Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cebu, I See You

Welcome back everyone, I'm currently writing from my room in Cebu City, on the island of Cebu, so let's get up to date.

So after dinner Sandy, Kathryne and I were all tired and looking to just relax, so we watched the movie Big Fish on their laptop sitting in our room. After the movie, we opened the door and found this guy, rather drunk and noisy in the hallway. It was a bit annoying since we were hoping to get some rest, but I ended up chatting with him. Turned out his girlfriend had just dumped him (“my girlfriend send text she no longer love me”) and was in need of a friend, so I ended up having a beer with him in his room, and counseling him a bit, including explaining the phrase “there are plenty of fish in the sea” since it was his first girlfriend and breakup. Naturally he then offered to take us to his hometown and show us around (friendly people, the Filipinos) but we had a tight schedule to for the next day and I declined the offer.

In the morning we left Bontoc, grabbing a bus for a 2 hour ride to Banaue (sp?) which is the jumping off point to the famous rice terraces. Upon arriving, we hired a local guide to take us and show us around. Because we didn't want to pay the outrageous fee of 2000 pesos for a private jeepney, nor did we want to pay for two tricycles, we crammed the three of us on a single trike. What that meant, was on this little Kawasaki motorcycle, we had the sidecar, driver, and three passengers (and we are all big white people, haha), all riding up a muddy, potholed dirt road. If you had asked me if this was even possible before I'd surely have said no, but the little bike just kept going for the 45 minute ride and got us there with no problems. On the way back actually, it started raining, turning the road into a bit of a river, but despite even THAT, we were keeping up with 4x4s on the road!

Speaking of rain, they had been getting heavy rain every day for the last month. As a result, the road up the mountain was totally washed out and unusable. What That meant was an extra hour of hiking up, which I did in flip-flops, the only footwear I have used thus far, and the only footwear I expect to use on this whole trip. On the way to the top, we passed a smashed jeepney that had rolled off the road, killing 4 passengers last year... Once we got to the top, we still had 45 minutes to hike down to the little town of Batad.

This is a section of terraces right before the 'main' ones, on a very steep hillside and irrigated with a stream that flows down the mountain.

Shortly beyond, we reached the Batad terraces, which have been used for something like 2000 years (but don't quote me on that number, I don't have the data in front of me...). Because we were short on time, having a 6pm bus to catch, we were unable to hike further down into the area, which was a bit of shame because another hour in is a a cool waterfall from what I understand. We had lunch overlooking the town and terraces, then hiked back out.

Back in Banaue, we caught our bus at 6pm for an overnight back to Manila. This time it was a pretty nice and modern bus, and the driver was even a rather slow and cautions driver which was a surprise. At 9pm or so, we stopped for dinner, and I got the first awful meal of the trip. I just wanted some rice with veggies and beef/chicken, and she said it was “meat” but really it was only some meat and mostly intestines and other unrecognizeable bits from an unknown animal. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, however it was tough, way too salty and COLD. ew.

We arrived in Manila around 4am which is not an ideal time to arrive in such a city. We sat around the bus terminal for a while, then hopped a jeepney to the Intramuros, the old walled city that was home to all of the various foreign powers who controlled the Philippines over the last few hundred years.

Looking for a place to sit down, at about 6am we somehow found a fairly nice hotel which was kind enough to let three smelly backpackers hang around their lobby and use their wifi. It was there that I bought my airplane ticket to Cebu, about 8 hours before I was flying, which cost me $77. We had a pretty good breakfast, but even there, the “orange juice” was I believe, powered Tang.

After breakfast, we killed time walking around for a bit and looking in a shop that had an art gallery, then we took a taxi together to the airport.

At the airport, I said my goodbyes to Sandy and Kathryne, who had a flight later in the day to Malaysia. My flight was just an hour to Cebu, and the idea was to meet up with Chris, also from South Africa, whom I'd met at the hostel in Manila on my first day of the trip. I misunderstood his schedule and thought he was arriving the same day, and I could not get online for some reason (the airport wifi wasn't working), so I sat around the airport for an hour and a half waiting for him before giving up and hopping a taxi to Cebu City, where I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.

(sorry for the lousy photo, Chris). I told the taxi I wanted a cheap place, and he took me... somewhere. No idea where I was really. The hotel he took me to only had a room for 1200 pesos, which I was NOT going to pay. Luckily, they had wifi in their lobby (god I love traveling with this computer, it's been SOO helpful) and I was able to figure out Chris was already in Cebu, and where he was. I also managed to chat via Facebook with Nick about our plans for Cambodia.

So once again, I set off in this totally unknown town trying to find the hotel where Chris was staying, no idea if it was blocks, or many miles away. After wandering for an hour or so, I asked some police who helped me and let me use a phone to call Chris. Turned out I was only a few blocks away, which was pretty amazing. Chris had met a fellow traveler whom he had been with for a few days already, Charlie from England. I got a room for 245 pesos, and we then set out for food and drinks.

A number of Red Horse Extra Strong beers (40 pesos) and a bottle of the local rum (65 pesos)later, we were suddenly transformed into karaoke gods. Ok, maybe not, but we did our best which quite frankly was awful, but quite fun. The people here just love karaoke, so you can't come here and not do it, honestly.

From the karaoke bar, we wound up at a club, which is something I would never do at home, but had a great time anyways.

And a photo of the room here at the Famed Lodge. Amazingly, not only is it one of the cheapest places I've stayed so far, but each room has a private bathroom! Not only that, but it has a shower, the first I've seen, since everywhere else just has a tap near the floor and a bucket to pour on yourself. The room ain't pretty, but it does the job.

After a slow morning recounting last nights events, we went in search of a beach to go lay and relax at. Along the way Chris and I bought tickets for a day trip on a boat tomorrow to another island, then our beach search resumed. We didn't have a clue what were doing, and it showed. We ended up taking 3 jeepneys for two hours, and wound up in a dead end road with no beach in sight. Hope was fading.

Luckily as we wandered, a local came to our rescue, and took us through their gate and down a little path to a little beach! Saved!

There, I went swimming and got my first taste of tropical waters. When I first stepped in, I was just blown away. The top layer of water was nearly bathtub warm! Coming from the northwest swimming in Puget Sound, this was just madness. There were many small fish, amazing looking blue crabs, flying fish, and these little fish that climb out of the water and onto the rocks, all fantastic and new to me.

We ended up just laying out at the beach for a few hours in the sun, just taking it all in. Wonderful, just wonderful. Once we'd had our fill for the day, we took a jeepney and then a taxi back to our room where I am now.

Tonight, we are meeting up with some Danish people Chris had met earlier, then in the morning we have a 6am boat to another island for the day tomorrow.