Crystal Clear El Nido

Having been inspired to visit the Philippines by a friend’s photos of El Nido, the little town on the north of Palawan was our next stop. El Nido is a good base to visit the Bacuit Archipelago, a collection of mostly uninhabited islands surrounded by beautifully clear blue water.

Having taken two (very bumpy) buses to get there, we arrived amid the doom and gloom of a thunderstorm.

Standard South-East Asian bus ride; tumultuous.

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Treating ourselves to Western food (we were tired and hungry – not good for either of our moods), we checked in and went to explore. Walking through our hostel directly on to the beach was mind-blowing – the Island out to sea surrounded by clouds looked straight out of Jurassic Park.

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We did all we could; got cocktails and prayed for the rain to stop.

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Over the next few days it rained and rained and rained some more. That is the downfall of visiting the Philippines during the rainy season but if you want to see barely any tourists then I’d recommend visiting at that time.

Once the rain subsided we booked a boat tour. Rather than going with a tour operator in town, we walked to the right of the beach, followed the cliffs round to the next bay and found cheaper rates for tours. I should mention El Nido has no cash points so it really is worth getting more money out than you expect to spend in advance. We just about had enough considering we also had to pay for the ferry to Coron (coming in my next post) but we could have done more in El Nido if we had just a few more dollars. You can however get a cash advance on your card at the pawn brokers if you’re really stuck.

We certainly picked the right day for our tour. The archipelago was stunning in the sun!

Crystal clear water and emerald green karsts.

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Martin and I hired a kayak to take with us and explored a lagoon in it, watching massive jellyfish float by whilst the rest of our group swam. I was so glad of it after the jellyfish incident in Port Barton.

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We stopped for lunch on a deserted island and whilst our guides cooked fresh fish, vegetables and rice over an open fire, we swam, kayaked, climbed and snorkeled. I’ve never seen so many colourful fish in such pristine water.

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Those islands were a tropical paradise.

Port Barton

Getting to Port Barton was a bit of a mission… We took a tricycle to the bus terminal and then a bus to Port Barton on the wettest, bumpiest road I have ever been on! I carried on reading my book, Martin was a bit scared ;).

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When we arrived in Port Barton we were dropped right at our accommodation – Monkey Family.  We lived with monkeys! One morning we woke up and there was a monkey on the rafters above our mosquito net!

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Port Barton was beautiful. Remote, a beach 100 metres away, with a jungle bordering it and no one there in low season!

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The beach was pretty much deserted.

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Martin and I hiked an hour to 2 waterfalls, one big and the other small. Once again, they were deserted. You could imagine they would be pretty busy in high season but we had them all to ourselves.

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Port Barton felt like a ghost town except for roosters but we loved it.

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That evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach.

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The next day we wanted to just go to the beach but decided to go to the next bay along. It was an adventure getting there!

We pulled ourselves across the water…

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We hiked through the jungle…

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We scrambled across rocks with a dog following us…

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We reached the idyllic beach…

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AND I GOT STUNG BY A JELLYFISH! It was the biggest jellyfish I’ve ever seen, with blue tentacles and it hurt! Luckily there were some local people who helped me – they put vinegar and coffee on the sting, which really helped! We made our way back to Port Barton just in time to miss the rain! Here’s my jellyfish sting:

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Port Barton was wonderful and we ate some of the best food ever there!

Puerto Princesa and Honda Bay

After a few horrendous flights (Melbourne-Sydney-Darwin-Manila-Puerto Princesa), we finally arrived in the Philippines on Palawan! We were shattered but went for a walk around the town and ended up dancing with some kids to a massive boombox in the street! It felt good to be back in Asia with tricycles and chaos all about. The Philippines are rather different to the rest of South East Asia though as a Christian country with English as a main language.

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The following day, we went island hopping around Honda Bay. It was nice to snorkel and sunbathe after wintery Melbourne!

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In the boat on the way back to Puerto Princesa, it started pouring down! Luckily we were already wet from swimming.

Puerto itself wasn’t amazing but it was a good base to get over all the flights, start our journey North up towards El Nido and adjust to the heat and humidity.

Melbourne VI

Melbourne. A beautiful, crazy, arty city that I was proud to call my home for 5 months. An unbelievably photogenic city, day and night.

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A city where dogs can have mohawks and no one blinks an eye.

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This is my catch up on the final few months of living in a home from home.

Work completely took over my life – I became a team leader and also broke a sales record!

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It wasn’t all bad though. I saved a fair amount of money, made friends for life and had a lot of fun. We had weekly occasions that kept us going;

– Pizza Tuesdays – cheap Tuesdays at Dominoes were great!

– Soft serve Wednesdays – the person with the least sales gets ice cream in the face.

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– Thirsty Thursdays – free beer!

– Fast Food Fridays – fast food to cure Thursday’s hangover!

We also had dares to encourage more sales – us girls were made to brush our teeth with vegemite, Tom lost his beard and Alex had his makeup done!

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Being a milkman sure was an experience!

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I met Martin, a ridiculous Scotsman, at work and we’ve been together since!

At the weekends we could use the work van so we went away to Torquay surfing and I stood up on the board – yay! Then got smacked in the face with another board – boo!

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I went to Future Music Festival in the baking heat and saw Dizzee Rascal, Bloc Party, Psy, Rita Ora, Prodigy, Temper Trap. It was an awesome day!

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2 friends from Pai came to stay. Kristin stayed for a few weeks, it was cool to have a roomie! We went exploring in St Kilda, found an interesting art gallery and watched the kite surfers.

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Louise was with us for Easter. It was so nice to hang out with her. We had a slightly disastrous Easter roast dinner!

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The Aussie Farmers crew drove the Great Ocean Road and slept in the van for 2 nights (mental!) and we went to meet them. It was very cold! We had to leave all the eskies in my room before we left. There were a LOT.

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My friend Jake left Melbourne for Perth and had an evening at the casino to say goodbye. I learnt I’m terrible at betting and was upset for him to leave. He was back in less than a week.

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I went to Comic Con with some girls from work and ended up playing Quidditch, sitting in the DeLorean and pretending I was in Star Wars.

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Martin and I kayaked down the Yarra river at sunset for his birthday. It was amazing to see the city from water level at night. We had fish and chips in our kayak and reached the casino in time to see fire balls go off, reflecting on the water. We went up the Eureka Tower (the tallest building in the southern hemisphere) to see where we’d kayaked. It was a magical evening!

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The team I led at work won a competition to go to an Aussie Rules game at the Etihad Stadium – it was a great atmosphere.

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I left my flat in Caulfield and moved to Prahran. I had so much stuff! We had a housemates leaving meal in Chinatown.

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Joe and Nat came to visit from Rochester where they were doing their Farm work. We went to the jail and got locked up! It was a really interesting attraction and well worth a visit!

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The following weekend, I went to the museum with Martin and saw stuff I’d missed last time.

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That night there was a mad Aussie Farmers house party! We played ‘goon of Fortune’ and Martin got knocked out by a washing line.

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Our last trip away for the weekend was to Lake’s Entrance. We had a barbecue and played soccer. It was a great final road trip.

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I can’t finish describing Melbourne without mentioning the Lords Lodge. This was where we moved to in Prahran. It was a fantastic hostel to stay in, run by the coolest hostel owner ever, Pat. The were a lot of “long-timers” so it had a real homely vibe. There was interesting art everywhere, chilled music on and always someone to chat to.

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On June 23rd, we left Melbourne in Mootilda, our work van. It was sad to leave but time to go – onward to the Philippines!

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I’ll visit Melbourne again one day, I’m sure of it. How can I not with
such great memories?

Melbourne V

Last weekend was beautiful. We got our hair cut and I met up with Kristin from Pai in St Kilda, we went to the Lentil As Anything there and got macaroons to eat on the end of the pier. St Kilda is lovely to photograph with the sea and the city in the background.

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In the evening we had a barbecue at Stu and Bam’s from work before heading to White Night Festival, an all night festival across the city. The video below (I hope this works!) explains all about it.

http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FB1Lj93zI_Do&h=sAQFfLVnB&s=1

It was astounding. The CBD was rammed and there was a real feeling of constant excitement, there was always something new to find! Martin and I were learning the ‘Thriller’ dance at 4.30 a.m. in Federation Square!

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I would love to be here for next year’s White Night to see if it’d be even better!

Similarly this weekend I went to St Kilda again. It’s a Sunday kind of place!

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I saw a quote I have on my wall in the UK in a cute bookshop on Acland St, it reminded me of home!

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Oh and last night Sam and I saw pals from Asia – Amy, Michael and Will. It was a good reunion!

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So there we go, once again I am up to date with this blog! Coming in the next few weeks… Future Music Festival, Wilson’s Prom and the F1.

Melbourne IV – St Kilda Fest and Phillip Island

Melbourne is truly weird and wonderful. They knit scarves for the trees in the middle of summer!

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They also do free festivals! We went to St Kilda Fest a few weekends ago, a free festival at the seaside. I didn’t get many photos but it was an awesome day of music, food and sun.

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Oh and I dyed my hair a bit green too!

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Coming back from work we see such wonderful sunsets. Here’s one coming from Pakenham back to the city.

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We get to use the work van at the weekends and took it to Phillip Island, about 3 hours from Melbourne. It was a fantastic weekend of surfing, swimming, laughing and dancing.

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Surfing there was great, I’ve never felt waves so strong!

Melbourne III

Having stayed in the Nunnery for a few weeks, I went to couch surf at my friend Dan’s house. We’d met in Pai in September and it was very nice of him to let me stay for a few weeks, it saved me a lot of money and it was great to be in an actual house (with a house rabbit, Chops). The day I got there it was boiling hot so we put the sprinkler on the washing line!

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I spent a while applying for jobs and after one interview I visited Lentil As Anything in Abbotsford. It’s a vegetarian restaurant within an ex-convent where you pay via an ‘honesty box’. If you have little money, you pay what you can and can make it up next time you go with more money. The food was so good that I wanted to lick the plate and the decor was great, an ever-changing art space. 

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I met a wonderful family there and the mother knew a lot about the history of the convent so I went for a wander round with them. There’s also a beautifully old-fashioned bakery within the building.

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I got a phone call whilst I was at the convent for a further interview… As a Milkman! I went along and got the job. I don’t actually deliver milk, I just tell people about the service and register them for the first delivery. It can be hard work going door to door and people can be rude but I’ve acquired a great group of friends from across the world working there and I get to meet lots of different people and see a lot of Melbourne’s suburbs. We have a lot of fun singing on the bus on the way to work, it’s a bit like having an extended family! I’ve seen some strange things on the streets of Melbourne, like this woman walking her pet goats.

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We have challenges each week to win prizes. One challenge is “soft serve Wednesday”. We’re pitted against each other for the most sales. Whatever loses gets icecreamed! I won against Jake on my first week 😀

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I work there Monday-Friday and sometimes we get to go further away. My bus won a competition to work in Bendigo (a city a few hours north of Melbourne) for 2 days. We all stayed in a log cabin in the woods overnight. It was interesting to see country Victoria but there were a lot of bugs!

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Working is great but sometimes we we’d up doing some really long days – I barely see my housemates but it makes me appreciate my time off!

I moved out from Dan’s into a short term rent with Sam, Matty and Marcus – it’s great to have our own place, I can make welshcakes again!