Niqui Visits Part 2: Off The Grid

Niqui and I dropped Em off at the airport then looked for a van to El Nido.  After much delay/negotiation/arguments we finally headed off in a packed van.  We picked up random people along the way and dropped them off in fields, so that was interesting.  We finally arrived in El Nido town around dinner time and grabbed a quick bite then looked for a trike to our resort Duli Beach.

As we set off the sun began to set, pretty soon it was pitch black and out of nowhere the road dropped off without warning for construction.  We headed down a dirt road with no street lights.  About 45 minutes later we began a slow trek up a steep incline before the trike began moving backwards, down the hill.  Without hesitation, I jumped out, then Niqui got out and the trike driver went back down the hill…with our suitcases.  I knew he was just going back down to get speed, but there was a part of me that wondered if he would just drive off.  Thankfully, he didn’t.  A few minutes later we arrived at a walking path, the trike driver apologized incessantly for not being able to drive farther, but he would likely break is trike in the dark.

IMG_6245

Fun times on a trike…in daylight this time.

 

I tried calling our resort, but I had no signal except to show me where we were on google maps – which I was sure to load before we arrived.  So, either we walk in the dark, or we get back on the trike and look for a room in town.  I had already notified the resort we were on our way when we left – we decided to walk.  Thank god for flashlights on cell phones.  Off we went through the dark in the middle of nowhere Philippines.  We arrived at the beach and were “greeted” by barking dogs and a couple asking if we had lodging.  “Yes, Duli Beach Resort.” They pointed towards the only lights we could see for miles.  Dragging our suitcases through the sand, we made the last of the 1km trek to the resort where we received a warm welcome from the owners and a beer.

IMG_6236

Our bungalow on the beach.

We fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the ocean.  We were the only guests for the first two nights at our private beach resort.  It was exactly what I had been searching for in all of my trips.  I wanted to get away from the crowds and vendors constantly trying to sell me something, and boy did I.  We swam in the warm ocean, ran on the empty beach, read books in peace, and played cards while it rained.  It was the perfect get away.

On our third day, we did a private island hopping tour.  After the failure that was the Underground River Tour, we figured a private one would best.  There were three people working the boat and two of us.  They took us to the lagoons when all the other tours were leaving and set us up with a huge lunch on a small, private beach.  An amazing way to see the lagoons without the crowds of tourists.

Niqui was such a trooper on this crazy trip through the back country of the Philippines.  I don’t know many women who would walk through the dark with me in search of a peaceful paradise, but she did.  I won’t lie and say neither of us were scared, but the crazy trip on the dirt road was 100% worth it. I was hesitant to even post the name of the resort where we stayed because, honestly, I want to keep it a secret.  They run on 100% solar power, they’re completely off the grid, the owners are welcoming and friendly, they help to save the baby turtles when they hatch, and they hire locals.  I hope to go back.

 

Advertisements

Niqui Visits Part 1: Puerto Princesa

I had two more visitors, and at the perfect time.  I needed a week off relaxing on the beach, only a local competition coming up, it was the perfect time to press reset.  Emily and Niqui landed in Manila and shortly thereafter, we headed to Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  Emily is about to start medschool, Niqui had just finished second year of medschool, and I like saving money, so we booked a budget AirBnB.

We walked to a dodgy little beach near the hut and enjoyed a day soaking up the sun and hanging out in the bathwater ocean.  After grabbing a tasty dinner we headed to bed early, we had a 7am start for the Underground River Tour.   We knew the hut was in the country, that there was no A/C and that we would hear some roosters.  We were not aware that there would be literally no breeze and that the house was located, not near a couple roosters, but next to a chicken/rooster farm.  There were over 25 roosters crowing at 4am.

We were picked up promptly at 7am, a miracle!  It was on time.  We then proceeded to drive around for 2 hours picking up other tourists – 2 hours.  Finally, the bus was full and we were going to see the Underground River!  Then we overheard the tour guide say it was another two hours to the river.  Excuse me?  I thought the Underground River was IN Puerto Princesa.  At this point we felt fairly committed though, so we decided to stick out out.

An hour into the ride we pulled off at Ugong Rock where we were instructed to watch the educational video…aka a promotional video for Ugong Rock.  Apparently, for another fee we could climb through a cave and go ziplining.  What?  I was told I would be going to the Underground River, can I please go there?  No.  We were held captive, pay fee or sit around.  Out of pure stubbornness we refused.  The guide said it would only take the other people 20 minutes and we would be off.  I found that hard to believe.  45 minutes later we decided it was time to purchase a beer.  Then another, and another.  After 45 more minutes the rest of the tour finally got back.  We got a beer for the road, it could be a while.

Finally, we arrived at the Underground River.  We put on our hardhats and set out for the tour.  I almost got shit on by 3,000,000 bats, nodded out a few times on the boat, and could hardly see a thing.  Then it was over.  We were back on the van and I was arguing with the driver about the order in which we would be dropped off – Niqui, Emily, and I would not be last. A failure/waste of day, thankfully we did a good job of keeping ourselves entertained throughout the entire ordeal.

Exhausted, we decided to head back to the hut and get some sleep, after all, we’d be up at 4am anyway.  A group of girls staying in the hut next to ours disagreed, they thought it was a good time to poorly sing karaoke, shrieking at the top of their lungs.  They would regret this decision when the roosters begin singing at 4am.

Sure enough, we were up and ready to go by 5am, we decided to make a day of it and head to a beach.  The iconic Honda Bay required a boat, so we headed to the best hotel in the town just in time for an overpriced, but delicious, buffet breakfast.  We saw on the map that there was a sandbar, so we walked over.  We were greeted by a long, plastic floating dock.  Might as well walk it.  We sat out on the end of the dock looking out at the water for nearly an hour.  To say I was in good company would be an understatement.  These ladies took a shitty situation and turned it into gold, time and time again.  We finished off the morning with a delicious cocktail before sending Emily on her 5-week long journey around Southeast Asia.

All smiles at the end of the dock.

 

One Year Away From DC

One year ago I enjoyed my last day in DC.  I had already packed out of my house and was loving life at the Fairmont Hotel in the West End. I woke up on that last day, probably a little hungover from the night before, and met a friend at Baked and Wired in Georgetown for breakfast.  We walked over to the Key Bridge Boat House and took out paddle boards to the middle of the river to watch the DC flyover.  After the flyover ended, we headed to lunch on the waterfront, I met my aunt for dinner that night, and  I finished off the evening at Sauf Haus to say bye to friends. 

Today I find myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia. I woke up, took my puppies out, and grabbed an uber to the airport.  I was lucky enough to win a free trip the Singapore for the Under Armour “Test of Will.” We had our briefing yesterday and the three others joining to compete in the test of will emphasized what a big deal it is for me to compete at Regionals, so the rep from Under Armour met me at the airport with a bag filled to the top of Under Armour Swag!

Two very different days, so what has else changed in the past year?

House

DC: 1 bedroom + office English basement apartment with patio and yard

Manila: 2 bedroom townhouse apartment

Neighborhood

DC: Up and coming neighborhood.  Walking distance to public transportation, restaurants, bars, and an awesome coffee shop. 

Manila: Secure compound in somewhat dodgy neighborhood. Walking distance to…a 7-11?

Commute 

DC:  5.5miles to American University – 35 minutes by bike up the biggest hill in DC ugh

Manila: 2.2 miles to Primal Ape CrossFit – 45-90 minutes by car

Social Life

DC: Trivia and/or happy hour during the week, out at bars or house parties on weekends

Manila: Social life revolves around gym and my workout schedule, very minimal drinking

Gym

DC: 1 hour CrossFit Class 4-5 times a week

Manila: I don’t even want to know

Household Chores

DC: Dishes daily, work together to do full clean every week or so, laundry almost daily

Manila: None, I’m a complete slob and live in a house cleaner than DC, thanks to a helper 

Vacations

DC: One major trip per year, small trips for long weekends

Manila: Busuanga, Bohol, DC, Thailand, Boracay, Baguio, and Australia, with Singapore, El Nido, Korea, Malaysia, and DC on the horizon

Free Shit

DC: No one is giving me jack shit for free, except maybe some beer and Jameson at Sauf Haus

Manila: Trip to Singapore and a bag of athletic gear from Under Armour

Under Armour Airport Delivery for Regionals


Let’s see what changes the next year brings. 

MGZ Visits, Part 3: Baguio

The third, and final, destination for Miranda’s SE Asia trip was Baguio. I booked a cabin owned by the U.S. in Camp John Hay. We packed up the car with lots of food for three days and our bags, and headed out.

The first part of the drive we got stuck in some traffic due to a bike accident, then it was smooth sailing. NLEX, a new highway, was wonderful.  It was smooth and traffic free.  We opted to take the “adventurous” older road after NLEX since it claimed to be 30 minutes faster.

As we were ascending a hill, the car began to lose acceleration power.  Just before some construction, it turned off.  We could not get it back on and had no idea what to do.  We had limited cell signal, and opted to just try and call the embassy.  They worked to get in touch with a towing company in Baguio to bring us up, but could not get a hold of them at first.  After about an hour, the car turned back on.  There was a light on, when the car turned on.  We looked in the manual and it said we could drive slowly with the light on, so we did.  Very, very slowly.  Then we hit a hill again and the car began smoking.  I turned it off an we quickly exited the car.

We were able to get in touch with the mechanic/towing company, they got our location and sent a private car and tow truck.  We were in the middle of the road, but thankfully in a position where we could be seen from a distance.  I got out of the car and pushed it a bit further off the road, I guess it helps to be fit.  An hour and a half later, we were sweaty and tired, but the private car found us.  The car was taken to a trusted mechanic, and we were taken to the cabin.  I was extremely thankful for all the help we got from the embassy, they even stayed in touch with the mechanic for the duration of our trip to ensure we would be able to return to Manila.

It wasn’t even too bad not having a car in Baguio.  We arrived a large “cabin” (house) in the middle of the forest.  For the first time since I arrived in the Philippines, I was in a place that felt peaceful.  The windows were open and a breeze blew through the cabin all day, the porch looked out on a forest and well kept garden, and each morning it was quiet.

Garden Outside the Cabin

 

View From the Porch

 

We ventured out to Baguio to see the most well known parks and Mansion, but we found that our time was best spent at the compound.  There were hiking trails, gardens, a historic house, and plenty of time for relaxation.  I will be back, hopefully often.

Wright Park in Baguio with the Mansion in the Background

The mechanic worked tirelessly on the car and got it fixed in just under three days.  He said  the radiator cap was not installed correctly, which caused the car to overheat.  Plus, he found a small crack in the radiator.  He was extremely helpful, they kept the parts to show the issues, and even called the check in on the drive home.  I have to say, it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a mechanic.

MGZ Visits, Part 1: Boracay

My friend from college had a month off between medschool and residency, so she booked a trip out to the Philippines. For the first part of our trip, we headed out to Boracay.  Boracay is known for its white sand beaches and is the most popular getaway in the Philippines. We booked a room in station 3 at my friend’s hotel for a discount. We had a large room with two double beds and amazing air conditioning.

Boracay is the perfect place for doing nothing and feeling totally ok about that. We spent the first day laying on the beach and attempting to get our tan on. It was hot though, so we absolutely needed to dip into the water. We got dinner and sunset drinks at Kasbah. After sunset we went to bed early, it had been a long day in the sun, plus a 5am wake up. 

  

On our second day, we got out on paddle boards in the morning, and laid in the sun for pretty much the entire rest of the day. We found an AMAZING breakfast spot that morning, too. 

For our third day, we checked out Puka Beach. The waters were clearer than White Beach and there were not as many obnoxious vendors. We got two lounge chairs, coconuts, and enjoyed the sun, view, and breeze for the afternoon. 

  

We finished off the trip at Spider House. This laid back, bamboo beach resort had great drinks, snacks, and view. You could jump off or climb down a ladder to cool off in the ocean. As a bonus, there were puppies. 

   
 
Overall, I enjoyed my lazy time in Boracay. To be fair, I did workout at CrossFit Boracay, where I did pull ups on bamboo bars, but overall it was lazy. I would stay in station 1 if I return though, less crowded and fewer vendors. 

Thailand Part 3: Railay

The final part of our Thailand tour was Railay. We boarded the 3:30 ferry and an hour and a half later we arrived at…another boat.  The small speedboat took us to Railay.  We booked a room at The Sunrise Tropical, a hotel on the east side of Railay. It’s not on a beach, but it’s a short walk over to the two main beaches. The room was HUGE and beautiful , plus the wifi worked. 

  

We hung out at the beach, then grabbed an amazin dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was my birthday so we finished the night off with cocktails on the second story of a bamboo bar, then wine on the patio of our room. 

For our last day in Thailand we sat on the beach. I couldn’t come back without a tan.  The beach was nice and relaxing, huge rocks to either side, and not too crowded.  There was one other beach on the island, so we walked over to catch the sunset. 

  

Phra Nang beach, where we watched the sunset had some interested pieces in the caves. Local fishermen leave phallic offerings to a goddess for safe travels at sea. 

  

Railay was exactly what I wanted, not as touristy, value for money, beaches, and if I had stayed longer I would have gone climbing up the mountain.  There is supposed to be fantastic rock climbing. 

Unfortunately the trip didn’t end well, it finished with a bit of food poisoning for the plane ride back.  I’ll be more careful on my next trip…Cambodia. 

Thailand Part 2: Ko Phi Phi

Our second destination for the Thailand Trip was Ko Phi Phi.  We flew to Krabi where we took a Taxi to the pier, got tickets for a ferry, and at last landed at Ko Phi Phi.

Ko Phi Phi was hit with a Tsunami in 2004, nearly all of the buildings were knocked down.  By 2010 most of the buildings had been restored, now it’s the hot spot destination for young travelers.  The island is packed with stores, tourists, and night life.

It was low tide when we arrived so the Taxi Boat could not take us to the hotel, we got to walk along the path to the end of the beach to the Bay View Resort.  The resort was in the perfect location, walking distance to the restaurants, but away from the noise.

Unfortunately, it was overbooked and they did not have the room I had booked in advance available.  While Tory and Alex enjoyed their stay at the hotel…Mark and I had a very different experience.

On our first full day there we decided to chill on the beach.  We set out on a journey to find long beach.  We walked up through some mountains, stopped for lunch at Viking Nature Resort. Then found our way to Long Beach.  It was a bit further from the crowds with white sand, umbrella’s and beautiful water.


The next day we hopped aboard a large speedboat to go island hopping.  We hit all the famous islands, Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, etc.  It was a long day, but very beautiful.  Followed by a delicious dinner and even some beer pong.


There is only one ferry from Phi Phi Don to Railay, the next destination, so Mark and I decided to wake up early and go scuba diving.  We were paired up with a dive master who worked to get us the best day diving he could.  He took us away from the crowds, showed us the fishes, and kept us entertained.

Although the island has natural beauty, in my opinion, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  I completely understand why tourists began flocking to the Phi Phi islands, the water is amazing, the rocks are beautiful, and the beaches are fantastic.  It’s become too popular though. When they rebuilt after the tsunami, it was because they needed tourists to come back, but it was not built to match the natural beauty.  The streets were dirty, some of the beaches completely lined with boats, and the tours to the most beautiful beaches are so filled with boats and people that it takes effort to get a photo without it all.  I had a fun trip because of the company, but I don’t think I’ll be back.