Let the journey begin...

Trip Start May 11, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2010

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Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Monday, May 17, 2010

Well hello all from Manila!

Glad to report i arrived here safe
and sound on Thursday after a couple of days of travel. I stayed for the
first few nights with my friend Hanne, who has a lovely apartment in
one of the nicer areas of the city. Which has been a real luxury, as
Manila seems like a hard city to fall in love with at first sight. On
the way from the airport the bus drove for what felt like ages through a

grey, sprawling and not a particularly charming looking urban chaos; you
would not come here for the quaint architecture, and there seems to be a
huge gap between the rich and the poor. First impressions of the locals
though is that they seem absolutely lovely; very friendly, polite and
helpful to the extreme (in their own way sometimes, but they definitely
mean good).

On Saturday morning me, Hanne and a few of her friends woke up
bright and early, ready to hop in a van and be driven to a little
mountain town of Lucban for their annual Pahiyas harvest festival,
courtesy of our driver Rico. Given the relatively short distance and the
roads around Manila being the best in the country, we were hoping for a
straightforward 2 hour journey - ah how wrong we were! It seemed
everyone in the capital was headed to the festival so we spent most of
the day stuck in the traffic; other obstacles we had to overcome during
our road trip was getting caught in the middle of a funeral procession,
random parades with children dressed in princess costumes and horse
races held on the main road, not to forget the painfully bumpy roads or
the stress of worrying about everyone's total disregard for any traffic
rules, not least Rico's (although he was keen to disapprove of other
drivers' conduct with his constant tutting). On the plus side, on site
entertainment was provided by the countless people who had their homes
right by the road, eager to demonstrate their 24/7 passion for karaoke.

Another constant source of amusement here is the language; the
official language, tagalog, is a funny mix of American English, Spanish
and local influences, but in addition the locals also speak English.
Well, sort of English; hotels advertise their guaranteed constant
electricity supply with huge "no brown-outs" signs; when wanting the
lights on/off, they "open" or "close" the lights and lipstick is known
as "lip stain".

When we finally arrived in Lucban, we instantly forgot the journey
from hell; the otherwise sleepy town comes alive once a year during the
festival, when the residents compete against each other on who has
decorated their house in the most beautiful, creative
fruit/vegetable/flower arrangements - it was just unbelievable! The
streets are full of all sorts of processions as well as locals and
visitors full of festive spirit celebrating and dancing away on the streets.

After checking out the festival we were hoping for a quick drive to
our next destination, Anilao, which isn't really that far on the map,
but we didn't actually get there until just after the sunset. Well, at
least we got there all in one piece, or at least relatively unscathed;
literally just a few hundred meters before reaching our hotel our driver
gave way to another car on the narrowest, steepest little path i've
ever seen and reversed into a pole which luckily sounded worse than what
it was. Unbelievably, the only sign of Rico's annoyance at the incident
was a quiet little tut-tut.

Anilao is a spread-out little seaside town where most of the sights
are located underwater, so i hopped on a boat on Sunday morning to
explore some of them. I was not disappointed; during my dives i saw an
octopus, outer space critter lookalike shrimps, stunningly beautiful
coral and countless other cool little creatures. Later on I went
snorkelling with the rest of the crew and was amazed how much there was
to see even right by the beach (sadly there's still some room for
improvement in my underwater photography skills so the only semi decent
pictures i managed to take were of other snorkellers...)

We were all worried about having to spend the rest of Sunday in the
van trying to get back to Manila, so when we arrived at the capital mere
3 hours later we couldn't believe our luck!

Tomorrow I'm headed down to Donsol in southeast Luzon - on the same island as Manila but a fair distance away. I had first planned on taking an overnight bus but as a flight there only costs
about 5 more, I decided to take the easy route and hop on a plane.  Hoping to go snorkelling with whalesharks on Wednesday, please keep your fingers crossed that I won't miss them this time as I did in Thailand last year!

Hope all is well with you all,

H x x
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Dee on

I travelled to Lucban too for the Pahiyas festival and like you, I was stuck in traffic because of a fire somewhere along the way. It took us 5 hours before we arrived in Lucban but still it was a happy experience. :-)

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