Adventures in Asia 2008

my travels through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Archive for June, 2008

(Nearly) Avoiding a Storm

Posted by maudholma on 26 June 2008

Our peaceful stay on Camiguin had a less than peaceful ending when 2 days of rain and wind turned out to be the work of Typhoon Frank rather than just “regular” bad weather. The night before we were due to leave for the mainland all the ferries had been cancelled and the part of the beach that wasn’t already under water was constantly beaten by frothing waves. Amazingly, the wind had eased by morning and we felt lucky that we wouldn’t be missing any of our upcoming flights. At the airport, on our way from Cagayan to Manila, I made the mistake of thinking that we had a good chance of experiencing our first on-time departure with Cebu Pacific Air. 7 hours later, freezing from the powerful A/C and braindead from watching the same five horrible commercials on loop in the departure hall (literally a big room with nothing but chairs and said crappy TV) the loudspeaker announced that all passengers should go through security and get ready to board. As if we hadn’t already been ready and waiting for half the day!

The Manila that we landed in was completely different from the sunny place we had left about a month earlier. Palmtrees looked like they would snap in half from the gale force winds and it was difficult to find shelter from the downpour. During the cab ride to our hostel we were in the midst of scenes I’ve only seen on the news before – people wading in knee-deep water surrounded by cars that should have been rowed rather than driven down the street. The disappointment of our flight to Taiwan having been moved forward by a day so as to avoid Frank, who was supposed to have been wreaking havoc in Taipei around the time we were due to land, was tempered by our discovery of Manila’s shopping malls. We were luckier than many people in that the main damage caused by Frank was to our bank accounts!

The irony of our flight to Taiwan being the only flight to/in/from the Philippines without a delay (not counting 24 hours) wasn’t lost on us as we stood in a check-in queue for two hours, followed by an immigration queue, and then a security queue, leaving us with barely enough time to run across the airport (now there would have been plenty to do, of course) to our gate. Although Frank decided to skip Taiwan for Hong Kong, 95 % humidity, sunshine, and temperatures of over 30 °C means we’re almost as wet here as we were in the Philippines…

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Beach Bums (Part II)

Posted by maudholma on 19 June 2008

After Malapascua, we went to Siargao Island, the surf Mecca of the Philippines. Despite my best efforts, all I got out of my surfing lesson was bruised knees and a bruised ego. The kid teaching me tried to blame it on my board being too short, but I took the fact that I spent more time under the water than on the water as a sign that I should stick to diving and headed over to Camiguin Island instead. The 7 volcanoes (only one of them apparently not active anymore) on the island mean that the sand here is jet black, except for a small white sand island a short boat ride away from where we live. It’s s different kind of paradise, but a paradise nonetheless!

After a few days of jumping on and off different buses and ferries from Malapascua to Siargao and then Siargao to Camiguin, we began our time here by relaxing, perfecting our tans, and completely losing track of time. We then spent a few days underwater, exploring volcanic rock formations and all manner of aquatic life. Before our final dive, a night dive, we watched a striking sunset before gearing up while looking at turtles coming up to the surface to breathe. Half an hour later, surrounded complete darkness except for our flashlights, we were diving with said turtles and even got to pet one! Definitely a sign that I should stick to diving.

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Magnificent Malapascua

Posted by maudholma on 7 June 2008

Just over seven days ago I was extatic about seeing a few Nemos but the last week on Malapascua Island has set the bar just a little higher. We lived about 10 meters from a nearly deserted beach, looking out over an endless ocean as well as the odd fishing boat or group of kids playing in the water. I’ve fallen in love with the Filipino people and the locals on Malapascua were no exception – nothing but smiles and people asking us whether we were sisters all the time since we apparently look exactly alike… And then there was the diving.

For the sake of all the people reading this who don’t dive and have no interest in hearing about how many kilos I had on my weight belt or how many bars of air I used per dive, I won’t go into the specifics. Not that I know the names of most of the fish I saw, and since my descriptions usually went something like “It was sort of like a grey boxy squareish fish with a blue trim”, it’s no wonder our diving instructor found it a little hard to help. On the last day of my course I did a night dive, and although I missed the mating of the fish we had been watching in the same spot for about 20 minutes (essentially the purpose of the dive…) I was on top of the world after seeing a seahorse, getting underwater fireworks from fluorescent plankton, and ascending to a pitch black sky littered with stars. I told myself things couldn’t get any better and tried to memorize the feeling as best as I could for a rainy day. The following morning we got up before sunrise in hope of catching a glimpse of the thresher sharks, Malapascua’s claim to fame. We not only saw two of them, one so close that I could see its pupil, but also had a manta ray glide past us before disappearing into the blue! I forgot all about the cardinal rule of diving and stopped breathing for a second or two.

We were so high on life when we left this morning that we just assumed people were being happy around us because that’s the way it’s done here. After 4 hours on a bus and a walk around a shopping mall we realized it may have had something to do with S’ capris having a giant rip in the back and that people were smiling mainly because she was showing them a different side of herself.

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