up on a fish when the sun is almost above your head is not an easy task. We also took the dog with us and she wants to be right smack dab in the middle of the action, so she spooks the fish away as well.

next, when it comes to whipping your pole about, I though if you just snap it back and forth, you were doing things right. Apparently there is a method to it. The only thing I am good at when it comes to that is getting the hook stuck in _____ (insert area here - trees, rocks, bushes) or getting the line tangled up on itself. In fact, if there was one thing I could wish for when I was fly fishing, it would be a little "cabana boy" who untangled/unhooked my line for me while I relaxed with a cold beer. This would save me a lot of time, and also this could be a way to put the relax back in fly fishing.

Lastly, the hook and haul in. I hooked a bunch of fish but many of them decided to let go at the last moment. Even when sometimes I hooked and began to haul them in, they decided to let go. So the ratio of fish hooked to fish hooked, hauled in and not wiggled away at the last minute is like 10 to 2.

I ended up catching 3 fish so all in all it was a good time. Until the walk back. We had to bushwhack back UPhill to get to the top of the mountain. We were tired and so kept misstepping and falling off the edge and so having to grab onto even more poison oak than before. By the time we reached the top, I was feeling more like rolling downhill than walking. Then I looked at the dog. She is about 10 years old now; the last time we took this hike, she laid down in the middle of the path and refused to get up. This time, although she is in better shape, you could still tell that she was not a happy camper.

Finally, we all made it to the bottom of the hill and I finally got to have that cold beer, although my cabana boy was still nowhere to be found.