ponedeljek, 09. december 2013

Manila, Again

And here I am, again in the Philippines, again writing a post. What happened between? Mostly nothing. All the drinking done could have been fun if ... if there wasn't so much of it. During my last week in Seoul the alcoholocaust turned me into something I don't want to remember - I actually DON'T remember, I just believe folks who told me about it - and after going home for a few days with Ramon we fell into a makkolocaust that not only made me too lazy to go to the post office and send makkoli to a friend in Japan, it made me drink the bottles I bought for him. So much for my promises. I will blame the cold winter.
Now I'm mosquito bitten all over, sweating like a pig and the beer I opened a few minutes ago is already lukewarm. I guess I'll go for a bucket of ice cold beer in a bar nearby, only 190 peso. It can't get worse than it started. Yesterday evening, to be precise. I was at the Incheon airport, waiting to board my flight (drinking beer in a nearby cafe) when I heard the first announcement for my flight. It was time, I tought, gulped the rest of the beer and set myself in motion just to find a little crowd in uproar. The boarding? The flight is delayed, explained a guy, seeing the dumb expression on my face. Ah well, I guess I can drink another beer then. What's the delay? They don't know how long it will take to fix the airplane. WHAT? They said it's nothing serious, they just don't know when they will get the OK to go. Yeah, sure, I bet they don't let the bird to fly because the captain didn't wash his hands properly. I was no more in the mood for another beer. Eventually we hit the air and in Manila I experienced the most rough landing ever. I don't know why the bird couldn't reach the exit ramp - it was parked just a few meters from it - so we had to use the stairs to get off the plane and then climb again on the ramp... what's the problem? Well, you see, now in the Philippines is the dry season so, of course, we got off the plane in the middle of a tropical dry rainy night.
My wish to move around Manila City by night is as hot as absolute zero. I had a few coffees at the airport, took few naps and this morning I was ready for my urban survivor adventure. No cabs, I don't want to be ripped off again. Jeepneys only. I got lost only twice - heading more or less in the right direction, but still lost. At the end I "hired" a street boy to spot the right jeepney and stop it for me and gave him an enormous tip, full 10 peso, the exact same ammount of my last jeepney ride to my destination. Usually these boys get some small change from drivers for their service to shepherd customers on a specific jeepney, I guess this one got a day - or even more - wage from me. In the end I spent two hours and half more than with a cab. And I spent thirty (yes, 30) times less than with a cab. Call me stupid.
I plan to stay at the Green Mango Inn for a few days and just chill out (with temperatures above 30 C and real feel above 40), join the WWOOF Philippines and find a farm to stay there for some time.
Sounds like we have a plan, ha?

ponedeljek, 09. september 2013

From El Nido to Banaue

A long night bus ride again, from El Nido to Puerto Princesa and a whole day there to wait the evening flight. If you will happen to wander around the airport, don’t miss the Crossing Bridge bar, it’s located 10 meters from the airport exit, on your right. There you’ll have a chance to drink a more than decent coffee – true, you’ll pay almost the double (80 peso for a capucccino), but still less than at the airport. And let me tell you, seriously, it’s been years since I had the chance to enjoy such a good cup of coffee!
The flight was delayed, it’s a completely normal practice (if you have connecting flights you’re sure to miss it), so I arrived in Manila too late to go anywhere. So I stayed all the night at the airport, watching anime and sleeping on the floor, like many others. In the morning I wanted to move my ass to the bus terminal and looked for a taxi. First I asked for the fare and had a blast – the plane ticket from Puerto Princesa was less than 900 peso. The taxi was 1400 peso. And it was the prepaid ride, the official fare, not a maverick ripoff. No way. I went to the Tourist Information desk and told my story to the lady working there. She warned me that moving around Manila with public transport can be more than confusing, but she was willing to explain me the necessary steps of the urban trip.
It wasn’t exactly easy-peasy, but again not that complicated. At one point I choose to be stubborn and instead asking for directions I took a road that was just my guess. I lost few hours. If I didn’t, I would have been at the bus terminal faster than with a taxi! Not to mention how much cheaper: bus ride 20 peso, train ride 15 peso, jeepney ride 10 peso. The bad part of this trip was that I saw the other face of the Philippines. In some streets I was walking on human feces. Homeless families, living on the streets under a square foot of hanging vinyl sheet. And the smell... I guess I will never understand what drives people to the cities to lead a life like this. I mean, I saw poor people on Palawan (and later in Banaue), and I’m talking about really poor, but in the countryside they had more food and they were way way more clean!

I don’t want to see Manila ever again. When I come back to this country, I will just hop on another plane that will take me away from this city.
I was way too early at the bus terminal, since the first (and only) bus for Banaue was at 22.45. I slept a few hours at the terminal, then I slept more on the bus (freezing all the time, damn their air conditioned buses) and was in Banaue at 6.30. I was the only passenger on the bus and was greeted by a bunch of local young men, waiting to grab the tourist and bring him to the hotel they work for. I was afraid they will be annoying but I couldn’t be more wrong. While I was smoking we were just chatting, where I’m from, is it my first visit to the Philippines and so on. Then they asked if I have a reservation and I said no, I will go and search for the cheapest accomodation. And it was sorted – one of them said that he knows the place, for 200 peso for a dorm style with shared bathroom, the others went their way, I got a free ride on his bike to the People’s Lodge, here we found that there’s no bed available in the dorms so I got a single room for 250 peso. Still stupid cheap.
Banaue is a small town with not really much to do. Almost every house is an inn or a store and every man is trike transporter or a souvenir seller (but besides wooden carvings they also sell some illegal stuff for smoking). I was walking around all days, drank a few beers in the evening and went early to sleep. For various reasons: be it the above mentioned nothing to do, the frequent blackouts and the early noise – the lodge restaurant opens at 6 AM when tourists come with the night bus. So I eat breakfast at 7, take a bottle of water and hit the paths around the rice terraces.
Yes, rice terraces, the only interesting thing here. So interesting that they are UNESCO world heritage. 2000 years old, made by the Ifugao, a tribe of the Cordilleran Head Hunters.

On one of my walks I met a class on a field trip. Or, I should say, on a ricefield trip...

 Very enterprising kids. After greeting me, the boys wanted to sell me betel. Everybody is chewing betel, they have orange lips. I really don’t mind what other people do or use, but I have troubles with betel. Because betel chewers spit that orange spit just everywhere and streets are covered with orange stains. And a simple rain will not wash it away. But the old stains are OK, I find disgusting when a bunch of chewers is crouching on the street and there’s an orange pool in front of them.

Posting this from Incheon airport and I'm pissed off again like hell. Got a shock at Manila airport, just before boarding, after finding out that there and then I have to pay another airport tax or fee or whatever they call this legalized robbery. How I hate this Philippino way of doing - selling - things. You can never know how much it will cost at the end, it just keep adding all the time. Ah, don't get it wrong, I know very well that you always have to pay airport taxes - my point beeing that I already paid them when purchasing the ticket. So now I'm almost pennyless in Incheon, it's early in the morning, too early to call a friend and borrow some money to go home. Crap, what an ending for a nice vacation...

sobota, 31. avgust 2013

El Nido

Second day in El Nido, on Palawan island. Arrived here way earlier than expected, in the middle of the night and that doesn't sound like "early morning" to me... so I decided to sleep on the beach and go to the hostel really in the "early morning". I couldn't sleep. No, there were no cops chasing backpackers away, the problem was the noise. All the beach looked like one huge party. So I joined it. And eventually was invited to the loudest place, where the party went on for the longest time - till morning. At one point I was introduced to the umpteth guy who asked me "So you're from Slovenia?" Yeah, I told him, Slovenia, and that is not Slovakia, OK? "Vem, js sm tud iz Slovenije," he replied. I just stared at him, not knowing if I should run away or simply bury him under 2 meters of sand. In the end I just kept my distance. But he was from Slovenia for sure. The friends he made her were a bit worried about him, kept saying that every day he drinks to much, he should take a break abd stuff like that. I laughed at them. Don't worry to much, guys, he's the real deal, if he says give me booze, just give him. Only take care that he doesn't fall in the ocean when he's that drunk. That puzzled them a bit. I mean, why in the world you mention this so specifically? Clearly we won't let nobody fall in the water drunk, in the niddle of the night! I told them the simple truth: he may think that he fell in a pool of rum and in no time you'll have a low tide. They stopped worrying about his drinking.
We met a few hours later (NOT with the Slovenia guy!) - the DJ and some others left before, mumbling something about waking up a dealer to get some pepper so they can survive the night. I'm out of this so I really have no clue what kind of illegal stuff they were looking for. They came back, it was already dawning and they found me with a beer, sitting in the sand. They had only one question: On what am I? They still think I'm a liar because I told the truth. Beer only.
Eventually I made it into my hostel, La Banane, slept almost all day, had few beers and went to sleep again. Wanted to be in shape for today's island hopping.
The kids here sure are clean, start bathing early in the morning
Fashion dog

El Nido from the sea

Lunch time!Eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, fish, squid, pork, chicken, rice, bananas, pineapple.

Our boat, the Light Bearer (and I thought that here the folks were more devout christians har har har)

The best part of the tour was Secret Lagoon. I was a bit fed with all the poetry used for the names, Paradise Beach, Secret Beach, Green Lagoon, Blue Lagoon, Polka dot Lagoon (I made up the last three), but in the end I had to admit that in this case nomen est omen.
A small hole in the volcanic cliff. 
On the other side...

With sea water, but the level is at least one meter higher than the sea. Go figure. Last stop on Commando beach. Finally I could buy a co.. co... a co... COLD BEER!

The boat master said we'll stay here for one hour. Whoa, you'll see how much can I drink in an hour! Only that.. chief Norman... don't you think the weather is starting to look bad? Don't worry, maybe just some rain, we had some rain during lunchtime and it was no problem for you, was it?
No chief, I'm not talking about the clouds but about THAT thing that just appeared  from behind that island....