Wednesday, February 18, 2009

back to the beach..

and, happily, it was back to the beach.

josh and i caught a plane to puerto princesa on the island of palawan and settled there for a night. the next day, we took a jeepney up to sabang, the home of the famous underground river (a navigable river that flows through a cave formation). aside from the long wait and the 2-hour hike to get there (we opted for the 20-min boat ride on the way back), the tour itself were really nice. the actual boat ride seemed a little short in comparison to the wait.. but it was okay. the town of sabang was a small beach town with waterfalls and charm. plus, our hostel had a water buffalo-drawn cart!

next, we headed up to the town of port barton and ended up at a wonderful friendly place called elsa's (josh met a guy that worked there on top of the jeepney that took us there). we were seaside with breathtaking sunsets and our own personal beach. we took a bangka boat out one day with a belgian couple and went snorkeling (the coral! wow!) and island hopping.

from there, we went to el nido, the top tip of palawan. another nice town perfect for hopping between the small white sand beach islands. we stayed there a few nights (among the barking puppies in the middle of the night and the chorus of roosters crowing to wake us up) and did more island hopping with an amiable guide named kalui and his friend (whose name we never got). we got to see a both big and small lagoons as well as "secret" lagoon, which was accessible only by crawling through a small crevice. we did a bunch more snorkeling (here the coral was less impressive, and a lot of it was dead) and swimming. they even made a nice fish lunch on the beach!

we spent the last of our time on palawan eating comfort food and vegging out (josh hurt his neck on the bus one day) in puerto before heading off to cebu.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

in the mountains.

once we came back from southern luzon, it was time to head up north. we got off a bus in manila, settled down at a hostel and soon learned that the buses to banaue left at 10PM. we quickly bundled up our stuff again and boarded another bus for a 10 hour ride to banaue. sick and tired, the bumpy bus ride was not extremely pleasant, but when we disembarked early in the morning to the view of the mountains through the morning fog, it was quite worth it.

the next day, we did the long hike to batad, a small town with magnificent rice terraces housed in the valley of the mountains and only accessable by hiking. it was a hard hot hike for me, but we made it and it was definitely worth it.

we left for sagada (another mountain town) a day or so later to see the hanging coffins of the ifugao tribe and the caves. we arrived in the midst of the town's annual fiesta and were treated to a parade of the different zones of sagada, complete with traditional music and costume. one night, we even got to see the town's beauty pageant (which was, if nothing else, extremely long -- starting at 9PM and lasting 'til past midnight).

we went caving one day and it was one of the highlights of my trip so far (minus the complete submersion in cold cave water while wearing blue jeans). it was so much fun squeezing into tiny crevices, holding on to the sides of dropoffs and, sometimes, being plunged into complete darkness when our guide's lantern would go ahead a little too far. :) we got to see a bunch of fun formations, including a dinousaur's footprint!! hehe

another day, we took a short hike to echo valley and saw some hanging coffins up close. we met some funny tourists there that thought the chairs hung along with the coffins were for people to meditate on.

from there, we headed back to manila to plan our trip to the island of palawan!