Philippines to Bali

Coron

Coron had grown on me. Paradisiacal nearby islands with untouched beaches, good food, and very happy locals who are great to talk to. Though, these would be an appeal on their own, it was not why most people come to Coron. Its fame with tourists lay underwater.

In 1944 as Japan declared war on America. They attacked Pearl Harbour, the US military bases in Guam and Wake islands, and the Philippines (which at the time was under American control). 24 Japanese warships were anchored in Coron Bay to…history lesson…long story short, the US Navy bombed most of the 24 ships until they sank or were completely destroyed. Now 9 Japanese warships remain mostly intact underwater. They have become host to a wide array of sea life and most importantly, are divable.

Besides some excellent wreck dives, Coron also boasts fantastic restaurants:

  • El Brujita – I ended up eating breakfast and dinner here at least a few times. All the recipes are originals, created by the talented Czech owner, George. If you like spicy food, ask George for some recommendations, he can masterfully wield chilli in his dishes.
  • Winnie’s Restaurant – a tidy and clean restaurant with fantastic food.
  • Altrove – I ate at their sister restaurant in El Nido by the same name. Pizza and pastas here are freshly made and spectacular.
  • Coffee Kong – Good coffee, with the better internet in town and air-conditioned. A nice place to chill out before and after dives.

You can also go hiking up to the highest point on the island. The way up is a good hour or so (genuinely by this point I can’t remember). But it’s fairly easy going and yields some great views of the local area. A friend (Mary) and I started on the hike quite late in the morning.

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At the top the hill we paused briefly to meditate with the vast expanse of islands, bays and sea before us. There were to options for coming back: the way we had just come climbed or descending all the way down the other side of the hill through a tricky to find trail. We opted for the latter, naturally. The trail was ‘tricky’ to say the least. We found ourselves scrumming against thick jungle foliage, clambering down 5-10m rocky walls, wading through knee deep dead branches and of course walking through a sometimes dry sometimes wet stream. It took somewhere between 2-3.5 hours to get back down (again my memory fails me). If you enjoy a challenge while hiking it’s worth trying the trail.

Though there was still more fun to be had in Coron, my visa in the Philippines ran out. Whilst I would have loved to extend and stay some more, I had already made plans to go to Bali. So, it was time to leave the Philippines, but fear not Philippines, I promise I shall be back.

Coron to Manila

From Coron I flew to Manila. The original plan was to find a hostel nearby where I can sit and use the internet for a while, catch a few hours of shut eye before making my way back to the airport for my flight at 3am.

When I arrived at Manila airport, I decided to just stay at the airport. At best I would have got 1.5-2 hours of sleep in a hostel before I had to leave, it didn’t seem worth the money or the effort. So I found a coffee shop with decent enough internet and got comfortable for a while. A long while.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…not so interesting next couple of hours while I did internet stuff…got on the plane…slept a few hours…wake up in Bali.

Arriving in Bali

I landed at 7am. Usually, arriving in a new place comes with the inevitable harassment by taxi drivers. Fortunately I knew I wouldn’t need to play the game; not at least for a few hours.

I knew my body should be tired but I couldn’t feel it. I was excited. Within a few hours I would see my parents again in person for the first time since I left home.

So I wandered down, looked around the shops to see if I could get a coffee. Unfortunately I didn’t have any money, nor had any cards that would let me withdraw cash. The card I needed was in transit (thanks to fraudulent activity in Thailand before I got to the Philippines).

I headed to the main waiting area, took a seat next to some taxi drivers then befriended them. They taught me some basic words and phrases in Indonesian.

As it approached 11am I went over to the arrivals area looking out keenly my parents.

Legian, Bali

We didn’t get up to much on the first day. I had only a 1 hour time difference, but mum and dad were jet lagged. We had a little stroll around Legian and down the beach.

We spent most the day just catching up. After they snoozed off, I took the opportunity to arrange an excursion for the following day. Then started sifting through some new goodies.

With mum and dad came – possibly the longest distance – Amazon delivery. For the previous few weeks I had been resupplying through Amazon and elsewhere and having it all sent home.

A new GoPro, Go Pro red-filter and macro-lens, and a Suunto D4i dive computer will hopefully let me capture some of my underwater adventures for you guys better.

Those of you aware of my love affair with Vibram Five Finger shoes will be unsurprised to hear I also ordered a pair of Xero shoes. Xero are flip flops meets Vibram Five Fingers. The result, a flip flop that feels like barefoot walking/running.

The rest was just mundane trousers, shirts, etc. Stuff that needed replacing because I lost or destroyed things along the way.

That night we didn’t go out for dinner. Mum had brought a surprise with her. She had brought the ingredients for Nachos. Not any Nachos. As any of my friends who I’ve cooked for will tell you, these nachos are undeniably the best nachos you will taste in the world; made with a special recipe known by many but perfected by no one else but my mother.

Around Bali – Pura Lempuyang

The next day we hired a taxi from the hotel and had them drive us around to see some of the sites. In particular it would take us to the North West of Bali to temple that has 1700 stairs to get to the top. The view from the top was pretty awesome, the temple itself pretty average.

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We were slightly mis-informed by our hotel as to how long the journey there and back would be. Our driver also seemed completely unaware of the best routes to take during the weekend traffic that brings Bali to an almost stand still. So it took us most of the day just to do that trip and back.

More Around Bali

The next day we found a tour company that offered a better deal and a more organised tour. We visited a few more temples and a coffee roasting plantations.

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The coffee roasting plantation.

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Grinding some coffee.

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Monkey forest.

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And to finish the day, we visited the Tanah Lot Temple to watch the sun set.

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