Feb 7, 2011

The Philippines~ *who*when*where

In the Winter Holidays of 2010, another 4 South Africans *not to be confused with those who set sail for the majestic ruins of  Cambodia some 6 months ago* traded in snow for sun, sea and sand as they embarked on a fantastical journey, into the wilderness that is...

They traveled  far and wide, from the anime world that is Japan and the kimchi corner that is South Korea; two brothers, parted from each other by the life that comes with Teaching English in Foreign lands, were finally reunited in the heart of fashion, Seoul, to begin the voyage across many oceans to find the breathtakingly beautiful treasures that awaited them on the Island of Palawan, Philippines. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and its tropical climate make the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons but have also endowed the country with natural resources and made it one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world.

And so begins the adventure of Dale, Roxy, Natalie and John...

Cebu Pacific Flight 5J0195 left Korea bound for Manila on Christmas Eve 2010 carrying 4 very excited South Africans who had had their fill of Indian food in Seoul. And who were very happy to leave behind the -10 degree Celsius weather at their departure for the 30 degree sunny skies at their destination. 5 Hours and 400 pesos (the currency in the Philippines, from now on refered to as "P" ) in airport tax later, and the 4 tired travelers arrived in the hot and humid Manila Airport, ready for their 8 hour wait for the  plane that would take them to Puerto Princessa, the capital of the Island of Palawan. Being Christmas Eve, they decided to forgo all budget worries and book into a hotel for the long wait (at the pretty decent price of P1000 or $22 each) and headed off for a flushing toilet and a couple of zzz's.

Bright and early the next morning, the 4 adventures fought their way through the Christmas surge of families visiting loved ones, and reached their destination. Just in time to be welcomed by the smiling face of their airport shuttle to take them to the place they would call home for the next 2 days in Puerto Princessa, Albon Pension:

While in Puerto Princessa, they saw many things and even mnaged to fit in a ciuple of tours. One of thse was to the Underground River at Sabang, where they went on a  boat ride through the dense 'amazon like' Mangroves that are so famous around Sabang...

for only P200 ($5)a person, before heading to one of the new Natural Wonders of the World,  the Underground River (P1500 ($34) pp including lunch):
Azure waters, crystal clear and inviting, mark the entrance to the world’s second longest subterranean watercourse. An few hours away from the city of Puerto Princesa and a short boat ride from the Sheridan Resort, Sabang, yet a step back in time to an age when the earth was still young.
The subterranean river itself cuts through a cave strewn with stalactites, stalagmites, columns and all manner of cave formations. Entertaining and well informed local guides propel the canoes that are safe as well as ecologically sound and ideal for the silent appreciation of the cave. Visitors can enjoy and appreciate without worrying about causing harm to this wonder of the natural world. Undergroundriver

The Underground River is in the running for the title of one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature...you can vote online for it by clicking here!

A day trip to Honday Bay (P1500 for the boat ride for 4 ppl, P100 for snorkeling masks and P100 for lunch) was also on the cards, for some fresh fish and snorkeling 

After spending 2 nights at Albon Pension (P1800 for 2 ppl for 2 night) the gang started the great trek *i.e. the 7 hour mini van trip to EL Nido at P700 a person* which stopped in the seedy town of Roxas for a loo break....anyway moving swifly along...

All going well, the 4 sweaty and hungry voyagers arrived in El Nido to begin the search for accommodation for their stay, which they eventually found at Rosanna's Cottages *P2200 a person for a 4 man room for 4 nights*. Most meal times, they could be spotted at Art Cafe, soaking up the view and stuffing their faces with all kinds of tasty treats.

Just before the New Years, they headed on a mind blowing and gut wrenching 3 day Island Hopping tour with tour company, Tao. Mind blowing due to the following images:

One of the many Island stops..

The first nights accommodation was spent sharing the tiny Island with the 3 locals that made up a tiny fishing Village about 4 hours off the coast of El Nido.

Gut wrenching due to the fact that the 4 travelers all got a case of food poising on the first day of their tour. The youngest traveler, getting hit the hardest, and being pretty much only capable of lying on the beach covered in kokoi's:

Anyway...after a not so speedy recovery, they welcomed the New Year in at the fabulous Alternative *P700 pp for buffet dinner* in one of their 'pods' that overlook the ocean.

The last few days were spent renting motorbikes to explore El Nido *P700 a bike plus P100 for fuel*

Then it was time for travelers to head back to Puerto Princessa for their final night in The Philippines; which they spent at the one and only hotel they could find, for some well deserved luxury *P3000 for a room for 4 people for the night*. Some last minute shopping was done at the pearl markets, and finally it was tie to bid goodbye to the wonders of Palawan and head back to the bustling metropolis of Manila, and finally return home to Seoul.

Heading back sad, tired, thinner thanks to the slightly off bacon they were served while on an Island, but filled to the brim with sun shine and family/friendship induced happiness they bidfarewell to the Philippines, and hello to the prospect of many more adventures together again in the not so distant future...

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