Friday, 16 April 2010

Easter - Philipines - Arrival and Day 1

Leaving work to catch my flight was a rush. I had arranged to store my car near to the airport and rely on their shuttle bus to transfer me. Despite the storage sharing the same site as my workplace it was a rush to get there. However once out of work all went smoothly and I had my ticket, cleared customs and had time to have lunch before boarding.
The flight itself was uneventful. I had a brief nanna nap. The food service was now what I consider airline standard. Too few staff feeding too many passengers making it slow to be served and slow to get drinks. In fact I assume that it is official airline policy to make drink service slow to reduce the risk of drunk abusive passengers. Nice touches were a small drink bottle before take off "retain this so that you can fill it up mid flight" and an orange ice block between lunch and dinner.
Arrival in Manila was uneventful and I was met soon after debarking by my friend Tony who smoothed my way through Customs and Immigration. As part of his Diplomatic Status he is allowed to do this. A short drive along surprisingly empty roads and I was at Tony & Vic's residence in time for Dinner. The dinner party went late until about 2am which was a big ask of me as I had 2 hours time difference to add to that. A nice group of people and far too much wine and alcohol consumed. Lovely curries and I met some nice people. Not a bad welcome to Manila.
We departed the next day for our drive to Batangas for 2 nights at a resort on the coast. My friends were amazed at the lack of traffic on the roads. Manila is a city of 26 Million people and the roads were apparently deserted as the city was emptied out for the Easter holiday.
We made good time and stopped at Tagaytay for a comfort stop and coffee. Coffee was in Starbucks overlooking Lake Taal. The lake was shrouded in a light mist but even so it was a spectacular sight. It is a lake filling the Caldera of a long dead volcano. We were perched high on the rim looking down into the Caldera. The lake is landlocked and surrounded by the rim and surrounding countryside. It is huge some 10 - 15 km in diameter. In the lake there is a fish farming industry. Apparently the Tawaalis fish is a unique species as it has developed in isolation. While I saw it advertised for sale I did not have an opportunity to sample it (until later). It looked like a sardine in the photos that I saw.
By this time it was lunch time and we decided to go to Dencio for some local cuisine. Dencios is a chain of restaurants. The food is traditional Philipines with a chain approach. Therefore it will be hygienically prepared but may not be quite traditional. In the same way that an Aussie hamburger differs in Burger King from that which is prepared by hand in the local fish and chip shop.
We had a variety of dishes shared amongst us. I had a good lunch which included some nice prawns in a spicy sauce, pork belly thickly cut, apparently deep fried, some satay style meat of indistinct origin, nicely prepared asparagus, a salad and a tasting plate of pork hock and crispy pork crackling. Not the most wholesome of foods but a good sampling of local fare.
After lunch we followed the road which runs south along the ridge of the Caldera. We passed many vendors selling pineapples and later in the drive coconuts. Fruit and vegetable stores that we passed seemed to have good selection of tropical fruits, I could see Durian, Mango, Bananas, Mangosteen plus the above mentioned Pineapple and Coconut.
We had a minor accident when we stopped to allow a vehicle to reverse into a car spot on the side of the road. Despite guidance from a traffic marshal he still managed to hit us. No major damage so we moved on. From here the road started to lead down to the coast though Coconut Plantations. Reaching the coast we followed it via Lemery to the point where we were to leave the car.
The rest of the journey was completed by boat. The Banca is a mono hulled boat with outriggers on each side. Ours was long narrow and rode well over the small wind blown chop. The bamboo outriggers held the boat stable and it was a pleasant ride under a bright sun, following the coast.
We passed a small island that for a few brief seconds we wondered whether that was our eventual destination.
Our resort was actually perched between the edge of a vertiginous hillside and the ocean, construction must have been a challenge. Later I surveyed the hillside and realised that a machete and ropes would be essential to climb it. Steep. Very steep.
The resort faces south over the Batangas Bay, cooled by sea breezes for most of the day. Our rooms are small and functional. Beds - firm. Toilet - blocked.
The resort had saved lunch for us but none were really hungry. Hot thirsty and in need of a beer. Definitely. but food no.
The afternoon was spent relaxing, swimming, reading and chatting. Dinner was an interesting mix of local produce including Chicken Satay, rice, fish a bit overcooked, vegetables, fresh lettuce salad and a rather tasteless pumpkin soup, followed by fresh pineapple and Banana Float for desert. I went back for seconds on most, much to the disgust of my companions.
That evening we played cards a game that I had never heard of called Doppelkopf.
The bludger slept like a log despite the noisy air-conditioner.

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