Posts Tagged With: Palawan

Sunny Sentosa Island

Our second full day in Singapore turned out quite sunny and nice, so we decided on a beach day at the city’s resort island, Sentosa.  We decided to cab it there, and feared for our lives as we sped through traffic as breakneck speed, forking out SG$15 for our fare. Yikes!  Luckily we had brought snacks with us from the local grocery store, and managed to have the cab ride as our largest expense of the day.  After being dropped off at the casino (where there is no surcharge for taxis to come and our 4 dollar entrance fee to the island is waived) we wandered around, in awe of the huge shopping complexes, restaurants and attractions that were on display.  We felt like it was Disneyland, with prices to match!  It was wild after being in the “other” Asia for so long to see such luxury and the newness of it all struck us as very artificial. But hey, at least the tram was free!  We boarded and headed to the other side of the island, to the beaches.  The first beach was called Siloso, and it really wasn’t much to look at.  A tiny beachfront with a view of the huge shipping tankers in the ocean, bordered by some very expensive cafe’s charging SG$20 for the use of the loungers.

I know I sound super cheap, but coming from places where your dollar is worth 10,000 or even 40 of the local currency, it was tough to pay for things that were on par with our dollar.  If I wasn’t careful I could have blown the rest of my trips budget in a few days!
We happily ate our store-bought peanuts and people watched for a bit before deciding to check out the other side of the island, and Palawan beach, which ended up being gorgeous!! In a totally artificial way. Lol My friend even told me later that the rocks on the trucked-in sand were made of plastic! Nonetheless, we enjoyed the beachfront, and were sharing it with what seemed to be about a thousand high schoolers or university aged students, taking part in some kind of epic games day in the sweltering heat.  Whatever!  The sand was warm and the water was nice, so we wasted away most of the afternoon on the beach, browning ourselves while the Japanese sought shade and looked at us like we were the crazy ones!
After all the sun and sand, we boarded the tram and rode it around aimlessly for a while, checking out the rest of the island and it’s activities.  Theres no shortage of fun things to do there if you have money – you can ride the cable car, the luge, go zip-lining, surfing in a fake wave pool, rock climbing, hang on the trapeze, go to universal studios, go to the aquarium, you get the idea.  We didn’t do any of those things and still had a great time on Sentosa, so it all depends on your budget, i guess.  On our way back we stopped at the giant mer-lion, Singapore’s mythical mascot, and climbed the covered escalators (??) to the top of the lookout, where there was a view of Sentosa and the city beyond.  We laughed at the ridiculous items in the gift shop and ate ridiculously expensive ice cream, and boarded the tram back for the ride across the causeway and out to the city once more.  The tram dropped us at a giant mall called Vivocity (surprise, surprise) and we walked around feeling like scrubs in our beach clothes, finding a giant food court and some sweet and sour pork for me!
We were ready to trek back to the burbs after our $5 dinner, and after our 30 minute ride, we were happy to have a quiet night with our host family, playing cards and having a great time relaxing with them.  Jo even popped my laundry in the dryer for me while we were out, and folded it all for me!! 😀 to a traveler, this is actually the NICEST thing you can do for someone on the road, to help them with their laundry!! After some good phone chats with friends, we called it a night.  more adventures awaited us tomorrow 🙂
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Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Manic, Muggy Manila

Wahoo!  I am finally out of Palawan!! To be fair, the place did grow on me after a few days, it’s a super cute if not smelly place, and its very cultural for someone who wants to experience the real Filipino way of life, I met some great locals and made new friends, so I can’t say it was all bad.  I was just ready to leave and am soooo excited for Malaysia + Singapore, having bought a Lonely Planet and started reading all about the places I’m going!!

I flew out of Palawan around 1pm and got to Manila without a hitch.  I’m staying with some mutual friends here, who turned out to be excellent hosts and great company as well 🙂  I got to their gorgeous penthouse condo, and there just happened to be a birthday in the house, so we went out to celebrate my new friend Marshalls Bday!  After the first decent shower I’ve had in weeks, we went out to the Sofitel, a very fancy hotel on the bay, doesn’t look like much from the outside, but man was it ever nice inside!  We played some pool while waiting for our table, and had a great ( if not expensive) dinner while swapping travel stories.
The next day I was on my own as my new friends had to work, so I ventured out into the sprawling big city by myself in search of adventure.  Instead of adventure I found a pancake house for breakfast and settled for that, lol.  Everything is so Americanized here! There is TONS of fast food, A Mcdonalds on every corner, and I even found a Starbucks to satisfy my caffeine craving!  Not quite the authentic experience I was looking for, but the Philippines was an american colony for 50 years and before that belonged to spain for 400 years, so it truly is woven into the culture here.  A hybrid mix of old and new which struck me as strange but, hey, its part of their legacy here!
I ignored the shouts and catcalls of the many touts and guys and duders and security guards and walked along the big, dirty, dangerous, smelly streets.  Seriously everyone shouts hello at you, whats your name, where are you from, where are you going….you get the picture.  I just smile and pretend not to speak english. I`ve got nothing against meeting the locals, in fact i love it but they way they approach me makes me feel threatened so i just play dumb.  I found myself at Rizal park, the place where Filipino independence was declared, and although its majestic, its basically just a big fancy park.  i got lost after that trying to find the historic district, and luckily got approached by a sweet lady tout, Mary Jane, who told me I was going the wrong way and offered to give me a tour of Intramuros, the `city within the walls` which is the oldest area in Manila.  I got into the sidecar and had a really enjoyable few hours in the old city, checking out all the old buildings, forts, and museums that I could handle, and talked to MJ about her life in Manila, which is hard but she was super cheery about it and assured me that it was way better here than her life of poverty in the country. She overcharged me for the tour but at that point I really didn’t care, so I gave her 700 pesos (about $18) and decided to check out some of the newer parts of Manila.  I swear I could have walked faster than the taxi that took me to Robinson’s Place, the traffic in this city is actually the WORST.  Add the smog and the heat to that, and , about ten million people, and you have one big dirty mess on your hands.  Still, it is an interesting city and I`m glad I made the effort to stop here.  I even saw my first prostitute deal go down!  A tiny Filipino girl and a big American dude – go figure.
At the mall, I experienced a new kind of culture shock – i felt like I was in America again!  Everywhere I looked were american brands, stores, and chains.  But it all came with some distinctly Filipino touches, lots of kiosks selling Filipino food and drinks, the strangest assortment of foods, and pretty much anything you can dream of was available in this mall.  I ate some delicious Pho (Vietnamese, Not Filipino, so sue me) and successfully maneuvered my way back to Bayview towers, a small accomplishment but I was still proud of myself!!
As I walked back, I noticed two more things – one is the huge population of transgendered men and women in Manila – the concept of gender is very fluid here and nobody seems to blink or care as lipsticked men and butchy women mingle and go about their business.  Its awesome!  The second thing that I saw was absolute poverty everywhere – people living on the streets, sifting through the garbage and living hand to mouth. It was hard to see, and while i was busy feeling sorry for them a whole family noticed me, broke into huge smiles, waving, saying hi and being super friendly and polite.  Wow.  To have such a happy, upbeat attitude for what they had, it really gave me a new perspective.  i waved and smiled back, gave the littlest one some change I had, and continued my way to my penthouse, feeling infinitely luckier than before.
My lovely hosts made me dinner that night, thank you Duncan and Marshall for taking such good care of me in Manila!  i went to bed early and was up at 4:30 am to grab a cab to the airport and flew to Kuala Lumpur without a hitch. My Malaysian and Singapore adventure was just beginning!!
Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Solo Journey Begins

It’s day three of my solo adventure and things are going great!  I found a much more awesome guesthouse called Banwa Art House and settled in there for three more nights.  I thought about going to El Nido, but its a seven hour bus journey there and I leave again from Puerto Princesa for Manila – so a fourteen hour round trip just doesn’t sound worth it to me for one night in El Nido. Damn.  I decided to make the best of my time here, and the owner of my hostel has been so helpful and lovely in sorting everything out for me! What a nice change from the previous guesthouse I was at!  The owner lives most of her time in Ireland and has two very sweet daughters who are spending their summer here with her, the hostel is filled with other lovely travelers and I feel right at home, even though there is no aircon in the room and a few neighborly mosquitoes, gotta take the good with the bad I guess!

My first solo day was pretty uneventful as I settled into my new place and took a looooong walk around the little city, which is slowly growing on me. Slowly.  I caught up on my world news and chatted with friends from home that evening, hitting the hay early because i had a scooter rented for the next day and was excited for my journey!
I woke up the next morning and packed up my stuff, getting ready to scoot off on an adventure to find Emerald Beach.  I got directions from my lovely hostel owner and drove off down the streets of Puerto Princesa, loving every minute of my drive and finding the beach no problem after about twenty minutes on the road.  It was awesome!! Even though I was parked in front of a hotel, NOBODY was around save for the hotel staff, and I had the beach/pool to myself for pretty much the whole day.  I sunned myself and ate a lovely lunch by the pool, my friend Laura from the hostel showed up about halfway through my day and we chatted about backpack life.  I went to leave in the late afternoon and realized – uh oh, I had somehow lost the key to my scooter!! Yikes 😦
I pretty much had every maintenance guy, security officer and tourist police guy looking for that damn key, and finally one of them triumphantly pulled it out of the sand!! WHEW! I was so relieved that I didn’t have to pay a major fee for losing the key!! I scooted back to my hostel after that without any other bad things happening, and spent the evening relaxing, playing a very interesting game of chess with a five-year old and chatting with the other travellers in the place.
Today has been a quiet, relaxed, blogging kinda day, ive been to two coffee shops so far and have been typing away, trying to record the events of the past week (feels like so much longer!) and staying out of the rain.  Tomorrow I finally leave Puerto Princesa and move on to Manila and Malaysia awaits!  I’m sure there will be lots of new adventures waiting for me there 🙂
xo
D

 

Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Underground River and Goodbye Chelsea!

Today we checked out the underground river, a natural wonder of the world which consists of a network of caves extending 8 km underground that you can paddle through on a boat.  We woke up early to board the bus for a bumpy two-hour ride to the other side of the island. Big surprise, everyone else on our tour was – Asian!! Weee!  Oh well. Nobody new to talk to but we were used to it by then.  Our bus stopped at Sabang Beach, which was beautiful!  We had a great buffet lunch filled with local foods and after that took a small boat to the entrance of the caves.  We got to see some cute monkeys and humongous lizards as well.

The caves themselves were very impressive, just the type of place you might expect to see tons of bats and an underground lair worthy of Bruce Wayne.  The boat ride itself was cool, our tour guide was very funny and pointed out the sights to us.  Just me, Chelsea and a whooole bunch of Asians. Sigh.
After the river and a bumpy ride back to Puerto Princesa, we took a long walk and discovered a sweet department store and a cute restaurant called Heavenly Desserts by Dorothy, where we ate dinner and had some heavenly desserts!  Then another very quiet night at our guesthouse – Puss in Boots was on (our only movie option) so we watched that and called it a night.  In the morning me and Chelsea said our goodbyes, she was off to Manila and eventually Vancouver while I had the pleasure of staying in Palawan for another three nights!! urg.
xoxo
D
Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Suprises in Palawan

Oh man. We finally took a wrong turn in our travels – ending in up in Puerto Princesa was not the kind of ending to our vacation that we had hoped it would be. After spending a few (too many) days here myself, this little city has redeemed itself somewhat in my eyes, but when we first got here we both had the same reaction. WHAT THE F. AND WHERES THE BEACH?

I had come here in good faith, as an awesome tour company from Canada had highly recommended this destination, and I thought they could do no wrong.  Truth is, Palawan is pretty awesome but we have totally ended up in the wrong part of it.  El Nido is beautiful, Coron supposedly even better, and Puerto Princesa? not.  Boo!
Let me back up here. When we got off the plane we were picked up by two perfectly lovely Filipinos who pointed out some “sights” to us on our way to the Guesthouse (which they call Pensions here for some reason).  We arrived at our shabby little Lola Itang Guesthouse and soon figured out that our hosts knew NOTHING WHATSOEVER about what there was to do in Puerto Princesa.  Is there a beach? “uhhhhhhh…”  what can we do here? “uhhhhhh” how do we book a tour to the underground river? “uhhhhhh” no clue. at all.  We were used to lovely guesthouse owners who could tell us about the surrounding area, but these guys, although perfectly lovely, were clueless.  Also – it seemed like there was nothing to eat or really do around us so we had to settle for McDonald’s and call it a night.  Also – it’s as if nobody in this town had ever seen a white person before – there are hardly any tourists, and we were quite the novelty in our shorts and tank tops apparently.  Hmmm.
The next day we figured out how to get to the permit office for the underground river ourselves and found out about Honda Bay, which is a group of islands close by where you can sun and swim. After getting our permit we walked out of the government building and a guy approached us and asked us if we needed help arranging a tour to the underground river.  After initially being wary of him, he actually turned out to be the nicest and most helpful person we had met so far, and we agreed to go with Marlon to his tour office to book a trip to the Underground River, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
After arranging our trip, Marlon drove us in his sweet tricycle (a type of sidecar attached to motorcycles which serves as a local taxi service here) about thirty minutes to Honda Bay, where we rented our own boat to take us to Cowrie Island, a cute tiny island where we hung out all day drinking beers, eating lunch and getting massages while sunning ourselves.  Bliss!!
That evening after finally finding a pizza place that looked ok to eat at, we went to bed early because there was NOTHING to do besides potentially hitting up a few local dive bars that looked sketchy at best.
Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Fly for Dirt Cheap in SE Asia

I am exactly one day away from takeoff!! I’m packed, double-checked and excited to start my journey tomorrow from YYZ.  Before I go I wanted to break down some costs, since this is one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked in the last few weeks:

What does is all cost?

How much money do you need to make a trip like this?

 

WELL. That’s a good question.  Let’s start 7 or so months ago when I was formulating my trip.  I decided where I wanted to go and what routes to take. After briefly looking into Round the World tickets and travel agents and finding them ridiculously expensive, I set out to create my own budget itinerary and figure this out myself instead of relying on a more expensive travel agent.

  1.  I bought a one way ticket to Jakarta. I know. Not smart or cheap, but it was the kick in the butt I needed to get started planning my trip. IT WAS HAPPENING! ($1200)
  2. I began looking at all the places I might like to travel in SE Asia and pricing them out with AirAsia, the discount airline I chose to book most of my flights with.
  3. Checked with my lovely travel partner to talk dates, flying strategies and places we wanted to see. Bought tickets to Bali, Manilla, Palawan, Boracay)
  4. Then the real fun began.  I knew I had about two months of travel to plan, and no idea what to see. So the cheapest flights won!  Manila to Singapore will cost me $45.00 US ALL IN!
  5. I saved a flight by combining two countries and deciding to travel overland to Malaysia, which happened to be having a huge seat sale to AUSTRALIA! I immediately bought a cheap flight to AUS.
  6. Then – a snag. Flights to NZ weren’t cheap, but I sucked it up and bought the $250 ticket cause I wasn’t going to go see OZ without at least peeking at NZ.
  7. After that I was broke, and metaphorically stranded in NZ for the next three months as I made more $$ and watched the price of my return ticket rise and fall. Then – a week ago, I saw the cheapest price from Christchurch, NZ to Toronto that I had ever seen ($900!) and bought it now that the cash flow was better.

It was a bit of a hit and miss approach, and here is a full disclosure look at how much my flights are costing me in total.

Toronto – Vancouver – Manilla – Jakarta  $1207.00

Jakarta – Bali $ 63.83

Bali – Manila $ 147.00

Manila – Kalibo (Boracay) $ 33.00

Kalibo (Boracay) – Manila $30.17

Manila – Palawan $ 29.23

Palawan – Manila $ 33.86

Clark – Singapore $ 44.60

Kuala Lumpur – Gold Coast (Australia) $ 173.34

Sydney – Auckland $ 261.05

Christchurch – Toronto $ 908.00

Grand Total: $ 2,931.08

Yup!  Eleven flights for just shy of three grand.  Now, AirAsia has not been the easiest airline to book with (one flight has been cancelled outright, one has had the time changed and one had the date changed) but the customer service has been decent via the internet in getting some quick responses to my questions, even via twitter, so props to them for that. I will update after a few flights to see if the amazing prices are worth the travel experience aboard AirAsia.  I took two domestic flights in Thailand last year with them and both went perfectly smoothly, so I’m trusting my own experience with the airline and taking a chance on some cheap flights. Wish me luck!

EXACTLY 24 HOURS BEFORE I BOARD THE PLANE.  I AM VERY EXCITED! ALSO I AM YELLING!

Ask questions, comments, quips or queries below 🙂

xoxoxo

D

Categories: In the Air, Pre-Trip, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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