Friday 16 April 2010

Easter - Philipines - Day 4 and Return

How quickly a long weekend comes to a close.
As is my curse I woke early and went for a long walk.
I first travelled along the sea front. Here I had an odd encounter. I was aware of a person ahead of me, a Filipino. He was walking at water level, whereas I was higher up. With hindsight I realise that he was not likely to be seen by people in the resort. This man passed beyond the resort boundaries. I stopped and took some photos. As I took the photos a Banca came into shore.
The Banca carried a family. I assumed that they were fishing. The elder male called out to me and tried to sell me shells. I refused to be interested. After taking more photos I crossed the boundary of the resort and made my way along a very rocky sea shore. The shell seller had come ashore by that time and I had a chat with him. He tried to sell me shells and I assumed that he made his money by selling shells to tourists. Not a good proposition from where he was situated as few tourists would come this far.
Walking on I passed the original person, whom I had followed, hidden behind a rock. I continued past and found a vantage point to take more photos. Returning a short time later the man behind the rock had gone. My shell seller was on the point of departure. At this stage I realised that I had probably seen a smuggling operation in action. Not sure what was being smuggled but obviously a hand over of some sort.
I went up that hill again, was challenged by security and returned to the resort for breakfast.
We packed up and arranged for the banca to pick us up. Once again a lovely journey across the ocean back to our vehicle. A slight altercation with a women wanting payment for looking after our car. She did a good job we thought as the broken aerial went into the boot. NOT.
Then we retraced our original path back to Tagaytay. Here we picked up a buco which is a coconut pie, considered a local delicacy. The pastry was well made the filling sweet and flavoursome. I would not hesitate to eat it again if presented to me, but as I am not big on deserts I would not be seeking it out for my own pleasure. That's just my taste not a criticism of the pie.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived back in Manilla in plenty of time before my flight.
One of Victoria's friends Rose was there practising her art work, she had done a magnificent job on reproducing a very complex painting. She was using traditional media, egg white and pigments. Very impressive.
Tony and I had time to step out for a late lunch before he took me to the airport. We made a pig of ourselves on Oysters. Kilpatrick, Cheese, Baked, Natural, the piglets had a feast.
This gave me a small opportunity to take some photos of Jeepneys. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and are well known for their flamboyant decoration and crowded seating. They have also become a symbol of Philippine culture. (Thanks Wikipedia).
And then it was off to the airport, holiday ended.
The return trip was uneventful. Notable for lack of sleep, arriving in Brisbane at 4am, retrieving my car with enough time to go home, shower, water the garden, pack for a trip to Melbourne and spend a day at work.
The Bludger was dog tired.

Easter - Philipines - Day 3

Day 3 dawned bright and clear. We had decided to move on. A phone call to Garden Point had found some vacant accommodation and we arranged a Banca to take us over there.
Which caused problems.
Our accommodation decided to take the piss and charge us a mighty fee for the previous days boat trip. Only about 6 times the original quote. Then wanted to charge us an astronomical fee in US dollars for the boat transfers. Tony bless his heart was masterful in negotiation and resolving the issues. Cool calm collected and no compromise.
Anyway we made it to Garden point and moved into our new home. I have to admit the quality of food, accommodation and service was much higher. We also had room to walk more than 50 metres. In fact we had a very steep hill that gave me a good work out. After settling in Tony and I took a walk up the hill and around the resort. We then found a nice spot for a beer while watching the ocean.
The day passed easily. Our group congregated around the pool late afternoon for drinks and photos of the sunset. It was a lovely warm evening and with few other people around was very calming.
After Sunset we repaired to the restaurant and had a very enjoyable dinner. Following dinner I had a massage in my room which put me right to sleep. What a great way to end the day!
Overall it was a lovely day and a lovely place to spend some time.
The Bludger was cruising!

Easter - Philipines - Day 2

Up late, 6:40 am local time. I arose and explored the area looking for a nice walk to get some exercise. Short of trying a bit of mountaineering I was basically trapped. So I abandoned that idea and had a leisurely coffee while waiting for my companions to arise and breakfast to be served.
Breakfast started with fresh fruit and also had a variety of hot food available. A freshly prepared omelette, that was pretty disappointing, chicken croquettes, rice and fish. All basic fare but edible and sustaining. I breakfasted alone and read for some time enjoying the peace, calm and ambience.
A snorkel in the morning before lunch gave an opportunity to view the ocean life, get some exercise and practise some old skills. The sea life here is standard tropical. Entering the water from the jetty in front of the resort soon led to deeper water. A healthy, although sparse population of tropical fish and soft and hard corals was easily found. The water was warm and I swam in a t shirt without discomfort.
Lunch started with a local beef and cabbage soup. Not memorable, a bit like an oily stock or what I termed beef consomme. It is important to skim the oil off such soups, or maybe not add it in the first place! The rest of the meal consisted of chicken satay, fish in soy sauce, rice, a cooked vegetable, pork and tofu, of which I selected out the tofu and once again fresh lettuce leaves as a salad base. Mango float completed desert. The food here is bland, overcooked but edible. It certainly isn't gourmet.
The afternoon was spent relaxing before I and my companions hired a boat (a Banca) and took a ride along the coast. We stopped to feed fish in a reserve, a bit boring I have to admit, and then snorkelled in the reserve. This was a nice area with lots of soft coral, hard corals and an abundance of marine life. Conservation and eco tourism is not difficult. Simply mark off a boundary, prevent fishing and anchoring and the sea life will prosper with little or no effort. There was an abundance of reef fish, I saw pipe fish, a Moray Eeel cream coloured with black speckles. This was working its way confidently across the bottom without obvious fear of snorkellers. Also Clown fish (males orange with a blue horizontal stripe behind the eye. The female considerably bigger and it's body had almost turned black but still edged with the orange colouration. The locals called this a Tomato clown fish, but the colouring was quite different to the Tomato clown fish that I have seen elsewhere. Also Angel fish, a small group of snapper cruising the edge of a patch of bait fish, Parrot Fish, trigger fish and a host of those that I cannot name.
After snorkelling we asked to be taken to Garden Point for a beer. This necessitated the refilling of fuel tanks so we pulled into a small village before continuing around the coast.
It was a lovely day to be on the water and we stayed close to the shoreline which gave good views of passing boats and the resorts and villages on the shore. The ride was soporific and despite the obvious signs of civilisation it was easy to fantasise about exploring the wilds of some long past and forgotten river or estuary system, maybe in Africa or the Amazon. Partly this was due to the basic layout of the Banca, a rather narrow centre section balanced by the outriggers.
We debarked and walked the short distance to the restaurant on the shoreline where we ordered beers and bar snacks. By now the sun was low down on the horizon, daylight was fading and the sun about to set. It was a lovely end to the afternoon, and while the sun set was not spectacular it was very moody and peaceful.
We motored back to our resort in the dark. A lovely trip with the muted sound of the motor not intruding, a warm breeze on our faces, and a cold beer in our hands.
Evening meal was deep fried breaded chicken, bland but good. Think KFC without the secret herbs and spices, and less fat. Also available, Tuna with Mango Salsa, cooked tomatoes and mango in coconut for desert.
We played cards again in the evening
The Bludger is not a card shark

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.