Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Philippines 2011 - Part 1 - Caramoan

For my annual trip to the Philippines surrounding the Manila Spirits tournament, Esther and I joined up with Leigh and Baby Girl for a trip to the untouristed Caramoan, in the Bicol peninsula of southeast Luzon. We went a week prior to Spirits and after two flights, we arrived in Naga. A van picked us up at the airport and took us 90 minutes to the port, where we boarded a public boat for a 3 hour boat ride to Caramoan.

We stayed at West Pen Villas, where for 5000 pesos each (about $115) we got round-trip airport transfers, three nights accommodation, three days of food, and two days of guided island hopping. On the first night, we wandered the town center (read: one street, three blocks) and entertained the locals. Baby Girl and i bought some 1-Litro Red Horse beers (extra strong! 6.9%) at the corner store and joined some loitering locals. We played chess against 10-year-old challengers and won, impressing the amassing throng. Esther and i had some incredible fried chicken from a street vendor. Everywhere we went:

Them: Hello Ma'am Sir! What are you doing in the Philippines? (aside: it's always "Ma'am Sir", even if you are just one dude. to avoid offending potential lady-boys?)
Us: We are traveling before an Ultimate Frisbee Tournament.
Them: Oooooh. What is Ultimate Frisbee?
Us: It is a team sport like rugby, but with a frisbee. Do you know who Derek Ramsey is?
Them: Of course!!
Us: We are good friends with him. We play Ultimate Frisbee together.
Them: Well then you, by association, are also awesome and possibly famous!
Us: Yes, this is true.

There is not much to do in the town itself and the local beaches aren't fantastic, but the islands are unpopulated and beautiful. With our two full days there, we visited 6 islands, and made them our temporary paradises.

Day 1. Matukad, Lahus, and Sabitang Laya

Matukad was heralded as having the best beach of all the islands. In my opinion, while not true, it was a nice place to start, since it was probably the least interesting of all six that we visited. Recent storms littered the beach with more debris than expected, and it was already occupied when we made landfall. Moffleigh (aka BloomFat {Bloomberg+Moffat}) went for a swim in the cove, while Kevsther played frisbee on the beach.

Lahus was a real gem. I stole this picture from the Gota Resorts website, because, well, it's better than mine. Probably because they had a helicopter.

There are two coves on opposite sides of the island, connected by the same beach. We had a delicious lunch there... chicken curry, king prawns, stir-fried veggies, bananas, san miguel light... and we all did our own version of enjoying the island.
  • BG - climbs the jagged rocks barefoot.
  • Leigh - sunbaths and reads on her Kindle.
  • Esther - swims in the double coves.
  • Kev - chills in his hammock.
Later we all reunited and joined forces to build the tiny sand kingdom of Wah. Large in its dreams, righteous in its execution, short in its life, Wah had a prosperous time of growth -- centuries for its inhabitants, 20 minutes for its constructors -- in which it saw the completion of a protective moat, complex drainage system, exterior walls, guard towers, resident dwellings, and some kind of treasure. The creators and residents rejoiced, certain their loving toils would be rewarded with several eternities of peace. But when the armies of evil waves began crashing down upon the outer walls, it was clear their time was limited. Also, i think leigh dropped a large rock on the treasure, so we shoved off to the third island...

Sabitang Laya was the largest we visited, with nice sand, an expansive beach, and cool rock-outcroppings. There were several other groups there already, so we decided to walk down the long beach. We found a second beach, a perfect stretch of sand, unspoilt such that when you walk in it, your foot breaks through the top layer and sinks calf-deep into soft cool below. We all delighted in this for a while -- hey, you've gotta try this, step here, hahaha, isn't that crazy!? --- and while BG went on another shoeless adventure, us three played frisbee on the gorgeous, private beach.

Day 2. Malawi Sandbar, Cotivas(?), and Someplace?

Our first stop wasn't an island, but a sandbar. And as it was high tide, the shallowest area was waist deep. There are several floating huts you can relax in to take cover from the oppressive sun and there are ladies walking around, offering sea shells for sale. They need to be offering cold beers, and they missed a golden opportunity. Of course, we played frisbee, laying out with every opportunity.

Note: yes, i am manicuring a glorious mustache in support of Movember.

Our second stop offered the clearest shallow water we had seen. BG and I played chess in the shade with our guide, Eric. He beat the crap out of us.

The last island saw use of the hammock again, this time Kevsther reclining together. Also, there was a puppy, which leigh named Toast. I'm not sure why, maybe because gosh you're such a cute puppy i just want to eat you?

Leaving Caramoan, we backtracked, first the boat ride, then the van, then an AC bus heading to Legazpi, where BloomFat and Kevsther would eventually part ways, for a whole, like, three days.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year for Halloween, i went out with Baby Girl, Leigh, Ginny, and Alex. They dressed as characters from Peter Pan: Alex as Captain Hook, Ginny as Peter Pan, Leigh as Tiger Lilly, and Baby Girl as Tick Tock the Crocodile. I was Borat. I didn't get the memo.

Our destination that night (Saturday the 29th) was the subway party. Basically, it was a massive gathering of foreigners and locals in costume, partying on subway line 2. You meet at Dongzhimen station, get on a train with a bunch of other costumed party-goers, and ride all 18 stops of Line 2. This takes about 45 minutes, during which people share beers and bottles throughout the various cars.

Arriving back at Dongzhimen, everyone got off and partied on the subway platform for another hour and a half. Ginny and Alex staged multiple sword fights, and occasionally Baby Girl would come along and attack Alex. Everyone loved it, and they were instant celebrities. Locals lined up to have their picture taken with them.

I walked around insulting people in-character as Borat. If you don't know who Borat is, you're probably my parents and i'm not going to explain.

There must have been 300 people there, and we completely baffled the subway staff. Although clearly overwhelmed, they were pretty good humored. I saw them chatting up crazy dressed foreigners and seemed content to let us continue being crazy until the subway closed at 11pm. Eventually, the police arrived and politely corralled us out of the station.

We ended up at Sanlitun where more mayhem ensued, but it was just your garden-variety, late-night, bar-hopping shenanigans. But in costume.

In other Halloween news, i think it's funny how traffic to my website spikes when the holiday approaches. See the most common search keywords below.