A New Year in the Philippines

Other than being sick a lot of the time, the trip to Puerto Galera was enjoyable.  Here’s the story in pictures.

Woke up early Thursday morning to find some snow on the ground. Took a cab to Incheon and caught my plane. We left and arrived on time. Good job Korean Air!

Met my tour guide Loraine at the Manila airport.  She had secured us transportation to Batangas (about 2 1/2 hours away on the toll road) where we caught the ferry to Puerto Galera.

The “ferry” was this banka boat, capacity 110 brave souls.

Every seat was full for the 1.5 hour trip across the water to PG. Seas were relatively calm which is good, because I’m prone to sea sickness…

Looking forward towards arrival at Puerto Galera…

And there it is!

Can’t remember the name of the town we docked in, but it looked like this. It wasn’t White Beach which was where we were going. To get there we had to take a van ride of 30 minutes or so.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were booked at the Tribal Hills Mountain Resort.  The shuttle van met us in White Beach and drove us straight up the mountain (literally).  Checked in and proceeded to our room where we saw the sign stating there would be no power from 1:00 – 5:00 while the generator underwent maintenance.  With no air con we took advantage of the huge deck outside our corner room.

the deck was larger than our the room, I do believe…

…and afforded views like this…

…and this….

….this…

…this…

…and of course, this.

The resort featured a restaurant with fantastic views and average food, a pool with a bar that closed at midnight except when it closed earlier, like the night we went down at 11:00.

The pool area at night.

The resort rented 4 wheelers, had an archery range, and a guided hike up to some mountain falls.  We partook in none of the above, although I really did want to take the falls trek.  Lungs and leg convinced me otherwise.  The WiFi was spotty at best, but we made do.  Mostly missed it on those sleepless nights I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

So instead I hired one of the hotel vehicles to drive us into Sabang, a comparatively large town best known for its diving resorts.  1000 pesos round trip (about 20 bucks).  Saw lots of downed trees and storm damage along the way.  There is only one road into and out of Sabang, and like most other roads I saw in Puerto Galera, it was quite narrow.  Our expert driver managed it quite well however.

Once we arrived, the tour guide recommended a steak house she was familiar with.  Once again, the views were much better than the food.  I had a fish fillet that was so salty it was inedible.  But the mango split we shared for dessert was outstanding.

Loraine the tour guide sets up my phone with a local sim card. It gave me a usable phone number, but I was more interested in the data network for internet. It even worked some of the time!

Beer was cold, which is how I like it!

From our dining perch, the view to the right…

…the view straight ahead…

…and the view to the left.

After lunch I treated Loraine to getting her hair treated.  Turns out it was a three hour long process, which gave me time to wander around a bit.  More than enough time, because there just ain’t that much to see there.  Luckily for me, I’m easily entertained…

Found me a beachside bar featuring cold SML beer and enjoyed the view and watching the passerby…

Lots of dive boats coming in and going out…

And a walkable beach if you were so inclined. I was not.

By the time Loraine’s hair was finished, I was half(?) drunk and hungry.  There was a Korean restaurant across the street from the salon so I figured we’d give it a go.

It’s hard to go wrong with samgyapsal, even though I had to cook it myself.

Sabang has a smallish nightlife entertainment scene.  We sampled three bars, all of the go-go variety which I pretty much disdain.  One drink and out in each of them.  One difference from the bars in Angeles City and Subic I’ve visited is that the gals danced one at a time, rather than as a group.  I didn’t see the value in that, but what do I know.

Called our driver for the return trip to Lost Hills and he got us there in due course (about a 45 minute drive).  Once back in our room I had another bout with my bronchitis issues.  Feeling trapped in the room, figured I could be just as miserable at the poolside bar.  Which was already closed, more than an hour prior to the posted closing time.  Oh well, sat out there anyway.  Suggested to the tour guide that we check out one day early and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Manila.  There was really nothing left to see in Puerto Galera and I had a desire to be closer to reasonable medical care should my condition continue to worsen.

After breakfast the next morning we caught the banka boat ferry back to Batangas.  Upon arrival had several touts offer to drive us back to Manila at a discounted rate of 2500 pesos, including tolls.  Although that was a bargain price, I was uneasy about riding in an unlicensed “taxi”, weighing the odds of robbery or some other scam unworthy of the savings.  Took a comfortable bus ride instead for 1/3 that price.

I had previously booked a room for January 1 at the Red Planet Hotel in Aseana Center.  It’s near the airport, the Mall of Asia, and a couple of casinos.  Just prior to checking out of Tribal Hills I went online to Agoda.com to add the 31st to my Red Planet booking.  When we arrived at Red Planet there was a long line for check-in, and the clerks didn’t seem particularly competent.  When I finally got to the counter and provided my ID the clerk couldn’t find my booking for the 31st.  I explained that I had just made it that morning and didn’t have anything other than the email confirmation, which I pulled up and showed her.

She said “sir, this booking is for the Red Planet in Makati”.  Damn, I hate when that happens.  So, we had to “grab” a taxi across town.  (Grab taxi is the Philippines version of Uber apparently.  I like it.)  On the way to our hotel I noticed an oddly familiar neighborhood–the P. Burgos street nightlife district!  I had visited there on my previous Manila adventure back in June.  Our hotel turned out to be within easy walking distance, so at least the location of our New Year’s Eve activities was taken care of.  I like when that happens!

Got settled in the room then took a cab to the Greenbelt shopping district that the tour guide had suggested as a good place for dinner.  She had a Filipino dish, I went with the chicken-on-a-stick (although it had a fancier name (and price) on the menu.).  When it was time to head back to our neck of the woods we had a helluva time getting a taxi.  All the queues were long and the cabs few and far between.  I’m not known for my patience and it was shortly exhausted.  I said fuck this, let’s walk away from this area where there is less competition for cabs.  Loraine told me later she was surprised how I was brazenly walking down dicey streets with no apparent fear of being robbed.  I wasn’t brave, just clueless. Regardless, my plan was not working as there didn’t appear to be any cabs to be found here either.  (If I lived in Manila I would definitely get the Grab app on my phone).

In frustration, I walked over to the doorman at a small hotel and offered him 100 pesos if he could fetch me a cab.  His efforts standing in the street were no more successful than mine.  He asked Loraine in Tagalog where we were going and how much we were willing to pay to get there.  After consulting with me, we said 300 pesos (six bucks, about double the taxi fare).  He had a friend nearby, and after some discussion he agreed to drive us to our hotel for that price.  Problem solved–money talks, we didn’t walk!

Rested up and cleaned up then headed out to Burgos for a night of bar hopping.  Surprisingly, many of the bars were lacking the usually ubiquitous numbers of bar girls.  Apparently many go home to the provinces for the holidays.  No problem as I wasn’t in the market for that anyway.  We had a pretty good time bar hopping until the clock was ready to strike 12.

My first kiss of the new year!

After another rough night and little sleep because of my health issue, we decided to make a visit to the Mall of Asia.  Loraine had a hankering for pizza, and Shakey’s is the place for pizza in the PI.  Which was surprising, because when I was a kid growing up in Southern California, Shakey’s was the big thing!  I still remember their commercial jingle:

I’ve been to Mall of America, and this one seems bigger to me…it’s HUGE!

We serve fun at Shakey’s. Also pizza!

A nice little amusement park behind the mall…

Which is situated on Manila Bay…

Later that evening we hit a casino but I wasn’t impressed or in the mood.  Did hit an 800 peso slot win, with only a 1000 peso investment!

Then we took a cab to the Ermita area of Manila and visited the famous L.A. Cafe. It’s a notorious hang out for freelance hookers, but also a fun, albeit smoky, bar.  Glad I got to experience it.

Next morning it was up and out to the airport.  And the rest as they say is history.  Except for the being sick part, it was a good time.

 

One thought on “A New Year in the Philippines

  1. Oh John, my office is in between Red Planet Makati and Greenbelt Malls, just 5minutes walk to either of the two. Too close hahaha. Hope your next visits to the Philippines willl be of better experience each time. Here’s to 2017! Have a great weekend.

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