Sunday, 30 December 2012

Philippines Adventure Pt6- Cebu, Manila, Tagaytay, Angeles, Home

After leaving Bohol we had a night in Cebu, actually Mactan Island right next to the airport, before our flight the next day back to Manila. I had wanted to do the ferry from Cebu to Manila as it looked really good and was a cheap night's accommodation, but after more than one Filipino said it's not a good idea I gave in and booked flights!

That night in Cebu we enjoyed fresh crab and it was the first time I actually ate crab having to crack it out of the shell!

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So then back to busy Manila, this time to see it properly!

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And not just see Manila, but meet up with my friend Joselle because she is working there right now so couldn't join on any of my travels. She took me on a Makati night out:

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Which involved hanging out by this 'hungry rover' food van and other food stalls right outside the Hard Rock Cafe in Makati where her brother was helping out. This was the view from our table:

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And this was buying some traditional, purple (!) rice dessert made in the Christmas season:

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The next day me and Jr went on a day trip out of Manila to see the last place on my travel list, Lake Taal, about 2 hours bus out of the city. Following Lonely Planet's instructions we went to Josephine's and ate food like this:

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With a view like this:

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Tagaytay is a village on a crater edge, where you can view stunning Lake Taal which in turn contains a volcano with it's own crater- just stunning!

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And then we followed Lonely Planet unsuccessfully as it took us to People's Palace in the Sky which according to our tricycle driver was this view:

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Still nice, but there was supposed to be stuff to do there and nothing...

So on the way back to the bus station we also stopped for this view:

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And that was it, my last trip within the Philippines. I was hoping to catch sunset over Manilla Bay, I sort of did, but from the bus!

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That night me, Jr and Joselle went out for dinner at Jolibee, one of the food chains I hadn't tried yet, imagine fried chicken with sweet spaghetti!!

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My weekend break in Manila, thanks to agoda.com, was in a hotel with rooms fit for entertaining right in the middle of Makati (the safe bit!). And from our 11th floor room these are great views of the city at night and in the day:

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And that was it, I took the bus back up to Angeles City the following day and we spent one more night there before heading to the airport and back to Sydney where I am writing this a week on.

I miss Jr painfully but I've been having a backpacker Christmas and New Year so I will blog about that next.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Philippines Adventure Pt5- Bohol and Alona Beach

Having got up at 4am in Boracay I was at Cebu airport and reunited with Jr before 8.30am. Cebu airport is actually located on Mactan Island where famously a Spaniard was killed just before they successfully invaded. So we killed some time in a mall before making our way to the port to get a ferry to Bohol, another island about 2 hours away which was our destination.

I had arranged my trip to Bohol properly before leaving Australia and had hotels and tours booked! The ferry was pretty much the same as taking a bus!

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This is the ferry at the port of Tagbilaran, a 30 minute drive from our final destination Alona Beach on Panglao Island, part of Bohol.

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Once we arrived we caught up on sleep but got up to see sunset and explore the area.

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Alona Beach is like a mini Boracay, a lot of the people are there for the diving and it had a more relaxed atmosphere but all the beach, food, bars and massage etc you could ask for! I recommend this area highly and most importantly because there is so much more to do with Bohol 30 minutes away. They are building an international airport so I guess everything will change anyway.

The next day I had a whole day tour booked around Bohol, the only downside of the tour was our driver's English, Jr was translating all day. We saw...

Baclayon Church:

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A python sanctuary:

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Some creaky hanging bridges!

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A lunch cruise down Loboc River:

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View from the boat:

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View where we stopped:

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And view of where the river boats start from. Taken from the bridge locally known as 'stupid bridge' as it could not be completed without destroying the church so it remains unfinished. And the church is thought to have gold buried beneath!

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And then onto what I had been waiting to see ALL holiday- the tarsiers! Tiny primates, native and protected in Bohol.

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These are Jr's idea of a picture of me with the tarsier- hmm, great focusing!

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And the final stop, Chocolate Hills, called because at certain times of the year they go brown making them look like Hershey Chocolate Kisses. They are naturally occurring limestone hills and go on for miles!

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Chocolate Hills were the furthest point, we slept in the van on the way back! Day two was a shorter tour just around Panglao Island and then onto Magaso Falls, we were supposed to head back to Manila that night but instead we moved to a hotel with a nicer pool for another night!

Day two, more old Spanish churches:

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A shell museum:

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A Bee Farm with no bees, a problem the world knows about.

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And a cave:

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Before swimming in the waterfalls.

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We had a wonderful holiday in Bohol, I would really recommend it and now my time in the Philippines was nearly over.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Philippines Adventure Pt4- Boracay

So I was in Manila for the first time however this was not the time I explored the capital, the following morning I had a flight booked to Boracay and a night in Shangri-la's Boracay Resort And Spa. I did this bit on my own as it was a treat to myself and no one could afford to come with me!

Here was my first look at the popular holiday island from the plane.

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Now this was what I was waiting for after an amazing none stop and cool week in the mountains! Beach time!

Staying at the Shangri-La was one of the greatest experiences in my life and I don't regret a single penny I spent on it! From arrival into the airport (which is still a boat ride from the resort) I felt like James Bond as I was met by a representative who gets your bag and hurries the paperwork in the airport. You are then escorted to a van with no opportunity to be hassled by the people outside. From van to holding room with wet towel and drink before your speed boat is ready for you.

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Here's me on the boat, and me with the resort in the back! The staff are wonderful and if they see you with a camera they are instantly taking it off you to take your picture! They smile and greet wherever you are, just like on ships, it really reminded me of the five star service I love to provide during my time with Celebrity and has tempted me to apply for a job...

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My photographs cannot really represent my room, particularly the size of it properly! But this was my bed.

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And the balcony I skyped my Mum from later that night because of course the internet was the fastest I'd encountered anywhere!

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The bathroom was just as big which two entrances, and a massive bath which I enjoyed very much! 

I had planned my time at the Shangri-La very carefully because I only had one night, so of course, although overwhelmed by my room, I got myself out for an explore and there were more people to take my picture!

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This is the smaller and nicer of the two beaches in the resort, after seeing the key viewpoints and choosing a restaurant for dinner I was straight into the sea at this spot, and then the pool, leaving with enough time to change and be out for sunset.

I chose to watch sunset here:

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And of course there was more staff on hand offering to take my picture!

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I chose the fish restaurant for dinner and had catch of the day shrimp!

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When I returned to my room the bed had been turned down with chocolates on the pilow! I had the best night's sleep!

In the morning, following a breakfast of every type of food you could desire (which after a week of rice was a regular bowl of cereal with milk and some incredible fruit juices!) I went out to take the panorama views that I can't resist any more!

So, this is the main, big beach and that hut on the peninsular is where the speed boat drops you off (before you are taken to reception in a buggy, never once touching your luggage!)

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And this is the smaller beach, with the pool directly behind it and it was nearer my room so generally my choice but it seemed to be everyone else's too!

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And the infinity pool, at the far end looking out to the beach.

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A different angle, you can see the yellow umbrella's of the beach.

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I then went and enjoyed the pool before having to check out!

I hadn't booked anywhere for my second night, I knew I wanted to see the main white beach area but also my next flight was 7.30am the next day so it was just a quick stop. Of course Shangri-La wanted to help you to your door so I quickly picked a mid-range from Lonely Planet, back into the James Bond van and taken to the door by Shangri-La staff.

Then the best bit, during this time of being helped I found out that my airport transfer still applies so if I got myself back to Shangri-La at 5am I could take the speed boat back and save on terminal and boat fees- amazing!

So now was my time to see the Boracay that everyone else sees. This is the beach, it did rain that afternoon unfortunately, but I went and had a massage in a hut anyway!

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And this is what they call the D Mall.

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And the second floor of this white building was where I stayed that night, Tans Guesthouse, I would recommend it particularly as it was just behind the main strip and therefore quiet!

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I had dinner with a sunset view and an early night.

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And this is what the fuss of these resorts is about, dinning and drinking on the beach. The main strip of Boracay was reflected in the much smaller Alona Beach, Bohol, my next stop.

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This next picture is taken while travelling back to Shangri-La in a tricycle at 4am!

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A sunrise view over Shangri-La:

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And a better view of the island from the plane this time:

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Next stop Cebu and straight onto the incredible Bohol.