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A look at the Phillipines

PHILIPPINES | Thursday, 20 December 2007 | Views [491]

After finally managing to persuade those helpful chaps at Taiwanese immigration to let us out of the country we headed for Manila. The Phillippines had just seen the first typhoon strength storm of the season and as such some of the air south of Tawain was still a touch wobbly. As it goes, I would certainly not recommend flying through a typhoon unless you really have nothing better to do - investigating the efficiency of
your septic tank with the kitchen sieve and a pair of tweezers perhaps.
90 mins of the 2 hour flight from Taipei involved levels of pacific
turbulence severe enough to relieve even the most stubborn and
persistent constipation, the pilots included. Trying to maintain an air
of calm was certainly difficult when most people around us, including
the cabin crew, were emitting continual sounds of alarm ranging from
uncomfortable 'ooh's to full blown screaming. Of course, I
chivalrously offered the young lady next to me as much comfort as I could while both
hands were welded to the arm rests and my face was locked in a pale,
silent, open mouth expression of abject terror.

It turned out to be well worth the additional colonic stimulation
though with some fantastic countryside and tremendously friendly people
awaiting our arrival. Manila is a thick, sultry kind of a place but it's
certainly interesting, the traffic and the pollution extreme
in the extremest sense of the word. The city heaves under its thick
blanket of nasty orange air from dawn to dusk as the estimated 20
million population try in vain to make their way around the city. The
poverty was a stark contrast to the relative development of Taiwan with
many people forced to make a home for themselves on the pavements,
usually out of whatever they can find in the local trash. Watching
young mothers bedding their infants down for the night next to an open
drain is not easy.
We quickly found positive discrimination to be alive and well though in
the city. Stumbling through a small round door off one of the side
streets in search of refreshment we found ourselves within the low
ceilings of 'The Hobbit House'. Staffed exclusively by midgets, it took
us a moment to work out who was asking us what we'd like to order from
underneath our table. No doubt the equal opportunities commission would
be delighted to see Phillipino small business leading the way in
lowering unemployment among the vertically challenged.

Out of Manila the volcanic landscapes were green and lush. We ploughed
through the countryside on absurdly overcrowded and painfully slow
buses en route to the boats heading for the neighbouring island of
Mindoro. We stayed briefly on its northern coast, enjoying the superb
home cooking of a very nice lady who put us up for a few days and
sampling the local diving. Unfortunately the efficiency with which
unsuspecting fish can be extracted from the comfort of their coral
homes with a stick of dynamite wedged into a milk bottle has decimated
the local reefs beyond belief. It really was very sad. One can only
imagine what might have lain in wait beneath the surface fifty or even
twenty years ago. The glut of overweight Europeans sunning themselves in what i can only imagine were originally child's speedos was sadly equally unpleasant on the eye and as such we didnt stay long.

I did manage to squeeze in a quick and ludicrously expensive fishing trip on board one of the local boats though, keen to try and hook into a tuna if at all possible. As it turns out we didnt actually catch anything. The skipper kindly seated me at the back of the boat in direct line of the exhaust fumes though, leaving me far more interested in the pink dolphins dancing around my head than the fact that I wasnt getting any bites.

Keen for some genuine white sand action we headed for Boracay, often
found somewhere in the endlessly debateable list of the worlds top ten
beaches. The journey was long and without much incident bar the
unfortunate squashing of a sadly innattentive dog midway there.
However, with the considerable noise our jeepney was making in
achieving relatively little momentum we concluded he was probably of no
great loss to the local canine gene pool.

Boracay was stunning, even more so than we had heard with many saying
that it was easily hyped. The sand and the water were both equally magnificent, perhaps best enjoyed from a gentle sunset cruise onboard one of the local catamarans.
We were out of season but the weather was unaware, the island still joyously free from the hordes of Korean tourists who flock there with the sunshine and persist in sponsoring the addition of 75 storeys where ever they can fit them. Anyone thinking of having a look for themselves should make it quick though- it'll be Surfer's Paradise within two years.

Tags: On the Road


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