After what felt like a YEAR of hard work (it was really only 3 months) and nightly dreaming of the Philippines, we were finally on our way! We had booked super cheap flights from Darwin to Manila, but were going to face paying extortionate prices to actually get to Darwin… So we sourced a relocation car instead and just needed to find 2 people to share the fuel. After a week of searching we sought out a German girl & a Dutch girl to join us… Ever wondered what its like to hitchhike? The fear of it being awkward? Creepy? Well have you ever wondered what its like for the drivers when you have two of the most shit-boring, sleeping backpackers stuck in your car for 2 days? It SUCKS. But anyway…
We had a ball, chatting, laughing, trying not to hit eagles & kangaroos and trying to stay awake at the wheel. Within about an hour we gave up even trying to talk to them and they just slept for the entire 1500kms. We stayed a night in Daly Waters pub to break up the trip. I told the girls there was a pool and its as if they were waiting for permission from me to go in. Mark & I drank beers, swam and then had our first good nights sleep in AGES.
We arrived in Darwin the next afternoon, feeling hot & sticky after just a few minutes, we went to “bathe” at the esplanade only to feel hot & sticky just minutes after getting out.
So we went and used the showers at Youthshack Backpackers only to feel hot & sticky just minutes after that. I think it would definitely take some acclimatising to live in Darwin during a wet season. We headed to the airport after dinner to spend yet another night sleeping on the floor before our ridiculous-o’clock flight.
By the time we got on the plane I was so excited, but so exhausted at the same time. As most people know by my blogs I am absolutely shit scared of flying and I always said if I was told there was a problem with the aircraft I was on I would demand to get the F*** off! Well… it happened. We sat on the run way for over an hour before the pilot announced there was a “maintenance issue”. The rest of the plane was asleep, but here I was wide awake, heart pounding, delirious. BUT I stayed on the god damn plane! YAY ME! We arrived in Manila and I understood straight away why everyone raved about the traffic. It took us over 1/2 hr to get from one terminal to another by bus… Which was on the same plot of land. It cost a whole 50c… I could used to that! We waited a few hours before we flew to the island of Palawan. An hour later we arrived in the city of Peurto Princesca. It was a total sensory overload! The vehicles there are insane and awesome.. Little tricycles which is a motorbike with a hand made cab attached. Shiny buses with stickers all over and 2 benches in the back to cram as many people in as possible. We arrived at our hotel where we were greeted with “Sir, Ma’am this, Sir Ma’am that.” We felt like royalty!
We discussed renting a motorcycle to cruise around the island, but thank god we decided not to. I don’t think my travel insurance would have covered what could have happened and don’t think my family would be too impressed! The driving skills there are non-existent.. The road rules equally non-existent. Lanes? Pffft, what lanes?! So we stumbled across Arnold, who turned out to be our driver for the 3 days we were there. Arnold was a young, fat fella who had several kids and your usual sob story. We paid him well to treat us well. We flew around the streets and the countryside, dodging trucks, buses, cars, tricycles, kids playing ON the road, cows strolling across the road & about 6,000 stray dogs. We went to beaches, villages, the crocodile farm (where we ate crocodile & it was delicious!) & the best of all; the local markets. You could say we were “alien” to them… I have never been stared at so much in my life (Singapore coming in close second.) Kids would tug at our clothes and point & smile. Adults would study us with their eyes and giggle to each other. We ate bananas on sticks, fried in sugar. We walked through an entire dried fish market, ate fruits I had never even seen before.
The highlight of the day though; Mark eating the Filipino “delicacy” called Buluk. Basically a half formed chicken egg, beak & feet & all. BLEHHHHH! I wasn’t game enough for that one.
The next day we left early for our Underground River tour, an attraction which is one of the Seven Wonders of Nature. Not to confuse with the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but a new list that has recently been made. I don’t want people to think that I am afraid of everything, but I tell you what, there were times where my heart leapt into my throat driving in a van doing 100km an hour on a winding road, overtaking buses JUST before corners. Either way, we made it everywhere alive. We took a boat ride to get to our destination and boy was the scenery amazing! The beach before the rainforest leading to the Underground River was stunning. We got to the entrance of the river, suited up in our life jackets & ridiculous helmets and headed into the river. It is basically just a cave, filled with water. We paddled about 1km into it before it really became remarkable. I didn’t know what to expect, but the real attraction isn’t the fact that it’s a river, underground, but that the natural rock formations all resemble something… mostly religious figures. There was a rock that looked EXACTLY like Jesus’ face, there was a formation that looked EXACTLY like the last supper, there was the Virgin Mary, a holy family & then just to mix it up, there was a rock that looked like a pile of shit. Or “poop” as our guide said!
We travelled back by boat to the mainland where we ate lunch… Delicious chicken, pork, fish and of course; worms. MMM. I decided because I couldn’t face the half formed chicken egg the day before I HAD to try the worm. To put mildly it was DISGUSTING, but worth the experience. We then headed to a limestone mountain to go caving and zip lining. We got geared up trekked up through the cave, squeezing through cracks, climbing over rocks; definitely something that would not pass health & safety in most countries.. One of the reasons I love Asia! We got to the top and went for our zip line. I’d love to tell you it was exhilarating and amazing… but it wasn’t. It was cool, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
That night we went to a local bar called Tiki bar and saw some live bands. It was more like pop performers.. 8 piece bands with 4 singers, singing the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Haha, they definitely love shit music! We had a good time, though & they were the best looking Filipinos I had seen so far.
The next day we went to do our own Island Hopping tour. We hired a boat for next to nothing and were chauffeured to 3 different islands. Believe it or not it was Marks first ever time snorkeling and we saw a turtle within the first 5 minutes! We ended up on Pandan Island eating fresh fish, sunbaking, snorkeling and living the dream.
Next stop was back to Manila for a few nights. It took us about an hour to get to our hotel in traffic at 8 o’clock at night, but we made it and were pleasantly surprised with the area we stayed in and our free upgrade 🙂 The whole suburb was lined with trees wrapped in Christmas lights. We were just across the road from a shopping mall, but it was somewhere Paris Hilton would shop, not us. We ate & went to bed, ready for my birthday the next day!
I woke in the morning to a beautiful bunch of flowers & card, a little cake & card from the receptionist and happy birthday greetings from all the staff. We headed off for our day of shopping. I was expecting to grab bargains everywhere and stock up on clothes I never buy in Australia, but 3 malls later and 9 o’clock at night I was disappointed and had only grabbed a few things, which I ended up paying Australian prices for anyway. I got my hair done and I think the hairdresser was in a little shock when I asked for “black” seeings they ALL have black hair anyway.
He/she royally f***ed it up covering my entire face, scalp & ears in black dye! Haha. I managed to have my hair hang in a certain way to cover most of it up. We had an AMAZING dinner at an Italian restaurant. 3 courses, a bottle of wine & several beers later, our bill came to around $50. We were planning to go out clubbing for the night, but by the time we finished dinner it was 10pm and so we turned in, ready for our trip to Boracay the next day.
We took an hour flight to reach the Kalibo airport, but then 2 hour bus & boat to actually get to Boracay. As soon as we cruised toward the shore you could see the crystal clear blue waters and white sandy beaches. We travelled some more insane streets before pulling into our hotel. I felt extremely ripped off when I thought the “beach resort” I booked was nowhere near the actual beach. But soon enough we discovered the other side of the hotel was literally 3 metres from the beach front and a line of beach bars, restaurants and shops! It was GORGEOUS. It was FUN. It was just plain AMAZING! I was so excited to be there and so glad this was the final destination of our week in the Philippines! After a dip in the beach we planted our arses at an amazing little bar called Epic Bar and decided to really celebrate my birthday. We drank copious amounts of alcohol and made friends with all the staff. When they finished work that evening we all went and sat on lounges at a beach bar literally 3 metres from the water. There were fireworks for a wedding nearby, there were fire dancers, live music and great company. It was an amazing night and there would be NO other way I would rather spend my birthday.
The next day we had booked a trip to Ariels point where you can go cliff jumping. We dragged our hungover arses out of bed only to discover the sky was filled with storms and the rain was torrential. Our trip was cancelled 🙁 Instead of moping we decided the only thing to do was go and sit at a bar and admire the storm and rain. So, we ended up at Epic Bar again for the entire day. I discovered Mango Smoothies that were the perfect hangover cure and delicious with just a bit of vodka in them. About 10 of those later we went to a rooftop bar where we made our own karaoke and enjoyed the night breeze. After a few hours there we decided to stop at one more bar on the way home. It was your typical commercial club, with over-dressed dickheads dancing to One Direction, but it was fun at the same time! The downfall; they had the WORST toilet I had seen in our whole time in the Philippines with of course no toilet paper, but also a bucket to fill with water to “flush”. This is fine for your odd tinkle, but what came next was NOT suitable for a toilet such as this. Just as gastro does, it snuck up on me like the speed of lightning… I was back in that toilet, but this time I really needed toilet paper and really needed to FLUSH. I basically ran back to the hotel as soon as I was “finished’ and this continued for the entire night and all through the early morning. At 6am we were supposed to take a bus back to Kalibo, fly to Manila, fly to Darwin and then after 8 hrs in the airport, back to Alice Springs…
When I projectile vomited whilst talking to hotel receptionist I knew that was NOT going to happen! I told the hotel to cancel our trip to Kalibo and to arrange a doctor. I had a doctor call to our room and I felt like royalty, being treated right there in our triple KING size bed, but felt like death all the same. I was told it was either fruit or seafood.. Seeings I hadn’t eaten any seafood in the day before I knew it was those damn Mango Smoothies! I was hooked up to an IV drip and pumped full of medication and by 12 o’clock I felt almost 100%. Instead of missing every flight we had, I decided to try and get an afternoon flight to Manila. I had to book a tiny little propeller plane to make it back in time.. Much to my disgust. We arrived at the airport, dragging my sick body around, looking like a corpse and were told the flight was delayed. We were still in the air when our flight was leaving Manila for Darwin.
Long story short; we managed to get our flights changed, insurance claimed & spent another night in Manila before leaving. It was probably the best outcome we could have had. We had a 2pm check out which meant we could finally relax and a beautiful hotel to live it up in dressing gowns & slippers one last time. It was located in “Resorts World” which is like the Filipino version of Vegas! We spent our last few hours winning a bit of money on the Roulette table before heading off for our flight to Darwin. For the fourth time in the past few months we again, stayed on the airport floor and finally made it back to Alice Springs the next morning.. A day late, battered, poorer, but more relaxed than ever and with AMAZING memories in our heads. I LOVE the Philippines.