10.02.2011 31 °C
Leaving for Bangkok tomorrow, I can say that the three weeks here has been hectic but beautiful. If you are about to visit the Philippines, which you should for many reasons, stay as long as you can. Three weeks is not enough even for the main island of Luzon which I stayed on. Besides Luzon you have another 7106 islands to visit. The list of things to do and see in this country is endless and the prices come with a smile. I’ve spent 510 € these three weeks, have I been living in the streets eating garbage? Not really. Maybe I’m saving in on the haircuts with my hair cutter.
After arriving to Manila and spending one night here, I quickly realized that if you’re not a sex tourist there is not much to do here. It is also the most and only dangerous place in the country. Apparently, people can come up to you and after a pleasant conversation offer you a drink, which obviously is something else. After getting drugged, the robbers can do anything to you.
I didn’t bother spending time in this city; instead I left by bus for the Cordillera mountain region with my surf board. I don’t think these village people ever seen a surf board up there, It was pretty funny.
Known for its rice terraces, locals claim that these fields in the village of Batad should be the eight wonder in the world. I don’t know if I agree with that statement, but it sure is a breathtakingly beautiful place.
There are a handful of cool villages in the region, with plenty of hiking to be done. One of these is Sagada, with hanging coffins (?!) and caves as main attractions. It is a very relaxed place, where one would think time really stands still. The hanging and colorful coffins is a very interesting idea, too bad it smells awful when you come up close to take a picture.
After getting too much of surf abstinence, I headed west to the state of La Union and the small village of San Juan. Serving as the surfing capitol of Luzon, I even managed to see a long board competition while I was there.
I spent one week surfing there with an average of two, three sessions per day. Easily done when you stay on the beach. When it comes to accommodation, I can strongly recommend Lola Nanny’s surf retreat with bungalows for 6 € per night. Located in front of the beach break and a two minutes walk to the reef break it is unbeatable. When it comes to the surfing itself, it started out quite big the first day with a decent swell height. However, it became smaller and smaller during the week. The main point in San Juan is a reef break and holds a steady and powerful right hander in the right conditions. The beach holds a couple of breaks with both lefts and rights. Depending on the conditions it can be quite fun, I found myself working on a very fast and small, but powerful lefthander. Last night in San Juan there was a nice part in the beach with beer tents and live music as well as a choreography show. Good fun!
I had a great time in San Juan, meeting both friendly people and improving my surfing level. I had a hard time to leave the place actually. You’ve got to love the beach life! I was determinate to see the whale sharks down in Donsol though and had to move on. Since the flight only was 20 percent more than the 12h bus ride from Manila, the choice was obvious. Stepping out of the plane in the city of Legazpi, I could not imagine more beautiful scenery.
Mount Mayon is renowned as the perfect cone, because of its shape. With a last eruption in 2006 it is considered as one of the most active volcanoes on this rock. You can hike up to the top, which takes about two days. I was satisfied with the picture though since it was cloudy every day around the top. I was lucky with that shot, early in the morning before the clouds came in. The main purpose was to see the largest fish in the world, namely the whale shark. The village of Donsol, being a small and quiet fishing village went through a massive economical progress after being called the whale shark capitol of the world in the late 1990’s. Before then, locals thought that the gentle giants were dangerous sharks. Now people come from all over the world to swim with these amazing creatures. It was a truly amazing experience, swimming above and next to the bus sized fish. Unfortunately, the visibility was only 4 meters and it was impossible to see the whole shark. It kind of gives you a hint of its massive size, though.
From Donsol, you can also give the manta rays a shot. An hour off the coast, there’s a manta ray “cleaning station” called the Manta Bowl. Because of the strong current there, the mantas apparently stand still and let the water flow clean its gills. We were really unlucky though and didn’t see any mantas. Apart from some small and beautiful coral formations, we were hanging on to the reef with hooks in the six knots strong current. It was very strong.
Besides the whale sharks and the scuba diving, Donsol is a really authentic fishing village with loads of small alleys and streets. I had a great time just walking around here, the locals are more than friendly and all the kids are crazy about foreigners.
Before I forget, I should mention that the Filipino cuisine is not walk in the park. Ever heard of Balut? It’s an egg with a nearly developed chicken embryo, the locals say it’s delicious. I’m not so sure about that.
//Patrick in Manila