Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hey everybody,
It's been a while since my last entry. This was because of having no time to do it and after that the lack of a nearby internet connection. But here it finally is!
My last entry was from Guangzhou and that seems a while ago: much has happened and I have seen a lot since. Let's start from Guangzhou.
In Guangzhou Peony brought me to the bus station and we had yet another goodbye. Peony went to work and I went in a bus to Zhuhai, on the border with Macau. At the border long lines waited for me - a bit longer on the Chinese side than on the Macau side. Once in Macau I quickly jumped on the bus to the airport, where I arrived quite in time for my flight to Angeles on the Philippines. After this uneventful two hour flight I arrived safely in Angeles and immediately took a bus to Baguio (well, halfway I had to change a bus in Sison).
Baguio I didn't think much of and that's why I decided the next day to continue to Vigan. On the bus I met 67 year old German traveller Reinhard and with him I shared a room for two days in Vigan. Vigan turned out to be quite a beautiful town - a rarity in the Philippines. It is the most Spanish town in the Philippines and (therefore) Unesco protected. The next day we had a look around town and visited a nearby famous church in Santa Maria.
After Vigan I continued to Laoag. After having found a hotel I immediately set off for Paoay, which has the most beautiful so-called earthquake-style churches of the Philippines. After this church I continued (by tricycle) to Suba, where I expected huge sand dunes (scenes from Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July were shot here), but after walking for about half an hour I saw a lot of dunes, but grassy ones while I expected sandy ones. I walked to the South China Sea and was invited for a few beers by an interesting Irish guy who lived here with his Filipino wife and owned a lot of these dunes - he has big plans for it. His direct neighbour turned out to be the governor of this province and son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, 'Bong Bong' Marcos. After a chat he brought with his four wheel drive back to Laoag.
The next day I took a bus to Claveria on the northern coast of the Philippines. Claveria was just a stopover and the next day I left again for Tuguegarao, where I changed for another bus to Tabuk. In Tabuk I used my charms to bargain the room price down a lot! Could it be that the reception girl happened to be Chinese?
The next day I left Tabuk very early in the morning for the bus ride through the beautiful Cordillera (mountains). The road was mostly unpaved and the transportation on the road mostly overcrowded. After more than seven hours through beautiful mountain scenery I arrived in Bontoc. Here I paid a quick visit to the Bontoc Museum, which has interesting exhibits, especially the ones concerning headhunting - an old (but now extinct) custom in this part of the world. After that I took a jeepney to Sagada.
Sagada is a nice little mountain village famous for the burial traditions. Some people are buried in coffins, which are hang in a cliffside, and that is quite a sight. In a nearby cave well over a hundred coffins are stacked on top of each other, also very impressive, especially the one where the side was rotten away and a skull was staring at me!
Sagada also happened to be quite cold - I really needed my (almost never used) sleeping bag here.
From Sagada I took a jeepney back to Bontoc and from there I took a bus to Banaue. Banaue is famous for the rice terraces, which are called the eighth wonder of the world. I think that is quite over the top (China and Bali also have very impressive rice terraces) but it was beautiful none the less. A guy on a motorbike gave me a lift to the viewpoint. I was lucky that I actually have seen them at all, because the clouds were really blocking the view, but at the end, just before sunset, the clouds moved away a bit so I could enjoy the beauty of the Banaue rice terraces.
The next day the guy on the motorbike from yesterday brought me to the Batad Saddle (we made this deal yesterday) - about an hour from Banaue on a very bad road. From the Batad Saddle it is about a 45 minute walk down to Batad village. From the village there is an amazing view of the rice terraces here. I walked down to the scattered hamlets within the rice terraces. Very impressive! I then descended to the also quite impressive Tappia Waterfall. Ascending on the way back was really tiring, because today it was really hot and the steps are very high. But of course I made it, and whilst having a drink I enjoyed the rice terraces view. After that I walked back to the ridge, had something to eat and then walked back to the Saddle. The guy on the motorbike brought me back to Banaue. That night I had great fun at a local popular restaurant, where the owner (and some of his kids), could play the guitar and sing songs very entertaining: from rock and country to Hebrew and Cuban songs.
After Banaue I took the bus back to Bontoc and from there another bus to Baguio, via the Halsema Highway (I have no idea if Dutch politician Femke got anything to do with it). These more than five hours were quite impressive, with the valleys very deep below. In Baguio I just spent the night.
From Baguio I took a very early morning bus (6 o'clock) to Manila. In Manila I managed to change to another bus in 15 minutes and this bus was going to Tagaytay. Tagaytay is situated on a crater rim, from where there are great views of the Taal Volcano, in Lake Taal below. I had to walk quite a bit though, before my views of Lake Taal were not marred by electricity lines, houses and fences. After taking some nice pictures I took a jeepney down to Talisay. I was tired and settled for an overpriced (even after bargaining) and (on a closer look) very dirty room near the lakeside.
I woke up very early and had to got the toilet, at least five times: diarrhoea. At around seven o'clock I felt a little stronger and took a too expensive boat ride to the Taal Volcano in Lake Taal (25 minutes by outrigger boat). The walk up to the crater of the Taal Volcano was quite tiring, especially because a lot of energy had drained from me. In the end I managed and saw the crater lake. In this lake there is a small island. This means that this island is in a lake, on an island, in a lake, on an island! Altogether I wasn't all too impressed though. I walked back and took the boat back. In the guesthouse I rested and slept a few more hours. In the early afternoon I then took a jeepney to Tanauan. Here two nice girls walked me all the way to the jeepney station for the jeepney to San Pablo. In San Pablo it took a while to find the right hotel, but I had a very nice and clean room in there (and cheaper than the one in Talisay).
I stayed here another day to get al little bit better, because I felt quite ill.
When I felt better, I continued my trip south, to Naga, an eight hour bus ride. In Naga I had an even better room and cheaper room. I had a bit of a relapse here and decided to not go ahead with my planned visit to a nearby national park with beach, but to stay in Naga, mainly at the hotel.
When I felt (really) better, I took the bus to Legazpi, hoping to catch sight of one of the world's most perfect volcanoes, Mount Mayon... but as in previous cases with similar volcanoes, I wasn't lucky. The other near perfect volcanoes I haven't actually seen the top of are Mount Taranaki in New Zealand, Cotopaxi in Ecuador and recently, Mount Fuji in Japan. Mount Mayon had quite an impressive cloud cover I must say. I didn't do much in Legazpi, but I managed to see two Hollywood movies (Tropic Thunder and Body of Lies) in the cinema (€1 tickets).
From Legazpi I took a night bus back to Manila (more than 13 hours). Buses in most of Asia have a very strange and irritating habit: if there is air-conditioning, the bus driver turns it on to full capacity. My night bus to Manila was no exception. While it hot outside, you freeze your (excusez le mot) ass off inside the bus! I arrived early morning in Manila and bought already a ticket for the next day (to Angeles). I checked in into Friendly's Guesthouse and met Reinhard again (who happened to have been at the same time in Naga and Legazpi as me). I walked around Manila (again) - mainly Intramuros - and wasn't even robbed this time! That night I saw my Filipina friend Ann again and together with the guesthouse owner Benjie and some other guests we went to a bar and eh... were there for a long time. At around 07h30 in the morning I went to bed, waking up three hours later to check out and catch the bus to the airport - all with a lot of sleep deprivation. The flight had been postponed for more than an hour and due to the fact I arrived early at the airport I was not allowed inside the terminal building yet! I made a bit of a fuss (I want to go to the toilet) and then I was suddenly allowed inside. Strange airport! At 6 o'clock I then flew to Kota Kinabalu on Malaysian Borneo. I had booked a hostel in KK with free airport pick up and after a call they picked me up. The hostel was a bit out of town and near empty and the promised wifi connection wasn't there. The staff was friendly though.
In Kota Kinabalu my first assignment was to buy a Lonely Planet South East Asia (or maybe Malaysia), in which I succeeded. Both were unavailable in Manila! I then walked around a bit a was back just in time for a heavy downpour. I also had my laundry done in KK.
From KK a took a three hour ferry trip to Labuan on the island Pulau Labuan. From Labuan I then took a ferry to Muara in Brunei (or officially Brunei Darussalam). From Muara I took a bus to the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei is a small but very rich oil sultanate, run by one of the wealthiest persons in the world (once the wealthiest), Sultan Sir Hassanal Bolkiah. This person has a collection of cars which is believed to be over 5000! And not Daihatsu's and Opel's, but grander brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin. He also lives in the largest palace in the world. In downtown BSB he had a mosque built, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and although it is a difficult to remember name, it is not difficult to remember its sheer beauty! Me and my photo camera just totally fell in love with that building! What a sight!
Day two in BSB I took a speedboat to Bangar, just for the ride, because this thrilling ride took me through the jungle rivers at high speed (nah, public transport doesn't have to be boring). After the return trip to Bangar is walked to the palace of the sultan, or basically to try to catch a glimpse, which I succeeded in (the glimpse). I also visited the Royal Regalia Museum, which shows the recreation of the sultan's coronation day and which also shows the many gifts given to the sultan over the years. The gifts were mostly expensive, but I also saw a piece of rope, presented by a Bruneian village. I wonder what the message of that rope was (or is). That night I had my second love affair with the mosque, now at nighttime.
Brunei is also quite an expensive place, so it was time to move on. I took a bus to Seria and then another one to Kuala Belait. In Kuala Belait I bought a trough-ticket to Miri in Malaysia. This through ticket brought me in a bus to a nearby river, paid for the ferry ride, then another bus brought me to the border, where yet another bus took me finally to Miri. In Miri I caught another bus to Bintulu. I couldn't find a local bus to downtown, so I asked a bit around and was finally taken to a downtown hotel by a friendly single mother, who would have invited me to stay at her place if only I had been with my girlfriend.
From Bintulu I took a bus the next day to Sibu, from where I took a speedboat up the mighty Batang Rejang river to Kapit. I was very sleepy and fell asleep dozed off many times: not from the lack of beautiful scenery, but clearly the lack of sleep. I also saw quite a few longhouses (and boy, there are long), the traditional housing style of the indigenous population of Borneo. Okay, nowadays they have electricity and satellite dishes, but the concept is still there. Kapit is a small town on the bank of the Batang Rejang. There isn't much to do in town, but although I am quite far in the jungle of Borneo, my budget hotel has e very good wifi connection, so I took the opportunity and upload picture and this new entry.
Tomorrow I will go to Kuching and explore Sarawak a bit more. After that I will work my way up again, back to Sabah and later on back to The Philippines.
It's a long entry this time, I hope you enjoyed it!
Until next time!
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