A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

sunny 18 °C

After a pretty rough night in Manila International Airport we finally checked our bags and boarded a Cathay 777 bound for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a pretty welcome relief after the poverty in the Philippines. Its immediately noticeable that this place is made on money. The cleaners must drive a Lexus.
Probably typical of the Chinese but this place is well organised. As soon as we were off the plane we got ourselves some transport cards ( Octopus) and that basically gets you around the city on any mode of transport, nothing new I know but when you have come from a place that treats public transport like a contact sport it’s nice to be treated well again. Suffice to say that although this city has a population of many millions and is on a massive scale, getting around is simple. Public transport couldn’t be easier.
We only have three and a half days here so we tried to make the best of it. We’re staying in a small one bedroom place just off Nathan Rd, Kowloon. We are right in the thick of it. I know it was said if you were sick of London, you were sick of life I reckon the same could be said of Hong Kong. This place never stops, the people dress really edgy and sharp, ( you could tell we weren’t locals, thongs got a few looks). The shopping is never ending, whole streets dedicated to sneakers, pets, men’s wear, women’s wear, flowers and anything else you could think of. The markets run everyday and night of the week until midnight and its hard to imagine a place absolutely chock ‘o’block with people on a Monday night shopping and eating and socialising. It can be a sensory overload. We did the usual tourist things liked rode the Peak train for the view, watched light shows off the Harbour, ate and drank massive beers off the street stalls and best of all shopped in the markets. I was told you’re not doing well unless they’re nearly crying so that was the challenge. Some stall owners couldn’t be bothered but I did manage to get a tie, hanky and cufflinks genuinely hand made or at least put in the box and in probably reproduction silk down from $180HK to $50 HK. Not happy Jan. I don’t know how to say F$#k off in Chinese but the tone is just the same as ours. Hillarious. This has to be the place if you want to buy a suit or a Rolex, genuine or not. If you walk 100m you’ll be asked 5 times if you want either. Looking at me they must have thought I was in desperate need.
The surprising thing about Hong Kong is that amongst the madness there are small pockets of serenity. We stopped at a small garden park where men bring their birds( feathered variety) and hang them off bars and just let them sing. The men walk up and down holding the birds like prizes in their cages, socialise and eventually cover them up and take them home. Something you don’t expect in a mad place like this. There’s heaps more to be said about Hong Kong and definitely another place to re-visit but I’ll just post some photos. We’re off to Hanoi, Vietnam today. Andiamo Coles.

Well here we are in Hong Kong and we all agree that we love it and want to stay for longer, but we will be back. The shopping is great and I keep seeing all this stuff that I would love to send back to Kindy. There is so much to see and do. We went to the night market on Temple Street and the first section we happened to go through was selling lingerie and sex aids, Matt in his typically 14 year old humour could not stop laughing, we had to drag him away. It was funny to see a guy with a dildo spinning in his hands haggling with the vendor about the price!!!
Anyway there were bigger and better things to come. We are actually here through the Chinese New Year celebrations. This year is the Year of The Rabbit so the decorations feature a lot of rabbits. We went to the Light Spectacular on the first night. They have a lot of buildings set up across the harbour from where we were and for 15minutes a display using lights, music and laser was performed. The time and money put into this must be great.
We also saw a lantern display. These lanterns are made on wire frames covered with silk and then have a light inside. Some of them were floating and some hung up, it was lovely.
I better go, Mike is waiting to post this. Can’t wait to come back to Hong Kong but off to Vietnam we go.

Posted by mike1967 17:11 Archived in China Comments (0)

Manila to Legazpi to Donsol

Swimming with whale sharks

overcast 27 °C

Manila the second time around was a different city. Instead of going to "old Manila" we opted to stay in the upmarket part of town called Makati. its basically the CBD. You would swear it was a different city. There were very few poor on the streets and the city looked modern and cosmopolitan with all the usual outlets. The people were different aswell, much more "effluent kimmy" . I even went for a run through one of the city parks. The shopping malls in this country are massive. We went to one in Makati and although it would be easily twice as the size of any i've been in Patti managed to get the floor plan down loaded in her brain in about 10 minutes. She is like a terminator. Boys went to see a 3D movie for $5 and we just chilled with a coffee.

We decided to take a flight to Legazpi and then onto a small fishing village called Donsol. Its in Donsol that you can swim with the "BUTANDING" or whale sharks. These animals can grow up to 18 meters long but are absolutely harmless. The journey here was once again long but not difficult. There is never a shortage of anyone willing to give you a lift in this country. You just have to negotiate for it. We stayed at a resort right on the water that was pretty ordinary except for the restaurant. Suffice to say it had the best chef in the Philippines, that we experienced anyway.
To say that the experience of swimming with the whale sharks was exhilarating would be an understatement. We were put on a banka boat and set off in a kind of flotilla scouring the bay where they graze for plankton. When one is spotted, the crewmen bring the boat up close and you are launched into the water off the still moving boat and the idea is to right yourself and snorkel gear and swim alongside for a while or until you bugger out or it decides its had enough of you and dives deep. We all managed to see and swim alongside them although the "meet and greet" is over in seconds. The reality of the experience is that it has become very popular with backpackers and it can be a scramble to get close to one. I dove down and was swimming on top of a giant for a few mad seconds and when i surfaced i felt like i was in a washing machine with swimmers all around me trying to get a look. You would have to be a reasonable swimmer to get a proper experience because they move through the water fairly quickly. Still all in all it was worth the journey. We felt very privileged.

We are back in Legazpi for one night and then to Manila and Hong Kong. The Philippines has been a great place to get some of that greeness off us and we are starting to hit our straps now.

Posted by mike1967 02:03 Archived in Philippines Tagged donsol Comments (0)

Sabang Underground River

One of the best things about an unplanned schedule is that surprises come when you least expect them. We left El Nido for Puerto Princessa with not a lot of expectations and it was more a means to an end. We were flying out of Puerto to Manila but since we were here we reckoned we would visit the underground river in Sabang. The river has been Unesco World Heritage listed and is very popular with tourists. We only managed to gain a spot after showing our passports and airline tickets stating we were leaving the next day and having the hotel staff book for us. The drive there is pretty typical of any we've had in the Philippines, a mix of dirt roads, a thousand bends and break neck speed.
Sabang is a tiny coastal town that seems to be on the cusp of something big. The river brings people from everywhere but it seems like they don't know what to do with them after. It could offer so much more if money was pumped into the area. Nice spot all the same. The biggest surprise is the river. From the most unobtrusive entrance you are guided into the most amazing spectacle of limestone and sandstone carving created over millions of years. Some of the ceiling heights are over 65m and the natural beauty is breathtaking. We were under the impression that the thing to see was the river but that's just a means of travel through this place. The unexpected thing was the spectacle of colour and form. You end up being guided through for about 1.5 klm although the river continues on for more than 8klm. The guides are great seem to be really proud of their position and point out all the formations. It's eerie how lifelike some of the formations are. I posted a couple of photos but like any photo, just doesn't come close. Definately worth the trek. The Philippino's are lobbying for the river to become a new natural wonder of the world and with good reason.

Posted by mike1967 05:45 Comments (1)

El Nido to Puerto Princessa

semi-overcast 27 °C

The drive is advertised as an easy scenic five and a half hours in a minivan. The reality is its a hilarious ride of your life if your from a country that has a road safety program. Palawan seems to be devoid of any regular road rules like the basics of keeping on your side. Blind corners on rising hills don't seem to matter to the drivers, the only funny thing was Brenton had a front row seat next to the driver and we were all in the back. Didn't seem to phase him too much, then again he goes driving with P platers at home. Probably a similar experience. The van was packed and at various stages we nearly hit pigs, dogs, children and trikes. Seems like everyone in this country moves to a beat that just sees them not being killed by half a second. We were going to go with a company called Sweety's but it looked a bit rough, took 10 hours and wasn't airconditioned. lucky for us, passed one on the way and there were people hanging off the sides, on the roof and I think the livestock got the seats. We finally arrived, Matt had a vomiting bug and was glad to be out of the bus. Crammed four of us, with all our packs onto a trike( new record) and headed for the first hotel with hot water. We haven't had a hot shower since Manila. The boys are rapt, this place has there own toilet and shower, telly and a pool. I told them it wasn't going to be Disneyland, think they're starting to get it. Exhausting and a little difficult at times but always fun. Andiamo Coles.

Posted by mike1967 00:15 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

El Nido island hopping and bar hopping

El Nido is the kind of place you could lose yourself for a year no problems. I'd imagine if you were a writer or on the run from the law you could set yourself up very nicely with the perfect routine. start with a coffee and brekky at the Art cafe', move onto a lazy swim on the beach and read a book and the biggest thing you would have to worry about would be the lunch menu and dinner. Everything else is taken care of. You get your washing done for about a dollar a kilo, beers are a dollar and the food is cheaper. The only thing that's expensive is the coffee. We're staying in a homestay place right on the beach with our host's Reuben and Marilyn, great people and very friendly. Two rooms are costing $16.50 a night each. Its not the hilton but clean.
We took an island hopping tour and I'd have to say i've had better days, the wind blew up to 35 knots and in an open boat with a rubber band engine and a refugee lookalike captain saying "no problem, no problem" ( as common a phrase in Philippines as G'day in Aus) our morale was starting to slide. We made it to a few lagoons and beaches but the conditions were pretty poor by the time we left. We got out to see and the boat broke down, the crewman was on the seeward side trying to keep it down and we were all on that side all the while drifting at a rapid rate towards the rocks. didn't seem to bother the captain. Eventually transferred to another boat and made it home like four drowned demoralised rats. Early to bed.
We eat out every night and El Nido is town that rocks, everyshop is still open at midnight and the bars are mostly on the beach. There are bands playing in most of them at some stage of the night and most of the muso's alternate in the bands. Brenton and I had a blast in one of the bars with a couple of poms and i think the night cost about $20. When you eat out every day you soon get to know the staff and I've got one bloke who serves a cold beer, the rest of them serve it like it needs another hour in the fridge.
We're heading off to Puerto Pricessa in a couple of days. I think we're taking a van of some sort, not sure. So far its been big and little planes, horse drawn cart, jeepneys, tricycles and big and little bankas. The van should be interesting, won't be surprised if i'm sharing my seat with a goat or chicken. Anyway Andiamo! Mike.

Posted by mike1967 19:00 Comments (0)

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