Sleaze, more sleaze and sandy knees
11.04.2013 - 26.04.2013 32 °C
So let's get this right. There is a small island. The small island sits within a lake. The lake sits within a volcano. This volcano is in turn on a small island. The island sits within a bigger lake which in turn sits within (you've guessed it) another volcano (75km circumference). Mind blowing yes???
This is the Philippines. This is the place of Volcanoes, beaches, cock fighting, viagra charged old western men (cock fighting) with young phillipino women. Our journey started within notorious Manila. Not the safest place in the world but its reputation is a bity unfair. OK so there is an armed guard when you visit the local 7/11 food supermarket store. You get greetings with your however. Welcome to the store? How can I help you? It is a very welcoming country. And another thing............... We didn't get shot once!
After traveling through the night on " Air Near Miss Airways" we arrived at an unearthly hour and wound are way into a decent hotel; an oasis on a street of blatant but fascinating seediness. Enough sex on every street corner to make Amsterdam feel as twee as a Cotswold village. Propositions everywhere including the shopping precinct. What way to escape it all but to take in the stunning sunsets on the boulevard or take in a drink at the Hobbit bar, where a midget will serve you a drink ironically at a tall price. Despite the reputation there is some class to the city and the old Spanish fort was a real must see.
A popular escape from Manila was lake Taal within the aforementioned volcano. We took the bus here, a mere km but 3 hours in the traffic. One guy reckons that when the road repairs start the journey will be 8 hours. Our "short: was well worth it though. Traveling along the road on what is essentially the rim of the outer volcano you don't realise the awesome site which befalls you. We took a room on the rim and one on the lake. The most outstanding view was the big wheel (The Philippines biggest) at the local theme park.
Just over 2 weeks in the Philippines. Where to go next? We checked out the lonely planet itinerary round the region of Visayas. This meant a stop in the capital of the island of Cebu. This is yet more sleaze paradise. Though the age different between philippino girl and D.O.M (dirty old man) seemed to have increased. In one bar /restaurant the girls were practially chopping up the food for their western "boyfriend". Ocassionally the old boys would leave their zimmerframes behind and creak their way to the dance floor. Oh dear there goes the knee joint! Ming ming will massage it better!" Some of the Western men (many English) had this conspicous professional demenour about them. They seemed to be forever turning around and making sure nobody recognised them. I can just imagine it. "Hi High Court Judge/headmaster/Reverand. What are you doing in the Philipines. Where's your wife?. Have you just adopted that 18year old girl?"
Our next destination was the tropical island paradise of Malupascu. Gloriously inviting turquoise sea. Great for snorkeling but gritty enough to have a real functioning character beyond tourism. It is possible to walk the length of the island in about 3 hours, walking through villages, across palm beach heaven. At the end point is a slender stretch of sand in which you can straddle your feet on both sides of the island. At this point there is an exclusive property owned by Many Pacquiao's (Philippines most successful boxer) promoter.
Next island on the tour was Bantayan island. More glorious sand but dare I say it a little bland, a little flat. However try telling that to the inmates from the local prison. They would quite happily cope with bland.
Next stop after travelling on a sardine can back to the mainland was the pleasant town of Silay, complete with grand colonial mansions. This is the land of the sugar millionaires as attested by the fields and fields of sugar canes. The towns were punctuated with churches, plaques with christian slogans and also numerous posters for the forthcoming regional elections. It was like polling day in the US deep South. Appropriately I could see that a chap called Earnest Bigot was standing. A religious right republican candidate in the US could perhaps adapt a slogan "Jesus loves a Bigot".
We left the land of Bible and ballot and took a tour of a former sugar baron's mansion. The 75 year old playboy batchelor still lived there but was probably holed up in a store cupboard with one of his bunnie girls as we were shown around.
Back on the mainland. We took a night in the decent town Bacolod for some great cheap and excellent barbecued chicken and oysters. A large plate for 65 p. No kidding.
Back on the road for 5 hours plus it was worth the journey for Sugar beach. Nature has worked hard to create this exclusive low key paradise. I nominate a narrow strip of soft sand surrounded by only several low key resorts as one of my favourite beaches. Nothing much to do there besides swim, read, drink and rock on a hammock. Gaze into the sunset or marvel at the hilly outcrop behind. Or chat to the many characters that drift by. The places has the feel of a mini island as is actually cut off from town by a slender strip of river. A mere 50 metres of waterway seals the paradise in place. Most of the guest houses are for some reason run by Swiss people. Merely breaking even is all that interests some of the proprietors. We stayed in a fun place called Tatatuka. This is a mini resort in which all the rooms have there on warped identity. Ours was captain Pugwash on acid. You could have had a room with barbed wire on the ceiling or one with drills embedded in the walls. What minds the Swiss must have. Must be all the holes in the cheese.
We ripped ourselves away from the beach and headed to the university seaside town of Dumguette. This is a supurb base for many attractions. It is also nice (as we did) to have your feet massaged as you stare into the sunset. We took a day trip out to visit twin lakes and a powerhouse of a waterfall.
Once again the food was fairly good in town although the Philippines have an obsession in their food, they are clearly hypertension and tooth decay junkies. They over salt and over sweeten everything. Fortunately no extra sugar is required for the finest and ripest mangoes in the world.
Time to go then and swim with sharks, as you do.