Goodbye Asia

July 10, 2007 Andy 0 Comments

This, I’m afraid, is a bit of a half hearted attempt at a post. Sitting in the cold in Sydney it is hard to think back to what the 35 degree tropical islands of the Philippines were really like. In fact the last place we stayed at, Panglao Island, was much like the other places we visited in the Philippines. Beautiful soft white sand, coral reefs off the beach, expensive package holiday resorts and distinctly German menus in the restaurants (not a bad thing in itself but while in the Philippines it would make sense to eat Filipino food thus experiencing the local delicacies and saving money… unfortunately not an option on Alona Beach where we stayed).

While in Malapascua we met up with a guy who was on the meditation retreat with us in Thailand back in May. Being a silent retreat although we spent nearly 10 days in each others company we didn’t speak once. By further coincidence upon leaving Malapascua it turned out that Jonny was also headed for Panglao but he had a much easier run than us. We were up at seven to get the 8am boat out. The bus we got once back on Cebu island was driven very cautiously unlike our journey up there. All well and good I thought until about 10km into the 130km journey we were all churned off the bus due to faulty brakes (that explained the cautions driving). The next bus was understandably crammed full so we spent half an hour on foot. Long enough for me to get fed up of the reckless driving and fall over onto a little kid as the driver hurled us round the corners. We also met up with June, one of the people we’d dived with in Malapascua and just to rub it in, she’d had time for a morning dive, during which she spent 12 minutes looking at 3 thresher sharks, before catching her bus (on which she had a seat and we didn’t). Upon arrival in Cebu we made our way to the ferry port were Jonny appeared last minute and strolled onto the boat while we had been waiting for two hours. He had got up at 11, got talking to some Korean tourists on the boat who had an AC minibus waiting and got himself a free ride into Cebu. Not only did he have a four hour lie in, he had a quick comfortable ride and saved on the bus fare. Jammy git.

Our time on Panglao was quite uneventful. We spent some time with Mancunian Jonny who is a keen music student (it is amazing how much interest a blond dread locked white man with a guitar can generate) and did two great dives off the beautiful Balicasag island. These were particularly good as we had an excellent German Dive Master (unlike the idiot in Malapascua) and we were presented with the best coral reef I’ve ever seen. So healthy, so colourful with loads of schools of fish. Add to that the fact that these were effortless slow drift dives, I can’t think of a better way to finish diving in Asia. Otherwise we just laid back and did nothing. There were a couple of touristy things to do but after so long on the road they either didn’t appeal or were way over priced.

Our return flight to Manila was quite amusing. Half way through the flight the stewardesses ran a competition with merchandise prizes. Passengers had to raise above their head the item that the stewardess called out for. Ticket stubs, books and shoes were being thrust in the air in alarming numbers.

The Philippines was an amazing place to visit. There are so many beautiful islands and as you can probably tell, the diving was the best I’ve ever done. There were some disappointments though. Due to the geographical nature of the country travel is not cheap or easy, so many of the places we wanted to see we couldn’t. The place also seems to be lacking in it’s own culture. The Spanish and American influences are plain to see. Not the Filipinos fault mind, but a shame that so much of their own heritage has been wiped out. Another effect of the American influence is that Filipinos consider any white person to be an “Americano”. Something I don’t particularly like being called. I mean, that is like calling Chris English or Philippe Dutch. My biggest whinge though is that the Philippines do not cater for backpackers, not that I’m want everything laid on as it can be in Thailand or Australia, but It seems to be a two week holiday destination which means more restrictive prices, expensive western food everywhere and many a cheesy club or go go bar. With more time or more money an independent traveller could do the place more justice. Unfortunately we were lacking in both.

Oh, and yes, I am missing my camera. Can you tell?

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