Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finally made it to the Philippines which was the main country wanted to check out on this Trip!!

Sorry but in this blog I’ve included a number of links to other peep’s blogs with pics as didn’t have a lot of my own pics but that's OK as my pics prob wouldn’t have done the beauty of my journey to northern Philippines any justice lol!

So yeah spent the night at Club Changi (aka Singapore Changi Airport) in relative comfort considering it’s an airport! Then hopped the Tiger Airways flight (which was uneventful) to Clark Airport just outside Manila!! Sure glad I booked my flight to fly into Clark cuz that put me outside of that big mega shit hole – Manila! As got to see more of it later which justified my previous thought!!!

Luckily the flight landed at 2 pm as always try to arrive in a new place that never been b4 so try to get to the places during the day! Luckily Clark Airport is north of Manila so was part of the way to my destination of Northern Philippines! LOL I knew that the common cheapo method of transportation was the Jeepney!

The first thing I did b4 exiting the terminal building was get a Philippines SIM Card so I could use my phone! Then when I got outside a guy approached me to ask where was I going? Well I knew wanted to go to the Dau bus station near Angeles (yeah stupid me had done some research on how to get up north http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1475182) o knew there would be buses going north!! So the guy told me it was my lucky day as pointed to a Jeepney parked by the curb as it was going to the Dau Bus Station!  

So at the Dau Bus station found out when the next bus was leaving to go to Baguio (one of the main cities up north.
But my first thought was to get some more Pesos the Philipines currency! This kid at the Bus Station said he could show me the nearest ATM (but told him that wasn’t going to pay him anything to show me an ATM as against my tight budget & principles lol) but ended up going to 5 ATMs until I found one that worked or had cash! So that made me think shit better take out a bunch of Pesos which later proved to be correct!!

Anyway caught my bus around 4 pm and the trip took about 5 hrs to get to Baguio! What I noticed was the terrain & weather was really changing as the closer we got to Baguio! It was starting to get more hilly and also it was starting to get windy and rainy! Hell by the time we got to Baguio well it was really quite miserable and dark!! When we got to Baguio we arrived at the bus station there was a Service desk where a guy offered to take me to a cheaper guest house! But the first one was too expensive for my taste so ended up staying at Angelita’s Tuvera a cheap little place close to the bus station! The room wasn’t much but wtf was only sleeping there so went out to grab some thing to eat as found a place with cheap food - what else? Well at least my room had free wifi so had something to do until I crashed!

The next day was beautiful as I went back to the bus station as found a bus to take me up north to Sagada a small town in the Mountain Province which I figured would be a good starting point to starting searching for Fang-Od the 93 year young manual tribal tattoo artist who the Filippino dude met in Cambodia told me!!

The bus ride from Baguio to Sagada had some awesome scenery as the views of the mountains were amazing as well as the steep drops by the side of the road! 

Guess I’ve been on higher mountains but suppose what made this road so awesome was the road seemed to be all up on the top of the mountains. The ride took about 6 hrs (with a couple stops for something to eat & the road was really windy with some switch backs) to get to Sagada which is a cool little town to hang out as it seemed to have a few fellow travellers staying there to do whatever!


Of course the first item of business in Sagada was finding a place to stay for however long it would take for me to find Fang-Od the tattoo artist and see about getting a manual tribal tattoo! So I found this guesthouse which was quite homely, nice & was in a price range that I could handle however it didn’t have an electrical outlet in the room which meant I couldn’t charge my phone or my computer! So I went to this guesthouse across the street to stay which had an electrical plug in the room! I decided to stay one night as found out that there were a group of older loud Europeans eating and drinking in the common eating area where I was using my computer for wifi! Now I kind of dislike peep who get loud when they drink but I put up with them for 1 night!

The next day I was walking around Sagada (the village isn’t very big and the 1 main street runs up and down a bit of a hill but still it doesn’t take long to walk around the place) asking if anyone knew where to find Fang-Od which surprisingly not many peep had heard of her but was told that this one dude who ran this restaurant maybe knew about her! So I wandered over to this place to find out where I could find the tattoo lady! Well the dude wasn’t in but the workers showed me a very nice picture book that turned out to be one of a kind book published for this dude so I had to come back to meet the dude! I also wanted to return cuz there was a sign saying they served exotic Fruit Bat which was a bit pricey but thought shit may never get a chance to try it again! But was told they needed a hr notice to prepare the dish so I ordered it and said would be back in a hr! So in the meantime I wandered around Sagada checking out what was interesting! When I returned to the restaurant and saw my Exotic Fruit Bat dish wow I thought shit that’s a lot of fruit bat!! But found out the reason it was a bit pricey was because the assholes didn’t tell me it was a meal for 4 peep! Shit there was no way I could eat all of it but would give it the old College try as there’s no way was going to pay that price (prob about equivalent to $8 which is a lot for a meal in the Philippines!) and not eat the meal! I was the only person in the restaurant eating my meal but then in walked this dude so I asked if he was hungry and wanted to try some exotic fruit bat! So he sat down and ate with me but we still couldn’t finish the meal! The fruit bat was different but still looked like a bat/mouse which even tho I don’t care for it’s appearance I kept eating! It was tasty but the wings which probably stretched about 1 meter when it was alive wasn’t that tasty! So anyway that’s how I met Bapiste a French guy living in London! The funny thing was he had already gotten a tattoo from Fang-Od so could give me the low down of how to find her, etc along with showing me his tat! Well it seemed Bapiste was even on a stricter budget than moi which is why he didn’t hesitate to join me in a free meal! I never did find out why he came into the restaurant except think he came for a coffee! Anyway he mentioned that he was staying at this guesthouse at the bottom of the hilly main street for about $5 a night, had wifi, was quiet and nice plus he could cook a meal in the kitchen! So I thought shit that was a better deal than I was getting except it was a longer walk down a bit of a steep street but wtf after we finished our meal I got my stuff and moved to his guesthouse!

However I still hadn’t met the guy from the restaurant to get info on how to find Fang-Od but Bapiste filled me in on some of the details! He told me to take the regular jeepney which went to this other town Bantoc, a larger town, where most peep from Sagada went when ever they needed something! Then at Bantoc I’d have to catch another jeepney to this place on the main road where I’d get off and walk up the mtn for a couple hrs to reach Buscalan in the Kalinga area where Fang-od lived and worked!

However Bapiste recommended that I get a guide to show me how to find Buscalan and talk to Fang-od as she didn’t speak English! He gave me the number of the dude that he used as his guide but spent 2 or 3 days trying to get a hold of him or his brother but had no luck! Shit than spent another day or so checking around town for other guides but most had no idea where or who Fang-Od was or lived! But finally met Jerry a real nice dude who ran a restaurant but also did some guiding, spoke Fang-Od’s language & knew where Buscalan is cuz his family is from that area!!

In the mean time since Bapiste and I stayed in the same guest house well we’d ended up cooking meals together cuz the lady who ran the place would make extra rice and other Filippino food and leave it for the peep working there plus us! I didn’t think the price of eating in the Philippines was expensive but always up to saving some cash! Then we’d both go out on the balcony and have a smoke as he was into weed too! Shit can’t remember where we got our weed but think I may have brought some with me (yeah I know that's a fuking NO NO in most countries) but shit I didn’t bring much as wasn’t smoking as much as back home! So we’d smoke and then hit the sack but some times we’d go a block away where this dude ran a night only bar! But since we both didn’t drink much well we’d go there to hang out as peep would hang out on the street with a fire and have a beer or 2 or 3 while Bapiste and I would have a smoke! There weren’t any cops or whatever in Sagada that we saw plus the village was a cool chill place!!!

Hell Bapiste was kind of broke plus he didn’t want to go back to London or Paris to live and work! Shit can’t blame him cuz thought both cities were not the best environments to live and work! So Bapiste was always looking on line for a job in the Philippines plus he had some sort of part time work online! Hell last winter I scored an online job but didn’t do it cuz well was too much hassle lol! So the 2 of us hung out for about a week in Sagada both b4 I went to search for Fung-Od and after I returned! Bapiste wanted to go back to see Fung-Od to finish his tat as he didn’t have enuf cash b4 & still didn’t so I bought a ring off him to sort of help him out!

We also checked out the things to see and do around Sagada like the caves but I passed on it cuz had to hire a guide and I didn’t want to see them that bad cuz figure seen enuf caves in Laos! LOL But shit Bapiste and I sort of thought alike cuz we both liked traveling and didn’t like working lol! No there were other things too like smoking but not drinking lol!!!

So after finally finding a guide to take me to Buscalan to find Fang-Od we finally caught a jeepney to Bontoc! It was maybe a 1 ½ to 2 hrs drive to Bontoc with the same beautiful scenery high in the mtns!

When I got to Bontoc had to go to the ATM for some Pesos since Sagada didn’t have an ATM (that worked with my ATM card) to get some cash! Bontoc tho a bit of a shit hole (Sagada is definitely a more chill village to hang out) was also the town to go to get things U couldn’t get in Sagada!
Then after getting some Pesos we had to find the place to find the jeepney which would take up to the place (believe the place was called Mar-o?) where we would start walking up the mtn side to Buscalan! The ride was crazy cuz we felt like we were hanging on a precipice and could fall down a steep side into a valley! We traversed the one-way winding road of the Cordillera mountains. There were towering cliff on one side, a deep ravine on the other. One wrong steer and any vehicle would be sent plunging to the depths below. We passed by a couple of landslides and had to avoid the debris that weren’t yet cleared and were blocking the way. I spotted tiny waterfalls along the road and big ones among the lush greens of the mountain across the valley. Waterfalls are common in this landlocked region of the country. What is amazing is there were a bunch of peep sitting on top of the jeepney as it wasn’t a place for peep who are scared of heights!!!!

Then after about a hr ride Jerry told me this is where we get off the jeepney and start hiking up the mtn!! 

The hike up the mtn wasn’t that difficult as have done steeper and harder hikes however it was strenuous enuf to know that U've done a climb! LOL We got to Buscalan after about a 2 hr hike over trails, a road and along rice paddies and got there about 3 pm or so! Speaking of rice paddies it was interesting that the peep in Buscalan would catch small mud fish in the water of the rice paddies along with some small crabs which I tried eating but they were just too small to open! Reports also say sometimes eels invade farmlands here are capable of burrowing into mud or creating holes.

Buscalan is a small village with kids, chickens, pigs & dogs roaming around everywhere! Fang-od was busy doing a tattoo on a Swedish guy and his friend was waiting! So it seemed she wouldn’t have time to do a tattoo for me that day as the sun would soon be going down as it was getting kinda dark and as figure Fang-od at 93 yrs young would have a hard time seeing!!! But we were treated warmly by the villagers as we waited our turn!! Seemed it was a stall tactic (lol) cuz Fang-od’s 2 nieces (family members) asked if I wanted to buy any weed or hash! Well I was never one to turn down an offer of weed so bought a bit from both of them! Cuz hell we were smoking openly in the small village!

We were served a meal of rice and canned fish which tasted good to me prob cuz we were high up in the mtns! Jerry had spoken to Fang-od and made arrangements for us to spend the night in her house so I could get a tat in the morning! There wasn’t electricity in Buscalan so when it got kinda dark well it was time to go to sleep!!

In the morning we got up with the chickens (just a saying! lol) to eat breakfast of rice & canned fish again which I never eat in the morning but was starting to enjoy!! So Fang-od would do her chores feeding the pigs and a lot of days went out to do field work in the rice paddies! Then she had to do the tattoos on the Swedish chick! We walked around the village seeing the sights and talking to the peep! Then we spent another night in Buscalan and the next day after Fang-od did her chores she started doing a tattoo on me! I wanted a tribal tattoo of a centipede which had meaning of strength in their tribal customs! I also wanted what I thought was a symbol of male fertility but not that I wanted to have more kids but it was rather a symbol of health and long life! Back in the day of head hunters of the tribe it seemed every time a man had a kill he got a tattoo! So the more tattoos a man had it showed the more kills, however these days headhunting was no longer in vogue lol so mainly the women had tattoos! Fang-od had no trouble doing the centipide as she was familiar with doing it! However if a person requested another type of tattoo she wasn’t familiar well she perfered it drawn on the person b4 she did it! So Jerry drew the outline of the Male fertility symbol on my left arm while I got the centipede on the right arm!

It took Fang-od about 3 hrs to do my 2 tattoos and then we had another meal and started our walk down the mtn side! The walk down the mtn side was a bit less strenuous than the walk up the mtn!

When we got back to the highway well we waited for the regular jeepney coming down the highway to take us back to Bontoc! When we got back to Bontoc I thought maybe I should take some more cash out of the ATM cuz thought shit most ATM’s either didn’t work or had no cash which I found out later as the ATM I went to b4 had no cash! So I went to the other ATM in town and of course it didn’t work! So went back to the first bank and told the peep inside the bank there was no cash in the machine! When I told the girl inside that the machine had no cash well she slowly told me they’d get around to putting some in it later this afternoon! Well I told them that there were customers outside waiting for some cash! But she still took her time and after about 30 mins she finally put some cash in the machine & I got my cash! Well after my experiences with ATM’s in the Philippines have to say that they probably have the worse ATM’s in any country I’ve been!

I had been telling Jerry that it would be cool to try eating dog meat as like to have new experiences and tho they tried to make a meal of dog meat in Buscalan well they couldn’t find a dog of the size big enuf for all of us! I guess they only eat larger dogs not small ones tho it seems a bit gross when thinking of U’r pet family dog!

So Jerry asked around and found a place which would service us dog meat for a good price! I found that dog meat to be a bit greasy not as in a lot of oil but kind of greasy like in a cooked goose! But other than that it wasn’t much different than most meat I've eaten tho I’m not a big meat eater these days!! Also I didn’t get all emotional about it being a dog but just thought it was just an experience of eating some different food on the road of Life!!!

Found that hanging out with Jerry for a couple days was very enjoyable as he is a real nice guy and anyway I get along great with Filippinos as feel they’re all nice peep and speak real good English tho they tend to be a bit religious and conservative for me but hey doesn’t hurt to hang out with all kind of peep!

So when I returned to Sagada well stayed a couple more days hanging out with Bapiste! I also visited Jerry’s bar & café as he told me most evenings they had peep over to sing karaoke which I wasn’t keen on cuz I’d always either be ahead or behind the words on the monitor!!!!

Bapiste liked to go to this coffee shop as he had this friend who also liked to go there! I don’t drink coffee but what they sold were small bags of the coffee made from beans that were pooped from wild cats!! 

Though I didn’t drink the coffee I bought a few bags of the expensive coffee (approx $20 for a small bag to make one pot of coffee!) to take to peep back home who loved their coffee!

I took the same bus back to Baguio but this time I didn’t stay at Angelita’s Tuvera but went on Couchsurfing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing  and scored a place to stay at this chick named Cherry in Baguio! The bus took me to the bus station downtown as was given the directions to get to her place by jeepney! She lived in a sort of basement suite in a 3 story house! When I was there her cousin Paul was staying with her as they both were between jobs! They were both very nice and even let me eat some Filippino food with them that Paul made as he was a good cook! So I gave them some cash for food cuz Couch surfing is usually only a place to stay not meals!

I asked them about Balut which I wanted to try as heard a lot about it which is really gross when U actually see it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWvtRhJ5sFo Paul told me that every evening a guy comes by selling balut on the street and yells “Balut”! So I went and bought 4 of them – 1 for each of them and I decided wtf I’d eat 2 of them! So I had a flavor beer and 2 baluts which I managed to eat with not trouble! But fuk later on that night I got a really bad upset stomach and couldn’t sleep! The next day they told me if U eat 4 baluts and 4 beers and there is a history of heart trouble in Ur family that U could have a heart attack! Fuk now they tell me cuz my dad died of a stroke when I was really young and don’t really remember him! Boy had Balut once well had 2 of them and drank flavored beer both new to me but probably never again!

I had planned to go to southern Philippines to check out the beaches however I thought shit I don’t have enuf time as I had to catch my flight back to Singabore in less than a week! So I decided to just hang around close to Baguio for the time and maybe check out the local beaches!! Cuz well Cherry didn’t mind me stay as long as I wanted well within reason & of course there was no way would stay longer than needed cuz well to be blunt Baguio was a bit of a shitty place for a student city!!

One day I took the bus out to the ocean on the west coast of northern Philippines! It was a beautiful drive out to the coast like the rest of the northern part of Philippines! Thought I’d check out San Juan La Union (where Cherry suggested I go to see a beach) as wanted to see what the beaches were like there! I’m not a big beach or sun tanning person but wtf heard about the Philippine beaches as beautiful but maybe that was in the south! So was a bit disappointed in the beaches as can find beaches that compare or better than the one I saw west of Baguio! But wtf was cool to get out to see the ocean after all the mtns!

So yeah after spending a couple more days in Baguio (couch surfer at Cherry’s place) well it was time to take off to catch my flight in Manila! But fuk that kind of sucked too cuz in my hurry to buy a return ticket I bought it out of Manila and NOT Clark! So checked how could avoid going thru Manila (as it was a sprawling quagmire of peep, bldg & vehicles lol)! So found if I went to Pasay a town near the Manila airport than wouldn’t have to go thru Manila! Also found a Victory Liner (major bus company) bus to take me directly to Pasay & than a taxi to the airport! Then my biggest concern was which of 4 terminals (each one spread quite far apart) to go to as didn’t want to catch multiple taxis! Finally decided on going to Terminal 1 as my researched indicated!

But got to the airport earlier than needed so waited in the check in lounge with the 1000’s of other passengers! But wtf I got on my Tiger Airways flight back to Singabore!!

Btw here are my poor pictures of my adventure in northern Philippines.

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