Hong Kong on the go!

Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong at night

We arrived in Hong Kong after a bumpy flight from the Philippines and as soon as we stepped out of the plane we were literally on the go. Our main priority was to get Chinese and Myanmar visas sorted but with weekend quickly approaching (we arrived on Thursday) and our train to China booked for Sunday night our schedule was tight, as never before. The plan for the next two days was to get to Myanmar embassy before 12pm on the day we arrived, drop off passports, pick these up first thing in the morning on the following day and rush to an agency for our Chinese visa. Surely this could have been done in 24 hours! Continue reading

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Sleepy Siquijor, turtle heaven in Apo and Thresher shark diving in Malapascua

Malapascua

Malapascua

So it’s been a while since my last post. And it’s not because we were really busy trying to see everything we possibly can in the Philippines, it’s actually quite the opposite. Arriving with the rainy season meant that some places we wanted to visit, like Palawan and El Nido, were scraped off our list and replaced with areas that were less likely to be affected by the typhoons (so we thought). Instead of rushing around, flying from one island to another and ticking off ‘must see’ destinations spread over 7000 islands we took it easy this time. With no guidebook (Errr…I lost it!) we used weather reports as our main guidelines and decided to head south to Dumagete, a cool student town, from where we could jump on ferries to the smaller islands in the area. Continue reading

Batad to Vigan via Cordillera mountain pass

Pretty Vigan

Pretty Vigan

Today it’s a very quick post for anyone wanting to travel from Batad/Banaue to Vigan, a small World Heritage town on the west coast famous for its best preserved Spanish colonial architecture in South East Asia.

There are two routes that take you there, first option is to take bus from Banaue all the way south to Baguio and then from Baguio travel up north to Vigan, but as far as I am concerned it’s a bit pointless traveling back on yourself. Instead it is possible to travel across the mountain pass, where you can adore some fantastic views and landscapes and have a bit of an adventures journey. This trip takes 2 days with a stop over for the night in Bontoc. Continue reading

Green steps to heaven. Discovering rice terraces of Batad and Banaue

Rice terraces in Batad. Green steps to heaven

Rice terraces in Batad. Green steps to heaven

With new stamps in our passports and 30 day visas we have been officially exploring Philippines since 25 June. After 14 hours mini bus journey, 2 flights within and 1 flight out of Indonesia we arrived in Manila. We stepped out of the plane open-minded and regardless of unfavourable comments, we decided not to judge the book by its cover, which in Manilas cases shouts ‘Pollution, child beggars and traffic jams’. I thought to myself that if I developed some love (and hate) feelings for Phnom Phen I surely could at least give a chance to Manila. But I admit my easy-going approach disappeared the moment Tim almost got pickpocket by a small boy and when the traffic of Manilas concrete jungle made me sweat like crazy. The saving grace for the city turned out to be a shopping mall, where we chilled, ate super yummy ice cream and got pretty succesful haircuts, and the China Town, where we tasted some delicious dumplings and treated ourselves to first of all dodgy looking but completely legit massages. As you have probably sensed we left Manila without sharing a tear and made our way to Ifugae, a region in the north of Philippines famous for magnificent collection of rice terraces, that had been awarded the Word Heritage Site by Unesco. Continue reading

Bomber wreck, kite runners and sea gypsies of Togian Islands

Tropical island Malenge

Tropical island Malenge

Apparently it takes some determination to get to the Togian Islands, an archipelago made of 56 islands and islets, settled in the Gulf of Tomini, off the Central Sulawesi coast. Well, it took us exactly 3 days to reach the Togians along with 2 buses, 2 boats and few swear words (when the road suddenly disappears and slips into a ravine or when the winding roads make our stomachs go upside down).

So here are these 3 days in 4 sentences.

We left on a bus from Rantepao at 9am on Friday morning and 15 hours later we got dropped off in a random but cheap hotel in Poso. The following morning a mini bus, organised by a hotel, took us for a 6 hours picturesque journey to Ampana. We then spent a sleepless night in Oasis hotel, woken up by a disco karaoke, mosque and roosters and at 9am boarded a car ferry (outside of Ampana) to Wakai, one of the biggest islands in the Gulf of Tomini. From Wakai it was only 45 minutes cruise on a small boat to Kadidiri, our first destination. Continue reading

Rice paddies, buffaloes and the dead. Welcome to Tana Toraja!

Burial caves in Tana Toraja

Burial caves in Tana Toraja

I was excited about our arrival in Tana Toraja for some time. After reading countless papers on this part of Sulawesi, my old love for anthropology had heated up again. It were the green rice paddies, beautifully craved houses and rice barns, ceremonies of life and death had brought us here to discover what the land of Tana Toraja has got to offer.

As soon as we found accommodation in Rantepao (major city in the area), filled our empty stomachs with coconut porridge and refreshed with hot showers, we started to enquire about a funeral, one of the main reasons for our visit in Toraja. With good timing, and turning up just after the rain season ended we were spoilt for choice. Funerals in Toraja, being seasonal events, start late May lasting throughout the summer months and the day before we arrived a celebrations had begun in a nearby village. So just after 2 hours we arrived in Rantapao, at 9am we were on our way to the funeral. Together with Johnny, a local guide and with a german couple, Oliver and Jojo (met in our guesthouse), we were taken for a journey into very unfamiliar but yet exciting local traditions and customs. Continue reading

Leaving Flores and a cheating tip on how to survive an overnight ferry journey in Indonesia!

Last sunset in Labuan Bajo

Last sunset in Labuan Bajo

With my newly developed love for diving we ended up staying in Labuan Bajo for almost a week. With an early start to each day, 8 hours on the boat and plenty of sun, we did not have much time and energy to discover Flores, which was a bit of a shame. But although I was sad about leaving my underwater life, I was looking forward to reaching another destination on our Indonesian map, the island Sulawesi and in particular highlands of Tana Toraja. Continue reading