A Travellerspoint blog

"With Twins Make Baby?"

semi-overcast 25 °C
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the three young Filipino girls had been waiting in vain for the boys to show them some attention. They had been idly hanging around outside on the beach in front of our guesthouse looking with admiration up at the boys who were busy doing their best to ignore them as they played another game of pool. The girls could not have been any older than 14 and I was quite surprised when one looked up at Lute and I when we passed and asked with a coy smile "with twins make baby"? With some humour I replied, "I think you will have to go up and play a game of pool with them first!" and we continued on our way. Retrospectively my flippancy was somewhat naive as it appears that many Filipino girls and boys on Palawan have their first child in their early teenage years.

We left Palawan today and are temporarily holed up in Cebu whilst we wait for a transfer flight to IloIlo. Our destination is the Baras Resort http://baras.willig-web.com/index_en.htm which we hope will be the holiday paradise that we didn't find on Palawan. I'm not saying Palawan wasn't good, but it does appear that you really have to shell out the big bucks and step off onto one of the expensive island resorts to escape compromise. Alternatively, bring everything with you and get castawayed by a boat taxi. We did try this with three French girls and spent New New Years Eve tucked up under a mozzie net on a beautiful island just outside of Elnido. Unfortunately I didnt gauge the high tide mark very well and at about 60minutes into 2009 Lute and I were woken up by a big splash of cold salt water falling over our legs.

The rude awakening had alot to do with the larger than normal waves that developed while we were on Palawan, a response to a would be typhoon that bloomed and died north of the Philippines. The strong NE winds from this storm made the inter-island ferry trips we took quite rough, especially the trip from Port Barton to ElNido. I was not surprised to hear after we had finished this trip that a ferry on the previous day had experienced difficulties and had taken 12hrs to complete the same trip which took us 5hrs. Apparently their engine broke down and they were taking on water, which must have caused some consternation to the tourists on board. These "ferries" or "Bangkas"(as they are called here) are really just big open canoes with outriggers to stabilise them and are not really suited to rough conditions. We were all soaked from seaspray when we arrived in Corong Corong Bay (just outside ElNido) and I do suspect the lure of the tourist dollar sometimes inspires the local boatman to embark in conditions they would normally wait out. I would recommend anyone contemplating this trip to watch the weather and if possible choose one of the larger 12 person bangkas. We took the one operated by the Greenview Resort which appeared well maintained.

Posted by Estebaan 04:50 Archived in Philippines Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Malarial Fears

sunny 25 °C
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Max looked up from his prone position in the sun on the sand. He looked terrible with sand all over his face, droopy eyes and a deep lethargy. He had a fever starting and I was a little worried. We had just been paddled through 1.5km of subterranean river caves and I he didn't think he was going to be able to complete the 7km walk back through the jungle to our beach cottages at Sabang. Fortunately I was able to book two places on a boat from a tour group and we were wisked back to Sabang over a choppy sea. That night Max's fever reached 38.5c, he developed chills, a headache and lost his appetite. My concern for his health deepened when I awoke at midnight and read the phamplet that came with the anti-malarial drug we are taking (Larium).

The symptoms all seemed to fit and the words "life threatening" in the literature got me wired. Over the past few days we had been reasonably diligent in protecting ourselves against mosquitoes but we had all been bitten once or twice when we had taken the canoe on the amazing mangrove tour, which I would recommend to everybody who visits Sabang. At that moment I made the decision then to cancel our early morning departure on a boat to Cacnip Island and instead we rerouted ourselves back to Puerto Princessa on the first bus. By the time I had Max in front of a doctor at the Adventist hospital his fever had subsided but the doctor agreed with my concerns and took a blood sample....2hrs later we were back in reception at the hospital and I was very relieved to hear the nurse read out that he didn't have Malaria, just an influenza....Phew!

I have purchased two large bottles of insect repellant and we are now going to reignite our plans to get to Cacnip where I have booked a family bungalow at the Coconut Island Resort.

Posted by Estebaan 16:09 Archived in Philippines Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

Fresh Ripe Mango

sunny 30 °C
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Our China Southern Airline tickets had been the cheapest I could find on the net and I was pleasantly surprised, perhaps a little shocked, to find us boarding a splinter new Boeing at Kathmandu for our 1130pm red eye flight. Unfortunately we were not prepared for Gangzhou airport (our stopover), which was also splinter new and sporting huge cavernous glass walled terminals. We were advised as we landed that the ambient outside temperature was 10C and it felt as if somebody had turned the terminals climate control system onto "fresh air intake only" - it was freeeeezing. After two hours the sun came up and after scouting around we found a few southern facing windows at a gate right up at the very end of the terminal where we could rest on a piece of sun drenched carpeted floor.

The first thing I noticed about Manila was the colourful long wheelbase Jeepney taxis plying the roads outside the airport. The next thing I noticed was that it was quiet in the clogged traffic. Yes, in the Philippines people actually only use their horns if it is absolutely necessary. Pure relief! I had really never gotten used to the noisy chaos on the roads and pavements of Nepal.

Come on, really, how long has it been since you have eaten real fresh ripe mango? I didn't realise what I had been missing out on until I was gently picking my way through the fruit salad I had ordered for breakfast at our guesthouse in Manila. This was no Delhaize Mango that had half ripened in a cushioned wrapper whilst sitting in a box as it travelled a few thousand km to Antwerp. No, this was the real thing, and I realised then as another slippery taste sensation found my palate, that this was one of the important reasons why we had come to the Philippines.

Following everybodies suggestions we were in and out of Manila within 24hrs. I managed to snag some tickets to Puerto Princesa on the Palawan Islands and we landed here yesterday. Puerto has a nice calm and friendly vibe, slightly enhanced by pre-christmas festivities which are being actively celebrated the good catholic locals. Influenced by the festive ambience I yielded to some tin can drum beating youngsters who were attempting to serenade us with christmas carols through the door of the vegetarian restaurant we were dining at tonight. I had Victor give them 5 Pesos and was relieved when they promptly disappeared. Unfortunately they must have gone around the corner and told every other kid in the neighbourhood that there was a soft touch at the restaurant and we subsequently had at least 10 more drum beating serenades before we had finished our meal. Lesson learned - never hand out cash when you are unable to relocate!

On the advice of a taxitricycle driver (Jun) we met yesterday we hired one of those long speedy (and very noisy) boats with bamboo outriggers on either side and went on a tour of three tropical islands in Honda Bay today. At the first island (Starfish Island) our skipper and his mate cooked up our fresh fish, veges and seaweed we had purchased (with Juns help) early at the local markets in Puerto . We dined on their efforts at 10am on the sand under a bamboo and thatched palmleaf roofed shelter overlooking the bay. Sweet.....

The snorkling visibility in the bathtub warm waters around all the islands was not great but the diversity and colour of the fish made up for it. Maybe I did notice that some of the coral was dead (not being an expert it's hard to tell) but the coral gardens certainly aren't as fabulous as those we swam around off Aqaba in the Red Sea. The boys stayed in the water all day and Lute also spent a good slab of time snorkling. Unfortunately we weren't diligent enough with the sunscreen resulting in us having to spend some time in Puerto this evening shopping for Aloe Vera gel to soothe the pink skin on Victors back and thighs.

Tomorrow we are heading to Sabang on the western side of the island and then we will probably drift northwards in search of a "tropical paradise" to nestle into for the christmas/new year period. There are not too many tourists floating around this end of the woods and some of the guesthouse owners are saying that they are slower than they were this time last year. This is actually good news for us and our no-prebook spontaneous wanderings.

I suspect that this will be the last entry for a few weeks so I would like to extend seasons greeting to all my friends, family and fellow bloggers.

Posted by Estebaan 04:31 Archived in Philippines Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Arghh the bells!

sunny 19 °C
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The bells started ringing again at 4am this morning. We had prepared ourselves as best as possible by turning in at 8am (along with most of the populace) but we hadn't counted on that damn black and white dog which lives under some huge overturned wheels in the corner of the square. At 2am, when all was quiet, this mangy mongrel leader decided it was time to gather together a few of his his local brethren into the middle of the square (well out of reach of my water bombs) and begin a barking competition with some other mongrels in a nearby district....he didn't stop until 630am and I vote, he won.

After 3 days sleeping in the nerve centre of Bhaktapur we are ready to fly to Manila Vanilla. Our "best room" in the Sunny Guesthouse has such a paucity of sound insulation that you can virtually hear somebody scratching themselves on the street two stories below.

Bhaktapur however has been a great diversion from Kathmandu, the medieval architectural heritage is still in reasonable shape and the people here take their daily religious prayer and offerings seriously. It reminds me of how Kathmandu felt 20 year ago.

Posted by Estebaan 20:31 Archived in Nepal Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Chitwan to Bhaktapur and onwards

sunny 20 °C
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From Pokhara we took a two day rafting trip on the lower Seti River which was pleasant. The most interesting event was watching the locals dynamite fishing the river not far from the launch point at Damauli (I thought I was going to have to wait for the Philippines to experience this). We paddled past quite a few stunned and dead fish which had escaped the eager nets and hands of the locals at the rocky race immediately downstream. After this, we didnt see our rescue support kayak guy until after we had beached ourselves at the river campsite at dusk - the lure of easy fishing was too tempting for him.

Reading of our "Rough Guide to Nepal" suggested we should avoid the tourist fleshpot of Sauraha so after the rafting finsihed we took a series of buses and walked into the quiet villiage of Ghatgain, which sits on the northern banks of the Rapti River just opposite the Royal Chitwan National Park. The flat countryside was full of rice paddies and small mud walled thatched houses, it was very scenic. The next day we left early with a French couple and their guide and stomped through a thick mist for 3.5hrs to watch a game of elephant polo at Meghauli. Watching these huge beasts being riden around in pursuit of a tiny white ball was a crazy almost surreal scene.

The next two days saw us hire our own guide to hike 20km through the jungle in search of wildlife and I must admit having an undercurrent of anxiety for the whole duration. I just couldn't shake the thought that somewhere out there behind that wall of green foliage there were real tigers and even with his big stick I didn't hold much hope that our 5ft 5" guide was going to be able to adequately fend off one of these ferocious maneaters. As it turned out we only caught glimpses of spotted deer, monkeys, wild boar and maybe a sloth bear. We did however see many footprints and even a tiger turd...

After the jungle walk we decided that we really couldn't leave without riding an oliphant - so we took a late afternoon ride on two females housed at the nearby luxury safari resort. Ambling across the river on these huge animals was awesome and their ability to push their way through the 8m high elephant grass gave us access to areas you can never see from hiking along the ground. Perched astride our sitting platform felt grand and the heightened vantage reminded me of how I used to feel when I climbed up into my old VW Kombi. After our trip was about half way thru we turned back towards the river and I was giving up hope of seeing anything when a large wild boar sprang out from the grass in front of the elephant Max and I were atop. Our excited rider quickly turned around and with a big smile barked "loook Deer!", which was an absolute crack-up. After this, we ended up seeing a couple of wild Rhinos and Victor was over the moon. Although the price was steep (2000NR or AU$40ea) I would thoroughly recommend any visitor to Chitwan to take an elephant ride - its not like riding a horse at all, which never really thrilled me.

We have spent the last two days in Kathmandu doing a little bit of shopping. The boys picked up some silver rings they had had made (embedded with gemstones we spent two days finding during our previous stay in Katty) and I got myself a set of brass singing bowls. After getting skinned a few times over the last six weeks I finally feel a little more skilled when bargaining with the locals and I have learnt to relax into the process.

Today we moved out to Bhaktapur where we have all nestled ourselves in the best and largest room offered at the Sunny Guesthouse which directly overlooks a square filled with temples and statues. Its our last three days in Nepal and I am already thinking about how I can get back again...umm

Posted by Estebaan 04:51 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

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