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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

CrossFit Games Pacific Regional 2016

Before I continue my 3 part series about my trip with MGZ, I have a nice little update on my previous post, Playing The Leaderboard.  At the end of the five week online qualifier, the CrossFit Open, I finished in 8th place in the Asia Region.

My score was not solidified until I sent in the requested video.  I sat anxiously until I was told it was accepted and I received my invite to the CrossFit Games Pacific Regionals.  I will compete in Wollongong, Australia the weekend of May 13th.  In addition to my advancement to Regionals, I was also named the “Fittest Female in the Philippines.”  I will receive a certificate and shirt…well maybe, last year people just got a certificate, womp womp.

I am very excited to compete in Australia, unfortunately, athletes must pay for the travel, hotel, and entrance fee for the event, so I’ve started a Go Fund Me.  To my surprise, I was able to raise almost my entire goal in 24 hours, but haven’t had much movement since.  If I reach my goal, I plan on increasing it to raise money to fly a coach in with me.  It would be sad and lonely to be in the athletes area without a coach.

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. 

Trip Two: Bohol

It’s been a week since we got back from our second trip, so I figured I’d write a little bit about it and post some pictures. The pictures seem convince people they should come visit.

I snuck in a quick workout on Friday morning, you know back squats, snatches, cleans, jerks, handstands, rowing, wall ball, kettlebell swings, sumo deadlift high pull…just a couple things.  Then we headed off to the airport.  I learned two things this trip to the airport:

  1. Medical tape is considered a weapon.  I had athletic tape in my bag and they told me to throw it out, WHAT!? I could, apparently, use it to tape someone up and hold them hostage.  They then asked me the wrong question, “Have you ever tried to get out of athletic tape wrapped around you? It’s impossible.”  To the surprise of the security agent I responded, “Yes I have tried, I was taped as part of an initiation and managed to escape out of hockey tape which is much harder to tear.”   I still had to throw the tape out.
  2. Never show up more than 20 minutes early to a domestic flight out of the Philippines.

We landed in Bohol and headed over to our hotel, the Hennan.  The resort is new and it’s basically just one giant pool.

We spent the evening at the poolside/in pool bar then hit the hay early for a long day.

Half of the pools at our resort. There are more by the beach.

Day 1: Sailing

We booked a day on the Alona Blue, and did not regret it.  We met Captain Mike, Jenny, and their adorable little dog foxy at 10am.  A storm was coming so we tried to wait it out.  We “set sail” (it wasn’t very windy) around 11am and hoped to pass through the storm.  To our luck, we did.

Alona Blue had a mooring off the shore of a small resort with literally no one on the beach and good snorkeling.  We saw some little fish and a giant and terrifying purple jelly fish.  We got to hang out on the front of the boat with Foxy then were served a delicious lunch.  A couple hours later we headed back to shore with a little bit of a tan.

Alona Blue. We got to jump off the boat, hang out with foxy and enjoy a nice day after passing through a dark storm.

Day 2: Tourist

I’m not entirely sure why we decided to conform to society and do all the touristy things in Bohol that everyone expects you do to.

The Blood Compact Monument The view was nice.  The monument didn’t have a single sign explaining what the compact was or why it was important.  If not for wikipedia on our phones to read about the compact this would have been a pointless stop.

Baclayon Church Although the church had been badly damaged in an earthquake two years ago, it was still pretty cool.  We walked through the museum with a guide who explained the artifacts and thoroughly answered our questions.  I did feel like I was going to fall through to the floor below because we were walking on the original hardwoods.

Loboc River and Floating Restaurant I’m not going to lie, I’m shocked this has received so many good reviews.  The food was almost inedible. I think the experience would have actually been better without the food.  The views were nice, it was very lush and pretty (once it stopped raining).  The coolest part was watching the Tinkiling dancing.

The Man made Forest I wouldn’t exactly call this a “destination” but it was very pretty to drive through on the way up to the chocolate hills.

Butterfly Sanctuary This was pretty, only about a dollar or two to get inside, and I wouldn’t say I would have been happy paying more.  We saw some butterflies, the guide gave a nice little talk.  We didn’t see as many butterflies as I would have expected, but maybe I’m bias because I’ve seen the Monarch Butterflies as they migrate through Michoacan, Mexico.

Chocolate Hills This was by far the best stop on the trip.  I wish we had hiked up and through some of them, but it was still pretty cool to walk to the top of the viewing area.  There are a few legends about how they came to be that you should definitely check out.  My favorite is that they’re a mean carabao’s poop.

Tarsiers Bohol is famous for the tiny little monkey’s.  We saw four of them.  They’re nocturnal and antisocial.  Seriously, they don’t like having another one within a hectare of them. If one trespasses, they’ll often fight to the death.  Also, if you touch them they apparently freak out and bang their head against a tree until they die, or so someone said.

Blood Compact, Baclayan Church, Loboc River Tour, Man Made Forest, Butterfly Sanctuary, Chocolate Hills.

Days 3 & 4: Beach

We were not big fans of the beach our hotel was located on, Alona.  There were vendors everywhere, it was a marina filled with boats, you just really couldn’t relax.  So we did some research, asked around, and found out that Dumaluan was the best beach to go to.  We grabbed a trike and headed over.  After arriving, we discovered that the Bohol Beach Club was next to us and that we could pay an entrance fee of 150 pesos each (plus more, but that was consumable, as in could be used towards food).

We had originally hoped to stay at Bohol Beach Club, but it was fully booked the weekend of our trip.  Boy do I wish we had booked early.  The beach was beautiful and the food was fantastic.  We spent the day (and the next day when we returned) sitting in hammocks and reading.  Best part of the trip and exactly what I needed.

Bohol Beach Club Paradise