And Then We Went To The Philippines

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Where I stayed
Red Tulip Guesthouse

Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Thursday, November 1, 2012

So our time in Thailand has come to an end.... for now.

Today we embark on another lengthy journey from the far reaches of Northern Thailand to the Island of Luzon in the Philippines. First we take a 3 hour bus ride from Pai back to Chaing Mai, it's a good start, we have nice seats and the air-con is set to cool rather than quickfreeze! Once in Chiang Mai we hop in a tuk-tuk and go straight to the train station for the 15 hour sleeper train to Bangkok. As we have a few hours to spare we get some snacks for the trip and grab a bite to eat before the train departs. The train actually leaves on time, but this being Thailand it takes 18 hours to get to Bangkok, not the speedy 15 hours we were expecting. Arriving in Bangkok at Hualamphong Train Station we find an internet cafe to print out our flight tickets, we have been intending to do this for quite some time and NOT leave it to just a few hours before the flight departs... hmmm!

To treat ourselves for surviving this far we call into our favourite cake shop called Mr Bun! Mr Bun makes very delicious buns and we eat greedily. Full of buns we take the underground Metrolink to the Skytrain terminal. The Skytrain will take us all the way to the airport and give us a great view of Bangkok from above. Because it is in the sky. Yes, a train in the sky. Brilliant! The views are impressive and the mix of old/new, rich/poor is really evident from above as decaying shanty towns mingle with sparkling skyscrapers.

Bangkok Airport is big. We take extra special care not to get lost in it. We get lost.  After a bit of backtracking we manage to find our flight and take off for the 3 hour flight to Clark (just north of Manila). We touch down about 11pm and walk out into 32 degree heat. At 11pm. 32 degrees! Anna shivers and wishes she hadn't left her nice fleece in Bangkok all those weeks ago... We have arranged a nearby hotel to pick us up, so we stand outside, sweating in the moonlight. And as luck would have it, we get talking to an English chap who lives in the Philippines for 6 months of the year and has been coming here for 25 years. He advises us against the skeletal plans we have made and tells us to head to El Nido on the westerly island of Palawan. He is a most helpful and informative man. We know him only as Airportman.

Arriving at The Red Tulip, our home for the night, we are delighted to be told that due to a shortage of rooms we have been upgraded! Hooray! We skip into our deluxe room and are delighted to find that we have a DVD player and movies! We have a minibar! We have a safe! We have a dimmer switch on the light! And to top it off, we have a jacuzzi! A JACUZZI! Well well well, haven't we landed on our feet we think. Then we look a litlle closer. The DVD player lacks one vital componant. A televison. The safe is broken. The lighting in the room is already so dull that all the dimmer switch does is turn it from nearly dark, to dark. Feeling a bit deflated we decide to have a jacuzzi. The dribble of cold water that we manage to get out of the tap smells of wee. We hop in the hot shower instead, which turns out to be a cold shower. At least we can have a beer from the minibar. Erm, well the beer is about 30 years old and the lid is totally rusty. We just call it a night and go to sleep. Next morning we find out that we are sharing the en suite bathroom with a small bird which has pecked away the wood of the window frame. The floor is covered in pecked out wood and our new bird friend tweets away at us happily. We need to get out of here. We check the web, there is a flight to Palawan leaving in 2 hours. We pack up and leave before the building has a chance to collapse on us.

We make the flight and land in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, an hour later. We hop in a tricycle (which is a motorbike with a sort of car bit welded to it - they make tuk-tuks feel and look safe), and head to a Guesthouse we read about in the Lonely Planet. It is not nice. It resembles a mouldy coffin. The book was printed 2 years ago and we suspect things may have gone downhill since then. Our helpful driver takes us to one he can recommend... which means one he is getting commission from, but its okay so we book in for the night. As we stil have most of the day left we take a stroll through Puerto Princesa to get our first real taste of the Philippines. Its hot and busy and the roads are filled with tricycles. It feels quite similar to Thailand but the more we observe, the more differences become apparent. There are no Temples or Pagodas here as The Philippines are mainly Christian, so they have been replaced with large Spanish looking Churches. We feel a pang of sadness that there will be no massive gold things to look at here. Everyone we encounter speaks English with a weird American accent and the majority of signs are also written in English. The tuk-tuks have been replaced with the even more deadly tricycles and the red busses (sawngthaew) of Thailand are now crazy technicolour jeepneys. Everyone calls us Sir and Ma'am, which feels a bit strange. Our walk takes us down to the promenade where we sit looking out at the sea for a while. It smells strongly of fish so we don't hang around for long. We buy a couple of beers from a shop on the way back to our room, San Miguel is the national drink here and you can get a bottle for as little as 25 peso (38p), it's cheaper than a can of coke and twice as tasty!

Puerto Princesa seems nice but our destination is El Nido and that is another 6 hour bus ride up north, so tomorrow we hit the road again. No rest for the wicked eh.
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