Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Toodle Pip Taiwan!

Well it's taken me a while but here ends the Taiwan chapter. My final week in Taiwan was a BUSY one. It's amazing how many friends I had to have final drinks, final lunch, final coffees with...considering 6 months ago I had no idea who these people were, they are now some of my dearest friends. 

I had to leave Taiwan with a bang, so in my final week...Monday was German beer night drinkles and late night chat with friendlings. Wednesday was curry with the girls at the nearest Indian restaurant (half hour away in the city.) And ohhh the curry was good. Whether it was just that I hadn't had Indian curry in a long while that it tasted super good, or that it just was super good I don't know. But the company made it even more enjoyable. Then my leaving party/2 other girlies welcoming party. One great thing about Taiwan is the coming and going, always new people arriving. My Mexican friend whipped up a right royal Mexican feast for us...I ate far too much and was then expected to dance. Ooooph! Thursday we were overtaken by robots. We went to the science museum where they had a robot exhibition going on. 9 of us riding in convoy on scooters into the city was a quite a sight. With the biggest challenge being would we all make it through the lights...and if it turned red do you just go anyway and hope for the best as all the other Taiwanese riders seem to do anyway. Then Friday was THE day...the day I had to get on that big spangly plane and make my way back to England. 

So in my attempts of beating jet lag I decided to not really sleep on Thursday, so I would be tired for England time. So Friday was an early start. And as I pottered around the kitchen making my final coffee in that ghastly kitchen...I hear a clink between some bottles, eek what creature is visiting this morning I think to myself...so I turn around and a rat runs out and makes a dash for it behind the fridge! Nice! I had had my suspicions that rats had been sharing the house with us, but seeing it just makes you feel almost violated by nature! So I was glad to be leaving that pest behind!

My wonderful friendlinks came and picked me up to take me to the bus station. They waited with me at the station and waved me off. Our friend was also on her way back to Taipei, so she came with me on the bus to the airport, so that was great as I was still having fun so I couldn't feel tooooo sad. My wonderful friend (who I had only met 2 weeks previously) stayed with me at the airport until I had to go through to security and she treated me to my final brekkie in Taiwan, so sweet. (Fruit, a pastry and a coffee, in case you were wondering what my last brekkie was.) Having some company at the airport, was such a blessing, I would have been fine on my own of course, but time goes so much faster when you have some fun company.

So onto the plane I got and the adventure of returning to the West began. On my flight from Hong Kong to London, as soon as I got on the plane I had a rather sinking feeling in my gut...all I could hear was English people complaining about various trivial matters. Why am I returning to this? I did have the fortune of sitting next to a very cute little Chinese family, so speaking to them in Chinese did help pass the time a little. And the next thing I know, we are flying over London, with all the sparkly night lights.

Being able to understand everyones conversations was a weird sensation! 

I've been living out of my suitcase for two weeks still whilst visiting family. So the adventure was still partially alive. 

One thing that really gets me is, English life is supposed to feel normal, I had lived in for almost 22 years, but now just because of spending 6 months out of it, it really doesn't feel normal any more. There are some things that are great and wonderful to be reunited with...but other things I wonder why on earth I deemed them necessary in the first place. It's gonna take a while to get used to this ol' English life. Being back in my home, having the joy of unpacking is all a bit strange at the moment.

Hmmm, itchy feet may have set in already. Mexico in November maybe? Better start saving up.

So maybe I'll write again here from my next adventure...it's inevitably going to happen sooner or later!

Monday, 25 February 2013


There are a ton of reasons why Taiwan frustrates me and things that I don't like, BUT for some reason I don't want to leave. I really wasn't expecting to feel that way! 

This weekend we had the 英文大會 and it was just wonderful. All the foreigners come out of the woodwork for a weekend of wonderfulness. Most in attendance were Pinoy, so it was great to be back in the company of Pinoys! As ever they were so cute, friendly and loving. At lunch they had cooked tons of food which they shared with anyone that walked by! And the spiritual food was just as yummy as the Filipino food! There was about 500 in attendance and everyone just introduces themselves to each other and are so excited to meet new people...there were ones from Thailand, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Malaysia, Philippines, England, Scotland, Canada, US...another case of a bunch of cultures under one roof, which is something I just love experiencing! After the program a lot of us went to a mall nearby and swarmed the food court. Every where you looked there was a table of us. It was great mingling around and hearing everyone's stories of how they ended up in Taiwan, how long they've been here, how long they plan to stay and all that jazz! It's always encouraging to be surrounded by people that have similar goals and stuff in life as you. Such a wonderful experience.

Just like when I was in my last few days of living in England about to come here, I didn't feel as if I was going anywhere, I feel the same about returning. I can't believe I am actually coming back to England. I'm not gonna lie, I am super anxious about no longer being surrounded by so many cultures, going back to the rat race and other such boring things that must be faced in England life. Just thinking about being able to walk into a store and speak English and be understood just blows my mind. I'm gonna leave Taiwan with a bang though...I have the most insanely busy week planned with all my friends. It just amazes me that my friends now are literally from all over the world...look how many more opportunities are available to me now with countries and people to visit! The travel bug has bit me hard and there is no doubt if plane tickets weren't so expensive I would be here, there and everywhere! It makes me chuckle that for a long time I had wanted to travel but always felt that I couldn't do it on my own and blah blah blah. But the thing is, now experiencing it...with all the beautiful people you meet along the way, you are never really alone! And even when you are alone, it's a great time to reflect on the things you've learnt from the experience! It's not peachy all the time, but that's going to be the case whether you are in your home country or any other and it's just life as we know it right now.

I still very much live by my motto of take every opportunity that comes your way. Who knows where the next opportunity will take me?! Exciting times.

Pinoys at the front sharing their yummly food!

Sunday, 17 February 2013


One thing I have come to appreciate from Asian culture is a strong family bond is important. Truthfully, sometimes I am quick to judge the culture and feel they're a little too much in each others pockets...but on the flip side all too often in Western cultures families are no longer units, and that's just as sad. In the Philippines divorce is not allowed, so families very much stay together as a unit. No doubt they have their struggles, but with divorce not even being a legal option, the only thing they can do is learn how to make it work. 

I still feel a balance is needed so as not to be in each others pockets. But I think it's definitely admirable to keep a family close. In Western culture it's all to easy to forget about people -with out even meaning to - because life gets so hectic and busy, just from the basic and necessary things. But I'm hoping that with a new perspective I will be able to try and combat that a little better, and keep better focused on the more important things. 

Changing the subject completely...I have always known there are big spiders in Taiwan but I have never actually seen one. Well that all changed the other day! As I was about to walk in to the bathroom, straight ahead of me was the biggest spider I have ever seen! Needless to say I ran out! But I was also curious so I grabbed my camera...kept my distance and zoomed in on the camera...there was no way I was gonna get too close to that thing! When I came back from the meeting I was hoping it would be gone, but no he was still sat there guarding the bathroom. I know a lot of people will be all - how can you leave it there, I couldn't sleep knowing it was there. Well, the spiders eat the cockroaches and other bugs so I figure I would rather have a spider that up until now I had been blissfully unaware of than gross, evil cockroaches running around causing havoc! Also at this point I wasn't sure what kind of spider it was and whether it would get angry at me. I would much rather him stay there instead of me attempt to catch him and him run off into the unknown! After investigation turns out he was a huntsman spider. He sits patiently waiting for his dinner to come near and then he makes a run for it and sprints over to them and enjoys his supper. So chances are, if I did try to catch it, he would have outrun me! I laugh to myself, why does a spider freak me out? I'm way bigger than he is. Just because he has more legs and eyes than I do, I get intimidated by it! The spider has discovered there is nothing to eat in the bathroom and has moved on. 
I really don't like sharing a house with pests! At least the common house spiders of England shouldn't be a problem for me any more! 

I can't believe it's 2 weeks until I come home. It's all very weird.

Tune of the day...Ben Cocks - So Cold. Stunning piano!

(Look away if you don't like spiders. Very big, brown spider below.)

i think he ate my gecko friend..

Friday, 8 February 2013

Yay for fun mail...

Don't you love it when someone knows you so well, they know what you need, without you even saying it?! My parents (especially my mom) has this down to a fine art. My lovely parents sent me some fun mail, I came home from a pretty good study and was greeted by a red air mail box! Ohhhh Hello... I skip with it up to my room and find some nice little treats, but also some practical bits and bobs, stuff that I need. Just the little things like face wipes and hair elastics...how did they know I only had one hair elastic left?! (I kept losing mine swimming in the sea at Kending and in the Philippines!) I find it hilarious getting so excited over hair elastics, but it is just so true, the best gifts are things you need, not things that cost a small fortune.
Mom and dad were also complete legends for putting the study watchtower in their too. I only had a Chinese one for this month, and lets just say, last weeks watchtower was a struggle. As much as my Chinese has improved, it's not that good yet! Thanks mom and dad!

It's Chinese New Year this weekend. I enjoyed having a not very christmassy christmas, but it's being made up for with a crazy lunar new year instead. The traffic is insane with people frantically buying food and things. Even riding on the scooter, where I can usually weave in and out of places, I'm now caught in traffic. I don't know an awful lot about Chinese New Year, but it seems to be a time where families get together and there are tons of traditions and superstitions they follow that have stemmed from mythical stories. Red is a prominent colour (thank goodness it's not purple) There are pop up market stalls with everything red and gold. Similar to Westerners with xmas, people will get into debt in spending so much on decorations, food and gifts during this festival. 

It gets me to thinking about traditions. How on earth do they come about to such a point that we are too afraid to break them? Who even comes up with the notion that doing or not doing a certain thing makes you lucky or unlucky?! Is it just a way of controlling the masses? I'm not against traditions, I do think some can be good and can be meaningful. But when it gets to the point of you just do this tradition because, whilst in reality you kinda wish you didn't have to. Then I have to wonder...why still do it? But of course this is easy for me to say when I haven't been brought up to hold any of these types of traditions...and have a bit of a hippie inside me! It will be interesting to hear the view from the Taiwanese perspective.

In 3 weeks today, by this time I'll be mid flight and nearly back on English soil...or concrete more than likely. It's a very strange thought. I think about all the plans I had in mind of what I was going to do and how I was going to spend my time here...some of it I've done, most of it I've not, but I've done other things I hadn't expected instead, which have been amazing life lessons.

My song of the day is Gym Class Heroes ft Ryan Tedder - The Fighter. Good for a bit of inspiration. Plus I love the piano intro and throughout the song. 

just what i needed...I feel an angel delight party coming on...

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Super Bowl...

It's become clear I love experiencing different cultures, and I love it even more when things from different cultures catch me off guard. I have a fair few American friends here, so I often get to have American days with them. Today being the day of The Super Bowl I got to experience American football and why the Americans love it so! I've heard of American football of course, but that was about as far as my knowledge of it went until today. 

The guys had paid for a package so we could watch it live...so whilst it was evening time in the States, it was pretty early in the morning for us. So we had an American brekkie whilst watching the game. Why have eggs on toast or pancakes, when you could have both...on the same plate. (And we wonder why there is an obesity problem?! Puzzling!) My friends explained the rules to me, I had previously assumed American football would be similar to England's rugby. Ohhhh, not so! I guess it has a few similarities but completely different. But it's really cool! I was surprised to see myself get pretty into it and rooting for the 49ers. As with all things American, everything was big and in your face, Beyonce performing at half time, with an insane amount of lighting and other such frills. (Way too much in my opinion.) Also the Americans make a massive effort in the commercials that are played in between the game, so every one is watching for the commercials almost as much as the game. That baffles me!  

Whilst all the 'glitz and glam' doesn't appeal to me, at all, I do really like that something as simple as watching a football game can make you feel at home. (Not so much for me, but the Americans for sure.) When we were in Palawan there was a English football/soccer game on, and just seeing the short bit that I did, made me feel that England wasn't so far away. Though, I never really feel like England is far away, and I guess I have technology to thank for that. Sure there are certain things and ways of life I miss, but I've not really ever felt home sick. I don't know how all these fangled, technological gadgets work and have no interest in finding out how...but I do appreciate those who have and allow me to have small measures of home life, when in reality I'm over 6000 miles away! I think for the first time in life, I am finally appreciating technology...it's saved me a fortune on stamps at the very least! Though I still hold true to the notion that there is nothing quite like a good ol' handwritten letter! Signed Sealed and Delivered. 

Tuneage...Beyonce - Halo. I previously wasn't overly fussed by big vocals...but after singing with 808 band, I have a new found appreciation. It's tough keeping vocals clean and big without drowning out behind a full band!

Friday, 1 February 2013

International Art Street

I am still wishing I was back in the Philippines ha! (I even attempted making adobong manok...) So today in attempts of trying to find the fun in Taiwan again I went to International Art Street. I had tried to find this place a little while ago, but in typical Abi fashion I got lost and ended up going elsewhere. Though when I got home I looked on a map, only to see I had done another usual Abi thing and took a right instead of a left and in my lost state I was in fact very near. So today, completely sure of where I was going, I made my way there. 

It's just a street that has a few cafes and restaurants of different cultures and your general clothing and homey stores. It was ok. But just ok. I did find a cute place that had a red telephone box outside of it and looked kinda country cottage like, so I went in. The owners were friendly and Puff the Magic Dragon was playing in the background. Cute. 

One thing I find slightly amusing shopping in Taiwan, is when you enter the store the worker will stand up and kinda follow you around. They don't say a word but if you have a question they are right there. I've now learnt when I'm shopping I tend to be a little unpredictable...I will be walking one way, spot something out of the corner of my eye and quickly change my direction to go check it out. Well when you have a small Taiwanese person following you around this poses the slight issue of always bumping into each other. 

As I walked through the street there was mosaics on the ground and paintings on the side of the walls. Music playing through the streets. Nice to see a slightly more creative side of Taiwan. 

It dawns on me every day that I'm another day nearer to returning to England. And it freaks me out! Which is crazy considering as much as I like Taiwan it doesn't feel like home. I think what freaks me out the most is that I have become used to a 'if it's not broke don't fix it...and if it is broke, patch it up and keep using it up anyway' mentality and I enjoy living an extremely simple life, even if it means being a little uncomfortable at times. So to return to a materialistic country is just going to seem so unjust. When thinking that what Brits earn in one hour of work is well over what a Filipino will earn in one day, it's gonna take some getting used to. And the thought of going to a supermarket and being able to buy all the types of cheese I can imagine, just blows my mind at the minute! And just the idea of driving a car, sitting in a little box, being on the wrong side of the road, the wrong side of the car...I'm looking forward to that challenge! They say that reverse culture shock, returning to your home country, is sometimes worse than general culture shock. Well, we will find out soon enough! For all I know, it might not be as bad as I imagine. I am excited to come back and see everyone though. 

Throwing out a real curve ball with my tune of the day today...Nicki Minaj feat Rihanna - Fly. 

funny chaps outside the store...

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

五個月 and Everything Else...

There is so much to see and do in Palawan, we just didn't have enough time to do all that we wanted. (So I'll just have to go back sometime...what a hardship!) 

Near our hostel was a kareoke bar (just one of the ways you can tell you're in Asia, is the general love of kareoke.) So we went one evening...singing our little hearts out and ended up making friends with the locals. They were so cute and ended up coming and sitting with us and buying us a round of drinks. Then we went to a bar nearby where a cover band were playing. I was super excited as it's been such a long time since I've seen a band play. There is a lack of a music scene in Taiwan...or at least where I live. So it was great. So in a true Western fashion we danced like lunatics to their music. Which encouraged a few Pinoys to join us. And the next thing I know, Reign, the lead singer of 808 band, grabs my hand and pulls me up on stage to sing with them. So I then find myself singing Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe with 808! I'm still unsure how I managed that!! 

After the set the band were so appreciative of us enjoying their music they asked us to hang out with them. So we had a meal backstage with them and just hung out. They taught us bits of Tagalog and just chatted with us, why we were in Palawan, why we all live in TW and such like. It's just so amazing to be welcomed by everyone in Philippines. From what I can understand of the culture, this stems from the close family bond. Families and extended families are very close in Filipino culture, as with most Asian cultures. The band members referred to each other as brother and sister, and they treat everyone like family. So we had become their extended family. 

Many people have said 'oh you need to be careful in the Philippines, there is a lot of crime' etc. I can honestly say, I never felt unsafe anywhere in the Philippines, whether I was with the girls or on my own. Even in the big city of Manila. I would go so far as to say I feel safer there than in parts of London. In reality, there is crime wherever you go, but if you are sensible I see no reason why you wouldn't feel safe. There are areas of the Philippines I probably wouldn't choose to go, but there are areas in every place you probably would avoid. 

The difference between Palawan and Manila was huge. In the traffic of Manila people are trying to earn a living selling things...it wasn't uncommon to see people selling all manor of random things, even little kids were there selling things. As it's a city it was obviously more built up. But the people were just as chilled and happy as we had experienced in Palawan. 

Manila is home to the biggest malls in Asia. The Mall of Asia, Greenbelt and Glorietta. So some shopping was in order for us. It was sooooooo wonderful to see some familiar faces...Zara, Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams and even Marks and Spencer. 

On our final night in Manila we went to the meeting. After the meeting some of the brothers and sisters took us out for dinner to a local place. Ahhhh again the Filipino food did not disappoint. Sisig, BBQ pork, seafood, rice and a traditional dessert, cassava cake. At first appearance, the cassava cake kinda looked like caramelized mash potato. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But it was delicious, really creamy. It tasted almost like custard. I love learning from the locals, you really do find out what the best foods and places to go are from them.

It was sad leaving the Philippines, as we flew out you could see the built up areas, the slums and the beaches. Considering the poverty within the country, I've never seen a happier bunch of people. They really do seem to make the most of the simple pleasures in life. 

So the Philippines can be ticked off the Abacus atlas...but I am convinced it's not the last time I will find myself there. I really hope to go back and explore for longer.

For now it's back in TW for me. And I've reached the 五個月 mark. Which means...little over 4 weeks and I will be back in the England. Madness! I'm kinda nervous to come back...only because it means back to work and everything being expensive again. But I'm excited to come back too. But the lessons I've learnt in Taiwan and the Philippines are invaluable and ones I will remember for life.

Tune of the day is The Black Eyed Peas - The Apl Song.

paalam Pilipinas...

Monday, 28 January 2013


There were a lot of reasons why I fell in love with the Pinoys and Pinays. A smile certainly is infectious, when someone smiles at you, you can't help but smile yourself. And because everyone in the Philippines smiles at you, you end up walking around with a big grin on your face all day long.

One of my favourite things about the Pinoys is that they sing and dance to themselves. We had a manicure one day and whilst they were painting our toenails, they were singing to themselves. The security guards will randomly burst out into song at any given moment. People walking down the street are just bopping along and singing to themselves. I think we all know, I have a tendency to randomly sing to myself...so it was great to be surrounded by that kind of attitude and not have anyone stare at you and think you crazy for it! 

One thing to be aware of in the Philippines, when asking for directions...don't expect a clear set of instructions. You will generally get a nod or experience the Pinoy pointing with the lips. Often someone would gesture in one direction, then someone else gesture in another direction. But eventually you get where your planning to go. The pointing with the lips is a funny thing to witness. They'll nod their head in the general direction and then do a little pout in attempts of pointing in the direction to go. So due to vague directions your often late to places. But that's ok because Pinoys aren't exactly known for their time keeping. 

One of the very cute quirks I enjoyed from the Pinoys is the eyebrow raise. Often people would raise their eyebrows at you to say Hello. Or they would use the eyebrow raise to if they hadn't heard what you had said or didn't understand. A kinda of way of asking What?! Pardon?! I find myself raising my eyebrows myself now! 

A lot of Filipino food mainly consists of meat, fish or seafood and rice and often egg too. Not an awful lot of vegetables. After a couple days of being extremely carnivorous fruit and veg is craved, which is easy enough to come by at the markets. Oh the fresh, local fruit is wonderful. It's quite fun when you go to a fruit stall and see new fruits you've never seen before! So we took the opportunity to try these new wonderful fruits. Rambutan, which I can only describe as fuzzy lychee, are wonderfully refreshing. Kinda like skinless grapes. And my new favourite fruit the mangosteen! Ah it's sooooooooooo yummy! A purple outer skin you rip open to get to the sweet, white flesh inside! Mmmmmmm! Soooo gooood!

The kids of the Philippines are the cutest ever. They will come and play with you at any given opportunity. At the beach these three little boys came over and played with us, sand fights were had. They took great delight in finding shells and telling us what they were and teaching us little bits of Tagalog. One of them rapped to us a Tagalog song...so cute! The Philippines is a great place to go for a little ego boost, when you get a few high fives from the cutest kids and people smile at you and raise their eyebrows at you all day long, you know you're having a good day. And with the sun shining radiantly, I find impossible to be in a bad mood in the Philippines. And if you are you just sing and dance your cares away...anywhere you like! 

One of the tunes of the vacation was The Black Eyed Peas - Bebot. Apl De Ap from BEP is a proud Pinoy, and the Pinoys seem to be super proud of him in return. 

bustling streets of Puerto Princesa

the little makeshift stores along the streets

our new little friends

as the sun sets...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Honda Bay!

I have a billion and one things to do, but I cannot help but jot down my memories of the Philippines instead! I'm still procrastinating about living a Taiwanese lifestyle again.

Whilst we were in Palawan everyone told us Honda Bay Island hopping was worth a visit. There a tons of tour packages to do it. They make your life easy and you pay the tour company and they'll pick you up from where you are staying, all the fees like the environmental fee, boat fee and everything is covered and they'll make you lunch. So if you want a relatively stress free, non thinking adventure it's good. It'll cost you around P 1300-1500. So that's around £20-24 pounds. So it's pretty cheap in reality. However...my friends and I are just not that organised and never made plans for the days ahead. We just planned the day as it came. So for us it was too late to book on a tour package. But the lovely receptionist at our hostel told us we should just get a trike there and organise it ourself, she told us it would also be cheaper. So we thought, ok why not. 

The security guard at our hostel sorted us out with a trike to get there. There are security guards everywhere in the Philippines...every hotel, hostel and store has a security guard that opens the door and greets everyone. Zoran, the guard at our hostel was lovely and every time we got in a trike he would write down the license plate number of the driver and wave us off. So off we went for a 45 minute ride by trike to Honda Bay. On the journey there we went through little villages and beautiful greenery. Massive hibiscus flowers could be seen everywhere. We arrived at the bay and then we had the task of trying to organise everything for island hopping ourselves. This turned out to be a little harder than we had expected. That day they had fewer boats than normal so there were delays. So we didn't really know what to do. I think we just looked so confused that the lady at the desk probably felt sorry for us. She was sooooo lovely, she asked around and found a group that had space on their boat that we could tag along with. Which was perfect for us as that meant the cost of the boat would be less, instead of just dividing it between 3 of us. So after a bit of waiting, surrounded by the tropical tune of the ice cream van, roosters and people bustling around we were ready to go with our little group. 

We didn't have a tour guide as such, just a local called Bryan who acted as our guide. (Yes dad...a Bryan with a Y!) We left the bay and headed for the first island. There are over 7000 that make up the Philippines, which I find astonishing!! The journey out to the first island was just breathtaking. Out in the middle of the ocean, mountains in the distance. Epic! As we got closer to the first island, we could see the palm trees, then the white sand. There were a couple of little huts. It is evident that the Pinoys really look after the natural beauty that surrounds them. As the people in our group had paid for the whole tour package they were having lunch provided for them. So we decided to just go off and swim! The sea was a beautiful turquoise shade, the water so calm. Fish swam around us. Ahhh just soooooo beautiful! We took a little walk along the shore and saw many a crab and some really stunning shells.

The group we were with insisted that we had lunch with them when their food was ready. We protested a little as we hadn't paid for it, but they had so much that they insisted. So we were very lucky and got a free lunch! Which was delicious! Ahhh Filipino food is soooooo delicious! We had freshly caught and grilled tuna, chicken and pork adobo (one of my favourite Filipino dishes, such a party for the ol' tastebuds), rice and fresh fruit. Bryan being a true Pinoy ate the traditional Filipino way, with his hands.

The next island we went to was the prime spot for snorkelling. There were lots of interesting fish to be seen. We went in the water for a bit and then just made the most of the gorgeous sunshine and sunbathed! 

Then the third island was similar to the first. White sand and palm trees, perfect for climbing, complete with coconuts. With a few little huts to sit and chill out and stare out at the beauty that surrounds you. After exploring the island we headed back to the bay.

So was it cheaper to organise the trip ourselves instead of pay for a package tour? Oh yes! Way cheaper. Obviously we were fortunate as there were three of us that went and we divided all costs by three. It would obviously cost more for a solo traveller. But for us we ended up paying less than P 500 each. So that's less than £8. That to me is utter madness, I experienced the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen in my life, some of the most natural and stunning views. And it cost me so little! I can't even buy a meal in a restaurant for that in the UK! 

As we headed back into Puerto Princesa, on our trike ride back we saw a KH. Where bro's and sis were working. Our lovely trike driver asked us if we wanted him to stop. He could obviously tell we were excited. So we hopped out and spoke to them and found out about meeting times and stuff. The international brotherhood is just amazing. Turned out the meeting was that evening and as they were just an English group the meeting would be in Tagalog. We decided we would go anyway. So in the evening we went to KH. I cannot describe how much love we were shown. Before we even walked in the door we were greeted and welcomed by many. An elderly sis grabbed my arm and we walked in together. It was so lovely, she didn't know my name by this point but she was so happy we were there visiting them. As most of the meeting was in Tagalog we didn't understand much. But Tagalog is a very interesting language. The numbers and a few words are exactly the same as Spanish, so at times it was possible to hazard a guess. Little kids came up to us and wanted to talk to us and play. So cute. To avoid everything getting dusty they have plastic chairs, which after every meeting they stack up, put to the side and then everyone goes outside of the hall to chat and associate. It is such a wonderful experience being able to go anywhere and be welcomed. I think the reason I felt it so much here in the Philippines is because of the Pinoy culture, they are naturally loving and happy people that it is easy to feel at home and at ease with them. Obviously I was welcomed to TW when I got there, but in a Taiwanese way where they don't so much express their feelings and although I felt welcomed, I can't describe how the feeling compared when welcomed to the Philippines.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Palawan Adventures

In a new country I will always try and live like a local and experience the true lifestyle. Some places make this is easier. In all honesty it's hard in Taiwan because there is nothing familiar. But the Philippines was different. The Pinoy's are so welcoming and happy to have you there, it makes it so much easier to embrace their culture. Starting the day with a bunch of smiles really is a good start. We were fortunate enough to have breakfast included with our stay, so we got to try out traditional brekkies. So rice, fried egg and a very odd sausage it was. Not something I would usually want for brekkie but when a cute Pinoy brings it to you with a smile on their face, it's impossible to resist. 

It was a little strange for a while having all these strangers talking to you out of the blue, but then you come to realise that that is just the culture. They are friendly, smiley and happy with everyone...a kid comes in to a store and is greeted with a Morning Ma'am. An elderly person enters and is also greeted with a Moring Ma'am. Regardless of whether you are a foreigner a Pinoy or anyone, they'll treat you the same. 

Geckos are abundant in the Philippines. I had gotten used to them in Taiwan, but they don't make a daily visit, just every so often you'll see one. Here, it was like a small convention of geckos had congregated. I think our highest count was 7 geckos on one wall...but we like them because they eat all the other bugs.
Though, the mosquitos in the Philippines are hilarious. They are so slow and dopey, just wave your hand in their general direction and you have a good chance of swatting it! 

I sincerely love that the Philippines is a little more Western than other Asian countries! It still has it's own culture and is very proud of it, but it has a great mix of influences that seems to make it more accepting of other cultures. As we walked down the high street just in the little out of the way place we were staying there were traditional places in between a McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. Needless to say coffee runs were made often! (When you can buy a donut and a coffee for well under £1 it would be rude not to!) There are parts of me that feel bad for paying so little for things in the Philippines as many Pinoys are working all day long and getting paid very little. So I had to try and think of it in terms of our being there and buying things was business for them. 

Walking through the streets of Palawan at first glance looks and sounds like utter madness. Cockrels, cars, trikes, Jeepneys, motorcycles and people everywhere! But the more you look at it the more it, in a round about way, does make sense. It made me chuckle how in Palawan, when you beep your horn of your vehicle, you have no intention of slowing down or stopping. It is just to let everyone else know you are coming! That being said, lots of cars would stop to let you out, or let you cross the road. (Something that never happens in Taiwan!! Ever!!) It is evident that the people are chilled out and friendly, just from those little things! 

At first we thought we would only be able to fit 2 people in each trike so had planned to always be using 2 trikes and go in convoy. The trikes are such an experience! It is a motorcycle with a side cart thing attached. As we explored the surroundings, we saw that the locals were getting way more than just two people in a trike. So for our next trike ride we managed to get all four of us in. One rides side saddle behind the motorcycle driver, 2 on one side of the cart and 1 on the other side. Yes it is cramped, but it gets you from A to B and costs mere pennies. It's a very strange feeling being in one. But a great way to explore. 

We went down to the local beach. There are a lot of famous beaches in Palawan, but as with anything famous that means a ton of tourists spoiling it! So we decided do just ask locals about places to go and go to fairly unblemished places. As we got down to the beach I was just so moved by the beauty of the place. There were little wooden shacks and huts, kids playing, dogs running around, locals swimming. Because of the way the tide was we had to wade through water, up to shin height, to get to the sandy area. So there we were, wading through the lush, warm water...ahead of us were mangroves and trees and if you look to the side you could see for miles ahead the sea meeting the mountains past the horizon. The mountains looked like a haze and the colours of the sea, the sky and the mountains all blended together. It was truly incredible! I just felt so blessed to be able to see the beautiful creation. I had seen photos of beautiful beaches before, but being there in that moment was just so emotive and moving! Photos don't do it justice, but seeing the photos I took from the trip conjures up all the emotions I felt. 

Every so often it would dawn on me that I was on vacation with people 4 months ago I didn't even know existed. It is totally awesome that within a short amount of time, fantastic friendships can be gained. Being with people that have the same kind of goals and experiences, it is easy to form a friendship quickly. We decided to have a British evening whilst watching The King's Speech together...complete with card games, whisky and the girls putting on British accents. To which I also wanted to put on an accent so went Northern for the evening! 

one of my favourite photos...i still can't believe i was actually here!!!

the work of crabs!