martedì 28 aprile 2015

Exploring Mindoro Island

Mindoro is one of the biggest island of the huge archipelago forming The Philippines and is relatively close to Manila, you just need a couple of hours to get to Batangas wharf and one more hour by boat.
I followed Leandro suggestion and stayed in Amami Resort, in Talipanan Beach.
In general I would not consider Mindoro, or better the tiny part of the island that I visited, as a Highlight, especially Porto Galera and White Beach which are very touristic places, often expensive and surely crowded with hawkers insisting in selling you some tours. However there are some nice places and spectacular waterfalls like Tamaraw Waterfalls, just on the main road near Porto Galera and the even more spectacular Tukuran Falls near San Teodoro village. Yet the part of the island between Porto Galera and San Teodoro is highly spectacular with scenic view of the ocean encased in a lush, green, rainforest.
I was told that the nicest and wildest part of Mindoro is on the south west coast which is a still undeveloped area, difficult to reach, difficult to travel because of gravel road full of potholes and crevices, very spectacular though.
Once you get to Sablayan, a slamm fishermen village, by boat you can reach the tiny Pandan Island where 30 years ago a frenchman settled a confortable but laidback resort. No wifi, no TV, I mean it's a lovely way to relax in a very secluded island and also to visit the near Apo reef which is also a spectacular and natural place to experience a wonderful excursion between sea and mountains.
I spent a very pleasant week in Amami resort (1500PHP per day) thanks to Fabio and his Pinoy mom, they are a perfect mixture between Pinoy courtesy and Italian exuberance, always helpful and friendly. Moreover, Max, their friend, cook, associate-manager prepared delicious meals (pasta, grilled fish, roasted potatoes, marvellous salads) and had a huge amount of patience to explain me Pinoy culture with its ups and detriments. He has been living in The Philippines for the last 6-8 years and he really knows how deep is the gap between western and Pinoy culture, from small cases to important stuff.

sabato 18 aprile 2015

Palawan: a secluded wonderful island

I heard so many friends talking about Palawan that it was my "duty" to go there and visit its famous places. Flying to Palawan is not cheap at all but being this island quite far, on the westsida of the Philippines archipelago, was the most convenient option.
Puerto Princesa is a boring, unappealing, chaotic city with some good restaurants, a few live-music clubs and a nice walkside on the Baywalk. It's nothing special but along the seaside there are some small food stalls, some shop sellers, lot of teenagers and families enjoying one of the few relaxing areas of PP.
I and my friend visited the famous underground river with its emerald green waters, its majestic wierd stalactites and stalagmites shaped in different ways (Holy Family, Jesus Christ face, corn-cob) and its unique microfauna living inside one of the few floating caves in the world. It was a nice experience the friendly tour guide seemed to repeat a "lesson" learned with the huge amount of touristis crowding this place but for sure it's a kind of exaggeration saying that this site belongs to the new list of the most beautiful places in the world. In Italy we have too many caves (Frasassi, Postumia)that are not less spectacular.
After a long and tiring trip we arrived to the famous El Nido, a tiny, crowded, now touristic village who was born as a fishing village and as a place for "harvesting"the sparrow nests (El Nido means The Chest in spanish). This strange and dangerous activity is quite famous alla around asia: some brave locals use long and tall bamboo ladders to grasps these chests made by regurgitating sparrow saliva, and this very expensive saliva is considered a very good and natural medicin for many diseases other than a skin tonic.
However the last 10-15 years this place underwent the assault of mass tourism thanks to the amazing beaches, the pristine waters and it's natural and unique bays. North Europeans, Australians, Americans and, during Easter time, Pilipinos throng this places and as a result everything costs between 30 and 50% more than in the other regions of The Philippines (except Boracay).
Excursions, especially A and C, takes you with about 20 US dollars to marvellous islands, amazing coral reefs, incredibles hidden coves, stunning small churches and super snorkeling spots.
Once in your life you have to come here but a second time, in my opinion, unless you rent or owns a sailboat that will allow you explore many other spots, I will not return and prefer explore one of the many other natural jewells of this country.

lunedì 13 aprile 2015

Manila: an awful metropolis

When you get to a huge asian metropolis you rarely expect to find a nice place. It's quite normal to get into a nightmare place made of pollution, confusion, traffic jam, pick pokets and expensive prices.
However I recognize that Jakarta has a vibrant nightlife and convenient priced hotels (traffic jam is unbearable though), Bangkok has a marvellous collection of temples, a lovely Chinatown with delicious streetfood and an charming system of cheap waterways...what about Manila???
Manila, on the other side, has very little to catch the interest of a visitor, I might be wrong, maybe expats living there got accustomed and like it, maybe you need some time to discover its hidden "treasures", however I spent as little time as possible there visiting a few places.
The airport is in a total permanent mess: lost baggage is a regular affair, long rows of angry passengers, delays and cancellation of flights, timetables shown only 30 minutes before the supposed time of departure.
Quezon city is not too bad, has some interesting nightlife on the Tomas Morato with many clubs and bars, it's far from the airport but well connected by the MRT.
Malate some years ago was the red light area of Manila but now is a quiet, area with some small restaurants and an ugly seaside populated by the longest row of clochard I have ever found. I didn't feel in any kind of dangers, they just seemed very poor people, sometimes entire family, often earning little money giving massage. There I and my friend met some nice teenagers listening to good music and keen to chat with us.
Pasay city is a very crowded area conveniently located at 15min from the International departure, it's not too far from the Farmer market and has small alleyways which reminded me Vietnam, nothing special but small food stalls and some friendly people which make it an interesting overlooked part of this metropolis.
Rizal Park has not the beauty nor the charme of Lumpini Park in Bangkok, but it's a lovely way to escape the crowd and the pollution of Manila. It has a small lake, several statues of the national hero J.Rizal and a beautiful Chinese park very relaxing with its Chinese red lantern and cute paths.
Makati is the downtown, the business district, the expensive, clean and false face of Manila, just the opposite of the many shanty town were poor people are obliged to live.

mercoledì 8 aprile 2015

Travelling Somewhere New

November 2014, just returned from my marvellous 3 weeks travel from Indonesia and, since Ebola was scaring my parents and brothers, I skipped west Africa and planned next trip to The Philippines.
I had lot of tiny silly doubts about this country because some friends and acquaintances reported the Phlippines, the only catholic country in Asia, as a place where you should be "careful"of thieves and criminality in general.
As I said many times, most of us, if not all, are afraid of whatever is NEW, we fear any type of change, from food (Italians become mad when they cannot find a good plate of pasta..)to people, from habits to language. Once you find enough courage to get there, you discover how EXCITING is everything you find, how tasty is every kind of food you eat, how nice and lovely and friendly locals are, especially those curious to talk with you. Yet you realize that no suggestion, no tip, no book, no friend can predict what your feelings will be once you get somewhere new, this kind of exciting mistery, this small big rick is the main reason you should give a try.
I did it and, thanks God, loved the Philippines after a 10 days of confusion and dizziness.