Vacation 2.0: The Philippines.

After we had spent a week on the exotic, tropical islands off the Gulf of Thailand, it was time to meet a group of teachers from our school in the Philippines. Our friend Ross from Wales had found a place on the island of Palawan called ‘The Amazing Villa‘, and rounded up a group of 10 teachers to rent the place for a week. Angela, Kat and I departed Koh Samui on Saturday, January 4th the same way we had arrived. We took a ferry from Koh Samui to the Don Sak International Pier, where we caught a bus to the airport. The ferry/bus/flight combination offered by Air Asia was very convenient. We flew to Bangkok, where we met another friend traveling to the Philippines. We flew in to a different airport than we were to fly out of, so we took a bus across Bangkok and arrived at the other airport. Our flight left at 11:00 PM, so we had a few hours to kill in the airport. We flew out from Bangkok and arrived in Manila early in the morning. Our next flight departed at 6:00 AM, so we had a little breakfast and I feebly tried to nap on the chairs in our terminal. We met the rest of our group, who all took the same flight that we did to Palawan. By this point, we were all so tired that nobody was really excited to do anything. We arrived around 10:00 AM on Sunday in Puerto Princesa. The airport was very small, and so it was easy to find our hosts who picked us up .

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Giles and his wife, Theresa, owned the villa on the Western part of Palawan Island. He is from Belgium, and she is a native of Palawan. After we had a quick lunch, we proceeded to drive for two hours to get to the villa.

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In the city of Puerto Princesa, there were many of these covered motorcycle cabs, pictured above. They could seat 2-3 additional passengers in the box that surrounded the motorcycle.

The really unique appeal of the villa we stayed at was how non-touristy it was. We drove through countryside, small native villages and even a prison without any walls.

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Below is the country bus that would transport passengers along the only road that went to the Western coast. The road is entirely rock and dirt, and the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced. The government is building the road to eventually turn the empty Western coast of the island into the next Macau. That thought made me sad, but also glad that I spent time here before it happened.

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Finally, after riding through the beautiful countryside, we arrived at the villa. Below is the group of people that we spent the week with.

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The area was breathtaking. The villa was also an organic farm, and fed by a natural spring from the mountain. The food was all freshly prepared by Theresa, who was a gourmet chef and prepared some of the best meals I have ever had, and Giles had a full bar and liked to make drinks. We were surrounded by the jungle, and had a perfect view of the ocean. The walk to the beach was only about 200 meters.

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Pictured above is the patio where we ate most of our meals, and where the bar was.

Below is a shot of us inside the patio.

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Giles’s favorite drink to make was a rum and coke. He liked them so much that if you ordered one, he would give you one for free. He claimed this was because it was ‘too hard to stop at one’.

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Above is the kitchen and the back side of the villa. Teresa and her crew cooked everything on an open fire!  It was pretty amazing what she could do!   We stayed in the basement of the building below. There were three different rooms, each with a bathroom and shower.

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Below is a shot of our view from the balcony on the building above.

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Above is a nice shot of the surrounding jungle.

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The beach was really fantastic. We could walk out about 200 meters into the ocean, and the water would only be up to our chest. We would walk out past the breaking of the waves and float in the ocean. I am not sure I have ever been able to stand so far out in the ocean before. It was amazing.

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We did not have to share this beach with anybody. There were a few residents along the beach, but it was so long that we felt completely secluded.

The entire week in Palawan was spent floating in the ocean, eating delicious meals, reading our books and drinking local rum while playing games. It was a marvelous week, but you would be really bored reading a play by play about how we read for a few hours, ate some food and then sat on the beach. So I’ve decided to write about some of the more noteworthy things that we did.

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One day, our hosts agreed to cook us lunch on the beach, since walking all the way back to the villa would clearly have been too much work. Pictured above is the head gardener cooking us delicious chicken that I am sure was slaughtered earlier the same day. That’s ok, because they woke me up too early every morning.

Every meal way huge.  Besides the freshly grilled chicken we also had sweet potatoes and the best ceviche!  It included a local fish with coconut milk, chili, and fresh herbs.  We all raved about it so much that she made it for us again later in the week!

Here is a nice shot of our beach picnic. I felt pretty spoiled that these guys carried everything all the way down to the beach.

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After we had our picnic (and maybe some drinks), we found a little red boat/canoe. Ross assured me that this boat was owned by Giles, and that he had told us we could use it. I was curious where the paddles were, but we soon decided that this must be one of those boats that you paddle with your hands. Later, when retelling the following story to Giles, he thought that we were joking when we told him we took it out with the oars. We weren’t joking.

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Our boat trip started off as any boat trip usually does; afloat.

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Here we are, filled with confidence at how awesome we are at paddling this boat on the ocean.

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Then the unthinkable happened. We floated too close to shore, and the waves starting breaking on the boat. Below is a montage depicting what happened next.

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It took an unbelievably long time to scoop all of that water out.

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I needed to do some laundry, so one of the Philippine workers named Julie showed me the basics of washing clothes by hand, shown above. What the picture does not show is later, when she decided I was too slow, she sat down and washed most of them for me while I was finishing one shirt.

One day, we were scheduled to go for a hike in the jungle down by a nearby river. That morning, when we wandered up to look for our breakfast, we found little arrows that led us up past their large garden where we found a table set up overlooking the villa and the ocean.

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After breakfast, we traveled to a nearby village where we met our tour guide, Rocky. Rocky was wearing a sweet Halloween shirt, and had a huge machete strapped around his waist. You can see for yourself below.

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Rocky let us along the river for about 20 minutes, where we were going to swim in the river.

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Once we got to the river, we realized it was too shallow to play in, so we walked back before too long. Our host met us on the river, near where we were dropped off and cooked us a lunch of grilled pork and chicken as well as stir fry noodles. We sat in the river there and ate, while some of us took advantage of the natural occurring fish pedicure.  They even drove to town to get us some more beer!

That night, our hosts had a bonfire for us.

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All in all, the week in the Philippines was one of the highlights of our vacation. I appreciated the fact that the area was so untouched by tourism; it felt more real than some of the other tropical places that we visited. I could not imagine a more beautiful and peaceful place.

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All for now.

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