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As I have alluded to previous posts recently, I have a date with South Korea shortly, in roughly three and a half weeks from the time of this post. There, I will be teaching English as a second language to a bunch of precocious Korean youngsters, and I am pumped to be a position to make an impact in their lives.
As well, I will afforded the opportunity to explore a new country in depth over the course of a full year, with the possibility of getting fleeting glimpses of neighbouring nations (Japan, China, Taiwan, etc) on my winter and summer breaks (both a full week each). I am thrilled to say the least!
And so, in order to give you a five star preview of what awaits, I present to you a video NOT made by me (though I hope to have half of this guy’s talent someday soon). Despite its third-party origins, it is a gorgeous, breathtaking view into the Land of the Morning Calm. It played no small role in convincing me to commit to South Korea for a year, and I have no doubt that it will give you the urge to book a ticket to Seoul ASAP, North Korean warmongering be damned!
Check it out below … be sure to click the full screen icon for best viewing (to the right of the HD icon, and the left of the Vimeo icon)!
More Philippines will be coming on the blog later this week, but first, let’s pay homage to the city I’m about to leave in 3 1/2 weeks. Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, home of the 10 day Calgary Stampede (one of Canada’s best known festivals), and one of the wealthiest cities in all of North America, has been my home for the past year. I took this time to save some green, see my sister and her young family, and plot my next move (teaching English in South Korea, May 2013!).
In between these main preoccupations, I did a fair bit of exploring, being the uncurable traveller that I am. The picture above is the highlight of one of these outings … a view of Calgary’s central business district from the Southeast side, taken atop Scotchman’s Hill. Want to capture this shot for yourself? Take 12th Ave east out of Downtown Calgary, until you come to a steel bridge. Turn onto it and cross the Elbow River. Once across, turn night at Pop’s Dairy Bar (and grab an ice cream and a hot dog while you’re at it!) onto Bellevue Ave. Proceed up the hill until you come to Salisbury Ave on the right. Turn onto this last street, and once you round the corner ahead, you should be graced with the view of the Stampede grounds directly below in the foreground, and the forest of steel and glass that is Corporate Calgary in the background.
It is an excellent place for a picnic lunch on a fine summer day, and the jaunt through the neighbourhood of Ramsay on your way to the top of Scotchman’s affords excellent views of unique, stylish, and well-kept homes, just a stone’s throw from the centre of the city, making it a treat for urbanites and nature lovers alike!
Got a killer view of your hometown/city? Share a link to it in the comments below!
Freshly arrived back in Puerto Galera town, it was still too early to go back to Badladz and salt away the evening with Red Horse, San Miguel, and my laptop while working on this blog (super amazing standalone website coming this Spring, stay tuned). So I decided to wander away from the hotel and see what the main town located along the Strong Republic Nautical Highway was like…
The ferry boat I came in on several days prior, sits at anchor in Puerto Galera’s harbour, voted one of the most beautiful bays in the world. In the near future, I’ll have some sunset photos to share that confirm this proclamation.
Over dinner, someone at the hotel informed me of much quieter, and quite frankly, better beaches to the west of White Beach. With my mission for the next day set in stone, I finished my delectable dinner, worked on my site a bit more, fooled around on the net afterwards, then retired to my room to watch Pulp Fiction (oh yeah, did I mention Badladz has Cable TV?)
At least until a power outage ended my night decisively. The fates have a way of looking out for you, making sure you get your sleep!
With my tour of the family-friendly, Filipino hotspot of White Beach complete, it was time to turn my attention East, to the Westerner enclave of Sabang. Located at the base of a steep coastal promontory, it is home to countless resorts, diving outfits, and by night, a scintillating nightlife. Despite its reputation as a sleazy place, I found it to be quite the stunning little town…
One of the more unique attractions of Sabang: swim-out bars, complete with slides! I’m gonna have to spend a few nights in this town next time I’m in the Philippines, just so I can try these places out!
Overall, my impression of Sabang was a favourable one, despite the lack of a true beach, and not being around at night to get a sense of the infamous nightlife. The aspects of the latter don’t appeal to me greatly, to be fair. It may have ten, or even five years ago. I’m more of a have a few beer in the local pub guy than the wild-eyed, 12+ beer bar star guy. Purely personal preference.
But I digress.
Ever been to Sabang? How’s the life at night? Fill us in by commenting below!
While I enjoyed my walkabout of the immediate vicinity of Puerto Galera, the truth is, most of the big sights and attractions in the area are fairly spread out. Hence, the need to hire a trike (the Filipino version of everyone’s favourite local transport option in SE Asia, the venerable tuk-tuk) to get farther afield.
The primary target of following day’s explorations: White Beach, the most popular strip of sand on Mindoro. Lying within a half day’s journey from Manila, it isn’t hard to see why. Especially when you get to see the photos that I took for you below…!
Behind me lay the usual assortment of budget hotels, resorts, restaurants, and trinket vendors that one might expect at a popular beach destination. What makes this place unique is its focus on Filipino beach goers, as opposed to foreigners. Hence, the eateries feature many Filipino food options, and the budget hotels feature family rooms, which comfortably accommodate 4-6+ ppl per room, making it useful for travelling bands of backpackers looking to save a buck!
In order to make that happen though, I needed a strip of sand a little more private. I was carrying around a camera I didn’t wanna lose, so was I out of luck? Nope. Just head East down the beach from the main commercial strip and…
The one irritant to my day was that I had an appointment with my trike driver to take me back to Puerto Galera … I wish I had a motobike so I could come and go as I wished! Lessons for next time … live and learn!
The next adventure on Mindoro: we visit the big foreigner hangout in the Puerto Galera area. Aren’t I already there, you say? Nah. The place where I’m staying, Muelle pier is small, quiet and in bed by 11. Sabang is loud, brash, and controversial. Don’t miss it!
After hopping in the shower and getting cleaned up, I instantly felt much better after 5 hours of riding buses and traversing shark-infested waters. Time to do some exploring! The best way to get to know an area: not by running out and seeing as many tourist sites as possible, but to pick one direction, and walk slowly, absorbing the world around you, by seeing how things are: people and nature.
My wanderings on this day started out as a simple casual stroll around the small, compact harbourfront of Puerto Galera, but they quickly evolved into a full-on hike, spurred on by word of a small but peaceful beach, located on the grounds of a cozy resort not far away … it was all I needed to set my feet in motion…
Not the boat I came in on, but one of many smaller outrigger boats that take countless customers out on diving trips everyday. Being smack in the centre of the Coral Triangle, a vibrant undersea community ensures no shortage of comers…
Shops, restaurants, and trinket stalls line the waterfront in Puerto Galera. I ate at a couple of the eateries, which mostly serve Western food to placate tourists. The food was of an acceptable quality, in my humble opinion.
Not long after the last photo was taken, a local, who snapped the self portrait that graces the top of this post, tipped me off about a really sweet beach about a 30 minute walk to the west…
After turning right off the main road onto a side street that the local said would lead to the resort that contained the beach in question, I was quite impressed with the mansions I saw. Clearly, Puerto Galera is not a secret to everyone!
Then, as the heat of the day started to take its toll, the sea rolled into view once again, with the promised resort dead ahead … and its accompanying little slice of heaven directly beside it
I don’t know about you, but I have a thing for pocket-sized beaches … especially when they’re deserted. It’s like it was sitting there all this time, made just for you, waiting for you to come and claim it for yourself…
As alluded to in the previous post, beaches are not all that the island of Mindoro has to offer. Its epic mountainous interior makes for exceptional photographic opportunities, as well as countless opportunities to stand with your jaw open in awe and feel the power and the spirituality of nature.
Have you ever found a little piece of paradise that you discovered unexpectedly on a trip? Let us know in the comments below!
Finally, after a full week in concrete jungle of Manila (but an uplifting, enjoyable one), it was time to get my sweating ass off to a white sand beach. With 7,107 islands in the Philippines, there ought to be a few out there, don’t you think?
So, with time limited before my flight home to Canada, I opted for a large island three hours due south of the capital. Mindoro was the destination of the day. Time to hop on a boat!
Comfortably situated among a cadre of divers, mind blowing food and cold beer, the stage was set for an epic week on an island most people have never heard about. In the next several posts of come, you will come to know this place very well!
As Easter Sunday, and the subsequent holiday season for most middle-class Filipinos loomed large in the distance, it was time to set my travel plans in stone. With Holy Week jamming transport and tourist destinations, I was stuck in Manila until after Easter. Afterwards though, it would still be quite busy, despite the slight dropoff in numbers. Hence, I decided to head south – not to Boracay, which involved a flight and the possibility of being jammed in with both the local and foreign hordes, but to the island of Mindoro, three hours south of Metro Manila.
Here lay the less vaunted, but still spectacular resort towns of Puerto Galera, White Beach, and Sabang. As eager as I was to recline on the sands of a tropical isle, there was the matter of the present. A night market that had been recommended to me, as well as a celebration of Easter Sunday itself back at Where 2 Next Hostel…
After a brief visit, it was time to head back to the hostel to put on my party hat…!
Time to get out of the city … Mindoro (one of 7,107 islands in the Phils!), here we come!