Monday, 27 April 2015

An Overdue Catch Up


Back in the wilderness of Oxfordshire

So I have been home for a little while now... almost 6 months to be exact... its a bit depressing really! However, I am determined to at some point finish my travel blog...I made lots of notes and took lots of pictures all throughout my journey and i really want to make sure I have this online record of an amazing trip - If only so I can look back on it whenever routine and everyday life gets a bit dull.

Maybe it will inspire me to start planning (or not planning) a trip all over again...

Anyway, stay tuned - I promise I will be updating this blog and finishing off the adventure (and hopefully there are still a few more to come....

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Visa hunting in Kuala Lumpur

I do indeed 

Our next country was only a brief one; we headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in search of visas for Myanmar. In the end we spent 5 days in the city due to an expiring Philippines visa and an annoyingly placed weekend, but KL was actually a lovely place to explore and hang out, with the added bonus of getting to catch up with the wonderful Becky and Rich (who were also passing through)!! 

Petronas tower group selfie


Our first day was mostly spent asleep due to our super early morning arrival in Malaysia (we finally got to our hostel at 4am, it almost wasn't worth booking a room). We did managed to explore the nearby china town and fit in lots of tasty food (which was a real highlight of malaysia). 


People at the entrance to the Batu Caves

Inside the Batu Caves

The next day we ventured further afield, visiting the Batu caves, which I have memories of visiting as a child ( the most prominent of which is having my bag of bananas stolen by a group of scary monkeys). Unfortunately these childhood memories did not live up to expectation. The caves are no longer nestled amongst trees and green but in the suburbs of the city. They are massive and impressive, the temples are beautiful, but this is ruined ruined by tat shops, concrete floors, metal railings and lots of mess. Still as you can easily get the metro there they are worth a visit (and the monkeys are as cheeky as ever). We also decided to venture to the super shiney part of KL to see the petronas towers, the shopping malls and the nearby park. These were all pretty impressive and we ended up revisiting the area a couple more times during our stay.

Families on the resting on the steps up to the caves
Posing in front of the Petronas Towers
A nice chliche picture of the caves

As Monday arrived we could finally fulfil our main task of sorting out or visas via a little tourist agency near china town. This felt a bit stressful at the time, but in reality was very easy. After booking flights in and out of Myanmar, filling in some forms and taking some passport photos we submitted our applications and had our passports back by the end of the day. 

Street art in China Town

Umbrellas in China Town

That evening we waited up patiently for the arrival of Becky and Rich (who were just starting their adventure). It was wonderful to see them (I have been missing them a lot), it felt just like home!! We stayed up super late catching up and it was brilliant!!

Mix of old and new in China Town
The next day after a long lie in, the photographer and I set about doing all our pre-Myanmar shopping. This included essentials like some emergency antibiotics (which are apparently harder to get hold of sometimes). In the evening we enjoyed another wander in the city with Becky and Rich followed by a lovely dinner. A great way to end our time
In KL (and malaysia). 

At night, China Town

Yum yum yum, street food noodles in China town

Getting arty at the fountains by the Petronas towers

Summary

Location: Kuala Lumpur 

Highlights: The personas towers, food and of course besties from home.

Top tips: Eat as much as possible, street food in KL is fantastic. Also try the crepe cakes they have everywhere (basically lots of crepes layered with cream I make a cake).

Shopping: In China Town barter hard!!

Profile pictures: Yes, the personas towers make a very pretty picture - though the angles are hard to work!! 

Epiphany's: 0 

View from the park


Vanders and I strike a pose

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A few photos from Manila

As The Photographers visa was expiring shortly it was time to leave the country.!! We left Cebu and headed to Manila for couple of days at my Tita's (Aunts) visiting my family. I finally got to meet my little goddaughter, had a lovely meal with my cousins and aunts, and managed to catch up with my very good old friend Anya. This isn't going to be a proper blog post, but here are a few photos from our brief but lovely stay.

Deserts from the Yakimix buffet, including a candy bar

My Tita Jean, baby Bryce and Me


The Photographer, Rose, Brent and Me 

The whole gang

Selfie time with my Goddaughter Ella (its a bit blurry as she was the one pressing the button)

The Photographer Anna and I

The Photographer, Marianne, Ella and Me

The Photographer, Anya and I

Siquijor

Our last stop in the Visayas (after much deliberation) was Siquijor an island famous for witch craft and a place not many Filipinos date to venture. As my family is from the Visayas when I told my Aunt we had visited this island she was pretty shocked, I haven't told my Mum yet but I am interested to see what she says...(Hi mum). There are a lot if rumors about the island, the most famous involving creatures called Manananggal which have wings and can detach the top part of their body and feast on blood.. I am happy to say we never encountered these creatures or any of the spells or curses we had heard so much about. Instead we found Siquijor to be beautiful unspoilt beach paradise with incredibly friendly locals. 

Our first view of Siquijor  from the ferry as we arrived to the port

Look closely at this photo, this man was on our ferry, those feathers sticking out of the bags are live cocks who spent the whole journey crowing

We stayed in the San Juan area where most of the resorts are located, at the well known JJ's backpackers. The place is small with a good cafe and beautiful beach. The vibe was also very friendly and sociable with most people coming from the backpacking scene and everyone very much up for hanging out. 


Hammocks and beach at JJ's

On the day of our arrival we ended up heading out with the others in the hostel to Ceaser's place, which appeared to be the one and only Friday night destination on the island. Scooters and motorbikes seemed to be arriving from miles around. It was definitely the place to be. Everyone was really friendly and wanted to chat, we were given shots of rum during our walk to the bar and offered lifts home from everyone. Even the guys whose table we accidentally stole were nice (yes you had to buy tables off a women who had a pile stacked up - in the end The Photographer got one for 50 pesos, his first ever table in a club). I just wish I had taken my camera!! 

The next day, a little tired the photographer and I set off to see a few things around the island; The 'enchanted' old tree, Cambugahay falls and Kagusuan beach. This was a nice way to spend an afternoon, especially the falls where lots of locals were hanging out and there was a rope swing and rocks to jump off. 


Waterfalls, can you spot the man about to swing out?


At the Old tree

View of the streets from our tricycle

The upper part of the falls, most popular fro swimming and diving from the rocks

Our last day in Siquijor was spent relaxing on the lovely beach at JJs reading our books, drinking mango shakes during the day, hanging out with other backpackers and drinking rum at sunset. This also happened to be my birthday, but I didn't let on as I am not a big birthday person!! 

Birthday beach photoshoot


Where I spent most of my birthday

The next day we had to make our way back to Cebu city  for our flight to Manila. This turned out to be quite expensive by direct ferry. Instead we went back to Damugete, got a tricycle down the road to Sibulan port, caught a short boat across to cebu island and then a taxi up to cebu city, saving about 800 pesos each!! 


Birthday kiss at the Henry hotel

Lobby of the Henry Hotel

For our last night in the Visayas we were staying in the fancy and quirky Henry Hotel (as a bit of a birthday treat). The hotel was beautiful, rooms were huge with big comfy beds and the breakfast buffet (one of my favorite things about hotels) was tasty. I really loved the decor of the hotel, it felt much more interesting and stylish than the regular sterile hotel vibe!! Definitely a good way to end this section of our trip.


Summary

Highlights: Relaxing on the beach at JJ's Backpackers, drinking rum with sugar and lime on the beach at sunset and partying with the locals at Ceaser's place

Top tips: At the waterfalls some parts can be quite shallow, be careful where you jump, watch the locals and if unsure ask!! If you are in Siquijor on a Friday night head to Ceasers place - late opening Fridays only, live band and lots of dancing. 

Getting around: If you are going to attempt motorbikes or scooters this is the place to do it, the roads are mostly good quality and they are quiet (not many cars). We still ended up getting a tricycle though (I didn't want to break myself on my birthday).

Eat: In Cebu if you are stopping over in Cebu City, head to Zubuchons for some pork lechon, its delicious local roasted pork packaged nicely in a tourist friendly restaurant. (Also featured in one of Anthony Bourdains programmes I think).

Minutes spent lost: 0, but we thought we were on the was to Ceaser's as the walk from JJ's is a little bit long. 

Epiphany's: 0 (it was my birthday and everything - you would have thought I would have had some inspiration).


Contemplating life in Siquijor (hahaha - I was actually just messing around on the sand bar)

Turtle time at Apo island

With so many islands to visit in the Philippines we were feeling a bit overwhelmed with options and it took us a while to decide what to next. In the end we decided that what we really wanted to do was see some turtles. There are two places in the Visayas famous for turtle spotting Apo Island and Moalboal, both are well known dive resorts but we decided on Apo island as the snorkeling was easy and right from the shore. 

My best (and pretty much only) turtle photo

Two turtles at once!!! 

Beach on the other side of the island where turtles lay their eggs

To get to Apo we caught a ferry to Damugete, followed by a jeepny along the coast to Malataypay and then a little banka boat across to the tiny island. We decided to stay at Libertys whose room prices were more expensive then elsewhere in the Philippines but included all our meals, so was actually a pretty good deal (the food was actually pretty good too). It also meant our stay was very relaxing as we didn't have to worry about anything. The place also seemed like the social hub of the tourists and backpackers on the island and we met some really lovely people. 

Swimming turtle

The Photographer swimming over  some huge coral

The island is tiny with a really cute town, very friendly residents and a little trail around the island. It isn't the best for beaches as the main one is filled with boats and all of them are coral based, but the snorkeling was truly fantastic. I was really worried we weren't going to see turtles, this was crazy!! On our first day we saw 8 turtles, on our second about 30!! They feed on the scrub like sea grass right by the shore, you can watch them eating easily, or just swim around the coral and wait to see one heading back out to sea. Swimming alongside these beautiful creatures was a really magical experience and some of the turtles we saw were huge. Over the two and a half days I didn't get bored of snorkeling with them (how could you?). My only regret is that I don't know how to dive yet as it's supposed to be great place for it (next time - we have plans to go back already). 

Diving down to turtle level

Popping up to breath

Post lunch swim

Apo island, main town and rocky beach

Summary

Location: Apo Island

Highlights: Turtles!!! Many many turtles!!!

Lowlights: Our broken underwater camera - the one place it would have been most useful. Luckily we managed to get it to work for a few shots (before freezing) , but it really didn't like The Photographer so i am very lucky to have even one turtle photo (we took so so many but the camera froze/ crashed almost everytime).

Top tips: To see turtles feeding head to the far end of the beach from Libertys, the best coral can also be found here (for snorkeling) if you swim out away from shore) - if you can hire or bring fins. '

Profile pictures: Unfortunately none of my 'turtle selfies' worked out very well.

Epiphany's: 0

Walking round the island


Room with a view

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Bohol

Getting to Bohol involved a flight to Cebu, an overnight stay and then a ferry. A bit convoluted, but worth it as we planned to spend the next week or so in the Visayas. 

As we were a bit beached out after our time in Palawn (and still have yet to learn to dive), we decided to spend out time in Bohol on inland exploration. Our main reason for visiting to Bohol was to see the Chocolate hills and the tarsiers (little primates which are the islands most famous residents). We decided to stay in Taglibaran (which probably wasn't the best plan), this port city which was busy and hot. However, it was an easy place to organise our inland trip. After my previous motorcycle disaster we decided against the usual way of exploring the island opting instead to hire a car and a driver. This turned out to be pretty good as he suggested and took us to lots of places we wouldn't have considered!! 

Chocolate Hills 

Posing at the Chocolate hills 

We started the day very early and went to see the Chocolate Hills at sunrise. The 'little' bumps which strech for miles looked stunning in the soft light of sunrise. However, the trip to view the hills did not take that long and we were finished around 6am, well before anything else was open! Our driver suggested renting AVTs to drive around the hills and proceeded to wake up store owners to find us some! Although I am terrible on motorised viehicles, and there was a little incident where my break fell off and I couldn't stop, I really enjoyed our ride through the hills. Four wheels are definitely better than two!! 

ATV time (I am super happy as I still had breaks at this point!!)

The next stop was a butterfly sanctuary which I wasn't bothered with, but turned out to be really really fun. As we were so early we were given a guided tour, we held catapillers and butterfly's and saw them breaking out of their cocoons, it was all pretty cool. 


A New(ish) butterfly on The Photographers hand, its wings are still not completely dry

Next on the list were the super cute, shy little tarsiers. These small primates are famous in Bohol, but sadly are sometimes caught and put on display (which is especially upsetting because apparently they get so sad in captivity they can become suicidal). The best way to get chance to spot one is at the taisier sanctuary. The sanctuary itself is a little underwhelming, just a small area of Forrest surrounded by low fence and lots if meandering uneven steps. However, you are pretty much guaranteed to spot one of these wierd cute little primates. They were much smaller than I expected, but that just made them even more adorable. 

Tarsier having a little nap

Someone made a sound

Another little tarsier

Our next few stops were very random quick sites on the way back to town including; a hanging bamboo bridge, Lobok (a town on the river - we were far too early for the lunchtime cruise), Baclayon church (which was sadly damaged in a earthquake) and the blood compact monument. All in all a day well spent and because of our early start we were finished by 11am, giving us plenty of time to decided where to go next!! 

 Baclayon church, its no longer possible to go inside due to earthquake damage

Bamboo bridge, weird to walk on, cool to photograph

A nice little view near the Blood Compact Monument

Summary

Location: Inland Bohol

Highlights: Chocolate hills and tarsiers off course!! 

Top tips: Don't stay in Taglibaran, it's easy to organise trips and our hotel was good, but apart from it doesn't have much to offer (unless i missed something)!! Its probably better to head to backpacker accommodation out if town - we heard good thing about Nuts Huts and Bohol Coco Farm.

Funny fact: On tripadvisor Pizza Hut is the second best rated restaurant in Taglibaran... We did test it out of course, it's ok, but for much better food head to the top rated restaurant Geradas for some Filipino fare (I recommend the beef Kare Kare). 

Buy: Peanut kisses (if you can from Bohol Bee Farm).

Minutes spent lost: 0 (the benefit of having a driver)

Epiphany's: 0