A Travellerspoint blog

When it rains it doesn't stop!

Today we headed back to the airport at Caticlan, a reverse of the previous journey with two trikes and a ferry. On arrival at Caticlan it started to rain and it really really meant it, this was a tropical down pour of biblical proportions! It also meant that due to how short Caticlan runway is our flight was to be delayed for at least 2 hours (or until the rain stopped I guess). Not really a lot at this airport, and it was a pretty dire boring wait only to be told that our flight was now considered to be cancelled this was at around 16.00 hours for a flight that should of left at 13.00. We were to be boarded into vans and driven for 2 hours to kalibo airport. Again I've managed to get the fucking retard seat on the van so I wasn't paticulary happy and I'm frustrated that now I won't be able top pick up my passport until the following day. On the plus side I got a free tour through rural philippines and first hand glimpse of land slides in the mountains (which were now semi waterfalls) some guys with balls the size of footballs made of steel were still riding scooters through the continuing epic deluge of water. At least our van was warm and dry.

At Kablibo airport we were told to await announcements and eventually at about 7pm we boarded our flight to Manilla arriving at around 8PM. Glad to be back and looking forward to my bed, I sadly said good bye to my friend and we asked the taxi driver to drop her off on the way back to my hotel. I ended up back in my room exactly where I had started a week ago at about 9pm i guess, I ordered some food from room service (still fucking cheaper than Boracay prices) and got my head to sleep at about 10.30.

Ive received an email from mother who has been in charge of mail duty during my trip and it seems a bank I beleeived to have a closed account with has been charging me 5 pound a day on an overdraft for a Direct debit since march 5th. I owe them over a hundred quid so today I sit here waiting for the customer services to open so I can call them and tell them to go fuck there selves the good news is this morning I picked up my Thai visa and my 3 month stay on the island of Koh Tao is now a certainty......

Posted by cd108 22:38 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Hello Sir! (Boracay)

sunny

The Flight to Caticlan airport is a short one at around 1 hour duration, no real biggie. Its a small airport too so landing and baggage collection is all done with minimal fuss. Right outside the airport you can get a trike to the port for about 50-100 peso depending on your bargaining skills. A cheap ferry across the island is I think about 100 PHP plus the port tax (every fucking where has this ridiculous scam going on where you pay a tax to use the port, air port etc).

Short ferry trip and your on the island, as described to me you arrive on the ass end of the island at the ferry terminal and its another trike ride at about 100 php this time (island rates now of course). We found a room for 1500 PHP which is about as cheap as it gets. The room had cable TV and Air con but was by no means special. It was clean ish and had a hot shower but for the same price in Thailand id expect a much better standard of accommodation. This is not Thailand though is it? The beach here is stunning, white sands and very large, all along the front of the beach are a multitude of bars, restaurants, resorts, mini stores, street vendors, massage parlours and of course touts. Its literally not possible to walk more than about 5 meters without some one attempting to sell you a boat trip, sunglasses, beads, a hat or a watch and it can quickly get tiring if your kind of person who feels you need to acknowledge each and every offer. Even the politest traveller will find there selves hardened and ignoring these guys by day 2. To add to the general chaos of a hundred thousand tourists walking down a narrow strip of land the bars and restaurants each have an attractive young lady employed to stand outside and invite customers in. I have never been called "sir" quite so many times in one week before "hello sir, happy hour". Happy hour tends to be several hours in most bars with offers of 2 for 1 coctkails or half price drinks. I was quite shocked to find all the dive schools here have formed some kind of price matching coalition and I was quoted the exact same price at every place I went too. It is possible to save a little money if you look around for a place that will include gear rental in the dive (gear rental was as much as 350 PH in some places which can quickly add up if you do multiple dives) also if you have an EANx certification and want to dive on a nitrox mix its possible to save a few Peso by shopping around for cheaper Nitrox fills. The cheapest I managed to find was victory divers, pleasingly located close to my rooms at 1600 PHP per dive including gear rental and 100 PHP for a nitrox tank. They also kindly volunteered to let my friend join us on the dive boat which settled it....

After the shopping around on the beach including the travel time to island it was now starting to get dark, time to hit up a bar and get some food. Again all the restaurants are clearly in cahoots and price matching each other. I imagine its the sheer volume of tourists and my friend said she was shocked that prices had risen as far as they had as quickly as they had. Boracay has apparently been voted the 4th best beach in the world and I expect this has fuelled its success. There was certainly a lot of traffic on the beach front and some truly enormous groups of koreans travelling around complete with obligatory tour guide and speaker headset (laughable really). Anyway food prices are pretty outrageous on this particular island. For an indian curry expect to pay 20 GBP, a T Bone steak 25 GBP hell even just a burger in a crappy fast food joint was 5GBP pizza aound a tenner a pop. This quick began to annoy me during my stay paticulary because given the high prices (in most cases as expensive if not more than the UK) the food was not actually all that great. Again I imagine largely due to high turnover in tourists but I was quickly forming an opinion of this island TOURIST TRAP! A victim of its own popularity I didn't really feel the ambience here.

So lets move on to the actual diving which I was led to believe is world class.....day 2 on the island I completed 2 dives neither of them on the top sites but I was keen to get back in the water after my week long break from diving. The choral is in pretty good shape and you can expect to see good examples of clown fish, pipe fish, file fish, frog fish, trigger fish (non aggressive at least at the time I was there). I couldn't really call it world class though but I did enjoy my dives. More worrying to me was the standard of the dive guides and instructors. Twice I witnessed novice divers coming up on 10-5 bar. Thats basically an empty tank ! and this was from 18 meter dives so a safety stop really needs to be completed. I didn't witness the divers volunteering there low air situation and the instructors did not seem to ask. Both poor practices especially given that these guys had been trained by this school and were fresh out of training novice open water certificates. Regardless I wash overly concerned for myself since the divers weren't paticuarly deep or challenging. The second dive was on a plane wreck which had been deliberately sunk. A small plane it did allow for some penetration but again was not really spectacular (I've dived on the SS thistlegorm which is probably one of the greatest wrecks in the world).

That evening we went out for a few cocktails and an over priced bite to eat. I don't know if it was the ice in the drinks or the fruit or the poor food but the following day I had a bout of travellers belly. I didn't recover from my internal acrobatics until around 7.30 PM at which point We again went out, careful to avoid cocktails and taking only a small amount of food I called it pretty early that night at around 10 PM and went to the room to watch a movie and sleep.

No diving yesterday due to my dodgy tummy, on day 4 I completed a further 2 dives one of which was on the a great site at crocodile island, again the novice divers coming up almost AOA but i really enjoyed this dive. We saw some great jackfish, lots of great choral, a sea snake and top of the list we saw cuttlefish laying edges into the choral. This is rarer than rocking horse shit since most animals aren't comfortable enough to let a bunch of guys blowing bubbles sit and watch them lay there eggs! We had a group of 4, all pleasantly relaxed in our presence going about the business of having children. It was amazing and I'm gutted I forgot my underwater camera on this dive. We knelt relaxed on the sandy bottom watching this spectacle unfold for around 20 minutes before we continued with our dive and left the creatures in peace. Back on the boat our guide commented that he had over 5000 dives logged and had never seen that behaviour before. It was magnificent and worth the entire trip by itself.

Another evening of overpriced poor quality food and a couple of happy hour beers lay ahead of me, this time my friend decided to drink alongside me, she doesn't normally drink and I was surprised and a little alarmed at how fast she knocking back her "sex on the beaches". Despite my advice to slow it down a little the poor lady became quite drunk and we had to return to the room and let her recover at about 11 PM

One thing Boracay does well is live music, many of the bars here have bands that cover all kinds of stuff, I had heard music ranging from ABBA and the Capenters to Metallica and Evenessence. Its certainly possible to have a good night out on the island and many of the bars on the beachfront are lively and good fun, not bad value either if you take advantage of the happy hour deals, you can get 2 cocktails for about 5 GBP and a beer for a little as 50 pence.

I had planned to only complete 1 dive on day 5 so as not to leave my friend sat on the boat bored for too long, and it was the last dive I really wanted to dive here. Yapak 2. a 37 meter deep dive with a strong current to drift on. Our dive brief advised us that our descent needed to ve as swift as possible else we chanced being washed over the wall by the current, from this point the dive would have to be aborted as the current is simply to strong to swim back to the wall. For this reason you must make sure your at 34 meters before the wall out of the direct current and able to take advantage of the remaining current to drift along the wall instead of straight over the top of it and off to fuck knows where land.

Our decent went fine and at 34 meters I was safely tucked up near to the wall and going with the current, visibility in my view was pretty poor and sadly we did not see any of the big fish you have a chance to spot there (sharks, whale sharks etc) there were some fairly large tuna and some large jacks but nothing outstanding really. Of more concern to me was that at 34 meters I had started to feel what I suspect was Nitrogen Narcosis. My vision became some what blurred and tunnel like and I had a certain sense of panic affecting me. I focused on my dive computer to try and alleviate the blurred vision which helped and despite feeling a little nervous I calmed my breathing and made every effort to ride the odd sensations out. Normally if you feel "narced" you would shallow up a few meters and expect the symptoms to clear but in this case that was not an option unless I wanted to say good bye to my dive group and sail off into the current, after perhaps 3 or 4 minutes I began to feel as if the Narcosis had cleared or at the very least i was dealing with it OK. Being such a deep dive and with most of our group diving on Air not Nitrox it was a short bottom time at around 20 minutes, during that brief time we had drifted a considerable distance. We completed a deep stop and a safety stop at 5 meters before surfacing with some 35 minutes total dive time. I had enjoyed the challenge of the rapid descent and deep drift but didn't really count the dive as great for what we actually saw.

Another night of live music, poor food and happy hours beers! No diving tomorrow since were flying the day after so need to avoid any compression. On our final day we went swimming, I had planned to show my friend how to snorkel like a boss but the dive school refused to lend me a mask and snorkel despite me spending well over a hundred quid in there the previous day settling my bill up. Fucking miserable bastards. So we went swimming and chilled on the beach a bit before going to check out the mall. I decided to party a bit harder that night despite my friend feeling it was better to avoid alcohol all together and after a number of beers found myself being approached by a lady boy for "blow job sex" we go your room? No my friend is in my room i said "ok we go my room" ermmm no thanks mate! we go to the beach then! make blow job sex! fuck no! your a dude! Light hearted entertainment i guess.

Well tomorrow its back to Manilla and hopefully the lovely thai people have granted me permission to visit there delightful country for a full 90 days!

Posted by cd108 21:37 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

More go go bars?

overcast

Ive booked myself a few nights in Makati where google reliably informs me the Thai embassy is located in Manilla but first off we have to get there.

My "Fly The Bus" has cost me 800 PHP from Angeles City to Manilla and then I need to take a taxi to makati itself but first off lets get this bus eh? Ok first of all the bus is delayed by around an hour and my fellow PAX are getting annoyed and frustrated, personally I can't see the point in that kind of attitude since this is Asia after all and you pretty much have to expect delays with buses and trains etc. I've booked this particular bus following advice from the thorn tree forum at LP website. regular buses are really vans and I'm told are hot sweaty and uncomfortable for the 2 hour duration of the journey. For the sake of 12 GBP I'm prepared to take a more comfortable ride, only it turns out the delay is because the bus has actually broken down and the company have provided.....yes 4 vans as an alternative. Anyone familiar with this mode of travel knows that the seats aren't great but that you need to try and avoid at all costs the "retard" seat. This is the little seat that folds out on the side of the regular seats and didn't quite make it all the way to full seat hood. There especially uncomfortable and its the seat I end up with of course. At least the van had air con. 2 ass numbing hours later we arrive in Manilla and I'm told a taxi to Makati is a further 800 peso. Im not having that and I barter the guy down to 400 which locals had told me was probably about the best price I could expect to get as a tourist (300 would of been a bargain 400 is about right). Its around a 30 minute ride to my hotel and the taxi driver is a nice guy pointing our interesting sights along the way (this is the cemetery! he enthuses) cool guy really but lacking in tour leader skills perhaps. So what of Manilla? well its pretty similar to Bangkok in look and traffic, it doesn't have BKK's awesome BTS system sadly perhaps because this city is really a whole bunch of cities that have grown into each other. Its hot, humid, chaotic with snarling traffic, beeping taxi drivers and of course a bazzillion guys on scooters and motorbikes. Many of the buildings Im driving past have seen better days, on some of the back roads people are happy to drive the wrong way up the street! Market stalls and street vendors everywhere much like anywhere else in SE Asia. Despite being hot its not actually sunny its overcast and stays that way for the duration of my time here. i don't know if its cloud or smog? but Ive yet to see the sun break through here. Anyway I'm just relieved when we arrive and I can dump my bags, hit the up the internet to try and get orientated. Google maps is pretty fucking useless outside of the western world since a bug? In the software ensures it always displays in local language. No good if you can't read Tagalog! Takes me a little while to actually find a useable map and then from there I figure out my route to the embassy. Im hoping I can at least get the forms this afternoon and confirm exactly what they want from me. As it turns out I'm a little late to actually make it to the embassy before closing so I decide to take a rest in my room for an hour, shower etc and then head out to look around. At 6 PM its already dark and as I leave my hotel room I'm shocked to realise I appear to be centrally located in the middle of yet another strip of fucking go go bars.......oddly enough though these ones have guys on the door? Seems a strange way to attract punters to me I really can't be assed with paying over the odds for beers again so I write it off, head back to my room and text my friend to meet up for the evening. We decide to head out for a pizza but I can see my friend is pretty sick, she has lost her voice and has a bit of a fever so after pizza its a good idea to call it a night and let her rest up, we going to be heading to the island of Boracay in a few days so better she takes a bit of time to rest and get better.

Still can't quite believe I've managed to book myself in the middle of the girly bar area again really.

Following day I head to the embassy collect all my forms and print off the prerequisite evidence I need to apply for my visa. Fill everything out, print everything off and collect it all up ready for submission but Im told they will only accept applications between 9.30 and 12 Am. That kind of sucks since I'm leaving Manilla tomorrow at 13.30 and now I need to stress about and rush back to the Embassy in the morning. Spent the afternoon checking out the green belt area of manilla. Basically a large shopping area with restaurants etc. Its air conditioned though which is a great thing as its pretty humid here and I'm sweaty already from my 40 minute walk looking for the embassy. I head back to my room around 6 PM and head out to find a regular bar. I end up in a semi decent bar with a pool table which has a happy hour on! Happy hour always makes me happy and this one lasts until 10 PM A little bit merry but by no means drunk I headed back to my room at around 10.30

I get up early, grab breakfast and dash back to the embassy in time for opening at 09.30. Given traffic and check in times I need to leave for the Airport no later than 11. There is a Q of people already at the embassy when I arrive at 09.15. This don't look good.....the first in the Q is a real pain in the ass, she wants visas for her entire family and has not prepared anything. It takes a full 40 minutes to process this chick and I'm starting to sweat a little bit as the clock is ticking here. I know It will take me about 15 minutes to get back to my hotel (i know the way now). There are a further 6 applicants ahead of me and at 10.55 I submit my application and leg it back to my room to grab my bags and hit the airport. Luckily no real traffic so i make the airport easily by 11.45 and have plenty of time to check in, turns out I'm ahead of my friend anyway and she has the tickets printed off for our travel so i can't go anywhere yet! smooth check in process and only a minimal flight delay of about an hour and its off to Boracay we go! Im just glad no one asked to see my passport since I left it with the lovely thai people back in Makati!

Posted by cd108 20:52 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

How many mistakes can you make in one sitting (Philippines)

So I had booked a flight that left at an absurdly early hour, I had also booked a flight to the wrong airport i just didn't know it yet. All budget flights to Manilla land in Clark airport which is 80 KM from Metro Manilla! I hadn't realised this on booking but I had booked a night in Angeles city which is nearby. This proved to be another mistake since Angeles is basically one long strip of GO GO bars and unlike the Bars in Thailand which are parked with tourists there just for a look see these are hard core sex tourist bars. The contrast being Thailand gets 20 million visitors a year and Ppines just 3 Million. So yeah that means the lost and lonely souls in Angeles are there for one reason only and that to buy there selves some company for the evening. I hadn't realised this prior to booking but it hit me like a brick in minutes of me heading out to explore from my room. All my fellow travellers appeared to be retired or close to it but with stunning young ladies accompanying them. if that wasn't clue enough the first bar I walked into I was mobbed by about a half dozen young girls all excited to see me (fuck man I aint fooling myself into thinking I'm that handsome but I am about half the age of the other guys here). It was an eye opening night and I had several candid talks with both the girls, the waitresses and the mama sans all for the price of buying any one of them a drink at the bar. I made the most of my evening here in Angeles by just having a laugh with the girls and it cost me a pittance. I didn't take a girl back to my room but no one seemed to mind. In fact the hotel security guy looked positively amazed when I returned alone "you don't have a lady" he asked me, "No mate, I'm old fashioned and believe in chatting a girl up rather paying her" he just laughed and I went to my room to sleep (incidentally I had been drinking coke zero all evening since I fancied a break from the beer). I can't say I didn't enjoy the evening it was fun just talking and learning a but about these girls lives

Tomorrow its a bus to Manilla... and Makati where I can visit the Thai Embassy and get a 60 day tourist visa for my Reef conservation project.

Posted by cd108 23:13 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur quick transit

Im flying to KL from BKK as part of my transit to Manilla where I intend to hit up one of the islands and meet a friend of mine for some more diving. Im excited about diving in the Philippines since I have heard it pretty good there but first off a quick over night in KL. The flight was with Air Asia my favourite budget air line and was again extremely cheap at about 20 GBP, I'm lucky to get a taxi home after a night out in the UK for that price much less an international flight!

I arrived into KL into the kind of tropical storm that can only be described as tropical and stormy, this is mother of a storm is intent on taking the paint off whatever it touches. Never having been to malaysia before I'm not sure what to expect but I've booked a cheap room in China Town which is near to KL Sentral train station and should be easy enough to get too. Now is another great time for the bank to cancel my cards right? After all i don't need any malaysian currency and can make my way to my room free of charge, not to mention there is no free wifi in the airport for me to Skype the bank. Luckily I had enough baht left over to exchange enough to get me both to my room and to pay the nights accommodation rate they wanted up front. A coach journey of about an hour took me to KL Sentral and from there I hopped on the MRT to China town. It was around 8pm by the time and china town had come alive with market stalls, street food vendors and bars spilling out over the pavement. This made it kinda hard to navigate through the crowds with my bags and I spent a good forty minutes trying to locate my room before I realised I had in fact walked past the turning I wanted about 20 minutes ago. Back tracking to my room I ditched my bags and took a quick shower before heading out into the chaos to explore a bit.

China town leads onto the Indian sector and KL can best be described as a real melting pot of cultures, china town is unsurprisingly chinese in its flavour with street food, market stalls and restaurants and bars catering primarily to chinese foods and tastes, while a little further on the Indian sector is similar but with an indian flavour. I got some food and generally nosed around the markets before tiring of the crowds and heading back to my room, it was already gone 10 PM and in truth I fancied a decent nights sleep. Turns out I really needed it and to my surprise I didn't really wake up the following day until well into the afternoon. Ruining any chance I had of visiting the Petronas towers (a limited number of tickets are given out each morning, get there early!). i wasn't too concerned I hadn't viewed this trip as anything other than transit really and I knew I would be returning to Malaysia for a much longer trip in the near future. I want to dive the coast of Malaysia and I want to dive the world famous sipidan in Borneo.

That evening I headed out to find food but I had made the first of my rookie mistakes with my flight to Manilla, I had to leave my hotel at 2 AM! my second mistake was in not adjusting my watch or phone to Malaysian time (1 hour ahead of thailand) before i realised my mistakes It was 11 pm and I had barely 2 hours sleep before my flight. Another last night in a city and another piss poor sleep before travelling on, much bigger mistakes had already been made but I had yet to realise it.

Posted by cd108 22:59 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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