Monday, February 22, 2010

And we're back..

Our wonderful vacation in the Philippines came to an end Sunday afternoon as we returned to rain and cool temperatures here in Taiwan. We had a fantastic time in the Philippines. It may take me a while to sort through all the photos, so this post will come in installments. Here's the first few days.

Getting to the Airport
First of all, despite what all the locals say, you can in fact get to the airport from Hsinchu via public transportation - and it's actually quite easy and cheap. The High Speed Rail takes a total of 12 minutes and if you order your tickets in advance they only cost $80NT. There is a bus (UBus) from the Taoyuan HSR station directly to the airport - only $30NT and some airlines even have check-in counters at the train station. This was the route we took, we unfortunately didn't realize just how efficient it really was and ended up sitting, waiting at the airport for nearly 3 hours for our 1.45 hour flight to Manila. Though we could have spent this time in the "Beauty Saloon" we opted for a coffee at Starbucks instead.

Cebu
Cebu is a small city centered around a few large Cathedrals. We only had a few hours to explore as we were just there to catch a ferry to Bohol - but that didn't matter because it's not very big. We ventured through some wonderful markets, filled with beautiful fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately it's also a very dirty and polluted city as well. It was humbling to walk through such a town, convicting at times as Cebu, like Manila epitomizes the economic inequality of much of Southeast Asia. Spending time in these two cities has only solidified our convictions for social justice. For this very reason, we rarely took pictures, as it would be socially
unacceptable.

Here are a few to give you a glimpse of the city.



Getting Around
Arriving on Bohol, we headed out to find the bus we needed to take to Nuts Huts. We wondered around outside the pier looking for the bus station, being mobbed by tricycle drivers asking "Where are you going? I take you there" to which we replied "Where's the bus, we want to take the bus." After about 10 of these, we were informed that we had to take a tricycle to the bus station, about 5 km away.
*side note* the buses are much cheaper as they're a fixed rate and these tricycle drivers set their own prices, often ripping off unsuspecting tourists.

tricycle = motorcycle with side car attached

view from inside

We grabbed the first tricycle driver and asked the price - he quoted us 50 Pesos (about $1US), which seemed reasonable enough, so we took it. When we arrived to the bus station, our bus was waiting to leave, so we quick paid the driver and started to board the bus, but the tricycle driving stopped us saying "No, 50P per head!" - oh! This is where they get ya, be sure to clarify when traveling in groups! We decided that it wasn't a big enough cost that we'd argue it, but we now knew to watch out in the future.

The bus, which was open air, was jam packed already and they packed us in - along with out giant hiking packs. We sat for quite a while and I realized that though they do not keep a schedule, the buses are privately owned and wait until the bus is fully loaded before leaving. After about 40 minutes, adding nearly 20 more people, we headed off out. The ride was beautiful but quite uncomfortable as we would stop periodically to drop off one person and pick up 3 more.

When we arrived, we're had to trek 1.5km down a long lane in order to get to our resort.


Then we had to descend many stairs...


Thankfully the sun was setting and the temperature was moderate - this trip proved to be brutal in the mid-day heat. After checking in - if you visit Nuts Huts, be sure to call the morning of as they do not take reservations and you could be one of the unfortunate ones to make this long journey only to find there are no beds! We were lucky enough to get their last two dorm beds - we enjoyed a nice dinner and exploring the area before dark then headed down to our hut for the night - the picture above only shows the steps to the office/restaurant, the next set is nearly double that of the first.




The next morning we woke early to catch a bus to the Chocolate Hills - bizarre limestone hills, whose formation has yet to be explained. They're called the Chocolate Hills due to their brown color during the dry season, during our visit, most are still green as it's nearing the rainy season. We were able to walk to the top of a look out and see for miles and miles, hundreds of hills.

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