Over the last 10 days we went through a world of contrasts…. cold to hot; new and old; rich and poor; loud to quiet; busy and calm; city to beach; concrete to nature; car and plane to boat; winter to summer; crowded to few; unfriendly to friendly and busy to relaxed…
As you know it was Chinese New Year and we decided to avoid the constant noise of the firecrackers and escape the unseasonably cold and dampness and go away to a warmer location. Everywhere was so expensive and mostly booked. Someone suggested the Philippines and we were so glad they did… what a holiday! It was so surreal and like nothing we had ever experienced. I totally understand why there are so many repeat visitors to our lovely island oasis.
We left late Saturday afternoon (Jan 29). We flew into Hong Kong and transferred to Manilla from there. We arrived just before midnight into a small airport. Immediately we felt the humidity and warmth. We spoke to an airport porter who helped us get a ride into Manila to our hotel. It was busy with people and cars out on the streets… the bars had music pumping and people milling around. We soon discovered how they love karaoke as it went on all night… ug. We woke early and went to the Coco Beach Office in Manila to pay for our hotel and arrange our pick up. We had a few hours so we went to the mall which has so many western places like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, The Gap…. The mall was huge and very modern, a great contrast to the busy, crowded streets that were dirty. The power lines were tangled chaos of wire webs crisscrossing above our heads. Safety standards? Who needs them??? Outside there were homeless on the streets, buildings that were faded, crumbling and broken and then beside would be a beautiful expensive home which was modern in every way. One extreme to the other… It sounds horrible, but it felt very safe. The malls and every modern place had security… bomb sniffing dogs, security checking every vehicle before entering and metal detectors and security checking bags. Just a part of daily life. People would try to sell you things, but if you said no they would leave you alone… and homeless people just sat quietly with a cup beside them to collect passer-by’s change. The people were so friendly. Walking on the street taxis would slow and beep to see if you wanted a ride! In China they sometimes ignore you, so that was a nice treat! We didn’t have far to go, so we just walked.
When we drove out to Bantagas to get our boat to Mindora Island we went through the city and again saw so many contrasts… big modern buildings besdie places that were faded, peeling and crumbling. These buildings looked abandoned or about to be demolished, but laundry was hanging off the broken balconies and out windows… people were living there. As we went outside the city “houses” were made with corrugated metal haphazardly put together and covered with a tarp held down by old tires to keep out the rain. It was sad to think that some things are so bad that people still need to live on the street and not in one of these makeshift “houses”. This is the third world and people live like this. We have been to the Caribbean and it is built up with modern hotels and it caters to tourists, so maybe things were hidden away from us, or not this bad because there were tourist dollars. The Philippines is still up and coming as a tourist destination and slowly it has started to grow into a modern city. If you like diving this is the place to go!
After a 2 hour drive to the coast we boarded a boat to the island. Luckily we arrived on a Sunday and there was no traffic (I guess any other day the traffic is crazy and a 20 minute drive can take hours! There are not too many cars on the road or the chaos of Chinese driving… they stop to let people cross the roads and for red lights. The problem is the infrastructure… the traffic lights don’t always work which in turn causes the snarls.) We arrived at the coast with a comfortable van trip and waited for another van to arrive so we could all take the boat together. The boat was just over an hour which took us right to our resort. It pulled up to the beach and all the workers were waiting to unload us and escort us to the main building. As we pulled up and the resort started to come into view, it looked like a movie set… all these little huts nestled into the palms and trees along side a hillside. Gilligan’s Island is alive and well! The resort was very well done… all natural materials that easily blends in with the surroundings, everything is natural and looks like it belongs. It is totally isolated with hills on 3 sides and the beach and South China sea on its fourth. The tallest thing you see is the palm tress… You really have to look to see the huts camafloged into the hillside. As we were unloaded we were taken into the main building and welcomed with a shell necklace and a handshake and a warm smile. We were all seated at a large table and given a welcome drink and a basket of goodies (coconut shampoo, oil, homemade soaps and bug repellant…) all made on site. We filled out our registration cards and gave them our confirmation information and were told whenever we were ready we could go to our room. The workers were still waiting for us and brought our things to our room. Our Banana Delux was not ready, so for 1 night we were to stay in the Heritage… a large, long rectangular building with a number of units. We had a little patio and garden out front and inside we had a living room, bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a loft with a second bedroom. This room had TV and air conditioning. The next day our room was ready and we went up the hillside to our Gilligan’s Island hut. It was a long hike up… but worth it for the view. Our new room has a bedroom, large balcony and a bathroom. It is completely open… what a view…. trees and the sea. A small curtain can be closed at night, so you can still hear the wind rustle in the palms and the ocean splashing along the shore. No tv… no distractions…. now this is peace and quiet! We spent a lot of time on the balcony just soaking it all up… listening to the birds and the ocean…. laying on the bed the view was like a big screen tv with only 1 channel…. paradise. This was unlike any place we had ever been and it was perfect.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the Philippines….