28 April 2015

El Nido - paradise, lost?

Between Coron and El Nido
After the beautiful Busuanga archipelago, we wanted to discover more islands of the Philippines. Palawan, the biggest island of the same province, is advertized as one of the most beautiful islands on the planet and quite close to Coron. As there are only expensive charter flights between Coron and El Nido, we took a boat. Our fabulous host at Coron Backpackers organized us tickets for the standard fare of 1400 PHP (28 EUR) and even changed them for another boat as the boat we wanted first had engine problems.

19 April 2015

Coron and Busuanga - what the Philippines are best at

Arriving on Busuanga island
After Manila, things could only get better. And they did. Already the flight from Manila to Busuanga made us forget the horrors of the capital quickly. Once we left Metro Manila behind, all we saw from the plane window were green islands in turquoise waters and the deep blue sea. After a short hour, the plane landed at Busuanga airport. Though airport is quite an overstatement. A landing field, an arrival hangar, a parking lot. But what more do you need to accomodate two daily flights?

If you haven't booked any expensive resort, your only choice to get to Coron town (about 25 km from the airport) are minibuses for 300 PHP per person (6 EUR). Not exactly a bargain, but not a rip off either. There is a surprising shortage of cheap accommodation in Coron town and Busuanga in general. If you're not willing to spend over 1000 PHP (20 EUR) per night for a simple double room, you're limited to three options. We got dropped directly next to Coron Backpackers, where we had made a reservation for six nights. This proved to be an excellent choice. For 500 PHP (10 EUR), we got a simple but nice room in a cozy house with free drinking water and a kitchen we could use freely. After several months without cooking ourselves, this was heaven.

12 April 2015

Manila

Intramuros - the nicest part of Manila
Everybody warned us of Phnom Penh and Saigon. People were really great in giving warnings about places we really fell in love with. Sure, SEA cities are special, but they can be very charming and we had great times. Not in Manila. Nobody warned us from what we encountered there. Some of my friends just told me they'd not know the city too well because it's dirty. Dirty is very relative.

When we came out of the airport we wanted to try the cheaper taxi version, which was to take one of the city taxis that bring guests to the departure part of the airport. The fifth driver finally said he'd know where we wanted to go and he promised to turn on the meter. When we were in the taxi he immediately started to talk non stop and ask us questions. We still focused and asked him to turn on the meter as we agreed on that. After a couple of minutes driving and talking we started to really not answer any question but to tell him over and over to turn on the meter.

9 April 2015

Ho-Chi-Minh-City or Saigon?

Pho rolls
To be honest from the beginning: we haven't found a definitive answer to the question raised in the title. While Ho-Chi-Minh-City is the official name since the revolution/unification, most locals and at least Southern Vietnamese prefer to call it Saigon, also among each other.

We arrived in Saigon on the second of January and for once the bus was almost as fast as promised. A good start. Also, the bus dropped us less than 500 meters walk away from our hotel, in the middle of the busy Hong Bang district. We had booked a hotel in advance as this had proved to be the best strategy in Vietnam. And this time was no different. Our room was on the fifth floor with no elevator, but this helps us keeping fit and in shape despite the delicious Vietnamese food. Also, the higher up means more light, a better view and, last but not least, less noise. To call our home for the next five days a room would be quite deceptive. For 20 USD (16 EUR) per night we got a spacious apartment with a huge bed, a couch, a dining table and even a bathtub.

4 April 2015

Mui Ne - where Russia goes for a holiday

Boats in Mui Ne harbour
Pelmeni, Shashlyk or Pirozhki for breakfast? You can get it all in Mui Ne. Everything is written in Russian, sometimes in Vietnamese too. And if you're lucky, you get an English translation. Most of the waiters in restaurants seem to speak Russian, English speaking staff was hard to find. I guess that says enough about the culture and prices in Mui Ne.

We arrived after a 22 hour instead of 17 hour bus ride on Christmas. When we spotted our hotel we asked the driver to stop, that was possible everywhere else so far. We rather had to fight to stay on the bus until we arrived at our destination on former trips. This time it was different. The driver didn't stop until we passed our hotel by nearly four kilometers. Well, all the hotels were behind us, but a lot of taxis waiting outside the bus already. Guess what, as usual they had a deal to make all the tourists pay for extremely high rates and the bus driver gets a share of the huge profit. What could you do? Nothing. It is part of traveling in SEA, in Vietnam it is your main experience pretty much...