…things you never expect to do! I’ll explain later.
01.12.2008 - 19.12.2008 28 °C
I was glad to leave Saigon on the 1st December and head towards the Philippines. The drive to the airport was an experience in itself. I was picked up by the “Madam Cuc” hotel Jeep and driven at break neck speed through the streets of Saigon. It was the first time I’ve really felt unsafe in a vehicle over here, despite the chaotic traffic everywhere. I was convinced we were going to kill someone to the point where I told the driver to slow down, but he didn’t take any notice.
Thankfully I made it to the airport in one piece and without killing anyone in the process… which is where my second drama of the day began.
For a start, I would not recommend Philippine Airlines… I have no problem paying for excess baggage, but I do have a problem with getting ripped off, which Kim was on her flight back to the States . I arrived at the check in desk ready for a fight, but didn’t expect it to be over my visa. They wouldn’t let me board the plane without an onward ticket from the Philippines to somewhere else, despite me having a visa etc. In hindsight they were probably just playing by the rules, but I argued anyway… to no avail. In a huff I asked them where their sales desk was and dragged my stuff over there. Explaining my predicament to the person behind the desk, I asked them to book me a fully refundable ticket to anywhere and handed over my credit card… it obviously wasn’t the first time the woman selling me the ticket had experienced this…as she swiped my card with a smile she said “here’s your ticket confirmation, and here’s the phone number to call to cancel your ticket when you’ve checked in”.
Well, back at the desk I then started my argument about excess baggage charges. Well actually there was no argument… they spent an hour discussing what they should charge me as I stood there quietly… they weighed it, measured it, went through their sporting items list (no surprise kiteboarding wasn’t on it!)…until eventually they decided they were going to charge me for 5 extra kilos. I then had to go and line up at the same desk where I’d just bought my extra ticket, to pay the charge, but before I made it to the front of the queue the check in staff came running over and said, oh we’ve changed our minds you don’t have to pay! I was about to ask them why they charged Kim then, but thought that might be pushing my luck.
After an hour and half I was finally checked in and went and boarded my flight to Manila. It’s only a couple of hours and before I knew it we were landing. I cleared immigration and customs in no time and jumped into a cab to the airport hotel where Dad was already waiting. We grabbed a very poor “chicken wing box” at the only available eating establishment within walking distance (KFC…don’t bother…1 chicken wing and a measly portion of fries), and then headed to bed as we had an early flight to Boracay the next morning.
We boarded our Zest Air flight a little late…not the newest of airlines I’ll admit… a prop plane that was somewhat falling apart, but never the less it got us safely, if somewhat hot and uncomfortably, to Caticlan, the entry port to Boracay.
We dragged our bags on a 10 minute walk to the boat port and bought 2 boat tickets to Boracay….and then 2 terminal tickets….and then 2 environmental tickets. The most ridiculous thing ever! You have to buy all three tickets…and you have to buy them at 3 adjacent windows. So you go to the first window where the woman is sitting, to buy your boat ticket (obviously asking if you can buy all 3 at the same time, but no that’s not possible). So you then move to the second window to buy your terminal ticket….and the same woman gets up and walks over and sells you that. You then move to the third window to buy your environmental ticket…and the same woman moves to the third window!!!!!
We walked straight through the terminal (getting no use out of our terminal ticket whatsoever) and up onto the little wooden boats that ferry you across to the island…all of a 10 minute journey.
When Dad and I were in Boracay 10 years ago I remember a fairly idyllic little island, with a handful of hotels and restaurants, fairly empty beaches and no cars or motorized vehicles. Well what a difference 10 years can make. We pulled up at the newly constructed port (which is already falling down) and loaded up onto a motorcycle/sidecar contraption for the 15 minute drive to Bulabog Beach on the east of the island.
Without going into too much detail, the island has become a dump. It has been totally overdeveloped in a haphazard sort of way. Everything is either still being constructed or falling down already. There is trash everywhere. The roads are teaming with mopeds and taxi type motorcycle/sidecar contraptions. It’s really quite sad. The kite beach on the east of the island, once a deserted spot with a couple of windsurfing shops, is now a line of kitesurfing schools and hotels standing shoulder to shoulder the full stretch of the beach. The beaches seem to have been eroded away to almost nothing and on the east side at least, are extremely dirty and polluted.
Anyway, there is wind, and if you can find your spot on the water the windsurfing and kitesurfing is good. We checked into the Isla Kiteboarding School and Guesthouse. A 2 room establishment right on the beach. It was fine for what we wanted, despite having extremely uncomfortable beds, being extremely noisy and my room, having a thatched roof on it that proceeded to rain twigs on me as the winds got up.
Anyway, the 5 days Dad was there, we mostly had some good wind that allowed us both to windsurf and me to get some kiting in. We found some good bars and restaurants on the island (and also some bad ones).
Dad headed home on the 8th and as Kim was arriving back that morning we both took the boat to Caticlan to meet up with her. She arrived early and Dad was able to get on an early flight to Manila. Kim and I made our way back to Boracay and checked into the Blue Bayou Bungalows…a nice little place of 4 or 5 bungalows just around the corner from the beach. We have a living room and separate loft bedroom and a little kitchenette (read, camp stove, fridge and sink) so have been able to do some basic cooking.
The roosters continue to wake me up at 6am every morning, which is fine, because then I’m wide awake and able to listen to the building work start up at 6:30. There’s no getting away from it in this part of the world.
There are 2 little dogs, Lucky and Oscar who fight/play outside our door all day and every time I want to go out I have to hunt down my flip flops which one of them has inevitably stolen and hidden somewhere.
There is not much to do on the island. The kiting has been good, but Kim is not keen due to the crowds of people on the water…which I can understand. It can get crazy out there, although people do seem to congregate in one corner and I can usually find a whole stretch to kite on my own.
So that being said, we will be here another week and then we’re going to head out on the 23rd to a place called Palawan, a island in the south west of the Philippines. We are probably going to pack up the kite gear and spend some time doing some sightseeing.
And so to the fying pan … I stupidly managed to drop a pan of boiling water on my right foot (the same foot that has had a toe nail ripped off, an infected cut, and 2 sea urchin stings!). It @#$% hurt and the only way I could stop it hurting was running it under the cold water tap…but I got bored of standing up, so I filled up the frying pan with water and stuck it in there. Seemed to work. I have a few blisters, but other than that, no permanent damage it seems. I still don’t know how I managed it…no comments please.