2015 was another weird year of unfortunate happenings, inappropriate doings and amazing experiences. While some people collect post stamps or coins, I collect stories to tell the grandkids when they’re old enough to know what a strap-on is, but enough about The Pink Palace. Of course I am not talking about sexual stories, so get your mind out of the gutter.
Manila, the Philippines: a failed attempt at going anywhere
So, let’s talk about another annoying day on the road! We fly to Manila and from there, we have to get a bus from a certain terminal and then we’ll be on a 12-hour bus to Sagada, which is way up North. There, you can see the hanging coffins and zipline over the rice terraces, and on the way, you can find Mount Clitoris. I am excited about both things.
We wait for a metered taxi, which takes a while. Someone sings You’re Beautiful by James Blunt to us for the second time today as we get in the car. Our driver doesn’t know where the bus terminal is,so we drive around for a good 2 hours, our driver stopping to ask locals for direction every now and then.
We drive around a dangerous neighborhood and the driver asks us to lock the doors, so when we find a bus terminal in the neighborhood, we decide we don’t want to get out and wait for our bus there for the next 3 hours. So we ask him to take us to Lion’s Den Hostel. Of course we don’t have the address, since this is a spontaneous decision, but the driver keeps asking us anyway. Eventually, after another hour in traffic, we see a McDonald’s and ask him to drop us off so we can eat and find the address using their WiFi. It is around 7 PM by then. We walk into the busy place, the only Caucasian people around, with all of our luggage, so it’s safe to say all eyes are on us. After some food and getting the address, we walk outside and try to get a cab. Just like 20 other people.
Eventually, a trike stops and says he’ll take us to a taxi terminal. 5 minutes and 50 pesos later, he drops us off at a bridge and tells us to cross it. What a rip-off. So we basically end up just outside one of the airport terminals, where there is a lot of traffic, but no empty taxis. I am surrounded by begging children, and then two police officers come to our aid and hail us a cab. We try two drivers before one says he can take us to MNL Hostel – yes, like the one in Boracay – and one hour later, we arrive. It is basically opposite Our Melting Pot, which we stayed at when we first arrived in Manila, almost a month ago. We are put in a female dorm and pass out not too long after.
The next day, we head to Glorietta Mall and find an H&M – it’s one of those places I just love to go, because it’s familiar. Also, I need a new purse, since my other one got stolen back in Cebu, remember?
After buying a purse, we go to Forever 21 and I get a skater dress like the ones I used to wear at home, before packing all my stuff down and putting them in storage. I feel like me again! Even though I am not wearing any make-up for the first time in 10 years. I also buy a book, Gone Girl, because I miss my Kindle so much.
At night, we go to the street market, where they have stall after stall with chicken blood, intestines and liver on a stick. This was the reason why we never ate here a month ago, but the second time around, we notice some good fried chicken and STREET PAD THAI. YESS!! So we have that and we’re full and happy and we go to 7-11 and buy some alcohol and end up attracting a group of fellow backpackers and a staff worker back at the hostel. Sophie and I sing Let It Go with an Irish guy joining in, a Dutch guy tries to teach us how to dance to EDM, and then we’re off to go see midget boxing. Exciting.
The midget boxing happens at a bar on the Red Light District called Ringside. I think. I am pretty drunk by the time we get there. A few girls in bikinis are dancing like they hate their lives in the ring, and we sit there sipping on our overpriced beers, when Irish guy runs into the ring and starts dancing. Awesome.
I have a dance-off with a girl working in the bar right in the ring, and then everyone joins in and dance until the midgets start fighting. Then it gets kind of sad. For some reason, it just looks exploitative to us, so we get out not too long after that. Meanwhile, the weird American roommate from Bohol is staying at MNL as well, and he decides to show up at our table, so while we work out the bill, he and another American from our hostel are motorboating prostitutes. Classy and awesome.
I buy a hot dog at 7-11 and fall asleep by 2 AM. I wake up pretty hungover the next morning. We’re going to climb a volcano today.
Staff guy from last night, Rafael, Lucie, who was also drinking with us, and two English ladies, Susie and Toni get on a jeepney, a bus and a boat, and around two hours later, we’re on Luzon island where the Taal volcano is.
We walk through a small village full of tree huts and people playing basketball or staring at us, eyes full of curiosity. An old lady sells us the kind of face mask you always see people wearing in Japan or Vietnam.
We do a 45-ish minute walk up a steep, dusty hill until we reach the top of the volcano, looking down into the lake right in the middle. We take some embarrassing pictures and just enjoy this amazing view. Plus, we’re kind of scared of walking down this steep hill.
Of course, we aren’t back until 8 PM, when we were supposed to be back at 6. We go to a falafel place nearby and have an amazing dinner with the girls. This is my second time eating falafel ever, and the first time was in Boracay! I am getting hooked. Anyway, full and ready to go to Lion’s Den, where we have a booking, we look for a cab that knows where it is. So we have to wait quite a while. Eventually, a guy takes us to the area, which is a gated community full of fancy villas(!), and he asks a few people for directions. We arrive, tired, full and just ready to go to sleep.
Our last day together, Sophie and I sit out by the pool and get some sun. I read half of Gone Girl, I’m so interested in what happens next. We get lost trying to find an ATM – the first and only one in the neighborhood rejects my very last credit card and I almost cry – and then we buy food at a supermarket. It’s very odd walking around a giant, very rich neighborhood after passing by so many tree huts and seeing so much poverty around. Back at the hostel, we watch Maleficent on TV at night and then we go to sleep.
I have a full day by myself, since my flight is at midnight. I just sit on the balcony of my room, eating mangos and writing this blog post and itching to get back to my book. Must. Not. Read. Before. Departure. I have an 8 hour flight ahead of me and nothing else to keep me entertained.
So, now that I am leaving the Philippines after almost a month, I should probably once again include my observations about this country.
First off, this country is much bigger than I expected. Looking at a map, I thought all these islands were relatively small and that they all had great ferry connections. I forgot this isn’t Thailand. I am sorry. Sophie and I did the thing you are never supposed to do when backpacking: pre-book the first few destinations. Hostelworld made all the hostels look like they were almost booked out, so we decided to book flights and hostels up until Boracay. We didn’t know the island of Palawan was that big – 6 hours from Puerto Princesa to El Nido! It messed up our plans a bit, since we needed to cancel a night in El Nido in favor of a night bus back to Puerto Princesa so we would make our flight.
Secondly, I have had the hardest time eating healthy (and cheap at the same time) here. McDonald’s, Jollibee, Burger King, KFC, they’re everywhere. Elgin, who we met in Boracay did tell us that the local fast food places, like Andok’s and Mang Inasal, had the best chicken. There is fried chicken everywhere, by the way. I even saw a poster outside of KFC of a hotdog (they love those, too) with fried chicken instead of a bun. I wonder how the locals keep fit, but of course there are healthier options. The salads are at expensive Western restaurants, and there are sketchy-looking street kitchens everywhere. I know those are usually great in SE Asia, but when the finished food is just lying on a silver tray all day with the cooks just shooing away the flies and scooping up a portion for you, buffet style, it doesn’t look too promising – or sanitary.
The locals are friendly and quite the opposite of shy. Not only did almost all of them greet me, even if I just passed by them, they also break into song. A lot. They really love karaoke and pop songs: Shakira, One Direction and so on. All the time. They are definitely curious about tourists, and I would say that even though some parts are very touristy, it still seems to be a kind of undiscovered country. I give it ten years though, and it will be the new Thailand.
Traveling with Sophie, whom I met through TravelBuddy, was fun! I am glad it worked out so well, and would definitely do something like that again if I am in a similar situation. It’s odd saying goodbye after a month together, because even though you have been clinging to each other for so long, there are still so many things you don’t know about each other, and you don’t know if you’ll ever see the person again. Saying goodbye was definitely weird for me. Luckily, I won’t be alone for long :-)
I did expect the Philippines to be Paradise on Earth, but I was too much around dirt and poverty and skyscrapers and giant malls to feel like I was in Paradise. I will say that nature is quite stunning, as long as you get far away from civilization. Trash, the sounds from a nearby cock fight, pollution and other things kind of ruin the surroundings, but as soon as you get on a boat to see islands around El Nido, or swim with Whale sharks, you forget the dirt and the noise and just enjoy this place. I know I did. Salamat, Pilipinas, from this redface!
Cebu and Bohol, the Philippines: So you’d think that with me missing my most important flight – the one out of Denmark – and with all my sunburns and whatnot, I would have no worries from now on. Wrong.
As the clock striked midnight and the calender said January 1st 2015, I thought to myself: “This is going to be my year. Forget 2015 – this is going to be year Twenty-Christine”
I was so naïve.
Before I share my painful last few days with you, know this: I am very grateful to have the opportunity to travel. I am happy to be in the Philippines. Everything that has happened could have been avoided, had I not been so foolish and naïve. I know I could have been more careful, and I know there are more important things in life. So shut your piehole.
Now, let’s start this emotionally painful story.
We arrive in Cebu and are staying at a fairly new hostel, Le Village Guesthouse. They put us in The Red Room (no, not the one from Fifty Shades), a 10 bed dorm. Sophie gets the top bunk, I get the bottom, by a giant window covered by red drapes. I feel pretty ill, so I decide to take a nap, and 5 hours later we get up and go hunt for food. Apparently, this is mission impossible here. Reluctantly, we decide to go to McDonald’s, after walking around for over an hour and only coming across fast food places and very suspicious-looking street kitchens.
We get back and go to bed early. We have to get up at 4 AM to take a bus to Oslob and swim with whale sharks. I get my stuff out for the next morning – my wallet, underwater camera, bikini – and put it next to me on the bed, then I go to bed and read Yes Please by Amy Poehler on my Kindle before passing out.
I wake up to the sound of my alarm, which is by the foot of the bed. I get up and put on my clothes, but my purse with my wallet in it is gone. I use the flashlight on my phone to unpack all my bags twice, but no luck. I go to the ladyboy at reception and let him/her know, and she follows me back to the room, switches the lights on and watches me unpack everything again. It’s gone. Outside, we can see someone has opened the window by our bed, and they must’ve just reached out and grabbed the stuff that looked valuable. From my bed. As I was in it. Like, right next to my face.
Fortunately, they haven’t seen or been able to reach my phone at the end of the bed. I tell Sophie I can’t go swim with sharks, as I need to cancel my credit card and sort out my insurance. I find out my insurance is not covering me this week. I am Skyping my dad and stepmom and it cheers me up a bit, even though I am more shocked that someone robbed me in my sleep than I am mad that they stole my stuff. I later find out they also took my waterproof camera, which annoys me, since we have to swim with the sharks the following day.
To cheer up and get some new headphones (they stole those too), we go to Ayala Mall and walk around for hours. It’s a confusing place. I feel a bit better after some shopping, and we walk around for ages afterwards to find dinner. We get a pedicure and are so famished by the time we’re done, we end up by McDonald’s, which is right next to the salon. This is getting disgusting.
4 AM the next morning, we get up and go to the bus station. We take the 3-hour bus to Oslob, the cheapest one full of locals that insist on opening up all the windows even though it’s cold at 5 AM and we’re sitting in tiny bikinis and short dresses. I am freezing and very unhappy and the locals keep pointing and laughing and yelling “HI!” and talking to me. I eventually fall asleep.
We arrive at the whale shark watching place and put our valuables in a locker. We both have waterproof cases for our phones, so we can take a picture of the sharks. I bought mine in Laos last year when I went tubing, and I’ve used it while snorkeling a couple of times, so I’m not worried at all.
We get 30 minutes out in the water with snorkeling gear, and the whale sharks are massive. They get really close to us – so close, that our feet accidentally touch one of the sharks’ back as it swims under us. I try to take photos for like 10 minutes, and then I put my phone back in the boat and just enjoy the sharks.
This is sooo coooooool
After the 30 minutes are up, we get back on the boat, and my case is filled with water. Fuck. As soon as we get on land, I buy a bag of rice and throw my phone in there.
We get a bike to Tumalog Falls, an amazing waterfall a few minutes away. We stay there for just a short while to take pictures (now just with Sophie’s phone) and enjoy it, but the Asian tourists are getting on our nerves.
We then get the bus back to Cebu city, where a creepy guy next to me offers to put sunscreen on my back.
The next day, we take a ferry to Tagbilaran, Bohol. Just before getting to the port though, I realise I forgot my passport back at the hostel, so we have to turn back. In Tagbilaran, we are staying at TR3ATS Guesthouse, close to the malls. We find a place that actually has vegetables, kind of, so we eat chicken and rice and a stir-fry. When I say eat, I mean we take like 5 bites and we’re full. All while everyone is staring at us. Because there are like 3 white people in this city.
The next day, we get on a local 2-hour bus to Carmen to see the chocolate hills. I was disappointed to find out that the name comes from the color of the grass on the hills, not because there’s any chocolate around. I am also disappointed, because the pictures on Google looked so much better. But it’s still beautiful, nonetheless.
We take a bike to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Loboc, where we see like 4 monkeys and it’s over in 20 minutes. But they are so goddamn cute! They are the size of my fist with the biggest eyes ever. And when they sleep, they look like Furbees.
After a long trip on a local bus, we are back at the hostel, and I turn on my computer to check my emails. I see 6 mails from Amazon, telling me I have purchased books for my Kindle. You know, the one that was stolen a few days ago in Cebu. I log on to my Amazon profile, something that did not occur to me when I had all my stuff stolen, or when my iPhone died, or when I had to plan our next move, travel-wise. Sorry for being dumb. Well, my Amazon profile tells me this guy has purchased 12 sex books. I will so kindly give you the titles here:
Science ..For Her!
Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar
Life As I Blow It: Tales of Love, Life & Sex . . . Not Necessarily in That Order
I Like You Just the Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People
Fitting Him In : Taboo MILF Menage
MILF: Banging the Birthday Boy
Caught By Mom: Best Friends Naughty Older Mother Seduces Untuched and Eager Younger Man in Taboo Secret MILF Mommy First Time Family Woman Boy Fantasy Erotica
My Step Craving
The Naughty Mother Collection – 13 Taboo Tales of Tempting Panty-Dropping MILF Seduction
So Taboo: 50 Erotic Stories Mega Collection 2
Caught By My Mother’s Best Friend
Cream of MILF
….so clearly we’re dealing with a freak.
So I just start panicking, and I call my stepmom on Skyoe immediately. I have to sit in the common room, as some girls in our room are napping. As soon as she answers and I start to explain the situation, I start sobbing. In front of everyone. The more embarrassed I get, the more I cry. I just feel so hopeless, having lost so much stuff and being so unfortunate and I feel sick and alone and I don’t know what to do. The more someone tells me “just enjoy your vacation” or “at least you have your health” or “it’s just things”, the angrier I get. But my dad cancels another credit card, the one the books have been charged on, and I feel a bit relieved once we hang up. Just a little bit.
We don’t even bother going for dinner, but I cheer up a bit as we sit in our dorm and listen to girly pop songs while I “serenade” our weird roommate. We book a flight out of here, and fall asleep after watching The Voice.
The next morning, our roommates wake us up around 7 o’clock. So rude. By 11, we get off a trike and arrive at Alona beach and have breakfast – AT A RESTAURANT! I haven’t seen one in days! Then, we go lay out on the beautiful beach till around 5 o’clock.
For dinner, we have beef kebab on the beach. It’s expensive, but amazing. I’ve missed vegetables and restaurants and beef and actual food.
So, my 5th day wasn’t so bad. This whole ordeal has been an absolute nightmare for me, especially while being on the road. Ultimately, it’s not something that’s going to ruin my time here, but hey, no one can keep shrugging every time something bad happens. I sure can’t.
Boracay, the Philippines: You know when you go on a week long holiday and just sit by the pool all day everyday and when you get back with a great tan and 5 additional kilos on your body, people ask you what you did on your holiday and you honestly have no idea what to answer? That was my week in Boracay.
Boracay is a tiny island full of activities and beautiful beaches. People come to do the pubcrawl, take kitesurfing lessons or go to mermaid school. I wanted to do all of those, but instead I ended up frying on the beach during the day, and sleeping in a way too cold room at night.
We arrive on Tuesday at 8 PM and just miss the pubcrawl. After a quick shower we head to White Beach where all the bars and resaturants are at. It’s beautiful with all the tables spread out on this fine sand beach with lanterns everywhere and good music coming from the bars. We have chicken skewers and rice, and after that, we find a bar and have a cheap rum and pineapple juice that’s a struggle to get down. We’re set on finding this pubcrawl, as some of the guys from our hostel back in Manila are on it this very evening, and we need friendly faces. We hunt for an hour, maybe two, before we see a packed bar and run into the guys. At this point, after a few drinks, I’m already feeling sick and take a break from drinking. A few people comment on the water bottle that I am hugging. We talk to a few people before we get bored, so Sophie and I go for a walk towards the other bars. Here, a very buff Aussie stops us, pulls Sophie in and convinces us to go to Epic Bar, which apparently we’re standing right in front of. It’s more of a nightclub, with only a group of unspecified asian people dancing in a circle. To their credit, they go mad hard. I finally man up and get a beer and decide to join them, which gets them so excited, I have to dance in the middle of the circle. The bar is filling up with people, and we get to talk to a few more before we end up following some guys to a silent disco. We drunkenly convince the lady handing out headphones that we didn’t bring ID, a cellphone or enough cash to deposit while we borrow the headphones, and we dance around in the sand to everything from Ellie Goulding to 50 Cents. I think. We are back in bed at 2 AM.
Our hostel, MNL Hostel is amazing. We get a clean towel and despite being in a 10 bed dorm, we seem to have so much privacy because of how the room is decorated. The free breakfast is good, too. For our 7 nights here, we end up paying a bit over 4000 pesos, but it’s well worth it.
Most of our days are spent on White Beach, frying until 2 or 3 PM, and then we take a nap. We hang out a bit with Elgin from Manila and Wade from England. We go to Puka Beach one very windy day and don’t really enjoy it. I get a sunburnt butt and bikini line. Awesome.
Finishing my new favorite book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. RIP, Kindle (will explain in nex blog post)
With Elgin and the staff at Hobbit House
Halfway through our chill week in Boracay, I get ill. I feel like I have a fever, and my head hurts. I’m so sick and dizzy that I go back to the room early, while Sophie still fries on the beach.The next day, I have a flu. Or maybe a cold. Then Sophie gets it as well. We drink water with vitamin C tablets and chow down several pills for colds and coughs. We seem to get better pretty quickly, but then it returns. For me, at least. I also get a seriously scary nose bleed, very suddenly, as I’m sitting on the toilet one day. WARNING: EXPLICIT
Just kidding. It looked worse in real life.
On our last day, we meet Jesper from Sweden and Laura from Scotland. We hang out with them and Paul from England during the day, seeing Mount Luho, a quite spot on Bulabog Beach, and then we chill on White Beach while talking about how shit 50 Shades Of Grey is.
At night, we all go get food at Lola’s Pizza and then we start a game of beer pong. Surprisingly, me and local guy Chris win against Jesper and Paul. We then battle Sophie and Laura and almost win, but clearly we don’t. I am far too drunk to engage in two rounds of Ring of Fire and Ride the Bus by then, but do so anyway. What else is there to do but socialise?
I follow them and the guys from the hostel in Manila to the bars at White Beach, but go home with Sandra from Sweden soon after, ‘cause we’re so tired and grumpy. Way to end the night.
After a 6 hour busride with annoying fat French people, we are in El Nido and check into our hostel, Our Melting Pot. Since it’s only 2 PM, we go to the beach and lay out. Here, we run into Stephen and Rosie from Sheebang, who we hang out with until we head to Art Café to book tour A for the next morning. Then, we book our bus back to Puerto Princesa.
Fat kid decided to jump the ice cream bike and try to claw his way into the box.
For dinner, we go to the beach, which by now is filled with tables and candles. It’s so cozy and so expensive. We get a beer and then go to the night market, where a basketball game is on as well. It’s full of locals cheering loudly, and we are lucky enough to witness the last 5 minutes of the game. Home team wins! I trip and nearly fall face down onto the concrete pavement, but Sophie’s top saves me last minute. I still end upwith a bleeding toe. Ouch. On our way back to the hostel, we run into Stephen and Rosie yet again. They’re heading to bed early, and we decide to do the same – but not until I’ve had a pork skewer at a stand on the street.
The following day, we get up early and head to Art Café for our tour. This one is not full of Chinese people luckily, but it is full of couples. Ugh! We get on a boat and travel to the Small Lagoon, from where we kayak to Big Lagoon. The open water is horrendous to kayak in with the big waves, though, so Sophie and I are falling way behind the others. The lagoons are amazingly quiet and beautiful though.
After the lagoons, we sail to Simizu Island and then we have lunch at Secret Lagoon Beach: fresh grilled fish and chicken skewers with rice and salad. It’s the most amazing meal I’ve had in a long time. The tour guides tell us we look beautiful and invite us out for the night, all while we’re sweaty and bloated from all the food.
Our last stop is the 7 Commando beach, and by then, we’re pretty sunburnt and tired of getting in the cold water. We sit in the shade and enjoy a fresh buko (coconut).
At night, we have the national dish for dinner – a massive plate of noodles, seafood and vegetables – and then have a crepe on the street. Mine is with peanutbutter and banana and it’s so good. I really like their peanut butter here. We head to bed not long after and have a long night of sweating profusely in our crammed fan dorm with 3-story beds.
It is our last day in El Nido, and we take a tricycle to Nacpan beach, which is almost completely empty when we arrive. We lay out on the fine white sand and I am finishing up “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. I absolutely love this book. I guess it’s my “Eat, Pray, Love”, and reading it makes me feel like I could travel alone. Maybe even hike? As soon as I put it down I forget all about it though, and I go back to my lazy ways.
We go back and have some food and a shower before getting on the 6 PM bus to Puerto Princesa. At one point it looks like we’ve gotten a flat tire, so we stop for ages, and still manage to get back to Sheebang Hostel after 5 hours. We get into bed, when a couple right outside the window starts having loud sex. 5 times.