Monday, July 30, 2012

Philippines or Bust: Part 1

There's no two ways about it. 
Before I touched down in Manila 
I knew next to nothing about the Philippines.

When I arrived I carried no guide books.
I'd done little to no research.
My phone would only be helpful if I happened upon wifi.

What I did know was:
  1. I should only use metered taxis.
  2. There was a hostel near the airport called the Blue Mango open 24hrs.
  3. The names of three places rumored to have wonderful beaches.
  4. It was theoretically possible to "bus" across the country.
  5. I speak two of the three official languages.
  6. Lots of ferries leave from Caticlan.
  7. I don't really have any money.
  8. The country is not safe.
  9. I was leaving from a place called Cebu on Sunday.
  10. I did't want to go to Boracay.
With this in mind, here was my plan:
Ask the first person I met,  "Where is the bus to Caticlan?"

This is the story of how that plan worked out.

We aren't in Kansas anymore, "American" breakfast is everywhere and it's delicious.
Unknown to me, a Typhoon hits land the day I arrive.
Yes, I realized it was raining a lot,
but I didn't realize it was part of a larger weather system moving in.
The Tricycle delivers me to the taxi drivers as the rains begin en-force.
The first  taxi driver has family near Caticlan, he knows all the buses from Manila and when they leave.
He does me right.  I'm loaded aboard a chicken bus as soon as I arrive. $25 for the trip.
 I don't really know where I am going and I have no idea how long it's going to take.
All I know is that this is an island nation so I'm going to have to get on some sort of boat eventually.
At first they were sure what to do with me.
I eat my first meal alone.  It tastes great.
I notice nothing is refrigerated.
The woman waves her stick to keep of the flies.
The first bus / ferry connection was uneventful.
However, across the ferry yard I saw the only white people I would see outside of the main tourist cities.
They were getting on what appeared to be a special ship.
 I'm guessing it cost a lot more then mine.
During this voyage I begin to notice my seat buddy has begun to take a liking to me.
He makes sure I get to see all the kids diving for candy
and doing flip of the ferry roof.
As the night rolls on.
We get deeper into nowhere.
My companions begin to take full responsibility for me.
I'm watched like a hawk now.
No more worries about begin left behind or not knowing what will happen next.
We arrive for our final bus/ferry connection.
It's now official.  I'm not traveling alone.
 I'm ushered inside as the Typhoon begins to build around us.
We must wait until morning to leave so my buddy makes sure I'm safe and "comfortable".
In the morning my guardian ushers me away from the group to go stand with the bus drivers.
Then hurries me onto the ferry ahead of everyone so I can have my first choice in where to sleep.
I'm thankful because when the others are allowed onto the boat
they charge in at a mad dash to clammer for the choice spots.
Soon I notice that I'm surrounded by a group of happy guards.
My posse has grown from one to six or eight.
They never let me out of their sight.
Someone always stays with me.
As the trip wears on,
it becomes apparent the ocean is not a safe place.
Even though we are on the third floor, waves are dashing against the tarps.
People are throwing up everywhere,
and clinging to each other as they try to get much needed rest.
Everyone is thankful as the day brings brighter skies.
However, the ocean is still not friendly and it takes nearly 30 minutes of nervous work to get us safely docked.
However, we have arrived and everyone is excited.
Once it Caticlan the 24 hours of travel have taken it's toll.
The stress of the last ferry has me concerned about continuing on to more rural islands.
The ocean is not safe right now and I am not sure ferries will even be allowed to leave.
So, despite the fact I didn't want to go to Boracay
that's exactly where I was going to end up for a few days.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Freedom Found

They drug me to Mudfest,
but then I didn't want to leave.
30,000 people covered in mud.
Swimming in the ocean.
Laughing like children.
Is there more fun that could be had?
I don't think so.
The Crew Is Gathered.  Adventure Has Commenced.

Our arrival was much hailed by our own personal paparazzi.

Getting dirty was the first thing on the menu.
There really isn't anything more delightful then muddy ladies.

The L of AL would rather things were a little cleaner.
Primal and Primary
Getting a little summer color.
Finished product.
Feeling brave at heart.
Every man dies, not every man really lives. (Alyssa, Landino, Steph, Lisa)
Mud pie face.
They let anyone come to these things. Look who I found, Brent and buddy.
Friendly Soju pushers.

Delicious cocktails.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hidden Valley

The sweet simplicity of farm to table.
Pyeongtaek Restaurants 
We love

When my employer's sister, Monica, asked me to lunch,
I'd not expected to be whisked away to a wonderland just minutes from the city.
In fact, I had no idea this magic place existed anywhere near me.

Tucked in a tiny valley, this traditional Korean house holds mouthfuls of delight.
Dining outside on a warm afternoon,
the world was silent except for the sound of quiet conversation
and the music of bugs and birds.

The food was simply, traditional Korean dishes
made with ingredients from the farm surrounding our table.
The flavors where clean, fresh, earthy.

Open dining allows you and smell the gardens as you dine.
This is one of those places you always hope to find,
but never really can on your own.
It's kept safe and hidden for those that know it best.

Full of locals out for an afternoon in the country, it's like you've left the city a million miles away.
This was far one of the most beautiful 
and enjoyable places I've ever dined.

Name: 사랑채, 
Address: 경기도 평택시 도일동 346, 

The menu:

Barley Bibimpap 

Tofu, mushroom soup in fish broth (pictured above) 
4 people 35,000
3 people 25,000
2 people 20,000

Mung Bean Pancake

Soybean Pancake

Chicken and Potato Stew 토종 닭도리탕
4 people 40,000

Smothered Chicken Stew 토종 찜 닭
4 people 40,000

Stewed Chicken 토종 옷닭 백숙
4 people 45,000

Stew (I think chicken) with a tree 토종 엄나무 백숙
4 people 45,000