Tomáš Kohout's blog

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Tag: philippines

Philippines Part II – Malapascua and Carmen

So, my Philippine adventure begins. I got very cheap tickets to Manila (about $110 return ticket). I have to admit that the price was my main motivation to visit Philippines. I didn’t know much about it neither make any research to speak of. The plan for the trip was a bit rough around the edges to say at least. The details were left to our future selfs to worry about.  Anyway, the first  destination was decided – we fly  south to Cebu city and head to the island named Malapascua.

One thing that surprised me was how accessible is the mobile Internet in there. The week of unlimited(!) Internet costs about 12$. And the coverage is quite good (at least on bigger islands). It’s quite surreal to check your Facebook while riding through village full of sheds with tin roofs. You can also go to Internet caffe which usually is full of young Filipino’s playing online games.

 

Malapascua is a small island north of Cebu. We first had to go to Maya in the north of the Cebu island and then sail for 30 minutes on a catamaran. Just a little note – when you are on a bus station and some Filipinos are shouting at you to get in their van because they can get you faster to Maya – just don’t. Unlike normal bus the van should take about half the time to get there (it didn’t) because it doesn’t stop all the time (it did) and it leaves right now (it didn’t). Instead we waited next half hour to fill up the van with other people and then we stopped not at every bus station but by every pedestrian to ask whether they don’t want to go to Maya. And you wouldn’t believe how much people you can fit in a small van.

But when we got there it was all worth it. Malapascua really look like a paradise. White beaches, tall palm trees, almost no tourists whatsoever – it got it all. Right on arrival we’ve been taken care of by local tourist guides, who showed us where to buy rum, where to dive and where to sleep. It felt like a whole village was waiting for us. There were few other foreigners, but otherwise most of the  restaurants and businesses were empty. We spent just one night there but it was nice introduction into the Philippines.

Terrible weather

There is also insane amount of children in Philippines. Because of the catholic no anti-conception beliefs of the Filipinos, average amount of kids in family is around 10. If you heard about middle child syndrome imagine you are the 5th out of 10 kids in family. Anyway, these kids are everywhere. Some of them trying to sell you their overpriced homemade souvenirs. When 5 year kid ask you “Sir, would you like to buy one of the bracelets?” it’s hard to say no. When I said I will buy something later they camped in front of the hotel shouting “Later? Later?” when I went out.

Emotional piranhas

Btw, if you happen to be there, don’t forget to go to the bar called Maldito. It’s one of the coolest bars I have seen in the while. Apart from the fact that the triple shot of rum is cheaper than the single shot, it has really awesome atmosphere. It was in the bar where I realized that instead of staying last summer in Prague and working from home office for US employer I could be working from Malapascua. Probably even saving money by drinking triple shots. Damn you past Tomas …

 

Obvious place to hang laundry

Obvious place to hang your laundry

It’s time to leave and head for our next destination – island Bohol. After a short stop back south in Cebu city, we took a ferry (called Starcraft) to the city called Tubigon. Because it reads the same way as “To be gone” (and never come back), there was always possibility it is badly disguised trap for kidnapping tourists. We decided to take the risk anyway. From Tubigon it’s just an hour to Carmen. Carmen is known for an area called Chocolate hills. It’s formation of many hills created by vulcanic activity. Personally I don’t get the analogy with chocolate. If something, I would name them after certain part of women body.

Chocolate hills

Chocolate hills

After we went up and down the chocolate hills, it was already dark. And because it was Saturday evening it meant only one thing – the cock fight. Every weekend there were cock fights all around  Philippines. Even though it might seem cruel, for Filipinos it’s part of their culture and also more creative way how to prepare dinner. You can’t miss the arena. The load shouting of Filipino men trying to bet on a cock can be heard from a distance. Obviously, as the only white people in the arena we attracted a lot of attention. We wouldn’t have any idea how to bet or what are the rates without our trusted guide Kim. The system is really crazy, you shout your bet on a cock and then put your money in a small ball and throw it on the other side of arena. When you win, they will throw the money back with the extra amount. Even though, it can be cruel sport, I am glad I have been part of it. It’s one of my few truly local experiences in Philippines.

Angry birds in real life

That will be all for now. When I force myself to write another article (sometimes between tomorrow and the end of this decade) I will tell you about sailing the river in Loboc, the crazy Alona beach, the swiming with the whale sharks and many more.

Philippines Part I – Introduction

I am back from my first out of Taiwan trip and you are naturally anxious to hear about it. Yes, I understand, but there so much that happened there, so I decided to divide the article in parts. This is just introduction for a longer series of Tomas’ Philippine Adventures ™.

The Philippines is a bit over 1000 km south from Taipei, flight takes just about 2 hours. It has 7,107 islands. I have visited exactly 4 of them, so I think I can say I am on good way to explore  most of the Philippines.

 

I arrived a bit off season, but the weather was still very warm and humid. Even though the forecast promised storms, rain and cloudy weather, it was sunny all the time. If you can, try to arrive off high season. The high season starts in December because  Europeans are cold and continues until June. So the end of October was really the best time to go there (not that I made research in advance or anything …). There is almost no tourists in the resorts and the few that are there are usually young people eager to meet new people (and get drunk).

Anybody in there? Image: Dominik Petr

Anybody in there? Image: Dominik Petr

Speaking of drinking, the Philippines is really a paradise. A bottle of rum costs around 80 ₱ ($1,75 !!). And I am speaking about full litre bottle of good quality rum. In a pub you can get rum and coke for 50 ₱ ($1) and the price actually can go down when you order double or triple shot of rum because the coke is more expensive than rum. Nice way of saving money if you ask me. The beer is sold mostly in bottles – speciality is a litre bottle of Red Horse. Extra strong beer (7.5 %) for about 80 ₱ ($1,5). My friend later changed it’s name to Dark Horse because everything goes dark after few bottles. You can imagine things got a little bit crazy in the first days (week).

Seems like I have no other option than triple shot

Seems like I have no other option than triple shot

 

For this price it would be sin not to get drunk

For this price it would be sin not to get drunk

The cost of living is also very low, the accommodation ranges from 300₱ – 500₱ ( $6,5 – $11) per night. For example this is what you can get for just 300 ₱.

Germaroze Guesthouse. Image: Dominik Petr

Germaroze Guesthouse. Image: Dominik Petr

The Filipino people are one of the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met. English is very common there, every sign on the street is in English. And I don’t mean everything is translated. The english is the only language you will see written there. That’s mostly welcomed change after taiwan’s Chinese signs. The elementary school is taught in English in Philippines, so the level of English is really high and most of people speak the language really well. And I love their sense of humour, they can be really funny, sarcastic and they love to laugh. Also a thing I am missing in Taiwan.

 

Fuck it. Who needs wheels, anyway? Image: Dominik Petr

Fuck it. Who needs wheels anyway? Image: Dominik Petr

 

The thing I had to get used to was the weird reversed racism. When you are white, you are something special. Different groups of people are trying to offer taxi rides, trips to touristic destinations, rental bikes etc … On the street, everybody is saying Hello to you including little children.  Everybody calls you Sir or Ma’am and if I asked them to call me just Tomas they started to call me Sir Tomas. And I know, this is common in all Asia, but in big cities like Taipei it’s not that obvious.

I have never been in a country that is a whole lot cheaper than Czech Republic. Although people are always bitchin’  about it, compared to the most of Europe our country is still very cheap. So when I am travelling I am always aiming for the cheapest. But Philippines was quite unknown situation for me.  This allows you to take shortcuts. You can either take a bus and wait half an hour for it or you can take faster taxi which is still relatively cheap. You either explore the island on your own, risking you get lost and you don’t get to see everything or you hire a guide who will drive you around. I think you should always aim for the cheapest, not only you will save money but you will also receive more sincere treatment. When you act like a tourist, you will get treated like a tourist and people will try to get advantage of you. I have to admit, I took more shortcuts than I would want to. Let it be lesson for the next time.

Well, that would be enough for today, stay tuned for the next article about my first days in Philippines.