First, we are very sorry it hs taken so long to publish Part two. This having fun every day is really getting in the way of our writing and blog work. Nonetheless, here it is!
FEBRUARY 23rd, 2015
Day 2 in El Nido
Our mom came into our room, jumped on our bed, and said “Get up girls! And come next door we have something to talk about”. All I could think about was “mom? can I go back to bed?”. But she said “Nope, get up and come next door.” When we got to their room, we saw money scattered all over the bed, Homeschooling 101- Budgeting. Dad explained that there are no banks on this island, so the money we had, needed to last the rest of the trip. We had to budget the money we had, so we put aside money for the essentials, such as; snorkeling trips, scuba diving excursions, accommodations, and island hopping tours.
What was left over was to be our food and fun budget for our last 9 day in the Philippines. Our budget worked out to $70 Canadian dollars per day, or about $2,500 Philippine pesos. But we realized, that we spent twice as much on the first day, so we knew it was time to clean up our act and get our budget under control. What first seemed to be a bummer, turned out to be quite fun. At some point today we needed to get some fresh fruit and vegetables from the market, buns from the bakery, and anything else to help get us down to one restaurant visit per day.
But before we could do any shopping, we wanted to be sure we still had reservations for the next place. My dad found a really cool remote place called Caalan Beach Resort, which was a twenty minute walk north of town. The trail was very scenic and along the water, it passed by a rice field, an old cemetery, and through a small rustic village.
We found the resort at the end of the road, and it was beautiful and had a Japanese feel to it, mostly due to the fact that the owner was a very nice Japanese lady. It had a fantastic waterfront view, there were several cottages on the property but it looked like my dad got the best one, right on the water. We confirmed our reservation with the owner and arranged to have our luggage picked up the next morning.
Now it was time to find the market. We took a trike and after looking around at a lot of pig heads, pork, and fish, we headed over to the fruit and vegetable stands to stock up. Then we went to the bakery and bought some fresh buns, and found some smaller stores to get some canned tuna, noodle bowls, and other snacks. We finished our shopping and headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
FEBRUARY 24th, 2015
Caalan Beach Resort
I woke up with a sore neck, and soaking wet from sweat. Ashok’s Homestay turned out to be the worst place of our entire trip so far. There was no air conditioning, and the fan that was there was not strong enough to cool anything, it just stirred up the hot air. We couldn’t wait to check-out!
At last, our ride came. His name was Elmer, and was a young Philippino teenager, with one side of his hair black, and the other side blonde. He took our luggage and put it in a side-car attached to his motorcycle, then told us to start walking and he would return to pick us up somewhere along the way. We wondered if we would ever see our luggage again! When we were half way to the resort, Elmer came around the corner in a trike and picked us up. When we arrived, we were greeted by the owner Naoko, a Japanese lady in her seventies, and most of her staff. We felt so welcomed and at home, this was going to be a great week. The cottage cost us $80 dollars per day, and included breakfast. The resort was beautiful, perfect for my liking, not too big, but nice and cozy.
I know dad doesn’t like us talking about “breakfasts”, but this bacon was so crispy, bread wasn’t sweet, and it was my favorite fruit bowl, mangoes and watermelon, yummy. We waited five and a half hours outside on some lounge chairs; reading, relaxing, and waiting for our room to be cleaned. We didn’t mind waiting, because we were on the waterfront, in the shade, cool breeze blowing, while staring at the gorgeous outlying islands. We enjoyed our little homemade lunch of ramen noodles, chopsuey, and chicken from last nights dinner. All we needed was hot water, we felt like we were camping on the beach, and for only $6 we were doing a good job of staying within our budget.
Finally our room was ready. We had our own private waterfront patio, as well as a front porch sitting area. Our room was spacious with two beds, a private bathroom and AIR CONDITIONG! We all looked forward to a cool, good night’s sleep.
While we were settling in a lady knocked on our door and offered us a complimentary dinner at 6:30 Yes! The budget is looking even better. More money on other days for massages, and fancy dinners. Finally it was time to eat, we had Spanish mackeral, some veggies, rice, and for dessert, mango, papaya, and Oreo ice cream, delicious! It was time to go to bed, I was so happy we weren’t staying at Ashoks hotel in town, or as Dad now calls it, “AssKoks Oven”.
February 25th, 2015
Island Hopping Tour
We all woke up exited for the day. We were going to go on a tour to different islands, beaches, and lagoons. These were the places we’re going to; Secret beach, Matinloc shrine, Hidden beach, and Helicopter island. Talisay beach was also on the list but we were unable to go there because Survivor Sweden was on location. We packed our snorkeling gear and were ready to go! The tour was scheduled for 9am, and just before we left, we found out that my sister and I were half-price! Oh the joy, more money in the budget! So we met our tour guide Grace, who is only 18 years old and studying for her Bachelors in Tourism. She’s a busy girl, working everyday and doing her schooling at night, no boyfriend time here!
The weather was looking sunnier as we were arrived at secret beach. Grace reversed the usual order of the tour, so they wouldn’t be busy with every other tour boat. Wow! Secret beach was so cool! You had to swim through a six foot wide cave, and on the other side was the secret beach! We then had to walk on coral which had turned to stone, to get to the beach. We were totally hidden from the ocean, there were high peeks of black limestone surrounding us, and a white sandy beach. The coolest part about this spot was that it was the inspiration for the novel, “The Beach”. Later made famous by the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
We arrived to our lunch spot, a totally private beach with nobody else around. This was also our first chance to go snorkeling. I was amazed at how clear the water was! I could see 60ft crystal clear! It was the best I had ever seen. I was excited to get in the water so I quickly got my snorkeling gear on and jumped in. Schools of all different kinds of fish were everywhere, including a group of six clown fish. There was an arch of coral and I swam through it underwater, that was definitely a highlight of the day.
Lunch was ready and we swam back to shore. It looked amazing! There was squid in a delicious sauce, fish, rice, chopped pork cooked to perfection, a cucumber salad shaped as a swan, and a plate of pineapple, banana and mango. We finished lunch and headed to the next place. We arrived at Mantiloc shrine which is a small church that was abandoned around 30 years ago. The owner had taken over a small part of the island and started to destroy parts of the area to build his church. Soon, people found out about this and told him to leave because he was destroying the environment in the name of religion.
We headed to our next spot, Hidden beach. It was only a half an hour boat ride and when we got there the water was a beautiful turquoise color with a soft white sand beach, hidden behind a small island. Surrounding the lagoon was huge limestone walls. We swam around the area and saw a turtle, and then I heard my dad call us and say, “I found a little cave to swim through, come over here!” It was a little cave that went from one side of the lagoon to the other, and guess what? It came out right beside our boat.
We left at the perfect time, just as more boats flooded in. We arrived at Helicopter island and is the shape of a helicopter, with a long sandy beach. It was 32 degrees and it was time to go swimming to cool down. After about an hour, we were tired, hot, and ready to head back. Once back at the resort, we showered and headed out for a nice meal in town.
FEBRUARY 26th, 2015
Today was a no activity day just catching up on our blogs and relaxing. When we finished breakfast I spent a couple hours reading my book, that is so good, I can’t put down.
We were going to go get massages, but my dad and sister didn’t want to go. My mom and I went check prices, what time they open, how long the massages were, and in the end we left with an appointment booked for two o’clock. Two hours to wait, so more reading, more blogging, and all I could think about was that massage. There I lie on the massage bed, my eyes closed enjoying every moment, and this only cost me 4 dollars and 90 cents for 30minutes. That’s an amazing price.
Today was a hot day, the temperature was 33, and the humidity 73 percent. We decided that we wanted to look around town to try and find souvenirs, trinkets, and a place to eat. We went to Altrove’s, it’s another Italian restaurant and I had pesto, basil fettuccine, my sister had creamy fettuccine with thyme, my mom had spaghetti with meat sauce, and my dad had carbonara fettuccine. A traditional Philippino meal….not!
We walked back to the resort and decided to watch a movie because we haven’t watched any TV or movies in over two weeks. We pushed our beds together with the air conditioning on, set up dad’s laptop on the table and snuggled in to watch Gone Girl. It was so relaxing and the only thing missing was the popcorn. Both my parents read the book, and enjoyed them both equally. Another day in Asia.
FEBRUARY 27th, 2015
We decided today to rent two motorbikes. We took a motorbike to town with a little side car with two seats attached to it, and we looked hilarious! Imagine a muscular guy, a mom, and two kids on it! We arrived into town and searched for a place to rent some motorbikes.
We ended up finding a place, and it only cost us $18 per day, per bike, so we rented them for two days.
While my dad went to get the proper identification, my mom wanted to practice riding the motorcycle, so she took it for a ride down the road as slow as a turtle (Just kidding..love ya mom! He-he) She ended up going down the wrong road so she couldn’t come back, other wise she would get a fine (yikes..) but the police man was kind and just gave her a warning.
My dad came back, paid for the bikes, and we were off! We took a long ride on a road heading north for about an hour. It had such cool scenery and there were huge rice fields everywhere. We had to cross a couple of rickety bridges, but mom was getting better on the bike and soon felt comfortable. We came to a dirt road that was a medium red color and really rocky, we passed over some old bridges and through a small village, it was very cool!
We came to the end of the road and saw a beautiful beach called Nacpan, (wasn’t expecting that!) It was a soft white sand beach with crystal clear water, the palm trees were super tall and gave good shade.
We started to get a bit hungry so we headed to a restaurant called Prince Restaurant. We ordered muscles, shrimp, squid, rice, fries, and vermicelli noodles, and for drinks we enjoyed two shakes, one mango, and the other coconut. I have to say, this was one of the best meals I’ve had here.
After we ate, we all got changed into our bathing suits and went for a swim, the water was so refreshing! After we got out of the water we got changed, hopped on our bikes and were ready to head back to town. We arrived back and stopped at a few stores to get some supplies for dinner tonight. We picked up some barbecue chicken, chop suey, and 4 ramen noodle bowls. While my parent prepared our simple budget minded dinner, Mikayla and I were invited to play soccer with some of the local staff at the resort, and it was so much fun!
Our parents called us for dinner and it was so good. We added chicken and chop suey to our ramen noodle bowls, finished eating, cleaned up, and went straight to bed. What a day!
FEBRUARY 28th, 2015
Second Motorbike Journey
I woke up excited for today, because we were going to go for a journey to the other side of Palawan Island. We got up, had breakfast, and left on the motorbikes. A while later we were driving on a very bumpy road for 30 minutes, and all together it took us an hour to get there, not very comfortable but I had to live with it.
The scenery was beautiful, very lush, green and nothing like I’ve seen before. The weather was hot, windy and kept us cool during our ride. We decided that we wanted to go to Ille Cave, it’s huge, it’s a fifteen minute hike to get there, and we were the only ones at the cave. This cave is fourteen thousand years old, and had a history chart that we read outside of the cave. We saw stalagmite, and stalactite, forming on the ceilings and floors. My dad taught us to remember which were which because both “ground” and “stalagmite” have a “G” in them. There were lots of bats that we could see with our flashlights. There were a couple of light holes that brightened up the cave, so we could really see how it looked inside. We could see high shelves where cavemen would sleep, and it went really deep, but we were okay with how far we had gone in. This was an amazing sight on our trip, and totally unexpected.
On our ride back we saw lush green jungle vines growing over everything, small huts on stilts, water buffaloes in mud pits, stacks of bamboo cleaned off in “tall hay bundles” for building houses and fences.
The local people were very friendly, always smiling and saying hello, and helpful if we had any questions. We returned by three thirty pm, and I must say this attraction is a must see. For a late lunch we ate at the resort, relaxed, and enjoyed a waterfront dinner at a restaurant called the El Nido Corner.
MARCH 1st, 2015
Island Hopping Tour
We requested grace as our tour guide, and she arrived at nine o’clock sharp. This tour would cost $110 including a shore lunch, and we would visit 7th Commando beach, Small lagoon, Big lagoon, Shimiza island, and Secret lagoon. We grabbed our snorkeling gear and headed to the boat. Our first stop was 7th Commando beach which is a pretty cool resort but not my type of thing.
Our next stop was Small lagoon. Once we arrived the bay was full of tour boats so our guide decided to head to a small beach in the corner and let us snorkel in a different part of the bay, while they prepared lunch. This was a great idea because no sooner had we finished snorkeling and eating our lunch, the rest of the boats cleared out. Perfect! We snorkeled to the entrance of the lagoon and swam through a small cave to enter. Wow! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, high jagged limestone cliffs covered in jungle, crystal turquoise water, and nobody around! It was quite big and we swam across to a secret little cave. There was a ray of light coming down from the ceiling and the water was much cooler. Around another corner and we found a small cave passage underwater that reached another lagoon. It was like I was in a Lara Croft movie!
We arrived back at the boat and enjoyed the sun before heading to our next stop, Big Lagoon. Wow I can’t even explain how cool this was, the water was a light blue crystal clear color and the walls 300ft high with amazing trees and plants everywhere. When the boat started to head back out to sea it got too shallow and we got stuck. Grace and the boat captain had to hop of and push us out over the sand bank.
Once we got back into open water, we noticed that the wind had really picked up, so we decided to cut our day a little shorter and headed back. During the passage, “the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of this fearless crew, the Jones’s would be lost…….. the Jones’s would be lost” If anybody knows the old TV show Gilligan’s Island,you’ll get it!
What an awesome day!
MARCH 3rd, 2015
Travel Day, El Nido to Manila
We got up tired and not wanting to leave. When we finished breakfast we put our luggage in the trike and said our goodbyes, took a picture with the staff and headed for the El Nido airport, twenty minutes away.
Once we arrived, I discovered that the airport was a tiny outside terminal on a small runway. It’s not what I expected. We waited for an hour until we were ready to board, we handed the flight attendant our “wooden” boarding passes, and took our seats. It was a short flight.
After collecting our luggage, we headed to The Peninsula Manila hotel, the oldest and fanciest hotel in Manila. I was amazed at how beautiful, and big it was, I felt like I was in a James Bond movie. The front desk man personally escorted us to our room, it was gorgeous with a huge marble bathroom and large soaking tub.
I had a long soak in the tub, relaxed on the bed, and then got ready to go out for a nice dinner.
March 4th, 2015
Flying Day, Philippines to Hong Kong to Maldives
We woke up quite early and we were super exited to head to the Maldives. It was going to be a long day of flying, with two flights.
It was only a 2 hour flight to Hong Kong International airport. We had a short layover before we caught our connecting flight for the 6 hour trip to the Maldives.
We settled in for the flight, watched a few movies, listened to some music, and dinner was served.
With 45 minutes left in the flight, one of the flight attendants asked my sister and I to join my parents in business class so we could disembark together. That was awesome! It’s so nice in business class and this flight had the lay-flat private seats.
We collected our baggage, my dad bought a SIM card for his phone, and we caught a cab to our hotel for the night. Tomorrow we meet the Winter’s on the dive boat.
MARCH 5th, 2015
Meeting the Winter’s on the Dive-Safari Boat
I woke up excited and ready to go. I had a shower, got dressed and went to have breakfast. When we finished eating we packed up and left to go to the yacht named Dive Master for our trip through the Maldives.
When we arrived we waited for a little boat to come pick us up. Michael Winter was in the dinghy and we all shared big hugs and hello’s! There were 14 family and friends on the boat, all from Germany and Switzerland.
The yacht is 100 feet, there’s a place you can lounge, a place to suntan, and the top deck were you can have parties and have fun. There were ten crew members, cooks, people who clean your rooms, waiters, the captain, and the dive masters. We each had our own stateroom, with private bathrooms and AIR CONDITIONING!
In the evening we went snorkeling and were treated to the best visibility you have ever seen. Lots of fish like parrot fish, Titan trigger fish, turtles, Fusiller, blue and gold fusiller, yellow margin moray, giant moray, violet soldier fish, blotch eye soldier fish, a turtle and many more. And this was just a snorkel trip!
We ate dinner on the back deck with the beautiful view of the sunset. Our first night we were anchored at an atoll across from Male. Sweet dreams.
MARCH 6th, 2015
Our Birthday….AND a BIG SCARE!
I woke up and remembered it’s my sister an my birthday! Finally twelve! Our birthday morning was pretty relaxing, but I was super exited to go diving today! And in no time everyone was already packing up their gear for the dive. We took a dive boat that was medium sized and headed to our destination.
Wow. The water was so clear. You could see crystal clear right to the bottom witch was 100ft we all suited up and jumped in the water. I can not explain how amazing this is, Corals of different colors covering the floor and walls of the ocean, while hundreds of different types and colors of fish surrounded me.
I went into a cave underwater with my dad, and everything seemed like it was glowing. It really was amazing. As we swam out of the cave we saw our group of divers, and the dive master was playing with an eel. I thought it was going to bite him, but it didn’t, it just kinda swam around him.
As it was time to head back to the boat my dad saw a group of divers and a boat and thought it was our group and boat, but, he was wrong. When we surfaced he realized it was the wrong boat and we headed back underwater to swim to the right boat.
Wow what an awesome first dive here. I was super exited to dive again later on in the day.
Everyone relaxed until it was time to hop on the dive boat and head to the next dive site. This dive was going to be a drift dive, but we were first told it would be a beginner’s dive and easy. Everyone started jumping in and immediately started drifting pretty fast. It was like we were flying and was pretty cool. I was my mom’s dive buddy, and my sister was with my dad. I was having a good time, until I saw a huge drop off.
I started to panic as I realized everyone was being pulled down over the drop off. I turned around and saw everyone trying to swim up. But it wasn’t helping the current was too strong. My mom and I were trying to swim up but we were already at 50ft and it was getting hard to equalize now as we inflated our BCD’s and kept swimming up. After maybe 4 minutes of kicking we started finally go up. Once we broke from the current, we started to go up even faster because the air we put into our BCD’s started to expand as we rose. We dumped the air to control our ascent, but everything happened so fast.
I was horrified and was breathing very hard when I reached the surface. It was so scary.
The boat came by and picked us up. We realized there were still 8 people down there and started to worry. Eventually people started rising. They said they were okay just scared from what had just happened.
I saw my sister surface with my dad, and we picked them up. As my sister was coming up the stairs she was screaming and crying as blood poured from her nose. I immediately started freaking out. I felt like I was about to faint. My dad thought she ruptured her ears, but thankfully she didn’t. She only popped a blood vessel in her nose because she couldn’t equalize quickly enough when we started to get sucked down. My dad was furious at the dive master for saying it was a safe place to dive. Plus, the dive master was the first person back on the boat.
As everyone started to recover from what had just happened, I spotted a baby dolphin jump fully out of the water and everyone turned around to try and see it again. It jumped again but a second later 50 dolphins surfaced at the same time. It was amazing, I had never seen dolphins so close before, and the concerned looks on everyone’s faces soon turned to smiles and laughter, even Mikayla.
The dive boat arrived back at the boat and everyone went to change, and relax. As I was sitting outside, I heard a bunch of splashing. I went to the side of the boat and saw my dad and his friends jumping in the water from the second level. I really wanted to jump in but I had just showered, they all told me to jump in, and I knew it was one of those live in the moment type things, so I wasted no time and jumped in with my clothes on to rounds of applause and cheering!
It was so much fun. After everyone got out of the water it was time for dinner. After dinner one of the crew members brought out two cakes, one butter cream and one chocolate. Micheal Winter had arranged to have cakes for our birthday, which was extremely nice of him.
What a exhausting and somewhat dramatic day, it was time for bed.
NEXT…….Part 3, Diving and touring the Maldives.