El Nido swept me off my feet the first time i set foot on it. Nacpan made me fall.
Pinas has more than 7 thousand islands, so chances of coming across a beach is likely, uhm, say, around 7 thousand. fairly easy eh? just like running into a cunning cab driver when in Manila. easy.
an island hopping in Taiputan strait was scheduled that day but due to bad weather conditions, boats were shut out from sailing.
since getting stuck in our cottage was not an option, we rented a motorbike(heres the complete bike adventure), braved the rough roads despite the looming dark clouds on the horizon.
Nacpan should be less than 30kms away from El Nido town. a little over 30mins by bike depending on weather and rough road conditions. rough roads could get rougher during rainy seasons.
it was a muddy, bumpy ride nevertheless scenic as we passed by green and budding rice paddies.
oftentimes we stepped down from our humble bike for extra push and pull just to get through the muddy road. after 38mins and 39 mud slips and slides(with-bike included), we reached the beach. barefoot-with our slippers tucked onto our wrists(parang bata lang).
then, there we were, standing under a coconut tree(laglag brip) pleasantly surprised. all smiles. all covered with mud.
we knew there is a beach on that place, but we did not know it was that… nice.
its kilometers of powdery sands(its like Boracay minus the thrash and thriving blocks of concrete), clean waters, gradual slope of the beach, 3 islands in the backdrop, all serene and secluded. it actually is… more than nice =)
in the long stretch of the beach, there was nothing aside from a single bungalow.
Nacpan beach is 4kms of unspoilt natural beauty. need i say more
*unfortunately, Nacpan is not very photogenic at all( either that or i just suck at photography) *this is definitely on my list of favorite beaches
i was coming from Kalinga and my friend Angelika( haha, Lek) from Manila, we decided to meet up in the coastal town of Claveria(our jump-off to Calayan Island, Babuyan) around 5am the next day. btw, online data about the island are scarce and inaccurate( parang yon kampo lang ni Claudine Baretto sa latest NAIA mishap).
plan was to catch the last trip of vans from Tabuk(Kalinga) to Tuguegarao, Cagayan 5:30pm. but, then, i missed it by a few minutes( very typical of me,lol). i had no choice but to rush to the next terminal and hope that one passenger is tumataepa just so i could catch the trip. called my dad, hopped in his motorcycle, then we speeded up to the van terminal in the next (mini)town.
the adrenaline of backpacking, the excitement of being on the road, ooohlala, was ignited again. felt my backpacking mojo was back alive and kicking. sweeet.
reached Tuguegarao after 45mins. then i took the last bus trip that passes by Claveria, 7:30pm J&Wbus, and and just hoped that there are 24/7 burger joints or eateries in Claveria where i could wait til morning for Lek and the boat.
*** Of Dogs and Baboys
the bus dropped me off on the national hi-way in Claveria. the street was poorly lit and dark. and at 11pm, its empty. no people in plain sight. its a 10-minute walk to the town center. but those 10fukcin minutes were long and scary and doggy.lol. the minute i started walking, which i did as discreet as possible as not to attract any unwanted attention, the dogs on the first house started barking… or should i say howling. it was loud enough to awake all the ten thousand barking animals of the town. they swarmed the street. i walked with caution as those furry creatures were following and trailing behind close enough to bite my ass, if not only for my karate stance.
i arrived in the sleepy town center safely( karate stance was believable at least for the dogs).
things continued to go against my luck. all the town’s establishments were closed, not a single convenient store or burger joint.
i chanced upon the solely awake soul, the security guard of a pawnshop. last resort was to strike a conversation with manong guard and stretch it til dawn, so strike and stretch i did. i half listened to guards litanies about his boss whom he suspects has a thing on him( pero 9yrs na siya dun at la pa din nangyayari, labo lang).
after 11 times of him repeating the same story,( i had to be nice, and being nice takes a lot of effort on my case, i wasnt born nice i guess. lol) he let go of the 12th time and offered his bench for a sit and nap. since its a small bench, even too small for him to lay down, i declined and used my old malong instead and laid down on the concrete tiled floor. malong was too thin for the cool ocean breeze and the cold cement floor. i curled up, cold and hungry, and hoped for time to tick fast. ahhh backpacking.
*** of Majinbo and Baboys
i, 10 pandesals & 2 ensaymadas went to the fish landing at 5am and by 6am leck arrived. we bonded with other 2 waiting passengers by sheer absence of other options. lol. there was the curvy mom with two kids and majinbo. majinbo was on the phone 7 of the 6hours we waited. she just cant take away the phone from her, then, red and swelled ear =) . she phoned gaudily her family( every single one of them: nico, alex, mama, papa, kuya boy, tita baby, ton ton, tan tan, tin tin, ten ten etc) and asked them every 30 mins if they had eaten. just by listening( she was loud and we had no choice) to her calls, we already mapped out her entire family tree up to their 11th generation. lol.
and as if sleeping outside of a bank on a cold night and listening to majinbo wasnt bad enough, things worsened. no boat was leaving for the island that day. wow.
*** Of Boats and Baboys
we returned to the fish landing the following morning. at 5:00am, the curvy mom and majinbo were already there, plus some new peeps including the two anorexic pretty nurses on the waiting line. every one was ready and eager for the cruise except for the boat’s motor whose paddle was missing.
after some 30mins and majinbo dashing to the convenient store on the last minute for pic-nic foods, we were ready to sail. Its a small boat that has 3 noticeable passenger seats. i asked the boatman if me and lek could still tag along since majinbo, curvy mom and one of curvy mom’s daughter already occupied the 3 apparent seats. he said yes.
then after some more minutes… on the humble boat, there we were all 14 adults, 2 children, 1 bicycle, 19 bags and 3 roosters; jam-packed. thats a lot for a small boat eh? obviously, theres no room for say… another 16 life-jackets( i heard Babuyan with his evil life at this time, ride at your own risk he chuckled)
backing out was never an option. there were many things i sacrificed and heading back home was just not acceptable.
16 unsecured souls, 1 humble boat and 1 vast Babuyan channel. wow. i know i am not the best tourist, as im a cheap backpacker, and no stash of money can Babuyan squeezed out of me( but, Babuyan, really? youre not being friendly, your acting like a pig. hmmmp)
in fairness to Babuyan, it was a warm welcome. i mean, on a boat, no vest, Babuyan channel, of course, i sweated profusely.
since i was life-jacketless, i made sure i had a firm grip on the stern the whole 7hours while our boat shuffled through the Babuyan Channel( supposedly 4hour ride, if not for one of the boats motor breaking down)
plus, the Cagayan sun was scorching that day( just like any other day really). the sun was ruthless, and to make matters worst, our boat was roofless. we were like fishes getting all dried up. dang. danggit.
*** Of Baboys and Ooohs and Aaahs
we conquered Babuyan channel and reached Calayan island past 3pm.
then, tables turned, the island paid back all the horrors(kababuyan). and left us gaping in awe for the rest of our days in the island. just look at this
*will post all the pictures and stories of our Babuyan trip next fin~
Babuyan 101 its only Batanes thats being mentioned when people would speak of northern Luzon islands. i, myself, admit know next to nothing about it prior to my visit. well, actually that is aside from the assumption of the abundance of baboys(pig) in the island( i mean… uhm. right?)
Babuyan Islands is consist of five outlying islands namely Fuga, Dalupiri, Camiguin, Babuyan Claro and Calayan. Excluding Fuga, the four islands comprise the municipality of Calayan(Fuga is part of Aparri; a town in mainland Cagayan) and Calayan island serves as the capital.
van Tabuk(Kalinga)-Tuguegarao: 80pesos bus Tuguegarao-Claveria: 210pesos other jump-off points to Calayan, Babuyan Island: Sta. Ana, Aparri Claveria takes the shortest boat-ride time at 4-5hrs, fare at 500 *there are no definite boat schedules. all depends on weather, the sea, passengers and gin blue spend the night in Agri-Base in Claveria; 75/person/night. 150/person/night if room with tv.
hey Malaysia, its not me… its you( and your freakin tricks… i mean the lost wallet, c’mon)… bye. lol.
clock ticked 4:30am and my taxi was waiting downstairs. off to Sungai Nibong terminal, 20rm, to catch the 5am van to cross the border to Hat Yai, the southernmost part of Thailand.
i purchased the 30rm ticket, Penang-Hat Yai, the previous day in the terminal.
i was quite surprised the trip was on time, 5am, more so i was the only passenger at that time. it was like i hired the whole van to accommodate my lone ass. sweet.
the van was fast and the driver was furious. jeeez we werent cruising the hiway, we were flying 123 fukcin knots. nuts! much to my liking though, really. who wants a 5hr trip when you can get it for 3. what safety. hehe
just before 6am, we arrived at the Malaysian border. got my passport stamped. next, Thailand border. stamped. good thing most southeast asian countries dont require filipinos for visa. it makes travelling SEA easy, breezy, fun. lol.
good thing i read from a blog about touts who frequent the terminal in Hat Yai. the van dropped me off right smack at it. and when i was checking the buses and vans someone approached and showed me their office. the van to Krabi(320baht) wasnt leaving not until some 40mins later. so i told the ticket seller i will walk around and grab some breakfast. indeed it was a travel agency.
instead, i went straight to the buses and vans parked in the terminal. i asked the drivers, and their prices were 100bahts cheaper. one bus was about leave, Hat Yai-Phuket, i asked the driver if he knew any buses also leaving at that same time which passes by Krabi. and he said “hop in” because they are going there. and the ticket was cheap at 170baht.
inside the bus, i met a couple of very friendly locals and Ate A( Thai’s version of the famed pinay actress Tiya Pusit =)), from Phuket, was a stand-out, a real character. a very curious woman with so many questions. her with curly hair, dark lipstick and not-so-perfect teeth while munching on peanuts. when she learned that my ticket was only bound to Krabi, she said i better skip Krabi and head straight to Phuket. which she clearly pointed out 998 reasons why Phuket is more beautiful and that i will just waste time and money in Krabi. she was selling Phuket like she owns it. enjoyed the conversation much.
as much as i was convinced that Phuket was the most beautiful place in Thailand, actually on earth, at that time… and that she owns it. =). but i just had to stop by in Krabi since its along the way. pursued the Krabi-PhiPhi-Phuket gameplan instead.
we had our brunch in Trang. around 10am in a small streetside eatery, just to my liking. and you know how i go about in times like this, its point-and-shoot and shoot a lot i did. lunch over some spicy pork dish, some spicy vegetable dish, etc plus rice and milk tea.
the eatery also sells local snack delicacies( parang yon mga bus stop sa Bulacan lang except may sili lang lahat lol)… the peanut brittle though is more like a jawbreaker. too tough to chew.
it was a spicy first meeting with Thailand. sweet.
Thais do know their chillies. and boy, they know well. my meals always ended up with a runny nose and a tear shed. gotta love those spicy shiznits.
we arrived in Krabi a little after lunch, around 1pm. one of the women in the bus had a motorcycle waiting for her and she was kind enough to dropped me off in Pak-Up hostel in Maung Krabi/Krabi Town. nice would be an understatemnt to describe Pak-Up. clean, spanking new, soft beds, neat toilets, wifi, bar on the rooftop… just over-all pakking charming =). best part is its only 180baht/bed/night.
since i still have half of the day, quickly threw down my bag into the locker and bolted out. its time to brave the paradise that is KRABI.
sarap ng bakasyon sa gensan. isang linggo na kami at di pa din naman kami tinataboy sa bahay ng barkada namin. at dahil pare-pareho kaming makakapal ang mukha, patigasan at walang gumagalaw pabalik sa manila. bakit nga naman hindi, libre ang chibog, libre ang libot, libre ang alak(Absolut at Domecq 1820..lol, gabi gabing lasing)… at unlimited na Balbacua(visayan bulalo) isang drum yta yon isinalang. at isinalang ng dalawang araw. sarap!(buong barkada e nagluluto) kaya ayos lagi ang kainan.
kaso lang, biglang nagkaroon sila ng affair sa simbahan para sa tatlong araw, retreat daw, nun weekend na yon. at dahil kasali silang mag-asawa, at iba pa namin barkada, pati kaming bisita . inubliga na din. boom.
bago pa nila ma-ispell ang R.E.T.R.E.A.T. nag-impake na ako agad sabay banat na kailangan ko ng bumalik ng davao at dun na lang sasakay pauwi ng manila. sinabi ko na lang may biglaang lakad din. nyahaha. lol
at dahil kasama ko pa ang isa pang magaling… at di pa din nman talaga psyched na bumalik ng Manila. desisyon na lang palipasin muna weekend sa davao at kumuha na lang ng flight ng lunes..fx papuntang Davao(around 200 yta) pagdating sa davao, nangungulit yon mataba na may nakita daw sya sa airport na ad na less than 200 per night accomodation dun na lang daw kami. magaling! kaso ni address at kahit pangalan e di man lang nakuha. ang naalala lang ni mokong e yon presyo. hayup. U ALREADY! haha
i dont know how exactly we got the hotel info but somehow we did. think we phoned airport and asked one of the officer about the certain ad. and gooodgod she was kind enough to walk through the arrival area to hunt for the wall ad. Greenwindows Dormitel, 188/night/pax.
we arrived in the building around noon and, damn, it didnt look somewhere you could get a 200-peso-overnight-accomodation at at all. free wi-fi, floor to ceiling windows, locker, pantry, at airconditioned pa oohlala. definitely, the best accomodation, for that amount, in all of my travels in Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao. its like one of those sleek backpacker dorms that abound in the backpacking state of Thailand only half the price and minus the westerners. haaangmura talaga!
i planned to travel the next day to Surigao to check-out Tinuy-an falls and Hinatuan river. both very picturesque as shown in pictures.
as i was unpacking my stuff that night, getting ready to hit the sack early. one of our bunkmates asked us to go out for the night, it was a friday. and you know, my tolerance to alcohol invites is as strong as Cali shandy(lol, meron pa ba nun..hehe) so instead of hitting the bed, we hit the bars. its not Matina Town Center, but its also a complex of bars and clubs( forgot the name). night passed like a blur.
i woke up in my bunk around 10am next day with a bad, mean, hangover. i let go of the 6-hour bus ride to Surigao and spent the whole day nursing my hangover instead. ate in my favorite Penongs and pampered myself with a massage.
i planned to spend the next day in Canibad beach in Samal Island. its on the far side of the island opposite to Blue Jaz and Paradise. but that night, we got drunk again. same same. skipped the trip and spent the whole day walking around the city taking pictures instead. checked out Aldavinco and got myself one of those indian shirts(white&pink).
i was not in the mood to really explore the city on that trip anyway. since i was able to do that with my family on my last visit a couple of months back. plus, the weeklong roadtrips around Saranggani, Gensan, South Cotabato and Davao had taken its toll on my body.
the impromptu Davao trip was a welcome surprise to capped off my January trip which started in Cebu on the first week of January(right in time for Sinulog), Siquijor, Dumaguete then the South Mindanao leg.
i miss travelling. could it be that the travel bug that has bitten me in the last couple of years had finally lost its sting? my birthday just passed and it was my first time in 8 years to spend it here in Manila. supposed to go on a trip somewhere in Luzon(budget constraints) but nothing seemed to catch my fancy. hmmm
***Greenwindows dormitel is minutes away by foot from Peoples park Penongs is beside Peoples park. surprised to know that most of the restaurants dont allow customers to eat Durian inside restaurant premises indian shirt at P180
after a few bottles of Tiger, i bade goodbye to M.Y. girls jm and bel.. and bob marley who had been plastered smiling at us through out our drinking session in Reggae bar in chinatown that night.
it was still an hour before my trip when i arrived in the terminal. i must say its really neat for a bus terminal complete with mirrored walls and comfy couches. Plus liner; 30 RM( Malaysian Ringgit; 13Rm=1US$),Penang bound, 11:59pm. a quick 3-hour-plus ride since freeway is pretty much free during this dead hours of the night.
now, a couple of bucks less on my budget; holds no more ids aside from my passport; and no more safety net as all my cards were now lost and left in kuala lumpur( somewhere there) together with my sanity and security. just some of the things that bugged my mind during transit.
onward i braved my backpacking trip carrying a lighter pocket and a heavy heart( damn i did really lost that fukcin wallet.) phew.
i arrived in Sungai Nibong bus terminal past 3am. taxis fixed rate at 20fukcinRM. haggled with the driverSS. i told my story me-then-walletless but damn they just coudnt be shaken. i gave up and let go of the ringgits. the cab dropped me off in Bukit Jambul, the couch i was crashing for that leg of my trip is sree’s- my fukced up indian boy. my broken hearted indian boy do keep a decent stash of liqours and cigs. a couple of shots of vodka before i hit the sack.
first on my itinerary was to hit the beach. Batu Ferringghi is one of the better beaches on this side of Malaysia; Georgetown. from B.Jambul i took a bus to Komtar( georgetown central terminal) then hopped on a bus 102, 2rms, to B.Ferringghi. bus charges normally range from 1rm to 3m. its cheap to move around.
its a nice beach but not spectacular. fine sands but not pristine. the beach caters more for water sports than lounging around. i suspected watersports cost cheaper here( just a hunch since there are lots of people doing it… and its not that those people didnt appeal to me as affluent or something, just saying =)
since its a muslim country, its very conservative as evident on the beach sans babes in bikinis. what?. yes, its missing the best accessories/ornaments to beaches.
a beach without babes in bikinis, i mean, is no beach at all. lol
George Town is beautiful with its well-preserved colonial buildings turned to shophouses and cafes. the town is very laid-back and charming. no one will suspect it as the second largest Malaysian city. theres no city vibe at all( i mean it in a good way.)
i would spend afternoon walks along old streets adorned with century-old trees. no smog, just fresh provincial air.
and the best part of George Town or Pulau Pinang in general is, unmistakably, the food. i think there are more number of restaurants than people here. i wonder. lol
restaurants and hawker stalls abound every street corners. choose your poison: malaysia’s nasi campurs, chinese dimsum houses, indian curry houses… thais, what-have-you’s. name it, its here. all available and convenient.
eating your way around Penang is cheap in general. a lauriat can cost less than 5rms for 4 dishes.
i spent more days in Penang more than what i planned for and i didnt even notice not until after a couple of days after i checked on my calendar which showed i was way behind my itinerary( i had no itinerary really, haha… it just sounded nice since i was travelling. and travellers usually have itineraries, right?)
i left Penang one early morning. sree arranged a cab that picked me up in Bukit Jambul Complex at 4am which trasported me to Sungay Nibong(20rm) where i took the van(35rm) to cross the border to Hatyai in Thailand. Krabi-bound. i intended to reach Krabi before night time, thus the early travel.
my fukced up indian boy did hosted me very graciously. ballerina graceful. lol. sree is an ex of my oh-so-sexy-ex-officemate JM( siya na ang maganda; tirador ng mga malay na walang kamalay malay.. lol… i mean it in a good way. lol) who also hosted me in KL. lucky to have these peeps. a saving grace for all the misfortunes this muslim country had thrown at me.
All in all, Penang is like your typical Filipina barrio lass. Charming. Laidback. Affordable( abot kaya este abot kamay pala haha.) and above all she is SIMPLE. but if handled well, she could be fun and exciting and definitely will leave you begging for a second round.
after my fucked-up indian friend’s girlfriend told me about Batu Caves, it being a wish granter( if and only, one has climbed the 270plus stairs with out stops) i knew i had to pay a visit.
i woke up to a beautiful morning tucked under fresh cotton sheets of our beautiful oh-so comfortable bed in our beautiful hotel. it was a very sound sleep indeed(for me, as for my host michele/jm/watever.. i doubt, haha… i was told i snore when im pulling one of those hibernations).
the irish beers i had the night before, in upscale Changkat Bukit Bintang, surely delivered the goods.
we headed down to the hotel resto to get our filling of nasi lemak, pancakes and the gang for breakfast. then, she took off to work while i headed to Kl sentral and took the direct train to Batu caves. some 13km away from the city center.
we agreed to meet-up at night after her work, and after i closed the deal with the fairy godmother of Batu Caves.
whenever i oversleep, i tend to be sleepy the whole day. and that morning, i was not only sleepy in the train… i actually slept. good thing Batu is the last train stop, and another good thing were the two european girls, spanish if im not mistaken, who were nice enough to woke me up. they were smiling maybe because i looked cute sleeping or saliva was dripping( probably the latter). i tried to engage a conversation with them but they speak no english( tsk tsk tsk).
the batu caves complex is right beside the train station. one of the temples is perched inside the cave some 270-steps above ground. and there sits the wish granter( aha!). a couple of interesting Hindu statues and shrines scattered around. lord Murugan being the focal point.
but the rain that morning made taking pictures an ass. bad lighting etc. and the rain of course.
it was cold and gloomy. i walked around the smaller temples, and wandered around some more. i waited for the drizzle to stop or atleast die down a little before i climbed the stairs but it didnt.
the gameplan was to ascend slowly so not to tire myself too much so i can avoid stops thus getting my wish granted(sounded like a plan.)
i looked up and scaled the whole set of stairs. “this is in the bag” i said. you see, i tend to esteem myself a little at most times. i always think of myself as very healthy and athletic ( even if the image in the mirror seems to not agree almost always, swear, there are mirrors that tend to make you thinner and taller just like the ones in SM department stores, those mirrors are damn accurate).
i wished for the rest of my backpacking trip to be a smooth-sail and perfect; then i took a deep breath then proceeded with the stairs. one step at a time. no looking-up or looking down( heck i didnt look at anything else aside from the stairs in front of me). i did not stair-count. i was focused; i reminded myself that the fate of my backpacking trip on the following days layed on my hands( ok, feet). as i made it, the WISH.
maybe i was over the hundred stairs when i felt my calf muscles to tire and ache a bit. i was not breathing anymore, i was panting. i surged forward.
and when i was on the last 3 or 4 remaining steps it dawned on me how stupid my wish was. what was i thinking right? a perfectly smooth-sailing trip? BORING! a LITTLE mishap here and there would spice up the trip(i was very particular with my words specially the part l-i-t-t-l-e). so i changed wishes at the last minute, at the last 3 steps. from a perfect-smooth-sailing-trip wish to getting laid(now, thats what i call a w-i-s-h).
i stepped on the last step and… ohboy what a relief. at that time, i was sure that i will not have a perfect-smooth-sailing trip and that i will get l-a-i-d. sweet. victory(haha).
at the top i saw the fairy godmother hindu god/goddess sweetly smiling at me… so i sweetly smiled back… and so she owed me one.. haha. gotcha.
happily, i commuted back to explore the rest of KL. good vibes. an old guy in his 50s i met on the train was even so kind to tell me more about the city. show me around the train station and even accompanied me to the ticket office in kl sentral( i was headed to Penang the next day.) after small talks, he finally led me to the ticket counter and then he graciously went his way out of the terminal and went wherever his home is.
filled out the ticket form and then i searched my bag for my wallet. and then i searched some more. and more… and more. but found none.
damn it. demmit. tang.na. fukc.
my money was there, cards( the fukcin mastercard was my safety net for this trip, incase i ran out of cash i can always withdraw… and the money on my card is actually included in my backfukcin budget), ID’s, hotel keycard and other valuables were there too. i just got fukced. bigtime.
…and i was not even half-way on my trip. my plane ticket to the Philippines was due not until after 12 fukcin days. Thailand and Laos still awaits me.
i made the deal with the fairy godmother that noon for “a l-i-t-t-l-e mishap”. i was clear on l-i-t-t-l-e. i made sure on that. i repeated it( you know, incase he/she didnt hear it clearly the first time). but this is no way close to l-i-t-t-l-e. cards and money? cmon.
and there i was in the counter with my bag inside out, all stupefied infront of the now puppy-eyed malaysian ticket seller.
***i headed to Penang the next day walletless. broke. and damn, i havent even gotten laid. tsk tsk tsk
*********** -no entrance fee for the main cave; however there is a fee for some caves since they will require you to get a guide -2rm, train fare, kl sentral-batu caves
qatar,bahrain,malaysia,laos,thailand ********* if i was asked days before 2011 about my travels for that year… chances are, i couldnt have mentioned any of these trips. none of these were planned.
i think i missed out on some my of trips. NOT because there are so many of them, but because i am just stupid to recollect events, that took place further than a couple of days, most of the times. (alcohol effects?)
it was the best year to date. of travels and life in general.
now, looking back, though i have the faintest idea on how did it all happen, i am ecstatic… and this ass did have a fukcin rockin year… people met, dreams realized, places seen