Puerta Galara to Boracay

So I’ll cut through the first bit. A jeepney from Sabang to Puerta Galara town, transfer to a Calapan bound Jeepney, transfer to minivan to Roxas port. Take a 4 hour ferry to Caticlan, then swap to a small bangka (dinky boat) to Boracay, and finally a trike to Boat Station 3. All in all 12 hours.  One hour spent happily playing with the cute 3 year old kid of the Czech Republic family I befriended. The only other moment that brought on a smile to my face was boarding the small cramped bangka boat to watch the Filipinos all lunge for lifejackets before we even left the port. The ratio of jackets to passengers was all looking the way of the Titanic, but worried that many of the locals may not be able to swim, it only fair to do the right thing and give mine up. It did make me curious as to how often they sink though?! Everyone was slightly too keen.

The best bit of my day however, was in finding somewhere to sleep for the night. I first plumped for Tree House; the cheapest $300 peso ($6USD) a night hostel. It’s 10pm, it’s a long shot. It’s great….. No, not really, that wouldn’t make for a good story would it. It is of course full. Gutted. I traipse my ass along the beach elsewhere. And when I say elsewhere I mean to AT LEAST 20 other guesthouses. They are all full. Finally I find a nice lady, who tells me she has a room, but then smugly tells me its $1500 peso/$25. To be fair, at least three guesthouse owners/security guards/passersbys came out to help me. I had the whole island on it and played the ‘just me, alone sad face’ card, yet no one could find me anywhere. Just when the bottom lip was quivering and I was mid way though weighing up the pro/cons of a night sleeping on the beach, I passed a doorway and just murmured ‘woe is me/room?’ To my surprise the guy shouted me back, saying something to his friend that implied he was at least taking an interest. Now normally I’d be concerned that this didn’t appear to be an actual guesthouse, more like someone’s home, but beggars cannot be choosers and all that. He shouts up to his wife, then next thing you know he has a door in his hand and is nailing me together a bamboo hut! It needs cleaning and is ‘homestay’ he tells me, but I ignore the euphemisms. I am ecstatic to finally find somewhere, anywhere, and might just be the only person to haggle a $500 room 2 mins from the beach. I follow him up some bamboo steps expecting the worsted and he leads me into a cute, clean, little hut with Beatrix Potter like bed spread, grabs me a fan, and hammers the door and lock on and boom. I have a home! He only goes and hits me with the grand finale too….free wifi! Love it when a plan comes together!

Puerto Galera, Mindoro, The Philippines

Billed as a tourist must-do, second only to Boracay, I think the guidebooks forgot the prefix: ‘Sex’ tourist. Puerto G, or more specifically the little inlet of Sabang is a messed-up little den of ill repute for the seediest of old men, and their Filipino girlfriends, wives, mistresses, or soon to be any of these. I’m trying not to judge, I understand that if stuck between the unthinkable life of tending a paddy field 12h a day for 60 years vs. exotic holidays and the trappings of designer clothes that you can really blame some of the girls for Belle De Jour-ing it up. Or in some cases the sad, deluded men that do it. I saw the Louie Theroux special, I get both sides I really do. But I guess it just is really hard to swallow when you see it so in your face. It makes me long for the innocence of Phucket, and that is really saying something.

You won’t blame me then for opting to get as far away from vice city as poss. First to Sinandigan Beach, to Tuna Alex’s; a 150 peso (£1.40) hostel near a beach in a small fishing village. This would have been fine except I was the only person there. Oh actually, that’s a lie, I was just sweeping the 20 bed dorm for serial killers, when some Russian character called Serge (50 years old) showed up, intent on talking me to death and force feeding me mandarins. I tried to make myself scarce by walking to nosy next door at the luxury hotel; Coral Bay, except I found it completely abandoned. It was a sinister version of Agatha Christi’s Murder Under the Sun. Creepy. As the only tourist, the entire village seemed to be around to great me at 5 min intervals and also knew me by name. People often rave about Filipino hospitality, although after a while I got kind of uncomfortable with life it in the spotlight. I’d go on a reality TV show thanks had I wanted this much attention!

Plan B then was to travel 7k along the coast to White Beach, a pretty stretch but punching well above its weight price wise in comparison to its looks. To get there you take a 20 peso Jeepney (the pimped up tractor like trucks that set off only when full, be this 2 mins or an hour later.) Plus a trike; a motorbike and tiny side car. Now how many people do you think you can fit in a trike? 2 in the sidecar perhaps at a squeeze? One more on the back of the motorbike behind the driver? Think bigger. Try 7. Two crammed in the side car, two of us on the motorbike and 3 school kids perched precariously on the metal roof of the sidecar!

So I get back, and…..

Sorry but I can’t actually write anymore. The truly HOWLING sound of karaoke is blaring at me from all angles as I lie in bed writing this. I finally find a nice guesthouse and come back this evening to see a banner for ‘Candy’s 18th birthday.’ This appears to involve 5 generations of her whole village wrestling for a microphone. Videoki is huge out here. I would get involved but I, (tragically and unbelievable but true), I think might be able to out sing them all. That’s how bad they were.

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

January 2012

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