Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Philippines - Cities, and Hobbits, and Islands - Oh My!

This time last year I was a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie to Korea. I had been here for about 3 weeks by the time Chuseok rolled around and took advantage of the 5 day vacation by heading down to Gyeongju - a veritable museum without walls. While it was a really interesting couple of days, for the most part it was pretty quiet since Korea basically shuts down during their version of Thanksgiving. Getting food was a bit difficult, and the transportation on the way back was the worst trip I've ever encountered. THIS year I vowed to get the hell out of Korea and that's exactly what I did by heading down to the Philippines.

We flew out Saturday morning into Manila and we had just missed a pretty big storm from the looks of how wet everything was. We walked around to find a hotel in the Malate area of Manila and ended up getting a room with no windows but a giant mural of London. It was only for a night, so it wasn't a big deal. We went out in search of food and found some of the best Filipino food I had all week. This amazing rice adobo stuff wrapped in a banana leaf - incredible.

We just spent the day walking around, trying to find the Hobbit House - the jewel of the Philippines as far as I'm concerned. The entire waitstaff is comprised of Little People. It's a quiet little place with a stage that hosts really good acoustic cover bands. Can't wait to get back there someday.

On Day 2 we left Manila and went to Tagatay/Talisay/Lake Taal/Taal Volcano (a place by many names really) and then Day 3 we went to the island of Puerto Gallera and Day 4 was spent heading back to Manila and the Hobbit House before flying out. It really was one of the coolest places I've ever been to.

The thing I loved about the whole trip was the fact that it was kind of unwritten. I had bought a Lonely Planet book (which came in handy more times than I can count) but the locals were the ones that made the trip. They told us how to find things and where to go. And the transportation options were incredible. We took a $2 bus ride 2 hours to talisay, and then a tricycle ride to the lake, and then a jeepney to the next bus, only to take a ferry in these boats that are completely unique to the Philippines to get to Sabang. And then we hired a van to take us back to Manila so we didn't have to take a 4 hour bus ride. The whole thing was just incredible and I'd do it again in a second.

Enjoy some pictures ;)