Travels: Apr 18 – 29, 2016
I’ll be traveling north of Australia and into the South China Sea to experience the culture and beauty of this special place nestled within the 7,000+ islands that make up the Philippines.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Heading out on my journey to the Philippines
Taking the train up to Penn Station and on to JFK Airport. This evening I’ll be hopping a flight to cross the Atlantic on my way to the Philippines, in the South China Sea, and the Garden Island of Samal.
Quick Facts: Although the earliest human inhabitant was carbon-dated 67,000 years ago it was in 1521 that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived to claim the islands for Spain. During colonial period the rule of the Philippines changed many times. In 1945 the Philippines became one of the founding members of the United Nations and on July 4, 1946 they became recognized by the United States as independent.
Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of 7,641 islands and has an area of approximately 300,000 square kilometers. The highest mountain is Mount Apo (9,692 ft) and most mountainous islands are covered in tropical rain-forest. Situated on the western fringe of the Pacific Ring of Fire, there are many active volcanoes. Due to this the Philippines are second biggest geothermal producer behind the United States and a rich source of various minerals.
With Its’ population of more than 100 million it is the 12th most populated country in the world. It’s a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the East Asia Summit. Although comprised of 19 different languages, Filipino and English are the official languages. The currency is the Filipino peso and their time at this posting is currently 12 hours ahead of the US EST.
In April 2014 President Obama visited the Philippines where the Enhanced Defense Cooperative Agreement was signed. In January 2015 Pope Francis stayed in the Philippines for a series of public tours. In December 2015 Filipina Pia Wurtzbach won the Miss Universe 2015 contest.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Arrived in Manila, Philippines
I arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) after a long flight. Actually two flights totaling about 18 hours in the air. The good news is I got caught up on a lot of missed rest, lol. After a short 2-hour delay I’ll be back in flight for my third leg and a short haul south to the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City.
It’s hot and tropical here and these are the friendliest people just talking, talking and talking. Have no idea what they’re saying but boy can the girls/women carry on a conversation….
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Arrived in Davao City, Philippines
I arrived at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City, Philippines after a short hall from Manila. After figuring out customs to get my bag I met a helpful fellow who steered me in the right direction and out of the customs area.
After getting out the doors I met up with my friend Jacque. After the brief but necessary greetings we were off to catch a ferry ride to the Island of Samal. About 20 hours in the air and I’m finally feeling grounded, lol.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Garden Island of Samal- day 1
After a short ferry ride we arrived to the island. Then a short van ride brought us to our hotel, more of a tropical villa of sorts. After doing a little unpacking we grabbed dinner under the cabana overlooking the beach. And a fine meal it was with good company and a mild breeze. After dinner I decided to zonk out (some might call it passing out, lol). Whatever you call it I had a much needed and refreshing night sleep.
After waking we headed over for another tasty meal to start our day. Afterwards we decided to have one of the MANY motorbike riders cart us into the local town to use their internet. I have to say that it almost seems the bikes outnumber the cars but that may be a slight exaggeration…NOT! They do have quite a large motorbike population easily outnumbering cars so I’m feeling right at home. In any case it was a sight seeing the three of us squeeze onto that small motorbike ;-). In all my years of riding I’d never been a passenger until now.
After we get done here at the cafe I think we’ll be heading back for a swim before dinner. Then it’ll be time to explore. More on that later…
Friday, April 22, 2016
Garden Island of Samal- day 2 & 3
It’s now Friday afternoon and I’m inside listening to a small tropical rainstorm pummeling us. This morning though we woke to another sunny, beautiful day with birds and lizards both chirping away. Hunger’s is calling…
After waking I tried Skyping with Samantha but due to spotty wifi and cell service it wasn’t to happen. I did manage to call her to catch up but I could tell she was a bit sad about not being able to see each other on video. I’ll try again in a couple days. This has also made checking and responding to Facebook posts tedious at best.
After a tasty breaky (breakfast) we jumped in the water for a brief swim… that lasted a few hours, lol. We just didn’t want to get out as it was so warm and refreshing. Once low tide arrived we decided to get out. It was at that time that we noticed all the sea urchins with their long pointy spines everywhere. Good thing we were wearing our sandals :-). I’ve heard that there are box jellyfish around the islands so you do need to be vigilant as these are deadly. Speaking of deadly, I was just told that this IS the Pacific and South China Sea so there are the very poisonous sea snakes around. I won’t be swimming out to sea any time soon.
As a side note I have to admit that things are a bit different in third world countries (and countries like the Philippines that are working hard to remove the third world status). Things as simple as washing, using the commode or even drinking water take on a whole new meaning. What’s amazing is how well the locals I’ve seen here, and in other similar countries, handle such things. For drinking it’s been bottled drinks for me all the way (or using my rum to kill any water born pathogens). Fortunately I had a crash course ahead of time and good local help.
LUNCH TIME! Jacque and I headed back to our hotel cabana for lunch. While I can’t read the menu we’ve been eating some great local fare by Chef Dale that’s vegetable and meat based. I’ve been a bit surprised how good it’s been and have been looking forward to our meals. What’s struck me most though is how mannerly, polite and friendly the locals are. From the airports to our resort this warmth has played out.
Lunch was great then we spoke to our hotel friend Anna Marie about catching a motorbike tour tomorrow. Yes, the three of us squeezed onto the small motorbike again, lol. Wish Big Blue was here ;-). More on this in my evening blog-post tomorrow. Now off on the motorbike to find our evening dinner at the Farmers V Restaurant somewhere, um, out yonder and down that dirt road.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Garden Island of Samal- day 4
Dinner last night at Farmers V was good with all its outdoor splendor. I can see this is a favorite stop for locals and travelers alike.
This morning (Saturday) I had some trouble getting up. It seems a large group of locals from Davao came over for a weekend retreat. Since karaoke is a BIG thing here in the Philippines they had music and screaming all night long, despite the 10pm noise curfew. I put my travel earplugs in so I could barely hear it but could feel the beat of the music until about 2:00am.
The morning was the usual great cup (actually 2 cups) of coffee and nice breakfast. After this we went to the end of the concrete jetty to watch the fish and waves in the clear waters, begging for me to jump in. I was good/bad, depending how you look at it, and didn’t jump because we were preparing to take a motorbike tour of some key places around Samal.
We’re now packed, our ride is here and we’re all squeezed together ready to hit the roads. By the way I just found out our drivers name is Wyndel (an excellent motorbike rider) husband of our key hotel contact Anna Marie.
ISLAND TOUR here we come. First we decided to hit the Hagimit Falls (at the Hagimit Nature Resort) which proved to be a gem of a natural resource. As you’ll see from the pics it’s a series of swimming holes along a winding river created from a deep natural spring nestled back in the forest, or is that jungle? We had some conversation about the difference, lol. It doesn’t matter because swimming in the cool, crystal clear water was a great cool down from the hot ride to the falls. We wound up spending a good deal of time swimming in a few different areas. After a while we decided to go back to the Farmers V for lunch.
After a tasty bite and great orange soda we decided to have Wyndel (nicknamed WingWing) ride us to the famous Monfort Bat cave on the far side of the island. It was clear from the ride that there are many new resorts under construction. I think the future may be bright for Samal Island.
For all my motorcycling friends I have to say that there seems to be at least 5 motorbikes (smaller motorcycles) to every car that I see, perhaps much more. I guess with the costs considered it’s the most economical way to get around but it seems that everyone is riding one; girls, boys, men, women. Many solo but many others are carrying 2 and even 3 passengers (sometimes with a small child on the handlebars). There’s even been some with animals and very large hay bales attached. In any case I felt right at home, lol ;-).
The bat caves were great as they were very exposed and all the bats were visible with many flitting around. It looks like National Geographic even did a show on these bat caves with their 2006 estimates to be around 1.8 million animals. If we’d had more time we could have come back to watch the spectacle of them leaving for their evening meal.
After arriving back at our resort we decided to cool off with a swim at the beach. We also asked our driver to buy us some of the local Philippine rum called Tanduay Rum. After a strong rum-n-coke we headed to our cabana for a good dinner of soup, BBQ wings and veggies. After that it was time for bed and to do some blogging and reminiscing of the days events. Not sure what Sunday will bring but I do know breakfast coffee will be good ;-).
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Garden Island of Samal- day 5-7
Sunday began as most days with a nice breakfast and a swim amongst the tropical fish and two cute starfish. This is a good talk and meditation time to start the day ;-). After all our previous activity we decided to take it easy today.
Monday we did the usual and stayed at the resort to wash clothes, talk and get organized. A very casual but fun day polished off by a relaxing dinner and some local rum.
Tuesday’s breakfast seemed much nicer than usual. I’m not sure that it was the bacon, egg, toast and fruits or the excellent coffee or even those extra blueberry pancakes we shared. Perhaps it was the great company and ambiance. Yes! Let’s go with this last one ;-). After that l-o-n-g awesome breaky we decided to do a motorbike ride into town to look around for some pasalubong (gifts). Unfortunately we couldn’t find local carvings or anything of interest so with the heat rising back to Punta Del Sol we rode. With the ocean tide being so low we decided to hang in and do massages this afternoon.
By the way someone asked me about costs. A nice resort room can be had for $40+ per night, a nice dinner for two $8-$12, a bottle of good local rum $5, all day motorcycle inland tour for two $20, massage for two $5 and the associated memories… Priceless! There’s a great deal to say about the country and people, more than I can type here. I’ll just say that I’m often in awe how little the people in their villages have but how clean, structured, educated, simple, hardworking, appreciative and loving they are. They live a simple life making due with what they have and not longing or being jealous for what they don’t. A religious people, family is #1, loyalty is important and words truly mean something to them. I’ve come to appreciate and value their culture and admire their qualities and simplicity. They’re a cute people too :-)!
Massages were awesome, with some rum, which took us into the night. So what else can you do at night but take a night swim… 😉 With the trillions of stars out this was great but we didn’t venture too far out not knowing what sea serpents are lingering out there… After our swim we rinsed and had a nice dinner. Then, after a call home to check upon things, off to bed we go and the close of another fine day. Tomorrow will be my final full day in paradise.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I head into this final day in the Philippines with bittersweet feelings. I want to spend more time exploring the area and I want to get back home to smoothies, family and the Girls. I’ve been away for awhile and it’s time to return.
The goal for today is to casually prepare to leave this wonderful place while enjoying the day. As usual we had our favorite coffee and breakfast and soaked in the morning breezes and rising sun. The plan for today is to convert some dollars to Philippine Pesos, pick up some pasalubong, grab some lunch at the Farmers V and get a dinner certificate as a gift to Wing Wing and Anna-Marie for all their help and friendship. We’ll also arrange to take an early boat ride tomorrow across the Davao Gulf and a taxi to get into the airport for my 11:40am (local time) series of flights/trains. Until that time.. life and swimming as usual ;-).
After swimming we showered, did some pre-packing then went for our final dinner together in Samal. Besides an awesome dinner prepared by Chef Dale we had a stiff sea wind which caused the flies to take a welcome break. It was a very fitting gorgeous final evening. Now some evening wind-down and a good night sleep to prepare for an early departure in our 8:00am Thursday boat to the mainland.
As we threw some final things together and went over last minute details we mused over all that had happened during the past ten days. It had been a very peaceful yet fun time with all the exploring we were able to do in such a short time. As with all good times the end is near. I think one day Jacque will need to visit the gorgeous land we call America the Beautiful and experience it on 2-wheels…
Our chauffeur’s wife and helper
The Island transportation to the mainland
Our trusted chauffeur & guardian
Food was good
Dinner at Farmer’s V Restaurant
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Saying goodbye to a wonderful time and lovely place is never easy. Fortunately the memories, pictures, blog posts and pasalubong will make it a bit more bearable. As I start the travel home I’ll be reliving the great memories shared with Jacque in the beautiful Garden Island of Samal nestled within the 7,000+ islands that make up the Philippines.
After our final breaky and coffee we’ll catch the boat to mainland Davao for my 11:40am Thursday series of flights and trains back home. I’ll miss it here but will also be happy to get back to my world.. as complicated as life in the U.S.can be… 😉
Flight from Davao to Manila was super crowded and it took a long time to negotiate my way through. By the time we arrived in Manila I barely had time to get through the three security checkpoints to catch the next plane headed to Vancouver. Thank goodness I don’t have any checked bags for the return trip. I can see by the mob of people I won’t be stretching out as I was able to before, lol.
As expected it was a long, squished flight to Vancouver as I had a big boy sitting next to me. Once the plane is cleaned and refueled we’ll be off to New York. Hopefully I can stretch out a bit.
The flight to JFK was way better with so few people I could stretch out and grab a snooze ;-). A few late night train rides and I’ll be back to my car in the morning. I hope the Aberdeen PD kept a watchful eye on it.
I’m sitting in the railway station, got a ticket to my destination, hmmhm. Oh, musta dozed off here in Penn Station with this Simon & Garfunkel song in my head, lol. Rough looking place as I wait silently for my 4:40am train homeward bound… 😉
Got to Aberdeen and was happy to see my car sitting untouched where I left it. It even started! After a quick thank you call to the local police I was off heading… hooomeward bound, I wish I was hoooomeward bound… I’m home!!