El Nido, Palawan

May 30, 2015

From Sabang I travelled to El Nido on local buses. I first got a bus early in the morning to Salvacion crossroads where I would have to change to the service to El Nido. I knew there were two different kinds of buses (AC/no AC) and the transport vans passing through and I decided to just take the next service that showed up. I only had to wait 20 minutes or so until one of the buses arrived an I got on. Of course it was one of the no AC buses, but at least it was cheap, and all the windows were open so the ride wasn’t too hot. It was very packed and I got the last available seat. They were showing movies on a screen in the front. When I got on they were in the middle of one of the Madagaskar films, then American Sniper came on, it was as bad as I expected it to be. After that two movies I’d already seen and didn’t think were great (Lucy and The Guardians of the Galaxy). After eight hours squeezed on a hard seat I was very happy to get off in El Nido. The bus terminal is outside town so I took a tricycle to a hostel called Hakuna Matata which I had looked up before. I hadn’t booked anything in advance but luckily they had a bed available for two nights which I took.

The next day I walked around town and followed a path along the water. It didn’t really lead anywhere, just to some more houses and hotels, so after a while I turned around and walked back.

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The next morning I found out my hostel had had a cancellation which meant I could stay for one more night, three in total, which was great. I wanted to stay in El Nido at least four nights and wanted to avoid moving around to different places too much.

I went for breakfast around the corner in a hotel where they were doing a breakfast buffet. It was pretty good, especially for it’s price (200 pesos, £3). They had fresh bread, rice, a few different meat and veg dishes and coffee and juice. I ate a bit too much bread and left very full.

I decided to go to another beach outside town as the beach in El Nido isn’t that great. There’s not really any space on it, the buildings go right up to the beach and there are lots of restaurants with tables on the beach and the water is full of boats.

I went to Corong Corong beach which is a short tricycle ride from the city. It was beautiful there, I found a quite spot and spent the whole day just reading and walking along the water.

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At one point I came across a huge, purple jellyfish, it must have been at least 30cm wide!

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I stayed and watched the sunset, which was really pretty, before I walked up to the road and took another tricycle back to my hostel.

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The next day I went on an island hopping tour, it’s a common thing to do when you visit El Nido. I went for tour A, I had heard beforehand that tour A and C were the best ones, but I decided to just do one of them during my stay. I was picked up at my hostel in the morning and led down to the beach where others who were doing tours were waiting. After a while they gathered all tour A people onto one boat, there were maybe 10 of us in total.

Our first stop was “secret lagoon”. The boat stopped next to an island and we had to swim to an opening in the cliffs to get into the lagoon. It was very pretty but not so secret; there were many other boats and people there.

After that we stopped at a small beach on another island.

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The tour people cooked us a delicious bbq lunch on the beach. We had fish, pork, chicken, squid, veg, fruit and rice! It’s probably the best food I had in the Philippines.

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Then we visited a couple more lagoons named the small lagoon and the big lagoon.

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It’s so beautiful around El Nido, and Palawan in general, I really enjoyed just seeing the landscapes on the tour.

Our final stop was another beach. There was a small bar there (I had a coconut shake) and we stayed for about an hour before heading back to El Nido.

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I had dinner with a couple of guys from the tour and later we met up for a drink on the beach.

The next day I had to leave my hostel and move to another one as they were fully booked. They booked me in on their sister hostel on the other side of town, which isn’t actually that far as El Nido is very small. One of the staff went with me there in a tricycle to show the way and check me in, it was a very easy move.

This day I wanted to visit Nacpan beach, I had read about it and it seemed amazing. It’s pretty far from El Nido and getting a tricycle there and back was very expensive. Also, I had read the road could be pretty bad and that a tricycle was very uncomfortable on the bumpy road. So I decided to hire a scooter for the day and drive there myself. It was a great experience, it reminded me of how much I like driving. I walked down to the town from the hostel and found a place that had bikes for rent. It wasn’t super cheap (I payed 600 pesos for the day + petrol), but still a lot cheaper than a tricycle to the beach and back.

It took me maybe 50 minutes to reach the beach from El Nido. Most of the road wasn’t that bad, it was just a normal paved road with not much traffic at all. The last 5km was a small, rocky dirt road, and closer to the beach it got very sandy. It was fine though, I managed to navigate it without falling.

When I reached the beach I parked around the other bikes there. There was a small place that sold drinks and there were some people around there. The beach was huge and as I walked away from the main area it soon got very empty.

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There were more jellyfish on this beach, in some places you could see lots of darks dots in the water.

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Anyway, I was told the purple ones are harmless and don’t sting, it’s the smaller white ones to watch out for, and I didn’t see any of them here.

I was planning on walking along the whole beach but it was just too long and it was so hot. I parked my stuff and it felt like I had the whole beach to myself, I couldn’t see any other people around.

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I spent the afternoon swimming and reading (I was still very into 1984 at this point).

Later I walked to the other end of the beach where it met with another, smaller beach behind it. I climbed up a small hill to get a better view.

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I walked around this area of the beach a bit more and found a path to a higher spot. It was a very steep little dirt path, but of course I had to try and get up.

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Going down wasn’t as easy, I had to take my slippery flipflops off but I got down eventually, and I got a cool view from the top.

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When I got down the sun was beginning to set and I decided to head back before it got dark. It would have been nice to stay for the whole sunset but I didn’t want to drive on that awful dirt road in the dark.

The next morning I left El Nido to go to Port Barton, my final stop before leaving Palawan.

 

Sabang, Palawan

May 8, 2015

From Manila I travelled to Palawan, one of the bigger islands in the Philippines. I arrived at the airport in Puerto Princesa where I took a tricycle to the hostel I had booked. Tricycles are what they call this mode of transportation in the Philippines and it’s the main way to get around as a tourist in Palawan, I don’t think I saw any normal taxis while I was there.

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Of course the drivers at the airport tried to overcharge me, as they do everywhere in Asia, but in the end I got an alright price (80 pesos down from 150…) and was driven to my hostel in the outskirts of the city. I spent the evening making a rough plan for my Palawan stay, I had 11 days and there were a few places I wanted to visit. I decided to leave the next morning for Sabang to see the underground river. There were tours arranged for the river i PP, but they were expensive so I settled on taking cheap local transport the next day and spend two nights in Sabang in a cheap hotel and get the permit and ticket for the underground river myself.

To go to the underground river you need to get a permit from their office in Puerto Princesa, they only allow 900 or so visitors each day which is why it can be good to get the permit in advance. In the morning I walked the 1km from my hostel to the office intent on getting the permit for the next day, but it turned out to be closed until later that afternoon because of some holiday. I knew I could probably get the permit in Sabang and the security guard in the office building seem to think so too, so I made my way to the bus terminal on another tricycle.

The long distance transport in Palawan consists of expensive but fast and comfortable vans or cheap local buses and jeepneys. As I’ve been trying not to spend too much money I decided to skip the vans and headed to the jeepney terminal. I got there and was directed to the correct vehicle and managed to find someone who spoke English enough to tell me what time it was leaving. Turned out it wasn’t until 2pm, and it was currently 11 in the morning.. I decided to stick it out and spent three hours in the car reading while waiting for it to leave. I actually didn’t mind too much; it was a good chance for me to start reading 1984 that I had picked up in a hostel in Malaysia weeks ago.

When we finally started the jeepney was packed with people, but we still stopped a lot on the way letting more people on. The whole journey took about 3 hours, including a short stop for food in the middle of nowhere.

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When I reached Sabang I was planning on looking up the Green Verde travel agency and hotel as I had read they can help you get the underground river permit. I got off the jeepney and asked a man waiting outside where I could find Green Verde, and it turned out it was him. His name was Miguel and I my guidebook had actually specifically recommended him so I was happy to have found him. He told me I could just go down the the pier in the morning and get the permit and I didn’t need to go through Green Verde at all. He asked if I was coming to their hotel but I wanted something cheaper and was going to check out another place called Blue Bamboo. Because it was a bit of a walk and I had heavy bags Miguel was really nice and drove me there on his bike. I’d really recommend going to Green Verde for their hotel, restaurant and travel agency in Sabang, they’re super nice and helpful and have good, cheap food.

Blue bamboo first wanted me to get one of their cottages, but when I asked for something cheaper they showed me to their “dorm” which was these three rooms divided by thin walls.

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It was very basic, a mattress on the floor and a bathroom outside in a small hut crawling with ants, no proper shower just a bucket, but very cheap; I managed to get it for 250 pesos (£3.50) / night.

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Also, technically I had a balcony with sea view.

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In the evening I went for a walk back towards the “center” and the beach. Sabang is a very small village with some houses and hotels along the sea front, but not much else. I went to the Green Verde restaurant for dinner, it seemed to be one of the cheaper places to eat (everywhere else I saw had expensive tourist prices) and the food was good. I went back home to sleep early so that I could get up in time to get my permit the next day. I actually slept really well in that little room, falling asleep to the sounds of the sea.

The next day I went down to the pier, got my permit and paid the boat and environment fee for the underground river. It wasn’t too pricy and I spent a lot less on my whole Sabang trip than I would have done on a one day tour from Puerto Princesa. After getting the permit I went to Green Verde and had a delicious mango pancake for breakfast. Then I went back to the pier and joined the queue for the boat to the underground river.

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Every boat took 6 people so I was put on one together with a Filipino family.

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After a short journey we boarded on a small, beautiful beach where there were already a lot of other boats of people visiting the river.

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We walked a short distance through the forest and reached the end of the river, a small lake that flows out into the sea.

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Here we got on another boat and went into the cave following the river. The guide told us the river is 7km long but we’re only allowed to go 3km (or 4?) in and then turn around. It was very dark in the caves, but the boatman/guide had a torch and talked a lot about the different formations. Once we reached a big opening he told us this part was called the church and pointed out different formations that were supposed to resemble various Christian symbols… I guess you can see what you want to in there.

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Everyone had to wear helmets in addition to the life vests. There were a lot of bats in the cave resting in the ceilings and we were told to close our mouths while looking up at the caves in case of bat droppings…

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When we returned from the underground river I went for a walk along the beach and stopped for a swim when I felt like it.

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I also had a massage the beach, mostly cause I had nothing else to do.

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Then I just took it easy, read and had dinner at Green Verde. It was a really nice day and I really enjoyed just being on my own again.

 

Manila

April 26, 2015

I made a short stop in Manila before visiting other places in The Philippines. I stayed in a nice hostel set in a gated neighbourhood close to the airport. It was a big Filipino house and had a swimming pool in the garden. My first afternoon I just spent in the hostel.

The next day I went out to explore Manila with a Canadian guy, James, from my dorm. We went to the old Spanish town and saw the cathedral.

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We also went to the old fortress, which is mostly in ruins, but set in a nice park in the same area. There was also a small museum there about their national hero José Rizal.

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After the fortess we walked through the old town for a bit and stopped for a drink. It was pretty nice around there, small streets and interesting architecture, pretty different from the rest of Manila.

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Then we walked down to Rizal Park and went to the two national museums there; one is about Filipino history and the other one art. They were pretty interesting, I was mostly interested in the history one but sadly they were renovating and half the museum was closed.

In the evening we headed to another area in Manila where we went to a night market. I had a really good Mongolian rice dish (basically a stir fry).

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In the evening we went out to a club and the next day I flew to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, another island in The Philippines.

Back in Ubud

April 19, 2015

After Gili T I went back to Ubud in Bali, mostly because I had to book a destination in Bali and I couldn’t decided where I wanted to go. I had planned to stay in Ubud for a couple of days and then continue on maybe to Lovina or somewhere else in Bali. But once I got there I had a cold and just felt generally exhausted so I decided to just stay in Ubud for a while and relax. I had my own bungalow for only 150 000 rupiah (£7.50) / night including breakfast and it was a good place to just be on my own for a bit. The house was set in a Balinese garden and run by a lovely family.

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They also had a small restaurant at the front with good, cheap food where I had many meals.

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I had a few quite days just walking around Ubud, looking in the shops and the market.

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I also spent a lot of time on my laptop in my favourite cafe, Coffe&, from the last time I was here.

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One night I decided to go buy a pirated dvd (there’re lots of those around) and watch it on my laptop. I got Eat Pray Love, which I hadn’t seen yet, because I knew it was filmed partly in Ubud. I really liked it.

After a few days it was time for Balinese new year. Their new years day is called nyepi, “Day of Silence”. This basically means everyone has to stay inside and stay quite. The power for the whole island is turned off, however most people have their own backup generators, you can’t use lights, no one should work and the only people allowed on the streets are medical staff and police patrolling to make sure no one comes out and disturbs the quite. For tourists this means you have to stay in your hotel/hostel area, though the hotel staff still tend to work and keep their restaurants open.

Before nyepi, on new years eve, I decided to move back to the hostel I stayed at last time I was in Ubud. I had started feeling better and felt ready to be around people again. On new years eve in Bali, they create demon statues, ogoh-ogoh, and parade them through town. Later in the evening they take them back to their villages and burn them. I went down to see the parade with a couple of people I met in the hostel.

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After the parade there were some performances going on, but it was so packed with people it was hard to see anything.

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I didn’t stay too long, there were just too many people and so hot.

The next day was nyepi which meant no one could leave the hostel grounds. We had known the hostel bar/restaurant would stay open, but they had limited their menu and increased all their prices, a bit mean. I mostly spent the day reading and playing a game on my iPad.

The next day I went out for lunch with an American girl to a restaurant with a really nice view over this garden and temple.

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Unfortunately the food wasn’t that great and we felt like we were paying for the view since it was quite expensive.

After lunch we walked around town for a bit looking at spas and their prices and she wanted to get a massage at some point. I found this awesome cat shop.

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The next day the Kiwi girls from Gili T had made it to Ubud. I knew they were coming to stay in the same hostel as me and it was nice to see them again. We spent the day walking around town, having lunch and a couple of drinks. In the evening the New York girl from Gilis came there too and we went out for sushi for dinner.

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After dinner we went to a fire dance show. We were a bit disappointed, I think we expected dancing with fire, but it was basically just a male choir sitting around a big candle with the occasional dressed up dancers coming in to tell some story. We couldn’t really follow the story, but I recognised it as one of the hindu stories me and Olivia were told when we visited the Prambanan temple in Java.

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We spent the rest of the night having some drinks in the hostel. The next morning I left early for my flight to Manila.

 

Gili Trawangan

April 10, 2015

I reached Gili Trawangan after 1.5 hours boat journey from Padang Bai in Bali. Gili Trawangan is the bigger of the three Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok. It’s still a very small island, you can walk around it in an hour or two, it’s got no motor traffic, only horse carriages and bikes. When I got there it had been raining (it’s rainy season in Indonesia) and I waded through muddy puddles looking for my hostel. I lost my flipflops on the way, they’d been falling apart for weeks and finally gave up in the puddles. I stayed in La Boheme, a really cool hostel. They’ve got good hang out areas, a small tv room and 24/7 make-your-own pancakes. I did have a lot of pancakes and at the end of my stay I was very sick of them.

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Once I had checked in I met some people who were going out for lunch so I joined them to Le Petit Gili restaurant where I had a sandwich. Later that night we went back for their happy hour before going to the food market for dinner. The market was great, I had tuna and beef bbq sticks with rice and veggies.

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After food we went back to the hostel to have some drinks and later on we went out to a bar. Every night is a party night in Gili T and every night a different bar stays open late so everyone will gather in the same place. It was a good night and it was nice to be out since I didn’t have a night out since I left Malaysia.

The next day I went to a cafe to use their internet connection for a bit as it was very bad in the hostel. I spent most of the day just relaxing, it was raining a bit as well so it wasn’t a good day to go do things outside. In the evening we watched a bit of The Interview, it actually wasn’t as bad as I expected, it had some funny moments but mostly it was just stupid.

The next day me and five girls I had met in the hostel walked around the island. We started with a drink and lunch at a restaurant next to the sea. After walking for a bit we stopped for a swim and then continued onto the beach on the other side of the island where we went on the “sunset swing” (though we didn’t stick around for the actual sunset).

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Later we went for dinner and happy hour and then went back to the hostel where we had some drinks before we went to bed.

The next day was sunny so we decided to go to the beach. We went to a restaurant that had beds on the beach and stayed there for a few of hours.

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In the afternoon I went on my first every yoga class. Next to our hostel was The Yoga Place, a really cool place that also served food. The class was cheap and we got a discount for staying in the hostel. I quite enjoyed it and I might try yoga gain. I went for dinner with one New York and two Kiwi girls I’d been hanging out with. We went to Regina Pizzeria which we had heard amazing things about. It lived up to our expectations, the pizza was delicious.

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In the evening we stayed in and watched Birdman and Maleficent.

The day after we had planned to make a day trip to Gili Air where but when we woke up it was raining so we decided not to go after all. Though later the sun came out anyway so we went down to the beach restaurants and tried a few of them for food and drinks. We ordered dinner to the hostel, pasta, and later that night I went out with NY and NZ girls. We ended up and a small bar on the street next to the packed club that was staying open this night.

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The next day was my last one in Gili T and I was very tired and didn’t do too much. I went to a restaurant, Scallywags, that had a good internet connection and spent a while there. I also started reading more while I was in Gili T (Tales of Dunk and Egg series) which was great and since then I’ve kept the reading up.

The next morning I was leaving to go back to Bali where I had a flight leaving for Manila in one week. I couldn’t decided where in the island I wanted to go so I just went back to Ubud. I wish I stayed a little bit longer in the Gilis cause the day I was leaving was the sunniest I had there so far.

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In total I spend one week in Gili Trawangan.

 

Ubud, Bali

April 5, 2015

From Yogyakarta I travelled on a bus for about 20 hours to Bali. I had decided to start my Bali trip in Ubud and from the bus terminal I had to take bemo, their version of buses (sort of like a van with all the seats ripped out and replaced by benches along the walls instead), to reach the city. I had booked myself into a hostel called In Da Lodge and first went there to check in. Then I went to a clinic to pick up something for insect bites because on the bus journey I, and the guy next to me, were badly bitten by some bugs in the seats. The woman in the clinic was very helpful and gave me two different sets of pills to take and a cream to use on the bites. After that I walked down to the city to a cafe called Juice Ja Cafe that I had read about. I had a healthy fruit and veg shake and a meal, I was very hungry after the long journey; we had only stopped for dinner.

The next day I did a walk called Campuhan ridge walk. Campuhan is a village a few kilometres from Ubud and the walk there was very nice.

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Once i reached the village I stopped for a juice at a really nice cafe.

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It was surrounded by rice fields and I passed many more on the way back to Ubud.

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The next day I walked to another village: Penestanan. It started with these stairs up to a nice small road.

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I stopped for a meal at Mades Warung that was recommended in my guide book. The food was great and the setting was nice too.

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I reached Penestanan and then walked back to Ubud.

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This walk was shorter than the one to Campuhan and I spent the afternoon on my laptop in a cafe called “Coffee &” where they had great coffee and wifi. The rest of my time in Ubud I just walked around the town, looked at the market and shops and visited nice cafes. I really liked Ubud, it felt a lot nicer and very different to Java. It’s very touristy in comparison and of course there are always people trying to sell you stuff, and every 10 meters on the street there are men trying to get you to buy their taxi services.

After three days in Ubud I decided to leave to Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok, the island east of Bali. While I loved Ubud I had been inland for too long and wanted to see the sea and relax on a beach. I found a good price and one of the tour agents in Ubud with a transfer to Padang Bai and from there a speedboat to Gili T.

 

Batik in Yogya

April 4, 2015

After the palace tour me and Olivia had one day left in Yogya before we would part ways and we had decided to spend it doing a course in batik painting. A couple of days earlier one of the guys working at Easy Going, the restaurant we frequented, had asked us to check his English in a document he was writing. We were happy to help and while reading it we realised it was information on a batik course he was holding. It sounded really interesting so we talked to him about it and it turned out him and his friend were just about to start the business and this was his final project in uni. We agreed to be their first customers and to meet outside Easy Going in two days where we would be able to get a becak and follow him on his bike out to their studio.

The studio was in a nice neighbourhood on the outskirts of Yogyakarta and we got to ride through beautiful country scenery on the way there. When we got there we were greeted by the friend and his Japanese wife. They lived just next to the studio and so did his parents whom we also met. We started with a coffee and a chat about the day and his mother brought us delicious Indonesian fried snacks.

The aim of the day was for us to create our own batik t-shirts. We started with sketching up a motive. We looked through lots of books with batik and other designs from Asia for inspiration.

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After drawing our motive on paper it was time to transfer it to a t-shirt. We got the guys to help us with this as we weren’t used to drawing on fabric and didn’t want to mess the t-shirts up.

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It took us pretty long to come up with motives and draw them, so when we were finished we went for lunch. The guys drove us on their scooters to a warung nearby where we had a tasty soto ayam, chicken soup.

When we got back we started with the actual batik technique. The first part is drawing lines with wax onto the fabric. The wax is melted in a pan and then drawn onto the fabric with this “funnel pen”. We filled in the drawings on our t-shirts with wax best we could, it was pretty hard to get the right amount of wax and do straight lines.

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Then we moved onto colouring. We were told there were different colouring methods and what we were gonna do was paint our t-shirts with brushes. You fill in the areas between the wax and the wax keeps the colours from spreading. Everything was taking us pretty long so we had some help with the colouring to speed up the process.

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When we were done the t-shirts were dipped in a liquid to set the colours and then left to dry for a bit. After that they were washed again to remove the wax and then again hung to dry. We were both pretty happy with the final results considering how hard they had been for us to create.

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When the t-shirts were dry it was pretty late and we were ready to go back. We got a lift back to Easy Going on their scooters. It was a great day and I would really recommend doing a class with these guys, hopefully they’ll have their company setup soon with more info online.

Later in the evening we went out for a couple of drinks at a bar near our hotel where a band was playing. It was a nice last night in Yogya and with Olivia. The next day I left for Bali and Olivia started her trip back to the UK.