I have a billion and one things to do, but I cannot help but jot down my memories of the Philippines instead! I'm still procrastinating about living a Taiwanese lifestyle again.
Whilst we were in Palawan everyone told us Honda Bay Island hopping was worth a visit. There a tons of tour packages to do it. They make your life easy and you pay the tour company and they'll pick you up from where you are staying, all the fees like the environmental fee, boat fee and everything is covered and they'll make you lunch. So if you want a relatively stress free, non thinking adventure it's good. It'll cost you around P 1300-1500. So that's around £20-24 pounds. So it's pretty cheap in reality. However...my friends and I are just not that organised and never made plans for the days ahead. We just planned the day as it came. So for us it was too late to book on a tour package. But the lovely receptionist at our hostel told us we should just get a trike there and organise it ourself, she told us it would also be cheaper. So we thought, ok why not.
The security guard at our hostel sorted us out with a trike to get there. There are security guards everywhere in the Philippines...every hotel, hostel and store has a security guard that opens the door and greets everyone. Zoran, the guard at our hostel was lovely and every time we got in a trike he would write down the license plate number of the driver and wave us off. So off we went for a 45 minute ride by trike to Honda Bay. On the journey there we went through little villages and beautiful greenery. Massive hibiscus flowers could be seen everywhere. We arrived at the bay and then we had the task of trying to organise everything for island hopping ourselves. This turned out to be a little harder than we had expected. That day they had fewer boats than normal so there were delays. So we didn't really know what to do. I think we just looked so confused that the lady at the desk probably felt sorry for us. She was sooooo lovely, she asked around and found a group that had space on their boat that we could tag along with. Which was perfect for us as that meant the cost of the boat would be less, instead of just dividing it between 3 of us. So after a bit of waiting, surrounded by the tropical tune of the ice cream van, roosters and people bustling around we were ready to go with our little group.
We didn't have a tour guide as such, just a local called Bryan who acted as our guide. (Yes dad...a Bryan with a Y!) We left the bay and headed for the first island. There are over 7000 that make up the Philippines, which I find astonishing!! The journey out to the first island was just breathtaking. Out in the middle of the ocean, mountains in the distance. Epic! As we got closer to the first island, we could see the palm trees, then the white sand. There were a couple of little huts. It is evident that the Pinoys really look after the natural beauty that surrounds them. As the people in our group had paid for the whole tour package they were having lunch provided for them. So we decided to just go off and swim! The sea was a beautiful turquoise shade, the water so calm. Fish swam around us. Ahhh just soooooo beautiful! We took a little walk along the shore and saw many a crab and some really stunning shells.
The group we were with insisted that we had lunch with them when their food was ready. We protested a little as we hadn't paid for it, but they had so much that they insisted. So we were very lucky and got a free lunch! Which was delicious! Ahhh Filipino food is soooooo delicious! We had freshly caught and grilled tuna, chicken and pork adobo (one of my favourite Filipino dishes, such a party for the ol' tastebuds), rice and fresh fruit. Bryan being a true Pinoy ate the traditional Filipino way, with his hands.
The next island we went to was the prime spot for snorkelling. There were lots of interesting fish to be seen. We went in the water for a bit and then just made the most of the gorgeous sunshine and sunbathed!
Then the third island was similar to the first. White sand and palm trees, perfect for climbing, complete with coconuts. With a few little huts to sit and chill out and stare out at the beauty that surrounds you. After exploring the island we headed back to the bay.
So was it cheaper to organise the trip ourselves instead of pay for a package tour? Oh yes! Way cheaper. Obviously we were fortunate as there were three of us that went and we divided all costs by three. It would obviously cost more for a solo traveller. But for us we ended up paying less than P 500 each. So that's less than £8. That to me is utter madness, I experienced the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen in my life, some of the most natural and stunning views. And it cost me so little! I can't even buy a meal in a restaurant for that in the UK!
As we headed back into Puerto Princesa, on our trike ride back we saw a KH. Where bro's and sis were working. Our lovely trike driver asked us if we wanted him to stop. He could obviously tell we were excited. So we hopped out and spoke to them and found out about meeting times and stuff. The international brotherhood is just amazing. Turned out the meeting was that evening and as they were just an English group the meeting would be in Tagalog. We decided we would go anyway. So in the evening we went to KH. I cannot describe how much love we were shown. Before we even walked in the door we were greeted and welcomed by many. An elderly sis grabbed my arm and we walked in together. It was so lovely, she didn't know my name by this point but she was so happy we were there visiting them. As most of the meeting was in Tagalog we didn't understand much. But Tagalog is a very interesting language. The numbers and a few words are exactly the same as Spanish, so at times it was possible to hazard a guess. Little kids came up to us and wanted to talk to us and play. So cute. To avoid everything getting dusty they have plastic chairs, which after every meeting they stack up, put to the side and then everyone goes outside of the hall to chat and associate. It is such a wonderful experience being able to go anywhere and be welcomed. I think the reason I felt it so much here in the Philippines is because of the Pinoy culture, they are naturally loving and happy people that it is easy to feel at home and at ease with them. Obviously I was welcomed to TW when I got there, but in a Taiwanese way where they don't so much express their feelings and although I felt welcomed, I can't describe how the feeling compared when welcomed to the Philippines.