Thursday, August 30, 2007

Travel Fair for the backpackers

hey all,

Just wanted to let you guys know that there would be a Travel Fair in SM Megamall on Sept 7-9 2007. Be sure to drop by to book or buy your tickets to wherever you want to go! It would be the best time to plan your future trips as there would be a lot of cheap rates! See you there!

The Lost Sputnik

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lost Sputnik in Mabuhay Magazine (August 2007 Issue)

Yes, I'm finally back in Manila. While on the plane back to manila, I got so ecstatic seeing our article and photos in Philippine Airline's Mabuhay Magazine. It's just the perfect way to cap a looooooong journey. Looking at the articles and photos made me nostalgic in a way. It made me feel proud for what Tina and I have accomplished, it's just three pages in a magazine but the stories behind the article and the photos are priceless. I've so much things to share about my sputnik journey, my reflections and top favourite destinations in my trip but I thought I'd share to you guys first the clippings from Mabuhay Magazine where Tina and I contributed articles and photos. Again, Congrats Tina!

Til Then,

The Lost Sputnik

Sunday, August 5, 2007

El Nido Paradiso

This is by far the best island that I've seen in this whole lost sputnik trip. Words are not enough to describe how spectacular the islands that I went to a while ago. Even if I tried, I would run out of words to describe how beautiful the islands of palawan are. So I'll let the photos speak for itself.

Welcome to Paradise!

Wasn't that just amazing?

Til Then,

The Lost Sputnik.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

El Nido, Palawan

Before I tell you about my dreadful bus trip to El Nido, let me just share to you the story of Mang Nonoy, the tricycle driver who had been so nice to me during my stay in Puerto Princesa. He showed me around Puerto Princesa and had constantly given tips on the cheapest ways to get to El Nido and Port Barton. While on the way to the bus terminal, Mang Nonoy, quickly shared his life story to me. He was born and raised in Palawan all his life and he has no intentions of leaving his town. He worked as a tricycle driver for 25 years now and according to him, he can't imagine doing anything else but this. He liked the idea of showing visitors around his town. Also, he provided for his family with his three-wheeled motorycle all alone. He was able to send his kids to school and live a fairly comfortable life. He also shared to me that he lost his eldest son three years ago. It was such a tragic accident, I can't believe it happened to him. His son was on his way home, caught a jeepney in the city but unfortunately the jeepney was packed, so his son decided to just ride on the roof of the jeepney (this is a normal practice in provinces). The driver was careless, he drove so fast and didn't notice the wire that hung on the street. Mang Nonoy's son got his neck strangled and fell off the jeepney. He filed a case against the jeepney operators and driver and eventually won the case. He got compensated, the company of the jeepney is now paying for his two other children's education. He wasn't happy about it as he knew that this can never replace his son, but he at least wanted something good to come out of it, so he thought of his other children. I felt so sad after hearing his story. The way he looked while sharing his story and from his voice, I knew that he was still hurting. It's such a terrible thing to have lost your loved one from an accident that could've been avoided.

Mang Nonoy on his Element

Anyway, on a lighter note, let me share to you my longest bus ride in this trip so far. I hopped on the bus headed to El Nido at seven in the morning today.I psyched myself that the travel time shouldn't be a problem for me as I've been travelling for a while now and somehow I'm used to it. The estimated time of arrival to El Nido was at two in the afternoon, but we arrived at half past four in the afternoon. The roads weren't as bad as I thought it would be, a few bumps here and there. The agony began when we suddenly had to do so many pit stops, the bus had problems with the tires and the breaks. The bus made this loud sound whenever it tried to stop. It wasn't major or anything, it didn't alarm me at all. But it took so much time, it started to get really hot inside the bus. And to add to that someone broke her plastic bag full of dried fish so the smell of it lingered inside the bus for hours til she got off. Thankfully, I had the window seat so air was free flowing. I think it was dreadful for me as I've been anticipating El Nido so much. It wasn't as bad as the bus ride to Bantayan and Malapascua island but I was so excited to get to El Nido. I told myself that if there were lessons to be learnt in this trip, endurance and patience would be on top of my list.

And after nine and a half hours, we're a few meters away from the town of El Nido. I could already see the large limestone formations that surrounded the island. My heart skipped so fast, I thought I'd have a heart attack. I was like a kid anxiously waiting for my birthday presents. And when we finally got close, all I could say was, 'HOLLLY...WOOWW!' I coudln't contain my happiness when I saw the view from where I was seated. I can't believe that after so many hours, here I am in El Nido.

The view from my room. Isn't it awesome?

The loooong trip to El Nido was definitely worth it. As soon as I got off the bus, I felt like I have been boosted with energy and ready for another adventure.

It's just my first few hours here in El Nido, more to come.

til then,

The Lost Sputnik.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Puerto Princesa, Palawan

I arrived at Puerto Princesa, Palawan on a gloomy tuesday afternoon that seemed like it’s almost ready for a heavy downpour. I almost got disappointed as I didn’t like rainy days. Photos aren’t as vibrant when it’s too overcast. But as soon as I got out of the plane, I couldn’t help but notice the enigmatic view of the runway. The mountains that almost seemed silhouette-like and the lush greeneries around it served as a backdrop of the airport. It’s one of the best views I’ve seen from all the airports that I’ve been to in this trip.

I also found it impressive that the tourism office in the airport is efficient. The people manning the booth are very informative as they try to answer each of your questions patiently. I asked one of the guys if he’d know a cheap hostel that’s close to the city and in a heartbeat I was off to Duchess Inn. Duchess inn is situated a few minutes away from Rizal Boulevard, one of the main streets in the city of Puerto Princesa. The room that I had was fairly simple. It had the things I wanted in a room, a bed and an electric fan. I’ve lived in a dorm before so a shared bathroom isn’t an issue for me. And for 150 pesos a night, how can I complain right? Another good thing about this city is that tricycle drivers are so informative! Apparently, the tricycle drivers are required to attend seminars conducted by the local tourism office of Palawan. This is the only city that I’ve been to that had everything organized. Amazing! Kudos to Mayor Hagedorn!

Puerto Princesa is a relatively cheap city. Usually, getting a tricycle from other airports would cost you a few hundreds, but here they’d only charge you fifty pesos. The distance from the airport to the city is quite long so fifty pesos isn’t that bad. As for me, I learnt my lesson before so I caught one outside the airport and only paid thirty pesos. Food is fairly cheap too, a meal would be somewhere around sixty to eighty pesos.

I didn’t let the bad weather ruin my stay in Puerto Princesa, so I started my tour right on the same day I arrived. My first stop was the Vietnamese Village. It’s quite far from the city but the tricycle driver was willing to take me there for only eighty pesos. The Vietnamese Village had a number of refugees from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. But now, there are only seven families left in the village, most of them have moved to Australia or elsewhere (according to the tourism facts). Apparently, only Vietnamese or Filipinos who have married Vietnamese are allowed to stay in the village. The village wasn’t that maintained unfortunately, although you could still see remnants of the village such as their houses, a small temple, a catholic church, street signage that had written Vietnamese characters on it, a bakery that is still owned by a Vietnamese family. From walking around the village, I realised that Vietnamese people aren’t as different from Filipinos. Their houses looked pretty similar to ours, their way of living are pretty much the same with Filipinos (farming, fishing, etc) and yes, even the way they look.

The next day, I went on an island tour in Honda Bay. Honda bay is one of the most visited tourist spots in Puerto Princesa. It has a thousand plus islands along the bay, but I only visited three, Pandan Island, Snake Island and Starfish Island.

The three Islands that I’ve been to had cream to white sand beaches. The beach was impressively clean, it seemed to be well taken cared of. The Water is crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling as fishes are very visible despite the absence of corals (make sure to bring loaves of bread to feed the fishes). If you were to ask me which one’s my favourite, I’d have to say Snake Island, I’d like how the island is shaped like a snake. I liked how you can cross from one part of the island to the other part by walking along the white sand bar. I also liked the huts that are placed along the shore as I had a good hour or so to just sit and read. It was very relaxing, perfect for those who just wanted to have a quiet time.

The next day, I was told that the underground river tour shouldn’t be missed while in Palawan. So I booked myself to an underground river tour and hopped on the van to get to Sabang, a small port where you’d have to take an outrigger to get to the underground river. It took two and a half hours to get to Sabang. The road to get to Sabang was bad but tolerable. The view compensated with the bad road, as I kept saying wow while on the way. Mountains that are made of limestone covered most of the area. I was told by our tour guide that the underground river is inside the mountain that is now popularly called St. Paul as when you get inside, it seemed like you’re inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

While on the way the underground river, we were welcomed by dolphins swimming right beside our boat. I was ecstatic as it was my first time to see dolphins in their natural habitat. It was a bonus for me as I didn’t have to pay extra for dolphin watching.

Little did I know that I don’t only get to see dolphins but wild monkeys too! While at the fa├žade of the underground river, wild monkeys were running around the area roaming around freely. Freaky looking monkeys! We were told not to show our food as these monkeys are snatchers. They could easily get the food out of your hand and might even bite you if you try to fight with them. I thought it was so cool to see them that close but I was scared as one of the tourists tried running then a number of monkeys ran after him. It’s like a walking Ebola running after you! Hahaha! Yeah, I’m laughing now but I was sh*t scared while it was happening!

The underground river tour only takes half an hour to forty five minutes. It was such a great experience as it’s another first for me. It was amazing to see stalactites and stalagmites that close, I felt like Indiana Jones for a second, but realised that I’m not when I almost had the boat flip over when I tried dodging a bat flying towards my head (I was holding the light so I think they got attracted to it). The stalactites and stalagmites were awesome as some of them were naturally formed like different images of things, people, animals, vegetables and even religious figures. The only source of light we had inside was the battery operated light on the boat that I was tasked to maneuver as I sat in front. The smell inside made me sick and the flying mosquitoes annoyed me to death, but despite all these, the things I have seen inside are definitely worth all the trouble. Despite my being claustrophobic and all, I painstakingly went on the underground river tour as I knew I had to see it. And it was definitely worth it!

In the next few days, I’d be roughing it a bit. See, I couldn’t afford a plane ride to El nido, so I decided to take a bus or jeepney (no aircon) for 8-12 hours depending on how the weather is and the number of passengers getting off different areas. I thought it would be better to cut the trip into halves. My first stop would be Port Barton, 3-4 hours from Puerto Princesa. I plan to explore the area for a few days before I take the bus to El nido which would take another 4-6 hours. So wish me luck, hope I get the best seat which is the roof top, like these people!

Wish me luck!

Til then,

The Lost Sputnik.