stunning SaPa – makalaglag panty ang SaPa( tagalog translation)
Julie & I initially planned to travel to SaPa independently. But after checking the fare at the train station, we decided to drop the do-it-yourself plan and just go with a package tour since it was significantly cheaper. Package tour apparently cost a lot less. One of the few things I don’t get with Vietnam.
Train from Hanoi to LaoCai is around $58; a few dollars for the bus/taxi from LaoCai to SaPa on top of that. Package tour was $70 and that included transportation (all the way to Sapa and back), accommodation, meals, and treks (tours).
It turned out be a good move. Not only did we save a couple of dongs but we also met travel buddies who, later on, became good friends.
Randy tagged along last minute. I met him and Julie at the backpacker dorm in Hanoi, May De Ville Backpackers, some 8 days ago. We shared the same room.
It took me a couple of days and a bloody nose to adjust to these two native English speakers, especially Julie who happens to be a scot. Damn thick Scottish accent. I find it cute though.
The bus picked us up at the hostel at around 8 pm. Bus was 30 minutes late. So, to make up for the tardiness, the driver drove like a maniac. He could pass for a lead act in the next Fast & Furious franchise. He swerved and honked our way out of Hanoi’s busy rush hour traffic. I was smiling at first since I found his driving familiar and “cute” but after a couple of life-and-death swerves, I got scared. I noticed myself mumbling “oohs” and “ahhs” and my grip on my sit tightened. For someone to scare a Filipino- who grew up riding jeepneys(patok) in Manila- with his driving expertise, he must be some badass. Just saying.
The ride to Sapa was a smooth one but that’s for Cordilleran standards. I’m used to long bus rides, bumpy roads and zigzag highways in the sky. I guess when you tried riding on top of a bus traversing a single-lane rough road on the edge of 50 feet high cliff; it will have to take something special to scare you. Right?
The bus was comfortable. It was a sleeper bus. There’s a plenty of legroom for a comfortable stretch. Cozy for Asian standards (height-wise). (Yao Ming is not Asian, he is Chinese. lol) so German dogs Max and Steffen has to lie down with their feet on the head of the passengers in front of them.
It was a scenic ride especially the final stretch to Sapa. From LaoCai, where the final station of train is at, the drive shifted from easy ascends to a steep uphill jaunts.
As the bus’s engine struggled and roared, we sat back, relaxed, enjoyed and waited as the night gave way to the day. Stunning sceneries started to unravel from the thick fog that blanketed the place. The mountains began to reveal its shape and greens. Sunrays pierced through the clouds.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. The listless provincial town was slowly waking up and so did the eager travellers. All eyes were glued outside. Cameras were drawn out and everyone snapped away to their hearts content.
We arrived in SaPa and alighted to a nippy midmorning. Air was crisp and fresh. Sun peeped out but not fully. It’s a perfect day for a walk or bike around this little charming town tucked in the mountains of northern Vietnam.
We checked in at Sapa Summit Hotel (part of the package). It was our home for the next 3 days. It was a lovely hotel perched on a cliff that overlooked SaPa’s stunning stairway-to-heaven’s rice terraces. On the backdrop was the mighty Fansipan. It is the highest peak in mainland Southeast Asia. The silhouette of the towering mountain ranges that lead to Mt. Fansipan was equally arresting as the rice paddies. We stood dumbfounded in the balcony.
The hotel was not too shabby either. It is fairly new, neat, and homey. The hotel’s restaurant has a patio perfect for al fresco dining. It leads to a garden nicely landscaped and coupled with tables and chairs and swings. Its perfect for lazy afternoon reads while sipping a hot tea or coffee. Factor in the sweeping scenery in front and the cool temperature and I bet any bookworm who chooses to stay here will find their selves holing up for days on end.
Julie and I settled into our room. We then met up with randy in the patio for a sumptuous lunch. I forgot what I ordered though I remember enjoying it. I guess, with this setting, they can serve me egg and rice and I will dine delightfully every time.
After lunch, we rented motorbikes. It was time to discover this hilly paradise that is SaPa.
I went back to the hostel 30mins before the scheduled bus pick-up time so i can take a shower and share one more round of beer with my swedish triad crew Peter, Jakob and Max. only to find out that the bus was ready to go, ahead of time. i asked if i can pull a 3minute quick shower( its a looong 12-hour bus ride i wanted to be fresh, clean and comfortable the least,ok don’t judge me if my idea of fresh and clean is a 3minute shower). but the driver said NO, we have to go.
so, with sweat from whole day of biking under the sun and some salt particles left on my hair/skin from swimming in the beach, i grabbed my backpack and hopped into the sleeper bus.
its time to leave the swedish triad in Hoi An and head to the Dustland Fairytale that is Mui Ne. at 6pm, we hit the road. *** High-Fiving with new buds
in the bus i met Maggie & Adrian and Manfred- the german franks and the spanish bread meet pinoy pandesal.
the scenery in the bus window was totally changed. it looked like a different country altogether. from the thick forest mountains of Dalat to the dry deserted dunes of Phan Tiet. from the nippy chill to humid, warm atmosphere.
i am in sheer amazement of how varied Vietnam’s topography. theres just no two place(at least to where I’ve been)similar landscape-wise. Sapa is mountainous and all but not a tad similar to Dalat.
sun was up. mid day. the thousands of pine trees that divides the highway and the beach were motionless. no wind from the sea. tall pine trees were as still as a lampost.
bus was at least faster than the ones i took in Northern Vietnam. but of course it was still slow when it comes to Negros’ Ceres bus lines standards.
*** High-Rolling in Mui Ne
How does Lacoste for Dinner sounds like? high-rolling, eh? i know its hard to picture that. me and high rolling just can not belong to one sentence. but this is a fairytale.
our accommodation was a PRIVATE room. on the topmost floor, make that a penthouse. and… and… we had Lacoste for late-dinner. posers wear that….us, it was our entree for dinner that night. juicy and tender. soft to the bite. almost-melt-in-your-mouth so unreptile-ish of it.
maybe, its the wagyu of the crocodile world. now thats high-rolling, right?
after dinner, we headed to this bar to taste its premium offering which happened to be a draft beer; San Miguel. the place was neat, a sports bar by the beach. it was a pleasant surprise to learn that they serve San Miguel. and it was the priciest among their beers. which my latino friend insisted that it is a spanish import. he was so damn sure about it that even me who grew up on this beer made me harbour second-thoughts(thanks to google, i, now, know it is a Philipine brand).
*** High-Balling in Mui Ne
we rented motorcycles to better explore this vast deserted plain.
a hearty serving of Pho was obligatory before we headed out. so a healthy, filling and cheap at 20k dongs was the best way that kickstarted our long day of dustland adventure.
the Fishing Village harbor is along Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street or Ham Dien; which is pretty much the highway where all the happenings in town..errr.. happens. Its a long stretch where the hostels & hotels and bars are located. It is on the northern part of Mui Ne bay. it was dotted with hundreds of traditional colourful wood vessels which were moored at the bay. it was a splendid view. it reminded me of old quaint european fishing villages( as per Game of Thrones)- very picturesque.
it was a hot-bike-ride(literally) going to the white dunes. its a little far from the town center. but the roads were well-paved and the view was scenic. the endless sand banks on the left and the infinite sea on the right.
we had so much fun running around and tripping down foolishly in the dunes. we were like hansels and gretel left in the house of sweets, fun. the sweltering heat was only noticed when our skins started to turn as red as the Vietnam flag. the view of the sea from afar was equally stunning.
we made several stops on our way back to Ham Dien. rock island. fairy stream, red dunes etc.
at night, we capped off the day’s oppressive heat with cool big slices of watermelon, the best watermelon. it was refreshing. nights were usually spent on the sports bar by the beach over beers and billiard games.
*** High-Flying in Mui Ne
Mui Ne is the watersports capital of Vietnam. para-sailing and windsurfing can be a wise alternative when the sun rays get really harsh for biking to the dunes.
there is nothing extra-ordinary about the beach but it does the trick. on a blue-skyed day when roaming around and playing watersports become too hot(literally) to handle; grabbing a good book and a cold beer on the beach can be a delightful option.
*** Dustland Fairytale
these famed dunes and harbor are dreamy and stunning. they make striking subjects for photographs. I’m sure even non-photography enthusiasts would admire the lovely landscapes and seascapes.
in this fairytale, there is also a witch. the witch was the girl in Hoi An who sold us bus tickets for HoiAn-NhaTrang & MuiNe-Saigon(HoChiMinh). we paid for sleeper bus rates but she tricked us by issuing ordinary bus tickets as per advised by the booking office in Mui Ne. information on the tickets were in Vietnamese. we were subjected for extra dongs to upgrade for sleeper. witch bitch.
and just like any fairytale, theres a prince -charming and thats me( lol).
sharing the adventure with these nomads made the this trip more fun. as the maxim goes: we all start as strangers. later on the trip, me and the spanish bread travelled south to Saigon then east to ChauDoc etc etc then Bangkok. til he eventually visited Manila. the german franks still keep in touch. this dustland story and just like all the other fairytales, it ended up with a happily-ever-after.
*dustland fairytale is a song from The Killers. fave band.
there goes the story of the fake ticket, fake ID and THE one real, palpable, so-near-i-can-breath-danger type of D.A.N.G.E.R. Prequel of this story here (anong sinabi ng twilight may prequel prequel pa ako nalalaman.hehe)
I arrived in Zamboanga City safe and sound. Flight went smoothly, and none of those shady-armed-men-terrorists showed up to welcome me in the airport- to my delight. *Though they were very much present in my nightmares for several days prior to the flight; whew!
Zamboanga City is the jump off place for people coming from Manila to Basilan- the main destination of this whole backpacking trip. There are no direct flights from Manila to Basilan Island. i am not sure if theres an airport even.
the plan was to spend two days in Zamboanga before heading to Basilan. just enough time to settle and calm myself down from the whole idea of braving Basilan single-handedly, flying with fake identity and the thought of simply just being in western Mindanao.
since i am not the type of traveller(person in general) who is good with plans, i got stuck in Zamboanga for 7 days not because i was scared of Basilan(ulol) but because i enjoyed getting drunk and looked down to every night with new-found friends.lol
Jeez, chavacanos(not all) are a bunch of condescending bitches. Not a night of drinking passed by without them reiterating their superiority amongst other pinoys(its the whole Spanish thing they say). in this case, i am the only “other pinoys”, i guess, since i am the lone non-chavacano in the drinking table. i, actually, did get their point the first time they explained it to me. i mean, all three of them took a shot in incessantly explicating the matter. just saying.
one night, while in the middle of a drinking spree, out-of-the-blue, they bursted into a chorus of Zamboanga’s anthem-patriotic much. But, hey, as long as theres free beer, theres no issue with me- i succumbed my lords(*on a game of thrones tone).
finally, after that night of drinking when i tried so hard(argh) to convince them that we are all equal(chavacanos, tagalogs)-which i failed miserably- i decided to stood up and be brave(Kalinga tribe reprezeeent! lol) and pursue that daunting task of travelling solo to Basilan. YOLO. uhm. YODO. You Only Die Once. yeah, none of them wanted to cross to Basilan.
i woke up at 4:30am. Benj( friend/ host) walked with me to the jeepneys heading to where the port is. He wasn’t allowed by his partner to travel with me.
the jeep brought me down to the street next to the port. it was a looong walk-not sure if its the distance or the scare that started to well inside me.
this, back then, was the most sensitive trip i have gotten myself into. Basilan is pretty much known to all of the Philippines as the island you would not want to bring yourself to. heck, you wouldn’t even want to get near to( of course, unless a rifle is being poked at the back of your head then you should not fight back and just go) lol.
it is believed to be the home of local terrorists(aside from Jolo i think). this is one of those don’t-tell-my-mom’s destinations.
so breaking in to Basilan was like a top secret agent’s mission- critical, sensitive and insanely stupid. yeah, what can i get from doing this aside from bragging rights? yeah, none. lol.
i wore worn-out shirt, basketball shorts and slippers. totally the vibe you get from your typical neighbourhood hobo. which happens to be my look even when dressed-up. =)
i arrived at the port 45mins ahead of what Benj told me was the boats scheduled departure time, 6am. yeah, am i excited or what!?
then a man approached me to my surprise horror bearing news that there was a fast craft/vessell thats about to leave and that its only 50pesos more expensive. (well, its very warm of Basilan to come up with these circumstances just to meet me ASAP.) Aaah the warmth of friendliness… left me froze with terror. lol. i said to the man “uhmmm yeah, sure, why not chocnut”
i told myself, if theres one time that i shouldn’t be exhibiting fake bravery then this is it. this is it pansit. but, yeah, my mind was already afloat, i said I’m taking it.
with utter carefulness- more like paranoia- couple of rules i made and observed: never make eye contact to anyone. no speaking. if asked, talk only in my broken bisaya, short and sweet in a hushed tone. always stick with group of people. no going to toilet. no camera. no phone. and DO NOT MAKE ANY SCENE(as much as i love attention, this was apparently not the place and time.)
i ran to the boat- ran pa talaga- because it was about to board and sail. i went straight to a vacant seat in the corner. there i seated( honestly i wasn’t really sure if i would sit, or jump out of the boat- my brain was confused. but, yeah, my heart on the other hand, was so sure to jump out of my body)
since this was a secret mission, my priority(for my dear life) was not to attract any attention. be discreet, blend in and play it cool. failed. hence, i stood out like a sore thumb because i sweated like a pig.
i tried earnestly to composed myself. and i did it by listening to Snoop Dogg’s Young, Wild and Free. i listened to it a couple of times. though i restricted myself from breaking to a Hip Hop swaggin dance( which i am prone to do whenever i hear it blasted on the radio)
“Livin’ young, wild and free” i hummed. it worked like a charm. =)
it was a smooth sail. sea was placid. sky was clear. sun’s soft morning rays felt warmth to the skin. it was a subtle morning(of course that is we discard the case of my then-troubled-heart which almost jumped-out not only from my body but from the boat altogether.)
an hour passed and from afar, the outline of the famed and feared zone started to take shape. it was mostly flat terrains. the sleepy island’s silhouette was accentuated with fine gloomy streaks of fog. the sight was serene and tranquil. least words one would associate Basilan with. there was a definite calmness in the air.
i started to contact Basilan’s Tourism officer that was assigned to meet me in the pier. we had a lengthy phone conversation the night before and that actually sealed the deal. it is safe he guaranteed and that he will be inside the pier waiting for me the next day. i phoned him. no answer. the.guy.did.not.answer.my.phone.call.
*my most feared scenario is, actually, to alight from the boat, walk to the arrival area and have no one to fetch me. if this happens in a different place i will not even be bothered but this is Basilan. that would make me feel like im a meat thrown inside a cage of mad dogs with thick saliva drooping from their mouth.
you know how it is the arrival area, all eyes on you. in this case, even terrorist eyes could be on you. even terrorist eyes hunting down for their next victim could be on you. even terrorist eyes hunting down for their next victim wearing dark glasses, sahal, belt of ammo and an ak-67 could be on you. ohboy, my wild imaginations fukced me straight up with a devilish grin.
my then-calm composure brought about by the cool Sulu Sea air, subdued summer sun, and the landscape that has peace written all over it was suddenly unrattled again. i decided i will not alight the boat unless i received a text or call from the tourism guy. id rather stay in the boat and go back to Zamboanga City and just lie about travelling around Basilan altogether. haha. but the tourism guy, Jason, finally texted.
and it was all good vibes from then on. *well, except for the lady guide who hinted was expecting a treat because apparently the previous visitors were of affluence. they feasted on thousand worth of seafood etc. i said, the only seafood she can expect from me is a fancy fried fish(daing na bangus). very fancy, eh? (yes, they are my good friends Nik and Ton. its not their fault that they are rich. and its my fault that im “under-privilege” lol. yes, i know that. demmit)
it was a rollercoaster of feelings this travel experience caused me. the high highs and looow lows were so extremes. from disturbing to delightful.
the beach in Malamawi Island is definitely amongst my top beaches in the Philippines alongside El Nido’s and Babuyan’s Sabang. Though i must say Malamawi has way more “ooomph” and ANGAS(not sure if theres an english translation). I mean, the lifeguards here don’t carry rescue cans, they carry rescue guns! and by guns… i meant those things that fire.
Basilan(Isabela) is a city marred with terrorism and violence. A place condemned with a long history of bad press which is utterly wrongful/unjust for the friendy people and the stunning island place. Its a shame that Basilan graces frontpages of newspapers wherein its more suited for travel magazine covers.
Come on Mindanao, let’s give peace a chance! Visit this side of the country if you can. its worth it. and because YOLO – you only live once( and that once can end here. lol)
*this trip was mid 2012 *the Zamboanga peeps are good friends. well, unless they change their minds after reading this. bunch of fun, cool people. hehe *Nik and Ton are not your typical rich conyo travelers. hehe *the guy from the Tourism office Jason Arcan is a very cool guy. everyone travelling to this island should look for and get him as guide. *and you should give generous tip. because, i did. generously. of course, but thats on my standards. lol
the story started with a free ticket, a fake ID, and one poor, adventure”ful” ass. yes, thats mine me.
i never intended to visit this side of Mindanao. eastern side.
plainly because its the favorite setting of news men when reporting on kidnappings and bombings. and as much as i would want to appear on tv or newspaper, well, certainly, not on these circumstances.
but, during one stormy afternoon. Nic of www.pinoyontheroad.com gave away his round-trip ticket to Zamboanga. and being the happy-go-lucky cheapskate, adventure”ful” ass that i am. i said yes, even before my brain comprehended what it entailed. you know, like, actually, going to this side of Mindanao and be, physically, in those backdrops i only see on Tv Patrol.
since i am not fully knowledgeable about the geography of this part of the country, i googled some maps and to my surprise horror, Zamboanga city is apparently 1 centimeter away from Basilan, an inch away from Jolo etc etc.
i kept this trip a secret since i do not want anyone to worry about my travel stupidity. you know, incase, there are, actually, people who feel that way.
all i said at home was i’m going out for a shoot and hike in Bicol. and that i’l be gone for a few days.
the day before the travel, my stupidity, apparently, started to kick in(mala “Liu Kang’s flying kick). and it did scare the hell out of me.
after all, it is the first time i am travelling with a different name and a fake ID to a place i had only seen glimpses of during 2-minute-Newsflashes or excerpts from TV Patrol or sometimes on a front page of a newspaper. not very enticing, right?
but i knew that if i let this opportunity pass by, i will never be able to get myself there, ever.
and since i love giving myself a good scare, at times. i single-handedly braved this trip.
i had two options Zamboanga-Basilan-Tawi tawi and Basilan-Zamboanga-north-west-south Mindanao. i followed the latter.
so how did it go, you say? well, i am back in Manila and still alive, obviously, so thats good news… right? oh yeah, of course it is. =)
-the airport scene that played in my head prior to my flight wherein some suspicious men with shades and sahal would follow me and my every move until finally cornering me outside the airport in Zamboanga didnt actually happened. buang.
-was able to fly with a different name and a fake ID. i dont advise this though =)
-zamboanga is the sh*t. i would walk in the streets back to my hostel past midnight, drunk, its safe.
-even my new-found friends in Zamboanga got scared to go with me in Malamawi in Basilan.
-Merloquet falls is charming. Malamawi is the best beach in the south( but thats just me). Tinuy-an Falls looks better in photos(opinion ko lang din yan). Had a good swim in Hinatuan enchanted river. failed to get awed by Glan… for the second time.
-dont camp by the beach when a storm is brewing.
-Greenwindows dormitel in Davao is the best backpack accomodation in the PI( wasnt paid to say that, but if you guys are reading this, i wouldnt mind a free sleep next time.) affordable at 188. its clean. safe. airconditioned. =)
-buses in western Mindanao are better than those on the eastern side.
-10,000pesos is enough to circumnavigate the main island of Mindanao( ala true blue explorer.lol)
-satti is delicious. and so is knickerbucker.
-slept in a bus for several nights to save on accomodation. sayang. pangBeer din yon. lol
-things will not always go smoothly. there will always be that one stranger who will fukc things up.
-if you want friends, first, be a friend.
-i dream of time when people would go to Mindanao without hesitance, just pure excitement.
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.
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 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
its one of those August days when the weather is just as erratic as president p-noys lovelife(o ngayon si Iza Calzado naman, asa haha). past midnight and the raucous rain poured, for a close full hour. then there was complete silence before the break of dawn.
we decided to hit Matinloc and Tapiutan islands in Bacuit bay that day.
while were in the middle of our breakfast, dark clouds swiftly loomed in the horizon. and before we could even consume our tapsilogs in marina resort, the sky turned dark, so dark as dark as my batok(nape).
we had to forego the island hopping plan and opted to go with the biking adventure instead. come rainshowers and thunderstorms, we will still be able to have our day packed with our adventures. so we headed to pitstop to get our bike. paid 700 pesos for the Honda XRM- rent fee for the whole day. they gave us instructions on how we can go about circling the northern part of El Nido, some tips on nice spots, landmarks and mileage. grabbed our helmets and off we hit the road.
the first ten kilometers of road northbound of El Nido is paved and cemented. and anywhere farther than that is rough as rough roads can get.
first stop was Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls. it should be less than 20kms away from El Nido town to the jump-off. a small house at the right side of the road with a signage at the gate. we parked our bike then asked some locals for information about trekking to the falls. since we were trying to cut down on expenses, we decided to not get a guide and just trust manang’s tawirin-ang-ilog-lakad-sa-tabi-ng-bukid-at-kaliwa-pagbaba-ng-burol advice. Or in other words, go with our instincts. which is a bad idea. were terrible as we are, much more our instincts.
and just after the first river-crossing(it was quite difficult traversing the waist-deep water because of strong currents since it rained the night before, its only the first river-crossing and there are TEN of them), we decided to backtrack.
along the way we bumped to a farmer and he asked “where we are going”, i answered “we’re quitting the trek as there are several trails and we have the slightest idea which is which”( completely skipped us-had-difficulty-crossing-the-river part, its only waist-deep and were both guys, sabihin niya pa sissy kami, we maybe quitters but we have big egos haha). he said its easy( he’s thin and a lot smaller than us). so i was forced to quickly reply with a “yes it is (ehem) easy, its just that there are several trails… but given a guide we will definitely push through” and quickly he volunteered his son, patay. so we continued with the trek… it drizzled on most parts
it took us 45mins and 4bruises( joke lang) to reach the waterfalls. it was not that high but its cute enough for photographs. we let-go of the swimming-part since there was already a light rain, and an impending downpour was definitely seeming on the horizon. the water current was strong to begin with, even a slight rain may worsen it. this is one of those moments where the journey is more fun than the destination.
trekked down to get our bike and gave manang 20 pesos as tip for eyeing on the bike, shes not charging any fees for parking( yeah, were cheap =)).
next stop was Nacpan: a close bidder for my most finest beach destination. imagine a deserted beach with 4kilometers of gradually sloped, powdery sands peppered with tall cocos and clear blue waters. It fronts 3 small islands. plus, currently, theres only one concrete bungalow built there, so its pretty much wide-open. this should be less than 10kms away from the falls. this is apparently the roughest of all the rough roads i had ever passed on to. blog about Nacpan will be on a separate post =)
it was past noon when we continued our stride to the northern most part of mainland palawan. we went clockwise passing by barutuan, bucana and teneguiban. by this time, were cruising on with half of our bodies covered in mud, slippers covered with inches of mud, and prints on our boardshorts are no longer visible due to mud.
after getting zillions of stares and smiles( more on like laughs) from the friendliest of locals, we decided to clean-up a little in a beach in San Fernando. swam a little in the serene waters with brother and daracoton islands in the backdrop. both islands boasts white sand beaches. the coast here was calmer and sand a little beige. after cracking down inches of mud and we continued traversing to the west side and hunted down for the lone eatery in all of northern El Nido.
and oh boy, the guy giving instructions in the bike shop wasnt joking when he said theres only one place to eat at. the nondescript babes eatery. its a little hard to locate it since its not along the road plus the signage is too small and worn down to be distinguished by bikers( moreover to hungry bikers ).
we spotted down babes minutes later, before 3pm. its in sibaltan, northwestern part of el nido. met French couple jacques and marie( just made up that one for easier story-telling as im really bad with names, i even forget my girl’s name sometimes, and she tends to forget to control her hands sometimes, lol) our bike buddies in el nido. both nature-lovers, biologist and nature researcher by profession, fancy camiguin much. both very athletic as they chose to paddle their way around the islands in el nido.
babes is a unique eatery. its very japanesy( lol), omakase-style dining. as a paying customer you don’t get to choose what food will they serve you. it will all depend on what is available in their kitchen basket on your visit. and I cant complain with the lobster, surgeonfish(labahita), fresh eggs and organic mangoes we feasted on. those were the fresh catch that morning. nothing beats fresh seafoods as they are oh-so-tasty and oh-so-flavorful. we were more than happy( and hungry) to sip the juices of the lobster head to dry, eat up to the last rice grain, and consumed the fish til no visible meat can be traced on the bones. we were charged 200(foreigners) and 120(pinoy) for the complete meal. this is a destination in itself =)
after the pig-out, the pigs(ako piglet) raced to the next stop which is a beach in villa paz. nothing remarkably different from the other beaches in this area. a glimpse of bubog island in sight. a cute little island with a small tree and an abandoned house. by this time we were passing over the west side of el nido.
the shoreline cruise ended in new ibajay. we then rolled to the inland rough roads of new ibajay, villa libertad and pasadena completing the circumnavigation of the northern el nido (that sounded too explorer-ly haha). passed by scenic ricefields, forests, riversides and limestone mountain rock formations.
continued the race with the Frenchmen back to el nido town. arrived at 6pm, just in time before pitstop closes. we used up 4 liters of gas(and 1 liter of sweat… it was hot as the sun was out the whole time were out on the road) for the full bike tour.
of course we outbiked the French breads. pandesal pride baby! haha *Nacpan beach