Archive for September, 2014

As mentioned in a previous post, our trip to Polillo Island took an unexpected detour when we were not allowed by the Coast Guard to cross the seas on a Good Friday. We tried a lot of options to bypass the Coast Guard, even hopped from one port to the other. Alas, everything was not working for us. As if some sort of force was trying to direct us somewhere else.

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While arguing with the Coast Guard on duty, we met a bunch of surfers who were also trying to get to Polillo that day. When every other option failed, they offered to take us back to a surf camp where they were staying at.

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We took a tricycle to The Pacific Recreation Kamp a.k.a. “The PaRK”. Apparently, it is a fairly popular place for surfers and non-surfers alike. The PaRK’s campground is covered in soft grass and shaded by trees. It is ideal for pitching tents – which is exactly what we did. We rented a tent and put it up near the fence facing a river. We took a very satisfying nap after a couple bottles of beer and we woke up energized and ready to explore the rest of the camp.

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Just beyond the fence is a river, actually an estuary. There were several boats docked and a blue boat was so perfectly set with the lush green mountains serving as its backdrop.

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To get to the main beach area where most of the people are, we needed to cross the river. It was easy to find the shallowest part in the daytime but believe me, things were totally different when we made our way back to camp when the sun set. High tide, dim moon light and a small dry bag is not a good combination. LOL.

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The beach does not boast of fine, white sand. Instead, the water is rather murky, tinted by the brownish sand. The part where the waves hit the shore is littered with smooth pebbles.

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Walking further ahead, the sand got finer and there were less scattered stones. For some reason, the waves were comparably smaller than other parts. It was crowded with families lounging around. These two boys seemed to be having the time of their lives.

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As per our surfer friends, the waves weren’t really huge that day. That didn’t seem to discourage anyone as there was still a good number of surfers playing in the water even when the sun was already going down. 

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Up further ahead is a more secluded area. It was much less crowded than all the other parts mainly because it takes quite a long walk to get here.

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After swimming and surfing, we decided to head back to camp as it was about to get dark. There are a lot of surfboards for rent at P200/hour or P500/half day. When we reached camp, we washed up and cooked a huge fish the surfers so graciously offered to us. We shared a simple yet sumptuous dinner with our new-found friends and retired to our respective tents early because we planned to catch the first trip to Polillo Island the next day.

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I was not able to take pictures of the main camp area as it was pretty crowded while we were there due to the Holy Week peak. No worries though because this is for sure not my last time at The PaRK.

 

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Chalong Temple or Wat Chalong is the largest and most visited Buddhist temple in Phuket.

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No one knows exactly when the Wat Chalong was first established, but the most recent building in its ground is a 60 meters tall ‘Chedi’ that houses a fragment of bone from the Lord Buddha. The tower has three levels with the first two filled with statues of the Buddha.

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At the very top of the tower is a glass enclosure that houses the bone splinter. It also has a large viewing deck which provides a view of the whole temple grounds.

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In addition to the Chedi, there are several other buildings including the main temple with statues of the revered monks where people can pray, light incense and candles, and even apply gold leaf to the statues.

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I just had to include this photo as it was my first time to see monks in person.

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As mentioned, Wat Chalong is the most revered temple in Phuket and a certain level of respect is expected. Shoes are never allowed in a temple and women are required to cover their shoulders and legs. I was wearing shorts and I was lucky enough to chance upon a very pretty skirt in a pile of cover-ups provided near the entrance.

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Last April, I went on a multi-city Indochina trip with my good friend, Timmy. Our trip started off at Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (also known as Saigon). We got to the airport past 1am and we had to pass the time outside Tan Son Nhat Airport because for some reason, it closes down at around 3am. We dozed on and off while waiting for the 1st bus trip that would take us to the main city area. We could have easily taken a cab but we wanted to play the backpacker card and chose to commute via local transport as much as we can.

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The bus passed by before 6am and we immediately got on board. We asked the bus driver to drop us off at a station nearest to Ben Thanh Market. From there, we only had to walk a short distance to reach the market area.

In the middle of a round about in front of the market, we saw a statue of Tran Nguyen Han, apparently a famous general who served under King Le Loi in the 15th century.

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Ben Thanh Market is arguably the most famous market in Vietnam. The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and today is considered as one of the symbols of Ho Chi Minh City.

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The main gate of the market has a yellow clock tower. Inside is a tightly organized grid of aisles, arranged according to product. Most of the shops were still closed when we got there so there was not much foot traffic yet. Trust me, it gets pretty crowded when the market is in full swing. We headed to the inner section of the market, where a good number of food stalls were already open.

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An array of freshly cooked skewered meats were in display but I wanted my first meal in Vietnam to be as stereotypical as possible. I just had to have pho and spring rolls. HAD TO.

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There’s nothing like rice noodles, thin beef slices and herbs soaking in hot broth to start off  a day of adventure. The usual side of fresh bean sprouts were crispy and well… fresh haha! I did not bother with the leaves though mainly because I couldn’t identify what they were. I squeezed in a small amount of sriracha and that black sauce for additional flavor, mixed it all together and slurped away.

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These fresh spring rolls were also good mainly because of the peanut sauce. For some reason, the rolls tasted a little too ~healthy~ for me. I finished mine though because I hate to waste food but Timmy didn’t even bother with hers. I had to pry hers open, got rid of most of the leaves and smothered it with the sauce. It was much more palatable after that.

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I suggest everyone to try out the food stalls inside the Ben Thanh Market for a taste of cheap and authentic Vietnamese food.

 

 

It has been a tradition for most Filipinos to escape somewhere during the annual observance of Holy Week. Some go on religious excursions and take part of traditions observed by their church. Admittedly, I am not much of a religious lot so instead of going to church, I mostly go out-of-town and relax on the beach. This year, I tagged along with some friends on a trip to Polillo Island.

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The first half of our group went ahead on Holy Thursday. I was flying home from my Indochina trip on the dawn of Good Friday so Chris had to wait for me and we would just travel a day behind. Upon landing, I went home, swapped backpacks and made my way to Quezon.

Now, Good Friday in the Philippines is called “patay na araw” which literally translates to A DEAD DAY. Everything stops – shops close, malls close, and worse, no transportation. We overlooked this fact and that led to a lot of misadventures. Long story short: we were not allowed by the Coast Guard to travel to Polillo that day.

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Through all the commotion, we met a bunch of surfers who were kind enough to take us back to their surf camp. It ended up as a happy accident after all, will tell you the story in a separate post. We spent the night in tents and made our way back to the port at the crack of dawn. We finally made it on the first boat out to the island and literally met the rising sun.

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The boat had an upper seating area and as if by some magic, everyone in our group gravitated towards the front deck. We put on some reggae music, dangled our feet down and watched the rising sun. It was so calm, a stark difference from the previous day’s chaos.

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After over an hour, we finally reached Polillo. We reunited with our other friends and sadly had to part ways with our new-found surfer friends. They were in search for waves and weren’t really interested with island hopping. Our group continued on with more travel and rented tricyles that would take us to the town of Burdeos where we would board another boat to take us to the islands. When we got to the pier, I got super excited to get back to the water upon seeing another huge boat.

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Imagine my disappointment when the boatmen insisted that we take the small ones instead.

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See what I mean?!? We got the dinky, little boats instead of the fancy looking bigger one. Oh well…

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We spent quite a while in the ocean, circumnavigating island after island after island. I was honestly getting bored after some time and I was just itching to be on land. Finally, we moored on the shores of Anilon Island.

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According to our boatman, Anilon Island is the best beach in the area and a favorite place of many locals for picnic and beach excursions.

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It is a beautiful island surrounded by fine sugary sand. Its waters were calm and had the most beautiful shades of blue. The other side of the beach was much more rocky and the ocean floor dropped down more abruptly.

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The part where our boats were docked was much more friendly for an easy swim. I spent a sizable amount of time here after lunch, wading in its clear water. I was enjoying myself too much that the sun bearing down didn’t bother me at all.

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When the sun was about to set, we piled ourselves back to the boats and made our way to another island. The setting sun gave the beach a different kind of charm.

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At this point, I actually didn’t care anymore where we go next so I missed the name of our next stop. This is where we watched the sun set.

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When it got dark, we gathered up some dry branches and built our small bonfire. We passed the time swapping stories with our boatman and his wife,  sipping on hot coffee.

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When the last embers of our bonfire died down, we bid goodbye to the island and headed back to mainland. Sailing in the middle of the ocean at pitch dark with only the moon guiding us was part terrifying and mostly enchanting. The water glistens like silver as boat cuts into it. What a great way to end our unforgettable Polillo experience.