Sunday, May 19, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After 2 days of pure transit (from Palawan to Cebu), met with my first hiccup of the trip. I arrived in Cebu City to find there were no ferry tickets to Leyte as Christmas weekend was around the corner. I was jumping from pier to pier in the blasted midday heat (apparently, having a centralized ticket office would be too easy for tourists), but finding no luck. Trying to remember why I think unplanned travel is fun. I sincerely miss friends who would have had the foresight to think about or enquire after availabilities and such practical matters. They would have no doubt also taken the trouble to book in advance. Cebu City pier is also definitely not a place to be ‘hanging about’ – no coffee shops or the likes to rest or get a drink. Also, I did run into a shady old man who was wildly gesticulating at me (I think) and seemed to be cursing in the local language (Cebanos?) and it was unnerving to say the least. Although I have encountered several such characters in the past, it is still unnerving. I was ready to throw the towel after few hours and wallow in self-pity, but, but, I managed a ticket in the very end. 3 times the price works, always!!! Anyways, I am telling myself it will at least be a good story for later. :)
PS: I ended up in a slowest of the slowest ferries and a quite a cattle class ferry at that – yes, the ferry also carried a couple of roosters, which wouldn’t keep shut. I woke up at one point during the night and thought I couldn’t have possibly heard what I had heard – roosters crowing. But I wasn’t wrong, and it seems cockfights is a popular sport in these islands.
I was the only non-local who seemed to be headed to Leyte (Southern Leyte), which made me question my choice of destination. Definitely, Leyte too isn’t on the popular tourist map. However, I met this Filippino girl who kindly offered to share her berth…
Friday, February 15, 2013
It was one of the busiest, intense times at work – I can’t remember when exactly – and I was taking a moment to decompress, flipping through NY Times when I read about vacationing on a bunka (boats), off the islands of Philippines. The author wrote – “We were in the middle of nowhere, paradise-style: a sea of high-definition azure stretching to the horizon, dotted only by distant uninhabited islands. After a few days of sailing, life had become a hazy routine: eat, snorkel, chill out. Repeat. We were in the middle of nowhere, paradise-style: a sea of high-definition azure stretching to the horizon, dotted only by distant uninhabited islands. After a few days of sailing, life had become a hazy routine: eat, snorkel, chill out. Repeat.” And I remember thinking that this is how one ought to explore islands. This is exactly how I wanted to explore islands! And that is how the trip to the Philippines came about… I considered different destinations and kept discarding options, I recalled this article, which had seemed like a dream then and thought, why not?
Our trip started at Coron (in the North of Palawan) and over 5 days we sailed towards El Nido (a beach in the South of Palawan). We were 22 of us along with around 10 from the crew. I had read it would be 5 or 6 people on board, and in my mind this number was a big crowd. But it turned out to be perfect – in many of the islands, there were almost none others but us. There was no set itinerary and each day we would set sail, with the expedition leader deciding the route and destination for the day. Through the day we would stop at different spots to snorkel or enjoy a beach or visit a small village. At nights, we docked at an island and we stayed in open huts or cabins. Sometimes the islands had big settlements; sometimes it was an island that was 15 minutes wide, walking. Dinners were simple and were around a big table where we came together and kicked back over beers.
At one island stop, the boys-on-board played basketball with the local kids. At another, one of the village houses had an age-old karaoke plugged into a TV, and we whiled away the night singing all from Bryan Adams to Elton John to Billy Joel. On one of evenings, as I was enjoying the sunset, I was surrounded by the local kids, and unlike the usual ones who tend to be shy of strangers, demanded I take photos of them. On the last day, the boats rudder broke and we had to sail straight through the day while the crew was manually guiding the boat.
I imagined I would have loads of time on my hand during the trip to idle away. Idle away, I did, but time flew too quickly and looking back those 5 days have meshed together to one long image of the sun, sea, starry nights and happy faces. It was a trip like no other for me!
Read the NYTimes article here. For more details of the trip, go to TaoPhilippines. Don't forget to check their FAQ page which has quite a lot of details about getting to Coron/El Nido in Palawan.
PS: Now that I do go back to article to link it here (funnily enough, I hadn't read through it for my planning), it sounds very very similar to my experience, including the karaoke!
Saturday, February 02, 2013
Coron town itself was extremely small, and surprisingly untouristy despite its fame (may be rising fame) as a wreck dive spot. The town has literally 2 dive shops, 4-5 restaurants and 1-2 bars (which unlike those in other backpacker towns are still not trying to cater to travelers), few groceries and fewer money changers.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Jumping away from beaches and travel, just coming fresh off my first hackathon. I am no techie, but the topic was 'reducing environmental impact'.
Tons of thoughts and learnings -
* very inspiring to learn about earth hour and the momentum they've gained
*didn't expect to benefit, but really loved the thought process around app development
- the goal, what are you enabling
- the audience, or who is driving it
- of course, ease of use
* loved the format of hackathon... Tech or non tech. Why aren't we doing it more back home? Or are we doing it more and I just don't know
* once again, a refresher on interpersonal / team skills
* amazing, to think through implementing a solution for a simple problem...
* figuring out that I probably work better when there is someone as excited to the project as I am
* getting myself also not to give up....
* but also know, that one can be blindsided by it!
Don't know if all this makes sense, but feeling pretty good about the past 2 and a half days!