13.05.2009 - 13.05.2009
Earlier, back in Puerto Galera, we met a man while diving who mentioned a city near Manila where you can dive with dolphins and killer whales inside a marine park, and said it was an unforgettable experience, and with almost a day to kill after the rice terraces, we put that activity as high priority on our list. Ss after arriving back in Manila around 5am, we immediately jumped on another bus heading in the direction of Subic (the location of a former US Navy and Marine base) to hopefully get a dive in before going back to Manila for our flight. The transportation getting there wasn’t too complicated, but for going non-stop the last few days, it felt a bit overwhelming. We arrived just as the marine park, Ocean Adventure, was opening and signed up for the dive. Although it was relatively expensive, this once-in-a-lifetime experience was definitely worth it. With our newly acquired certifications in hand the two of us along with the Master Diver headed to the show lagoon where the animals were located. Throughout the 25 minute dive we got to pet, feed, touch the tongues, and ride a bottle-nosed dolphin and false killer whale (it’s not actually a killer whale, but was originally mistaken as a baby KW, and that’s where the name originated from). It was great fun, and being underwater with them definitely put their sizes into perspective. We finished off the dive with a few phoo-ops on the beach with the animals and headed next door to another dive shop to inquire about a few famous wreck dives they offer. While we debated for some time which one we wanted to do, we were quickly reminded that you have to wait a certain amount of hours before getting on a plan flight, so we quickly realized that another dive was impossible, and the decision was easily made for us. It was a bit unfortunate since one of the wrecks was an aircraft carrier with sharks, rays, and other fish inhabiting the site, but hopefully we’ll catch a wreck dive somewhere in Bali. It was a pretty last-minute and random place to visit, but it provided us with some entertainment to pass the day since we were not eager to waste time in Manila.
We made it to the airport on time, eventually arriving in Jakarta around 11:30pm and checked into our guest house a few hours later. Although we’d be losing a day to travel, we decided instead of spending a day in Jakarta and taking an overnight train to Jogjakarta, it would be best to leave early in the morning in order to arrive early in the afternoon to Yogya, since the town is much more enjoyable than the hectic mess that is java's capitol. So we are currently on the train now, and our initial itinerary for Java and Bali for 13 days seems to be very promising. The only variable being the weather, and hopefully we can have some better luck than in the Philippines.
The Philippines overall was a very interesting country. Most everybody speaks English which made getting around and asking for help very easy, but transportation took forever, which was evident in the amount of days we lost to travel. The infrastructure is pretty poor, especially during the rainy season, as all dirt roads become impassible, and even ferry rides can take full days to reach popular destinations. Flying is probably the best option for getting around and Cebu Pacific Airlines was by far the cheapest option. Unfortunately the rumors regarding Filipino food was indeed true, in that it’s pretty miserable. We gave it a fighting chance, but after reoccurring disappointments, we quickly transformed our dietary habits to egg sandwiches and burgers. They do have some saving graces, such as their halo-halo dessert and really great breads and occasional pastries, but the main dishes themselves were pretty below average and not worth the expense. While there is lots of natural beauty and enough beaches and dive spots to make any person happy to forget about home, the only time to visit is during the dry-season, or else none of these places can really be appreciated. If we could plan our trip again, we would have probably bypassed Palawan, which is probably one of the more difficult and remote places to visit and instead taken a ferry from our first destination, Donsol, to the beautiful islands of the Vasayas. Not too big of a deal though since it would have rained the entire time, but Palawan did require a lot of travel days. Lastly, the culture here is very interesting as well. It’s very difficult to grasp exactly what makes someone a Filipino obviously aside from their residency. They don’t have the diversity or religious culture as other countries we’ve visited so far, and with the large American influence on their society, it almost felt as if it was a transplantation of the United States located in Asia. But all things aside, if you’re a beach lover or dive junkie, the Philippines is the place to be. However, if culture, food, and impatience with transportation problems is more in the cards, perhaps another country like Malaysia would suit you. For us, the saving grace was definitely getting certified. But beyond that, we had a great time with the whale sharks and visiting the rice terraces. While Palawan was very beautiful and interesting, for our time crunch, it was just a little too out of the way to warrant the visit. Next blog….Jogjakarta!!