Posted by: James Shannon | April 23, 2013

The Pursuit Of Excitement Has Moved!

flock of migrating canada geese birdsWe’ve flown the coop to greener pastures…

In case you’ve missed it in the previous post, The Pursuit of Excitement has officially ended its run on WordPress.com. As of now, all future posts on this blog will only be available at http://www.pursuitofexcitement.com. So head on over and sign up for the mailing list to keep appraised on future posts and activities, and continue with me on this journey of pursuing a life well-lived, full of adventure, wonder and surprises!

DSCN1089The view from above: White Beach, one of Puerto Galera’s most trafficked strips of sand, lies about 50 feet below the mountain road wending its way towards the northern apex of Mindoro Island. My personal trike driver and I were off to see the most remote beaches in the Pureto Galera area, Aninuan and Talipanan. Incidentally, they were rumoured to be the best…

With the cultural highlights of Northern Luzon calling my name, I had one more day before hopping back on the ferry to the big island. Talking the owners at Badladz, I inquired about any other beaches I had to see before departing. They mentioned two: Aninuan and Talipanan beaches, located almost at the tip of Mindoro, where few tourists bother to tread.

For me, this was a fortuitous stroke of luck, as these slices of heaven were what I was searching for when I struck out from Manila a week prior … tropical serenity and solitude.

DSCN1093Aninuan Beach was first on the agenda … aside from one resort on the southeast end, it was everything that it was billed to be…!

DSCN1095… but first, let’s meet my tour guide for the day …

DSCN1096…and the dirty-haired foreigner he had to put up with for an afternoon :P

DSCN1101Hardly a soul to be seen…

DSCN1105Honestly … perfect white sand beach in the tropic, backdropped by a high mountain range, crowned by puffy clouds … what more would you want in a tropical hideaway?

DSCN1108After a moment of zen that lasted fifteen solid minutes, we eventually pressed on to Talipanan beach … again, just one resort here, catering to your every need, a world away from the zoo that is Sabang…

DSCN1118Alas, not every beach resort venture is a success … the skeletons of bungalows past sit back in the palm trees at Talipanan beach.

DSCN1121Further on down the beach, the concrete shell of another failed operation sits like a sentinel on the shores of the Verde Island Passage…

DSCN1126A little street art adding some grit to paradise…

DSCN1132Here’s hoping this place gets revived again someday … though it seems a bit close to the water … typhoon season must take its toll on places like this!

… and with that, you have just read the last official post on this site! Nonononono, don’t worry … Pursuit of Excitement isn’t ending, we’re moving house! The new website for The Pursuit of Excitement is up and running! While design changes are still forthcoming, and I still may move over some posts from this site to the new one, it is now open for business!

Head on over and and sign up for the newsletter, as the e-mail subscription that you are likely reading this post through will not carry over to the new site. I will post a direct link to where you can sign up for the new site on Thursday/Friday, so you won’t miss a thing.

I’m really excited about this shift, and as always, you are all welcome to comment what you like/dislike about the new site, and what you would love to see me cover as we move forward. See you all at pursuitofexcitement.com!

Posted by: James Shannon | April 4, 2013

In Motion: A Sneak Preview Of The Land Of The Morning Calm

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)!

DSCN2234Downtown Calgary, as viewed from Scotchman’s Hill

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!

DSCN1077The jeepney (disused Jeeps from the US military that are used for local transport throughout the Philippines) that brought me back from Sabang, sits on a street corner in Puerto Galera town.

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…

DSCN1075The serendipity inherent in wandering randomly kicked in right away, as I stumbled upon a school basketball game, played in an open-air gymnasium.

DSCN1080The bustling main drag in Puerto Galera town.

DSCN1144I poked my head into a Filipino convenience store to grab a Coke, when I happened upon the treat shelf … Pinoys have a massive sweet tooth, just like me :)

DSCN1149Making my way back to Muelle pier, I noticed some old cannon flanking a wood cross … brilliant photo opp, if I do say so myself!

DSCN1082The 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.

DSCN1159My day ended on a most salivating note, eating a plate of nachos that made my tastebuds sing, at Badladz resort’s amazing restaurant!

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! :P

Posted by: James Shannon | March 26, 2013

Strolling Around Sabang, Puerto Galera’s Foreigner Hotspot

DSCN1015View from the taxi drop off point, in the centre of Sabang.

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…

DSCN1021Sabang’s waterfront, backed spectacularly by coconut palms…

DSCN1037An array of tropical flowers adorn the frontage of a resort on Sabang’s waterfront.

DSCN1042

DSCN1044One 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!

DSCN1051In the main harbour area of Sabang, the beach is extremely thin or non-existent. But follow this path around the headland to the west and…

DSCN1063… you can find a strip that is more usable. Having said that, this area is more of a diver’s haunt than an actual beach destination, in all honesty.

DSCN1070Heading back into town, I took a path back via the hill, and found this rather creative swimming pool :)

DSCN1072

DSCN1071

DSCN1073Travelling through the labyrinth-like passageways of Sabang Town, we stumble across some Filipino food stalls … alluring, but on this day, I felt like a pizza. Bad James! Bad! BAD traveller! :P

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!

DSCN0932Gorging myself on Filipino-style sausage fried rice back at Badladz Resort. As I dined, I plotted my excursion to White Beach, Puerto Galera’s most popular beach the next day.

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…!

DSCN0940After walking through a slightly sketchy alley (for a Westerner at least), I broke through to the beachfront.  Not too shabby!

DSCN0943Behind 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!

DSCN0955After a day trawling the coral reefs offshore looking for Nemo, divers staying in the White Beach area frequent bars like this one, located at the Western end of White Beach.

DSCN0960Looking to escape the crowds and explore the coastline? Rent a boat and paddle off into the deep blue horizon … who knows, maybe you’ll find a secret cove to snorkel in, and have it all to yourself!

DSCN0962The sun beats down intensely on White Beach, making me crave a swim in the ocean…

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…

DSCN0975…After walking for about ten minutes, you reach an area where there is no development at all…

DSCN0978… just you, your friends, and the sun, surf and sand. With some gorgeous mountain views to boot!

DSCN0982Time to go for a dip! While the water was just fine, it is colder than the Gulf of Thailand. Still, it was just the ticket on a blazing hot day in the middle of the Filipino summer!

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!

DSCN0885Your brave adventurer: well-tanned, well fed, but in bad need of a haircut, poses in front of the main harbour in Puerto Galera, Philippines.

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…

DSCN0881Not 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…

DSCN0884Shops, 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…

DSCN0887Walking along the road between settlements … just keep your wits about you, walk against traffic and be predictable with your movements, and you’ll do just fine!

DSCN0891After 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 :)

DSCN0896I 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…

DSCN0928As 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.

DSCN0925And with another fulfilling mission accomplished, it was time to claim my reward from the hotel bar. San Miguel + beach with an epic mountain background = a perfect day in the Phils!

Have you ever found a little piece of paradise that you discovered unexpectedly on a trip? Let us know in the comments below!

DSCN0850Safety first: lots of life jackets available on the outrigger ferries heading to Mindoro Island in the Philippines.

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!

DSCN0855Leaving Batangas port, we were on an outrigger ferry, as the pontoons on the exterior of the boat demonstrate.

DSCN0856Out on the open ocean, traversing the Verde Island Passage…

DSCN0860…when the seas get kinda rough! Down go the flaps!

DSCN0868About 90 minutes, we pass by villages on Paniquian Island, just off the main island of Mindoro. Must be a peaceful way of life…!

DSCN0865Not long after, the immense scale of the main island rolls into view … breathtakingly beautiful!

DSCN0875Safely on shore at Badladz resort in Puerto Galera, Philippines, and enjoying an outstanding Mexican lunch (Badladz is partly owned by a Canadian). I was having an amazing day at this point! :)

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!

DSCN0755Cruising a night market close to Where 2 Next Hostel in Manila. My time in the Filipino capital was drawing to a close, as my post-Easter trip to the island of Mindoro drew closer…

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…

DSCN0756

DSCN0758Delightful displays of produce, as you can see … way tastier and healthier than the pesticide laden stuff back home, let me assure you!

After a brief visit, it was time to head back to the hostel to put on my party hat…!

DSCN0843…which evidently involved pink bunny ears. Fun!

DSCN0841Filipino style spaghetti? Check. A dessert involving coconut milk, noodles, and jube candies? Check. Pinoy rum? Double check!

DSCN0846Good and buzzed? Time for some games! How about carry the egg on a spoon? Yeah, that’s sounds like an awesome idea! Poor eggs. :(

DSCN0849It’s been a slice Manila! I’ll hip-hop my way back sooner than I know it! :)

Time to get out of the city … Mindoro (one of 7,107 islands in the Phils!), here we come!

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