Tag Archives: Philippines

Tao Expedition Part 2 – Survivor: Palawan

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

We all woke up hungover from our bizarre Filipino deserted island vodka dance-off last night.  The Juan, our 24 year old Filipino guide who weighs about 90 lbs soaking wet, was feeling especially awful.   Getting hazed by Rory tends to take a toll on unprepared livers so I’m not surprised.   The morning was lazy and calm, until after breakfast when I was walking to the “bathroom” and one of the Dutch Gymnots informed me that she was waiting in line for the bathroom, even though she was physically in her hut about 20 yards away from the hole in the ground.  To which I replied, “oh is that how lines work where you come from”?   If I already don’t like you, I can guarantee you that disrespecting the entire social construct of what constitutes a line is not the way to get on my good side.  I knew I was going to have a problem with these women the second I laid eyes on them. I just fucking knew it.

We all swam back to the boat and headed out for more adventures around 10 am.  Kristie and I finally busted out the floaties that we packed and have been hauling around in our backpacks the entire trip.  I had my fill of snorkeling the past few days.  The coral was pretty day one, but the novely has worn off.  From here on out I’ll be reading my kindle while floating in the ocean off the side of the boat if anyone needs me.   The brilliant Kristie even had the crew find us some extra rope so we could tie ourselves to the boat to save us from floating off into oblivion.  We stopped at some amazing, secluded pristine beaches and had a very enjoyable day…until the pig showed up.

 

In honor of The Juan’s bday tomorrow night, we are roasting a whole pig.  I’ve been eating vegetarian the past three days so I was very excited by this announcement.  What they failed to mention was that we are picking up the very-much-still-alive pig from some locals on one of the random islands we’re stopping at, and we have to keep the pig on our boat for the next twenty-four hours.  I didn’t get this memo until my relaxed day of floating was interrupted by a terrified squealing pig being transferred via a kayak onto our boat.  Oh, that’s not all.  Not only are they going to kill the scared little piggy tomorrow, they are going to do it ON THE BOAT, and if any of us our interested, we can do the slaughtering.  It was sad, and somewhat off-putting.  I was disappointed in myself because I knew damn well I was still going to eat that pig come tomorrow.  Joy, our head guide, was concerned I was going to try to make a run for it via kayak and set the pig free.  Luckily for her, I was too hungover to snorkel, let alone break a pig out from death row.

 

We stopped at a cool sea cave that you can walk through (or swim through at high tide).  Our bartender, Dong, brought a cooler of beers to shore so we could drink more as we frolicked on the beach.  Finally, an excuse to yell the word “Dong” all day long and not only is it acceptable, I’m actually rewarded with a beer for doing so.  Lets hope this positive reinforcement doesn’t result in this behavior following me home.  Now that I’m thinking about it, we might have actually stopped at this cave the day before.  I wasn’t exactly taking notes, people.

 

We stopped for the night on an island with a sprawling white sand beach and a shipwreck just offshore.  The ship was so close to the surface you could touch it from the kayak.  As if that wasn’t enough, they also had massages here!  The Tao Expedition Company has a program where they train women from local villages on the islands to give massages, and then employ them at some of their base camps.  It gets better – we have a well on this island, so its no limit buckets of water in the showers tonight!  Oh, the spoils.  We had a mellow night and people went to bed pretty early.   Dave and I hit the rum and vodka, respectively, and tried to make it a party, but no one else was biting.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Today is The Juan’s birthday!  The first stop is at the the Tao Farm, which is where the company grows most of the food that they use on their expeditions and where they train all their employees.  Most of the employees and crew are young local boys and girls from various islands that they train in English, cooking, building and other techniques to prepare them to eventually be expedition guides one day.  We had a tour around the farm to a natural spring, where we all had a mid-day refresher shower.  We then gathered around the amazing bamboo structure that housed the kitchen/bar for an awesome lunch and some drinks.  Ok, lots of drinks.  A LOT of drinks.

 

Our next stop was the incredible Napcan Beach, which is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in El Nido, Palawan.  If that’s not enough, it’s completely deserted.  A few of us hopped off the boat and ran down the beach.  We found a little shack where some locals were hanging out in the middle of nothing and stopped in to make some friends.  At this point I’m pretty much shit faced and having a grand old time with my new local buddies.  I’m calling it right now – this beach will look like Borocay in a matter of years.  If anyone is looking for offshore investment, this is my recommendation.  We told Joy we wanted to buy some land, but were dissuaded when we found out (1) foreigners cannot purchase land in the Philippines, and (2) its crazy expensive.  I guess drunk Rory is not the first person to realize the investment potential here.  Shocker.

 

Tonight is the last night of our trip.  This is also the point where things take a VERY dismal turn for the worse.  Today will live in infamy as the day I almost killed myself on a beautiful deserted island.  I must admit, there are far worse ways to go.  We pulled up to our base camp for the night at the amazingly beautiful Cadlao island.  This place looked like a dream, with the towering karst cliffs covered in palm trees that are iconic of Palawan.   Our base camp looked like some serious Filipino Family Robinson shit.  We were all assigned to little open-air tree houses on the side of a cliff that looked out onto the water.

 

I’ll just cut to the chase – shortly after shower time, I took a tumble off the ladder to my tree house and fell backward onto a rock.  A really big rock.  Turns out the bottom rung of the bamboo ladder was broken and so my foot slipped through and I fell back.  Either that or I broke the ladder.  But let’s give poor Rory the benefit of the doubt on this one.  I spent the evening crying and screaming in pain, unable to move without feeling like I was being stabbed in the lower back.  Chef King brought his distressed Queen some food, which included the pig.  To be honest, it was a little greasy and I was disappointed that we killed that cute little pig for it.  Perhaps this whole incident was instant karma at its best.  Lottie came to have a look at me, since she is a Physical Therapist, which basically makes you an M.D. on an island, and proclaimed that I would survive.  I promptly gave up on the night and xanax’d the shit out of myself to sleep.

The moral of the story here – don’t get drunk and climb shit.  Some would argue the moral is “don’t get drunk”, but I prefer to set realistic rules for myself.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Today was a bit of a blur.  I woke up hopeful that last night was just a dream, or a drunk over reaction to a silly fall.  I was wrong.  This is bad.  The name of the game now is survival until I can get myself to an emergency room in the USA.

Step 1 – the Juan took took me to the boat via kayak.  Very painful.

Step 2 – I had to spend about 5 hours laying on the boat while every movement sent a stabbing pain through my back.  Luckily the crew took some of the mattresses and made me a little bed on the deck and brought me food.  I was pathetic, but I had sun and a book, so life was still worth living.  It was at this point that the Dutch Gymnots decided to make a little farewell speech in which they said something “special” about each and every person on the boat.  Not sure who declared them master of ceremonies, but I was powerless to stop it.  It was about as cringe worthy, annoying, and unnecessary as you can imagine, but I was captive audience and had no choice but to listen.  It reminded me of when someone extremely shy with no interpersonal kills has to give a maid of honor speech at a wedding and everyone, including her, is just praying for it to end as soon as possible.  I’d rather watch a snake eat a hamster with my eyes taped open.

They had some very thoughtful praises for most of our fellow passengers.  And then they got to us – the fearsome foursome.  They thanked Kristie for her portable speakers – a cop out at best.  They thanked Marissa for her lovely conversations – no fucking clue where or when these conversations happened, but I’m just thrilled I wasn’t a part of them.  Thanks for taking one for the team Mar Mar.  They told Dave that they were terrified of him at first because he is so loud and outspoken but then they “got used to it”.  How accommodating of them.  Then it was my turn.  I believe my farewell compliment went a little something like this: “Rory, we weren’t sure about you at first because of all your swearing.  But I think under all those curse words is a really nice girl”.  If you are going to try to give me a read, the least you can do is follow through.  An insult disguised in a compliment is nothing more than a poorly executed insult.  Also, you revealed the fact that I annoyed you with my foul mouth, a fact for which I’m now patting myself on the back.  I will give them one thing – they managed to use my least favorite adjective in the entire world.  You all know how much I despise when people use the word “nice” to describe me.  Nice girls don’t drunkenly fall out of tree houses.

Once their little fake and unsolicited expedition eulogy wrapped we all said goodbye and took pictures with the crew on the front of the boat.  Not me – I was unable to move, so the crew helped me sit up and all huddled around me for our pictures.  That crew was truly the highlight of our trip.  Joy is basically Mother Teresa, if Mother Teresa let you force feed her vodka.  The Juan spent half the trip towing our drunk asses around in the kayak.  Dong made sure we always had ice for our vodka sodas and cold beers everywhere we went.  The King made us delicious food and could even be counted on for a decent flirt if you got him drunk.  Hey, in a pinch.  Although the end of the trip was a bit rocky, it was still one of the most amazing weeks of my life.

 

Step 3 – Get off the boat in El Nido via kayak – this time as waves crashed into us.  More pain.

Step 4 – get to our hotel.  Luckily our hotel was about a 2 minute walk from where we offloaded the boat, so we made it.  I promptly died while the girls went to the Tao office to settle our tab and get our bags.  Thank god for travel buddies.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Today fucking sucked.  Don’t get injured on vacation.  Just don’t do it. Ever.  The only thing separating me and the Torrance Memorial ER was a van, four airports, three planes, and a car ride.  Marissa left early because her journey home to San Francisco started before ours.  Kristie, who will henceforth be known as My Savior, called a doctor to our room in the morning so I could get some drugs for the trip.  He also wrote me a note that said I needed medical assistance.  Our first flight was almost two hours delayed, which gave us about an hour to transfer terminals at the wretched shit hole that is the Manila airport.  We made it with a combination of Kristie running through the airport with four backpacks like the fucking Hulk, and me in a wheelchair getting us to the front of the check-in line with the doctors note.   I would probably still be curled up on the side of a road in the congested streets between terminals and MNL right now if Kristie didn’t drag me through that airport like dead weight.  I was wheeled through four airports, in total.  I got dirty looks the entire time, since I wasn’t 95 years old and suffering from some sort of chronic ailment like my other two-wheeled counterparts.  The long 12 hour flight home was basically a nightmare, but the synthetic morphine made it tolerable.

Complete and utter misery

Relief does not even begin to describe what I felt as we landed at LAX.  Little did I know I was not out of the woods yet.  To add insult to injury (quite literally), my bag did not make it.  I flipped the fuck out and started bawling my eyes out while simultaneously screaming at baggage claim employees from the confines of my wheelchair.  This was after 24 hours of travel.  I’m pretty sure I looked like Lieutenant Dan on a bender.  Here we are two weeks later as I’m writing this, and they have still not found my bag.  I hope some ass holes in China are enjoying all my go pro pictures.  I’m still injured and on bed rest, but I’m on the mend.  You can’t get rid of me that easily.

I’ll be back in April when I reunite with my yacht week nautical soul mates on land for a Japanese adventure!

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Tao Expedition Part 1 – Beers, Boats and Beaches in Palawan

Sunday, January 7, 2018

We arrived on Busuanga Island around 3:30 pm and were quickly ushered into a van by a guy with a sign with Marissa’s name on it. We arrived in Coron town which is a busy little grid of congested streets and exhaust fumes on the water, with no beach to speak of. This place is mainly popular because of the great diving sites in the area. We are here because it’s the departure point for our five day Tao Expedition. After dropping our bags at our hotel, we walked over to the Tao office to check-in and get our booze pre-order sorted. I’m sure you all can imagine how important booze is when spending five days on a boat and camping on islands at night. On the scale of survival it ranks just below clean drinking water but just above food.  A few of Marissa’s friends have done this trip before and they all told us the same thing – make sure you pre-order enough booze, and buy extra because it’s on the honor system and cheap ass holes will drink your shit. I had already made peace with the fact that we would be buying extra to carry the collective weight of the other passengers who can’t do simple multiplication of beers x people x days.

Luckily for us, Tao has a new nifty system where everyone gets a scanable wristband that you pre-load with cash and then you just buy beers and other drinks from the “bar” on the boat and the islands for about $1.20 – $2.00 each with a swipe of your wrist. So now I don’t have to talk shit about random people behind their backs in my blog who can’t properly provision while making idle chit chat with them daily as they drink my beer. Phew. There was a welcome briefing scheduled for 5 pm, so we broke in our wristbands and had a few beers on the roof while we waited for the others to arrive.   For those of you planning a trip to the Philippines – Red Horse beer is the way to go.  Mar scanned the check-in list and notice that we were the only Americans on the boat, which bodes well for us. There is nothing worse than being trapped at sea with a ton of obnoxious Americans.  I call that Saturday at home, I don’t need to travel around the world to do it.  I think it’s also called “yacht week” and I’ve been there and done that.  We began to get our hopes up. We should have’t.

The first to arrive was Tom and Lotti, a British couple on their honeymoon. You’ll all remember from my backpacker bus through New Zealand that I don’t really understand the low-budget group trip thing for a honeymoon, but to each their own. Tom and Lotti seem very normal so luckily for them they will probably escape this blog unscathed. The next person to stumble in was Dave – an Aussie who showed up completely shit faced to the briefing. It was obvious he was cut from the same cloth so we have adopted him as one of our own. Next to come in was an Australian family with two young boys (18 and 17 yrs) and, of course, mom and dad. Completely unoffensive. Which is a synonym for boring, but I’m still going to mark this one in the win column.  At this point we are still waiting for the big group of hot Dutch guys to walk in.  Well, I’m still waiting. The big group of seven on our trip is a bunch of middle aged Dutch women that filed in one by one, dashing our hopes at some eye candy with each step. Our group is rounded out with another Australian couple and a creepy Italian guy. I might be forgetting someone, but it’s not my fault if you are forgettable.

We met two of the Tao employees from our crew – Joy, who is super sweet and seems like she’ll make sure we don’t die. And The Juan, a young Rastafarian Filipino guy who is in the process of going for a full head of dreadlocks. His name actually isn’t Juan, it Aying, but he introduced himself as “the One” so we just kind of ran with it and now we refuse to call him anything but the “The Juan”. Try to get cheeky with us and you will pay the price.

After the meeting we ran out in search of some last minute necessities (bug spray, sunscreen, vodka and champagne). The rule is that you can bring your own booze if the boat bar doesn’t offer what you want. And since this isn’t a Russian boat cruise, vodka is BYOB. Now, you can find Absolut vodka in a whole in a wall store in just about any country in the world – trust me, I know – but champagne is a bit more tricky. Numerous people told us to just give up. But Marissa refused to accept defeat. We ran into Dave outside a bar (shocker) and enlisted his help in our search. He grabbed a Canadian buddy of his from the bar and they took Mar and Kristie on their motorbikes down the street to find champagne. I volunteered to sit this one out and instead get a drink at the bar, because that’s just the kind of selfless person I am. They came back victorious, having found five bottles of champagne and vodka. Each.

We grabbed a bucket of beers with our new friends before heading down to dinner. There was a super cute restaurant made of bamboo and lacquered wooden tables that was bbq’ing skewers of meat. I was about to be fed fish for the next five days, which essentially means I’d be eating vegetarian, so I put my foot down and demanded some meat on a stick. It ended up being my favorite meal of the trip so far. We shared a table with a nice Brazilian couple who were on their honeymoon and also doing a Tao trip – but just the three day excursion on a different boat. After dinner we showered and packed our dry bags for the trip tomorrow before heading out to a bar to get a few more drinks. Kristie headed home first, but Mar wanted to keep drinking, so I escorted her back to the Canadian bar to find some familiar faces before heading home. One of the Canadian guys brought his seventeen year old sons with him on a big boys trip, and they were each about ten minutes away from scoring with some super drink backpacker chicks. I haven’t seen grins that big on frat boys with a pocket full of roofies. I suggested they be given condoms, because one never knows with hostel girls, and then took my leave. My guess is those little boys still managed to blow it and went to bed with their dicks in hand. Mar stayed and had more beer and some tater tots with her Canadian motorbike rider in shining armor.

Monday, January 8, 2018

We were up bright and early at 6 am to finish packing. It’s actually quite tricky trying to anticipate what you’ll need in the next 24-48 hours to put in your small dry bag, and then what items you’ll need for the next few days to put at the top of your big backpack, so that it is easily accessible to replenish your dry bag. We grabbed breakfast and checked out, at which point we were told the hotel doesn’t accept credit card. Everyone says that in the Philippines. In actuality it just means they don’t want to accept credit card. I dug my heels in on this one and the surly front desk girls were forced to actually plug in their fucking credit card machine. So sorry to inconvenience you by asking you to do your job. We grabbed some tricycles down to the port where we sat around in the ferry terminal for about an hour with our Tao boat mates and crew, waiting for the coast guard to give us the all clear. Or so we thought. Turns out we were actually just waiting for Guido, the Italian guy, to show the fuck up. I’d like to say he’s on my shit list for eternity, but I have friends that waste my fucking time on the regular so this is nothing new. How on earth he thought his time was more valuable than that of twenty other fucking people is beyond me, but at least I’m not the designated ass hole today.

Here is where things are going to really start to slow down. The general plan is this: motor out to a beach or snorkel site, chill for a while, move on to another, chill for a while, repeat over and over again until the sun is about to set and we make it to a base camp. Then The Juan and some other crew sets up our bed and mosquito netting in assigned open air huts, we have dinner and socialize a bit before bed. Weave into that about ten beers, a bottle of champagne, some sunset jungle juice and whatever the hell else strikes your fancy (in my case, vodka) and you’ve got yourself a Tao Expedition. I should also mention that the food is fabulous and plentiful, but mainly fish, so I’m the queen of the side dishes. For the record, being a vegetarian is fucking boring. I’ve heard there might be a roasted pig one night if we’re lucky, but I’m trying not to get my bad Jew hopes up.  Also, the bartender’s name is Dong.  Which means I am finally in a situation where it is perfectly acceptable to see who can scream “Dong!” the loudest while drunk.  Although it kind of defeats the whole purpose of the game, doesn’t it?

Our first stop was a snorkel site with site with a World War II shipwreck just a few feet below the surface. Let the record show that we made it to the first stop before breaking out the beer. The group of Dutch women started doing flips off the boat as best they could. Apparently they all met in college in a gymnastics club about thirty years ago – they claimed it was twenty years ago, but I’m calling bullshit. If these girls are gymnasts, time has not been kind. Which is why I have decided to refer to them from here on out as the “Gym-nots”. Yeah, I know, my bitchiness knows no bounds.  Trust me, these women are as annoying as they come.  And they talk incessantly.  To anyone who will listen.  About themselves.  And their kids.  And their gymnastics club that they were a part of in the 90’s.  Girlfriend, unless Bela Karolyi himself forced you to do a hand stand on a balance beam with a broken arm to win an Olympic medal, I don’t give a shit about your decades old cartwheeling hobby.  Please shut the fuck up.

Our second stop was what they call a “drift snorkel”. We all hop off the boat and snorkel down a reef along with the ocean current, and the boat comes and picks us up at the other end. The coral here is actually stunning. None of that dead shitty coral that you find outside resorts, having been murdered by ass hole tourists. But you all know my view of snorkeling – unless you have a turtle or a stingray or perhaps a merman to hold my interest, I’m done after ten minutes.

Next, we stopped at one of Tao’s other base camps where the shorter three night expeditions stay. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s called camp Ngey Ngey. Our favorite name in the Filipino language. We had some beers and explored the island and the girls played a little bocce ball. I watched a group of people play beach volleyball while looking on with serious FOMO, since I’m still out of commission due to my shoulder. There was probably another snorkel stop at some point, but honestly I just can’t remember.  Once we start hitting the beers, there is no point in stopping.

We arrived at our camp for the night at a small island with all the running water you can use – which is apparently quite a treat because you can take a real shower.  Newsflash – even if the water is plentiful, a cold shower still can’t last more than three minutes.  I got pretty sick around 7 pm – I still can’t seem to totally shake this bug – so I took a xanax and went to bed. Apparently Mar got shit faced and fell off a dock into water infested with box jellyfish, so I’m pissed I missed that shit show.  Luckily I’ve seen her taken a drunken stumble off a boat before so envisioning that scene is not difficult.  There were some pretty cool bio luminescent plankton (that means glow in the dark shit in the water), but I missed that while puking into a hole in the ground.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

This morning I woke up feeling much better. Breakfast was fucking awesome and I was in high spirits. I just realized I have not yet regaled you with intricacies of relieving your bowels on a Tao Expedition.  Brace yourselves, you’re in for a treat. A flushing toilet is laughably out of the question. We have what are called “wet toilets”. It’s a normal toilet with no toilet seat, and you use a bucket of water to basically drown your own shit.  Who needs plumbing when you have Newton’s law of gravity? There is more squatting going on here than a Richard Simmons thigh burning video. They claim that it is perfectly hygienic to sit on the toilets, but how you sit on a wet seat-less toilet bowl and not automatically assume that you are lounging directly on someone else’s piss is beyond me. It takes a little getting used to. Or so they tell me – it’s day 4 and my quads are looking pretty tight and right.

I honestly can’t remember exactly what we did today. I mean, we did the usual island hopping, snorkeling, eating combo, but I started hitting the vodka pretty early today so if you’re looking for island names, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Most of my boat mates find it odd that I spend all day laying out baking in the sun. I find it odd that they spend the day with rash guards on trying to avoid it. At least my modus operandi isn’t an exercise in futility. But I’m the weird one?

Kristie claims we went to a marine sanctuary for some snorkeling. It must have been more of a coral sanctuary or I would have remembered it. We stopped for some cliff jumping after lunch and ran into another Tao Expedition boat. You know how I was wondering the other day where all the good looking people were? Well, they are on this other boat. They even mooned us. It was an odd feeling, to be on the B-team boat getting mooned by the fun, hot boat. I’m usually on the other end of that equation.  I think the problem was that I filled out my Tao Expedition form using my real age, instead of my travel age.  Next time I’m marking the 20-30 yr old box and doubling up on botox before I leave so no one calls me on my shit. I also can’t help but notice that seven spots on our boat are taken up by a bunch of gym-nots in mom bathing suits which significantly brings down our boat’s metrics. I’ll refer to the other boat as Chlamydia, but that’s only because they probably refer to our boat as Birth Control. There is a silver lining though. I still have my voice because there are no loud obnoxious drunkards to yell over for attention – other than myself and Dave, of course. Also, my appearance is of zero concern to me for five full days. Oh, and I can stuff my fucking face in my bikini without any concern for an unsightly food baby. I can even rub my full belly as I sit on the front of the boat tanning like a beached whale. Is this the kind of indifference that married people feel on a regular basis? Because if so, I might have to get a husband. I’m sure the applications will be pouring in the second this blog goes to print.

We made it to our base camp before the sun went down, and a tipsy sunset photo session ensued. Our shower tonight consisted of everyone being allotted four scoops of water from a communal bucket. Oh, the spoils! It may not sound like much, but looking cute is a such a waste of time that a few scoops of water actually goes a long way. We had dinner on the beach with a bonfire raging. I can’t remember what we ate because (1) it was fish and (2) I was drunk. My vodka sodas started at 11 am and ended around midnight. 13 hours of vodka drinking might be a record for even me. I’m a model for constant self improvement, obviously.  I forced the crew to drink a lot of vodka with me and the Filipinos got SUPER drunk.  Vodka is not their thing.  Rum is their poison of choice.  The lazy man’s booze.  Rory playing bartender with a bunch of Filipinos is basically like pitting Vladimir Putin against Jimmy Buffett in a vodka drinking contest.  They never had a chance.   Our chef, who’s name is The King declared me as his Queen.  If that doesn’t get me some extra pork rations later in the trip, I don’t know what will.  A super weird bonfire dance party ensued, courtesy of Kristie as the DJ.  The gym-nots even joined in for a hot minute.  I assume it must have been because Bon Jovi came on at some point.  Or YMCA.  It basically looked like a dance floor made up of the cast of a season of Survivor.  I’m sure the Chlamydia boat would have laughed their asses off at us, but was actually pretty fucking fun.

In the next blog, I almost die.  I’m currently back at home in California writing this blog while on bed rest and low quality pain killers.  It’s not yet funny for me, but I have no intention of depriving you of the opportunity to laugh at my misfortune, so stay tuned.

The Motorbiking Mamas of Bohol

Friday, January 5, 2017

The other day on our countryside tour, after about our fifth beer, Mar and I came up with the brilliant idea to take a motorbike tour through the countryside a few days later. We asked our driver Paul if he could arrange for two guys on motorbikes to take us to a waterfall on Bohol that I had read about online and some caves on Panglao. Having taken a few motorbike rides home after bars a few nights here in the Philippines, it was clear that girls on motorbikes just have more fun. The only problem is that I hate to drive, and while Mar would love to get behind the wheel, I won’t get on the back of a motorbike she is driving. Because I have known her almost fifteen years. So I know better. Not a problem – for about $10 you can have a nice FIlipino guy drive you around the island for half a day. One would think I would have learned my lesson from my twelve hour motorbike tour from hell through the Thai countryside courtesy of Kim Ortloff a few years ago, but apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. Kristie’s plan was to head to Alona Beach and go diving for the day.

We had texted Paul a few times yesterday to confirm our tour, but never got a response. We gave up and just accepted the fact that our motorbike adventure would not happen. At 8 am, Kristie went out to catch a tricycle to town but came running back to tell Mar and I that two guys on motorbikes were outside waiting for us. We talked to Paul on their phone and apparently he couldn’t respond to our texts and our hotel is incapable of giving messages. We were checking out that day, so Mar and I hauled ass back to the room for a complete shit storm of frantic packing so that we could check out before hopping on the bikes with Tims (my driver) and a guy who’s name I can’t remember – but it was a two syllable name that repeated, so we’re just going to refer to him as Nigi-Nigi because it makes us giggle.

In all the hurried confusion it did not even occur to us that it had been raining earlier that morning and there was a distinct possibility that it would continue raining that day. I’m sure it goes without saying that it did rain. It rained hard. People looked on in utter bewilderment as these two dumb shit white chicks sped past them on the back of some random Filipino guys’ bikes in the pouring fucking rain through the countryside of Bohol. Do you know what pouring rain feels like at 60+ km an hour on a motorbike? Needles all over your fucking body. Meanwhile, Mar-Mar is happy as a clam on her bike, arms stretched out wide, head back, jaw unhinged collecting rain water, screaming “whooooooooo!”. At one point our drivers just looked at each other as if to say “what the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?”. At another point, they actually stopped to call Paul to make sure they weren’t lost. I shit you not. And then, after almost an hour on those damn bikes in the pouring rain, we arrive at Camiguin Falls. Was it worth it? Hell yes it was. It was worth every single minute.

The waterfall first appeared in the distance through the jungle and I instantly knew we hit the travel jackpot. It stopped raining right as we arrived at a little shack where we were told to sign our names in the visitor book – we were the first guests of the day. Jims and Nigi Nigi then lead us into the jungle down a muddied path with slippery stone steps, until the canopy revealed a series of emerald green pools. We hiked along each of the pools until we reached the waterfall. It looked like something straight out of the jungle book, and we had it all to ourselves. I’m assuming that’s mainly because we are the only tourists crazy or dumb enough to attempt the journey in the rain, but either way, I’ll take it. Mar and I immediately stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped in. Our guides tried to creepily snap pictures of us as if we didn’t notice. I’d probably want a picture of the crazy bitches that made me drive and hour in the rain on bike too. So I could put up “Beware” posters of them all over town for the other guides.

We spent a while swimming and jumping into the big emerald green pool at the base of the waterfall and eventually hiked back to the bikes. We breathed a sigh of relief that the rain and stopped and were looking forward to a far more pleasant ride back to Panglao. We got about twenty minutes of sunshine on those damn bikes before, wouldn’t you know it, the skies opened back up. At this point, we were immune. Our next stop was Hinagdanan cave back on Panglao, near our hotel. It’s basically a cave with a big natural pool you can swim in. If there is one thing I love more than a cave, it’s swimming in one. This stop was more touristy, complete with a ticket office. We were told it cost extra to swim, so we paid for the special swimming ticket. It wasn’t until we got down into the cave that we realized no one is checking who has a swimming ticket and who doesn’t. Swindled out of another $1.50. Oh, the horror. We swam around in the cave until some Asian tourists joined us an proceeded to kick us in the face vigorously like it was YMCA swimming lesson. We took our leave and headed back to the hotel, where we bid adieu to Jims and Nigi Nigi, tipping generously for humoring us in the pouring rain.

Back at our hotel, we discovered Kristie didn’t actually get to go out on her dive, because she was supposed to do some sort of refresher course for her certification. We loaded up all our shit and transferred about a mile down the road to Amorita resort (our current resort was sold out tonight). This new hotel was fucking beautiful, with an infinity pool overlooking all over Alona Beach. The check in process was bizarre – customer service here borders on deranged, so we just grabbed some lounge chairs by the pool and glasses of ice and started making our own vodka sodas.

Once we finally got into our room, we moved over to the larger infinity pool where we, believe it or not, continued to drink. We met a nice Italian man who lives a few blocks from Kristie in Venice. The hotel hosted a sunset happy hour with free drinks. We went to dinner at their tapas restaurant which was the best meal of the trip so far. We were even treated to a fireworks show courtesy of a wedding at the neighboring hotel. Our plan was to go out that night, but we had been informed by our Italian friend that there isn’t much in terms of nightlife, so we headed to bed early.

Saturday, January 6, 2017

Today I woke up with some sort of stomach bug. It basically felt like I was being stabbed in the abdomen aggressively all day. Whenever the pain hit I just shouted “contraction!”. Today we are taking the fast ferry to Dumaguete, where we will stay a night before catching our flight to Coron the following morning. We headed to the ferry around 11 am where the ticket buying process was a complete assault on practicality and efficiency. First you get in a line to buy your ticket. The lady at the ticket counter yelled at me for already asking her a question early. I told her it must have been a different white girl because I just got here. Apparently we all look alike. Then you move into another line about 2 feet to your right and give the tickets you just bought to the guy at the check-in counter. At that point, you move to a line ten feet to your left, on the other side of the ticket-buying line to check your bags. After that we attempted to enter the ferry terminal – silly us. First you have to go into the line on the very far right of all the other previous lines to pay your terminal fee. After all this, you can finally enter the terminal and board your boat. We arrived in Dumaguete and basically just chilled there the rest of the day. Because it’s kind of a shit hole of a town. And I felt like shit.  Although our hotel, Florentina Hotel, was fucking adorable. TripAdvisor for the win.

Sunday, January 7, 2017

We headed to the Dumaguete airport around 8:30 am to catch our flight to Busuanga (Coron) via Manila. That’s right, we are braving the Manila airport. But its a quick transfer within the same terminal, so it will be painless this time. I have somehow taken numerous flights within the Philippines thus far without writing about the firearm drop-off desk. Outside of each airport is a desk where you can drop off your firearm before boarding your flight. I guess it’s like airport parking for your gun. Because god forbid you drive to the airport without your gun. Nothing like a big “Firearm” neon sign to give you the warm and fuzzies before boarding your flight. We checked in with Philippine Airlines and got into a fight with them over baggage – apparently we were over the limit and they wanted to charge us. Twice. One charge for each leg of the trip. Do you have any idea how hard it is to fight with Filipinos? They are so damn sweet and calm at all times. It’s like trying to argue with Barney. Or a Canadian. You just end up looking like a total prick. And all they do is repeat themselves over and over again until you give up because, in actuality, its not a lot of money and its clear they don’t give a fuck, so they just won’t let our bags on the plane. The thought of being trapped in Dumaguete makes me want to help myself to the firearm drop-off bonanza and end it.

I’ll end it here, because I’m out of time and am about to board my five day boat through the Palawan islands. Which means no wifi for five days. Which means no blog for five days. Later losers!

A Virgin, a Holy Infant and a God Fearing Seaman Walk Onto a Boat….

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Good news my friends, its another BOAT DAY. We were up bright and early to knock out breakfast and pack a dry bag full of booze. Sound familiar? A morning banca boat excursion is ideal for calmer waters and less crowds at the snorkel sites, so we caught a tricycle to town around 7:30 am. Having walked around town the night before, I had inquired into the prices for a private boat, so I knew the general ballpark of where negotiations should begin and end. Boats are pretty cheap here in Alona Beach, but they also charge extra per person to snorkel with the turtles, so factor that in if you every make your way to Panglao. Although, to be clear, we are talking about a general spread of $5 USD on pretty much everything so it’s all Monopoly money. We hopped off the trike and the first guy that approached me agreed to the price I wanted, so he was our lucky winner. I asked him to point out his boat to make sure it wasn’t a piece of shit. When he pointed to a boat named “Holy Infant” I instantly knew it was a winner.  An entire day of drunkenly riding the Holy Infant with a stop at Virgin Island?  That blog practically writes itself.  Within about five minutes we were boarding the Holy Infant with Jessie and his little buddy who’s name I can’t remember because he didn’t speak.  First stop – sea turtles!

It was low tide, so we had to walk out to the boat through some sea grass, which is known to sometimes have sea urchin lurking in it. Of course my shitty target sandals choose this very instant to break. The walk that ensued was very slow, unsteady and nerve wracking. Pretty sure that’s the only way to approach a Holy Infant anyway. Once aboard we realized we forgot to rent some snorkel gear, but Jessie insisted we could get some once we reached Balicasag island. So off we went on the Holy Infant with our God fearing seaman. I made that up on the boat and thought it was hilarious that I managed to include god and seaman in the same sentence. The girls were not nearly as amused. Tough crowd. We embarked on our journey thinking that we were pretty fucking special for getting to ride on the Holy Infant, until we passed a banca boat named Holy Infant 2. Upon arrival at Balicasag island, we noticed about five other boats named Holy Infant or Holy Infant 2. It was disappointing to say the least. The majority of Filipinos are Catholics, so I would think they could at least spread the wealth of boat names among all those saints.  Feeling rather basic at this point, we popped a bottle of champagne to lift our spirits for a little pre-snorkeling warm up.

We got to Balicasag island and Jessie called over a man in a canoe to rent us some snorkel gear and take us to see the turtles. The price we were given here was higher than the price we were told back in Alona Beach, so I got pissed and an argument ensued.  Sure, we’re only talking about a couple of bucks, but I do not take kindly to people trying to fuck with me and my money just because I’m a white girl and a tourist.  The snorkel man was also supposed to be our guide for snorkeling with the sea turtles, but at that point I decided I just didn’t like his fucking face – it was dishonest – and we told him to kick rocks and asked Jessie to get us a different guide. Guide #2 was a young, innocent looking boy who didn’t piss me off, so he was the lucky winner. We got into his little canoe and took it to shore to get into a slightly larger canoe (which I’m pretty sure was the ass hole’s canoe), which we then took over to the snorkel site. Someone told us it was our guide’s birthday.  I’m pretty sure they tell every boat that to get a better tip.  Chill out bro, I’m from the US, I’m good for a decent tip if nothing else.  If you are wondering why moving to canoe was necessary, as I was, it is apparently because you need a special permit to be in the area with the turtles and only the dive boats have them. Basically, it’s just a way to get more money out of tourists, but that’s the game so we played along.

Let me preface this next part by informing you that I fucking love turtles.  I think you have to be a sociopath not to.  I also grew up with a bad ass desert tortoise name Mr. T who is a straight fucking gangster.  He punks dogs and bites people’s toes.  As we we were paddling along our guide yelled “turtle!” and pointed to the water, so Kristie and I quickly threw ourselves overboard and the hunt began. Mar was having some snorkel difficulties, so she joined a little later. The next half an hour or so consisted of us running down turles as fast as possible until our guide yelled at us to stop from swimming too far out into the area where small sharks like to hang out. We saw about ten turtles in total, and I managed to get selfies with two of them.  At one point I was almost close enough to reach out and touch one.  I did not – because I wouldn’t appreciate weird creatures who think I’m cute randomly touching me as I swim either.  It was definitely the highlight of my trip thus far. Satisfied with our hunting skills, we returned to our big boat and made our way to the next stop – Virgin Island.

Another island, another bottle of champagne. We pulled up to Virgin Island, which boats a beautiful, white sprawling sand bar with a few makeshift bamboo shacks selling coconuts, fried bananas, fresh sea creatures and, most importantly, beer. There was a big sign that said “Virgin Island”. We proceeded to desecrate it with inappropriate pictures. A Filipino guy asked to take a picture with us. I told him it would be 100 pesos per girl and he actually started to get his money out. Apparently non-virgins can demand a high price here on Virgin Island. I obviously did not take his money ($2 USD for my dignity – methinks not) but we obliged with a pic anyway. We bought some beers for our crew and noticed an instant improvement in their demeanor. While blasting our music  an impromptu dance party ensued on our boat. Even the guy who doesn’t talk busted out some sweet moves.  The Filipino captains and crews of the other boats gave us thumbs up and made heart shapes at us with their hands. Let it be known that Rory, Kristie and Mar-Mar were the undisputed fun queens of Virgin Island.

Back at Alona Beach, we had a late lunch at a Greek cafe called “Heros” which was out of water, but luckily not out of beer. Kristie and I took shots of vodka from a water bottle that, ya know, we just happened to have with us. One can never be sure when the need for an impromptu swig of vodka will strike. Back at our resort, we all scattered into various stages of swimming in the pool and napping. Mar and Kristie went to get massages before dinner. We ate another mediocre meal. We have accepted that good food in the Philippines is just hard to come by.  Thats ok, we didn’t come for the food. After dinner I sat outside creeping on a wedding and blogging while listening to speeches. The maid of honor’s was a fucking train wreck. It was her sister. That’s the problem with having to make your sister the maid of honor, isn’t it? Nine times out of ten, you have friends that are far more entertaining than your sister. Luckily I have two brothers who are funny as fuck and no sisters that can subject me to the indentured servitude know as being the maid of honor.

Tomorrow Marissa and I decide to put together our own little DIY tour and turns out to be Something Different, if you know what I mean. Kim Ortloff – I know I’ve at least piqued your excitement.

The Bohol Adventures of Carmen SanDiego

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It’s countryside tour day! Today we’ll be hitting the main tourist sites on the island of Bohol, chauffeured by a friend of a friend of the guy who drove us to the Cebu ferry terminal yesterday. We finally awoke to some beautiful clear skies for the first time in a few days. After our obligatory massacre at the breakfast buffet, we were picked up by a lovely Filipino man named Paul who is a native here on Bohol. To be clear, we are staying on Panglao island, which is the largest island off the coast of Bohol, which is a big island off the coast of Cebu. But since the entire damn country is and island off an island off an island, why split hairs?

Our first stop of the day was the chocolate hills – which is a weird geological formation of about 1200 or 1700 conical mounds of limestone sprinkled throughout the countryside. The numbers depends on who you ask. It basically looks like the ground grew a shit load of boobs all over the place. In the dry season they turn brown, hence the name, however in the current wet season they are a beautiful green. I inquired as to the cause of these formations, under the assumption that the answer would be geological in nature. No, no my friends. Let me tell you a story about a Filipino slut named Carmen, who fell in love with a giant. Then one of two things happened: (1) she banged another giant and he cried tears which turned into the chocolate hills, or (2) she banged another giant and they got into a fight with mud balls which turned into the chocolate hills. If those seem a bit far fetched, there is a third, far more viable theory: Dinosaur poop. We obviously decided on the slut and the giants. Carmen SanDiego, you little minx.

First order of business was to take these earth boobs for a test drive – with some ATVs and dune buggies. We ended up getting one ATV and one dune buggy, because they don’t let two people on an ATV. I obviously did not drive because (1) I hate driving, and (2) perks of having a bum shoulder mean I don’t have to. So Kristie is manning the dune buggy with me in tow and Mar on the quad bike. We leave the little road side stand and off we go through the chocolate hills. It was a dirty ride, as the path was muddy from the typhoon that hit earlier in the week (the same one that turned us into drunk, wet club rats on New Years Eve).

About a third of the way through our drive, Kristie and I hear a “pop” and our dune buggy dies. The guide calls someone to bring us a new one, but surprise, they are fresh out. Being the problem solvers that we are, I hop on Mar’s ATV and Kristie takes the wheel of the guide’s ATV. The poor guy had to ride side saddle behind Kristie. Mar then decided to make that countryside tour her bitch and floor it, effectively becoming our new guide, while I yelled “later losers!” while she cut off random tourists on a muddy dirt road. We are such fucking liabilities. We went back to the roadside stand and demanded some money back. They sales girls did their best to duck us, but we persisted and were rewarded with half our money back. Which was like $10. Hello, beer money. You didn’t honestly expect us to spend a day being basic tourists without getting drunk, did you?

We found this in a little cave and chugged our beers

Next order of business, pick up some beers on the way to the chocolate hills viewpoint. As if I didn’t love the Philippines enough already, you can buy beers out of the window of your car from random stands on the side of the road. Paul dropped us off at the viewpoint, where we trekked up the 200+ stairs to get to the viewing platform. The other tourists commended us on our resourcefulness in bringing beers for the journey. I swear, it’s as if I fucking invented drinking while touring everywhere I go. How do these people not bring or buy refreshments when being shuttled around by a tour guide? It’s fucking baffling. They obviously want to get liquored up, or they wouldn’t be staring at the beers in our hands with foam at the mouth. And my disdain for the general population is once again bolstered.

Our next stop was to see the Tarsiers, which are the smallest primates on earth. If golem had a baby with a spider monkey, it would look like a Tarsier. These little fuckers walk a seriously fine line between cute and creepy. Mar and Kristie say cute, but I’m on the fence. They are nocturnal and they are fucking terrified of everything. Loud noises, their own shadows, you name it. If they are subjected to enough loud noises or activity they will get so stressed out that they will actually commit suicide. Usually by banging their weird little heads against a tree. So naturally the conservation effort here on Bohol includes selling admission to obnoxious (and sometimes drunk) tourists to creep on them. It’s no wonder they are endangered. I hate to state the obvious here people, but natural selection. This was a fifteen minute stop at best. Walk around, look at these poor little creatures who are clearly terrified, feel bad for them, get out. One Italian couple had a child running around screaming. Finally, I have found another primate who wants to bang its head against a wall at the sound of misbehaved children. One more point for evolution.

Next stop – hanging bridges. It’s exactly what it sounds like, you cross some sketch looking bridges over a river. Obviously we needed more beers before crossing the very possibly unstable bridge, because tourism. Bridge selfies ensued. Our last stop of the day was a church. We specifically mentioned to Paul that we weren’t into the church scene, but he really wanted us to see this one. It was currently being rebuilt after having crumbled during an earthquake a few years ago. We needed to pee anyway, so we figured we’ll take a piss in the church, Paul will think we felt the Holy Spirit, everyone is happy. Earlier in the day Marissa asked Paul if he’s ever met a Jewish person. When the answer was no, she very excitedly informed him that it was his lucky day because he has two drunk ones in the backseat. So I think it’s safe to assume his reasoning for our stop at the church. Sorry Paul, it’s gonna take a lot more than a half-built church who’s women bathroom doesn’t open until 1 pm for us to join your ranks. By the way, we used the men’s. This bladder waits for no one, not even at church.

We headed back to the hotel, stopping for champs on the way because, unlike the rest of us primates who are composed of primarily water, Mar-Mar is about 60% champagne. I got a massage before dinner. We ate a mediocre free buffet and went to bed around 9 pm.

Sunset from our room

 

Logistical Luck in the Philippines

Monday, January 1, 2018

I woke up feeling far less hungover than I had expected. 2018 is looking up already. It was another rainy day on Boracay, so we spent most of it lazing away on the beach, alternating between tiny bursts of sun and rain. At this point we’re immune to the cloud bursts and just wait them out under the relative safely of our lounge chairs. We continued to run into translation issues with the “yes ma’am, no” answers we received from everyone at the hotel. Marissa also made the mistake of requesting two things at once (towels and a drink menu). Multitasking is not the business here in the Philippines. Whatever you do, only ask for one item at a time. Or one question at a time. It’s like when you send an email at work with three questions in it, and the prick you emailed responds answering only one of the questions, at which point you are forced to send another bitchy “per my earlier email….” message. At lease the Filipinos can use a language barrier as their excuse. Martha in Human Resources has no excuse.

Around 3 pm we decided to get off our asses and take a walk down the beach to the Spider House Resort, which is known for good sunset views – if you actually have some sun. We headed down the beach, around a little cliff, past another beach and found quirky Spider House built into the rocks. We snagged a table with a view and settled in for some drinks. Kristie and Marissa took more pictures of the dogs who lived at the restaurant than the sunset. We headed back before high tide made the walking route too treacherous and continued down the beach in search of more drinks.

It was our last night on Boracay and we were determined to stop at Nigi Nigi. Mainly just because we liked the name of it and we have been calling each other “Nigi Nigi” as pet names the entire trip. It wasn’t until day 2 that we realized the way we were pronouncing it could definitely be misconstrued as racist. So we changed it to more of a “neegi neegi” pronunciation just to be safe. We had an interesting few minutes explaining to the waitress and then the bartender what a vodka soda is. They take more of a deconstructed approach to vodka sodas here and bring you a class of ice, a shot of vodka and a can of soda water. However, if you want a “sex on the beach” or a “slippery nipple”, those can be done quite easily. I think this speaks to the type of tourists that you find drinking on Boracay.

We headed back home, but not before stopping at our favorite restaurant, Kasbah, to pick up some chicken wings to go. God damn those chicken wings are good. We ate them as we packed and watched the Kardashians. The Swedish boys wanted to play, but two nights out on the town in a row will generally put me in a coma for a week, so it was early to bed for the trio.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

We left for our next island, Bohol, bright and early at 7 am. Here is the plan: private resort van to ferry terminal, private resort speedboat to airport ferry terminal, private resort van to airport. At this point, we integrate back into normal society with the non 5-star tourists (woof!), catch a flight to Cebu, taxi to another ferry, ferry to Bohol, taxi to our hotel. Welcome to travel in the Philippines. A logistical chess match. We’re going to do our best to remain calm and Bobby Fischer the shit out of the transportation in this country. If all goes according to plan, this should be a solid eight hour travel day at the very least. But when you plan, the Philippines just laughs. So we’re gonna play this one fast and loose. Let the games begin.

All went according to plan until we arrived at the airport and were informed that our flight may be cancelled due to weather. We looked through the terminal windows to see a fucking torrential downpour and airport staff fighting their way through it will inside-out umbrellas. By the way, I’m using the word “terminal” very liberally here. It was a holding pen with a Starbucks. You board from the terminal onto buses which then drive you down the runway to your plane. Oh, and the entire terminal was out of bottled water. I was already envisioning my fate – trapped in this airport in storm with no water – when they called our bus/flight to board. Once we were on the plane and ready to go, we were informed that the plane was grounded due to weather. Of fucking course. They get me into an even smaller enclosed space before screwing me over. And then, like magic, ten minutes later they just said “prepare for takeoff”. Sure, they toyed with my emotions, but we got the hell out of there before they started canceling flights, so I’m a happy camper.

We landed in Cebu international airport and quickly picked-up our bags. Too quickly. Suspiciously quickly. After our Manila airport experience I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. We walked outside to find a ridiculously long taxi line wrapped around half the damn airport. I knew we’d hit a snag! Here is it, this is where it all goes to shit. Wrong. A guy with a clipboard (probably searching for white people) said he could get us to the ferry terminal for about $15, so out of the taxi line we went and into a delightful air conditioned SUV. Remember people, it’s not a real problem if you can throw a little cash at it. Our fabulous driver even insisted on dropping me off to buy the ferry tickets and waiting so he could then drive us the half a block to the actual ferry terminal to avoid us having to carry our bags. Oh, and he promised to call his buddy on Bohol to pick us up after the ferry. Sure, buddy. We’ll hold our breath for that. Thanks for the ride.

So here we are at the ferry terminal. There are only a few more legs of transportation left on this journey for the Philippines to logistically fuck us. The cluster fuck must be coming! It must! Yet after a thirty minute delay, sure enough, our ferry actually leaves. Two hours later we dock in the city of Tagbilaran on Bohol island. The luggage claim was a complete fucking fiasco at the end of a dock – because people bum rushing rolling suitcases surrounded by water on three sides is an excellent idea – but once we finally got out of that alive guess what we found? I’ll be damned if a man wasn’t standing there with a sign with my name on it. Apparently our driver from Cebu called his friend, who sent one of his drivers to get us. Twenty minutes later we were checking in to our hotel, South Palms Resort, on Panglao island. And to add insult to injury, we found out that I had apparently booked half board without even knowing it. Ok, Philippines, if you are trying to make up for the complete cluster fuck of an airport in Manila, you are coming pretty damn close.

We celebrated our great logistical fortune by toasting to the travel gods over a few drinks at the beach bar at our hotel. We then headed into town to grab dinner, because the buffet, albeit free, did not impress. Shit is cheap here. You can forgo a free meal and pay for one instead without feeling guilty, which is nice. Before we ate we had grand plans of finding a fun bar to get drinks after dinner. However we ate ourselves into comas and went straight to bed. We have our favorite friendly island driver sending a guy to pick us up tomorrow at 8 am for a countryside tour anyway. Spoiler alert: the words “breakdown” and “drunk” will be used. And no, I’m not talking about my typical Saturday night.

Should I take this as a lesson that I need to be more optimistic? Lets not be hasty. It’s a new year, but its the same Rory. Besides, if you don’t expect shit to go wrong, you miss out on the fun of being fucking thrilled when it goes right.  Plus, if you think I’m pessimistic, Kristie thinks that this blog is going to jinx us for the rest of the trip.

Side bar: There is a wedding going on at our hotel right now as I sit on my beach-front patio writing this. A destination wedding. The Canadian best man is crashing and burning with his speech. It’s fucking awesome. He just said he views the bride as “an older sister”. Quit while you’re behind, bro. Oh wait, it’s because she saved him from a drunken run in with a lady-boy on a previous trip to the Philippines. Shit, he’s growing on me.

Not so Thrilla in Manila

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 – Friday, December 29, 2017

Once again, another travel season is upon us. I celebrated the holiday season at home this year. What a waste of fucking time. I typically make it a rule to leave the country for the holidays, but due to a shoulder surgery last month I wasn’t cleared for travel until now. To be honest I probably still shouldn’t be traveling, let alone backpacking, but the travel itch must be scratched. So here I am, sitting in the Guangzhou airport in China after a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, awaiting my next flight to Manila, where I will then board my third flight to get to Boracay. After New Years in Boracay, we head to the island of Bohol, via Cebu, and then it’s on the Palawan for a sailing/camping trip through what many claim to be the most beautiful islands in the world. Yes, I said camping – more on that later. For now, just google image search the locations I’ve mentioned, be overcome with jealousy, and lets keep it moving.

Let’s meet the cast for our trip. Surprise surprise, it’s a girl’s trip. We’ve got a pretty solid trio of ladies who say yes to everything and excel at drinking, so I have a feeling you are all in for some entertainment over the next few weeks.

First up is Marissa. You loyal blog followers will remember Mar Mar from our relaxing getaway in Maui that quickly turned into a booze fueled shit show that included getting plastered on the open ocean, kicked out of a bar, and hitching a ride with some locals in the back of a truck to naked beach party. You’ll also remember her from Troop 638’s trip to the Canadian Rockies this past summer where I actually managed to get her out of bed before 6 am. No early wake up calls on this trip – she made me promise. Every decision Mar and I make together will be questionable, and has a 98% chance of ending in blog worthy story. Or a jail worth story. Let’s all hope its the former because we are not the young, sweet, innocent kind of people that the country will rally behind as they tweet Trump with pleas for extradition.

Rounding out our little wannabe Filipino trio for this trip is Kristie, a blog virgin! Kristie actually has traveled with me before. It was a long, booze filled weekend in Cabo that I was not able to blog about because (1) I was too busy being drunk for 72 hours straight, and (2) you people really don’t need to know ALL the stupid shit I do. Plus, if you’ve ready about one of my ridiculous Cabo trips, you’ve read about them all. Kristie is no stranger to world travel – she has even mastered the art of solo travel. Solo travel freaks me out because of my need for constant attention, but I have some serious respect for those who do it.

Fun fact: the three of us were all sorority sisters. At least we were for a year before Kristie deactivated. Which just means that most of the sorority chicks annoyed the shit out of her and she didn’t want to pay to be their friends anymore. Luckily for her, I don’t charge. I only tell you this as background information for when we inevitably channel our inner 19 year olds and yell “whooooo shots!”. My guess is that it will take two days, max. Any brave (stupid) souls want to take the over on that bet? Another fun fact: Kristie and Marissa used to live together in Venice – the one with all the cannabis, not the canals. They even shared a bathroom. If you can share a bathroom with someone for years then backpacking through a third world country for two and half weeks is child’s play.

Marissa left for the Philippines about 12 hours before Kristie and I because her options were limited as she was flying using points. The bitch was also flying first class. I made her send me pictures of her seat, since that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to the good life. She settled in to her little pod, complete with pajamas, slippers, and a fucking dinner menu.

That bitch’s classy seat

Meanwhile, Kristie and I were just praying that China Southern airlines had in-flight entertainment in coach. Mar will get into Manila the night before Kristie and I and meet us at the airport Friday morning for our domestic flight to Boracay.

Kristie and I left LAX on a Wednesday night, despite my knowing full well that flying to Asia on a Wednesday night around the holidays is a no-no. It actually wasn’t too bad, and we got through the dreaded Tom Bradley international hall and security eerily quickly. The flight was 15 underwhelming hours of freezing my ass off and collecting all the blankets I could get my hands on. Kristie hit the free wine hard. I hit the xanax hard. The chick in the middle seat in my row found a better spot in the back of the plane, and the poor guy in the window seat got to look at my feet for the duration of the flight when I claimed her seat as my own. Then we landed in Guangzhou, China…

Kristie just got her jacket stolen from the Chinese airport security, who are now playing dumb and saying they don’t know who took it. But methinks communist Santa didn’t bring someone a nice Patagonia jacket this year and their sticky fingers got the best of them. I was aggressively yelled at by the same airport security for not being able to follow instructions which consisted of flailing hand gestures and being screamed at in Chinese. If any of you are waiting for a China trip blog, don’t hold your breath. I’m not sure I would even make it out of the airport.

A quick two hours flight and we arrived at the Manila airport. If hell had an airport, and the devil himself was in charge of traveler satisfaction, it would be the Manila airport. If a city planner was tasked with designing the least efficient air travel hub in the world, he still wouldn’t come close to the shockingly horrific cluster fuck that is the Mainila airport. This place makes LAX look like a utopian transportation wonderland in comparison. Kristie and I landed to a very tame immigration line and sailed through. Little did we know it was the calm before the storm. We then waited for my bag for about forty-five minutes while the moving boxes for half of fucking China rolled off the conveyor belt.  I seriously started to consider whether I had been on a UPS freight plane and just not realized it. Once we got our bags it was time for us to make our way from terminal 1 to terminal 4 to catch our domestic flight to Caticlan (Borocay). Step 1 – check with the “free” shuttle to see how long until the next one would come. They couldn’t say. Could be 20 minutes, could be an hour. Fuck that.  Step 2 – get some cash and grab a taxi to take us to terminal 4. This may sound unnecessary to those who haven’t been to the Manila airport so let me enlighten you. The terminals are basically entirely fucking different airports, and you must completely exit the airport and drive a few miles through a 24/7 traffic jam to get from one to the other. It’s like landing at LAX and then having a connecting domestic flight out of the Santa Monica airport.

We finally arrive at Termina 4, which is the Manila airport equivalent of district 12, to a mass of people tangled in illogical and seemingly meaningless lines everywhere. Luckily Marissa had already been there a while and was posted up in the “baggage drop” line.  This line is basically just a holding pen until they call “last call” for your flight and then hurry you out of that line and into another line so they can get your bags on the plane in time. We quickly realized there was only one way to survive – we had to get drunk. We met some nice boys from Pittsburg or Columbus or some other random city I don’t give a shit about and they pointed us in the direction of one stand that was selling beer. Once we got a good buzz going, Kristie managed to get into a good spot in the shorter line for a different flight and then talk the agent into checking our bags anyway.  I knew that Asian baby face was going to come in handy.

We were feeling quite proud of our accomplishment until we made our way into the terminal and were met with a scene resembling a Red Cross tent after a hurricane. Obviously, we got more beers. And a few more. And maybe a few more after that. By the time we boarded our delayed flight, we were feeling great. We had conquered the airport from hell and even had a great buzz to show for it. We should have known there were problems waiting for us on the horizon.

Finally leaving Manila! Or so we thought

Now, if you’re thinking I’m just being dramatic, give me a minute. Try to think of something that could possibly ruin a great mood when you are drunk with two of your friends on your final 45 minute flight to fucking paradise after a 25 hour journey through Asia. Just try. Got any guesses? How about some poor old guy dropping fucking dead from a heart attack at the back of the plane the second he boards. Bet you didn’t see that one coming?  I doubt he did ether…A girl in the seat next to us ran to the back of the plane to perform CPR. Meanwhile, these Air Asia morons were still letting people board the fucking plane. Passengers had to literally yell at them to stop the flow of people marching directly into a medical emergency. They finally get the old guy off the plane and into an ambulance. We don’t actually have confirmation of whether or not that dude died, the flight attendants said he was fine, but the girl performing CPR and her husband were both in tears as they returned to their seats. Our Midwest friends who were actually at the back of the plane had no idea either – but that’s probably due to their state of intoxication.

Needless to say that brought the mood down a few notches. We landed in Caticlan airport, where we were put on buses and taken to the terminal. Apparently airports being spread out across entire fucking towns is a thing here in the Philippines, because it was a damn near 20 minute drive through a shit show of tricycles and jeepneys to the “terminal”. Luckily, our Midwest friends had some duty-free vodka that we took the to face on the drive. This blog has gotten a lot longer than I had anticipated, so lets just speed through the rest of this. We were picked up by a private van, taken to a private speedboat which transferred us to the island of Borocay, where we were then put into another private van and taken directly to our delightfully wonderful hotel, The Lind. It felt great to finally have some bougie back in my life. At this point we were just under the 30 hour travel mark and delirious. I shoved a bowl of pasta in my face and passed out promptly at about 8:30 pm. Tomorrow I’ll get drunk and do something funny. I promise.