Monday 28 January 2019

Monday Mural - Between the Lines

Still in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Manila, this mural entitled "Between the Lines" is located on Federacion Drive, near the corner of 26th Street and 7th Avenue (Icon Plaza building).

gigantic mural of an astronaut painted in May 2015, by Cyrcle, a two man collective made up of American artist David Leavitt and David Torres.

It was a bit difficult to photograph properly due to the open air food market tents in front of it - the Mercato Centrale.

If you like murals or have a mural you'd like to post, this meme is for you; 
Just follow the Linky steps below.   Be sure to link back to this blog and visit your fellow mural bloggers.  Looking forward to your mural finds this week. Thanks, Sami. 

Sunday 27 January 2019

My Australia Day

I met up with Grace and husband P at Perth Underground Station and they showed me around the new Yagan Square area. I haven't been in the city for a few months and hadn't yet been there.
After lunch in one of Yagan Square's eateries we walked to the Northbridge area where some of Perth's Fringe Festival venues.

You might have seen the Perth sign in Grace's blog post on the 25th  Me pointing to the Portuguese flag
Yagan Square
Fringe Festival venues

At 4pm we were back at Underground Station to welcome Iris and husband Ingo who arrived from Germany yesterday. They consider Perth their second home and love to holiday here but had never been for Australia Day before.
After coffee in the Forrest Chase area, Grace and P left, and Iris, Ingo and I walked towards the river to try and get a good seat for the fireworks. We arrived around 5,30 and managed to get a front row spot 😉.

People sitting by the Swan River awaiting for the fireworks. Two "kangaroos" jumping around

Fireworks would be starting at 8pm, and at 7,30 pm two young ladies managed to squeeze through when we were busy standing and chatting and just sat right in front of me.
I wasn't happy, and told them we had been sitting there for a while and they had just blocked my view, so they just moved slightly to the left. Not perfect, but better as I at least was able to see the fireworks.
But before we watched the stunning sunset behind the suburb of South Perth on the other side of the city.
Two helicopters fly the Australian flag over the Swan River. Me sitting with our picnic

Sunset in South Perth

It was a fabulous 30 minutes of fireworks, 43000 fireworks were used, and it was considered the best ever in Perth with 300 thousand people attending the event.

On the way to the Perth train Station, it took a while to get through the crowds, but after 10 minutes I managed to enter the station and get onto a waiting train.
Luckily when there are events in Perth, Transperth puts a lot more trains and they also have free train access to they can evacuate the station quickly.

Photo of Elizabeth Quay and the city buildings behind
My video of the last couple of minutes of fireworks:

Thursday 24 January 2019

Philippines - Diving with Whale Sharks in Oslob

Tuesday, 18th December -
At 5,45Am we were ready and the 3 tricycles ordered at the Reception were awaiting to take us into the village centre. 
Even though it was the dry Season, it had rained during the night and we hoped the sun would come out.

Karina walking to the Reception

The 3 Tricycles awaiting us 

At the offices of Valeroso Travel & Tours, the German owner directed people to different vans according to where they were going to. Karina had booked online through Apekoptravel for the tour from Bohol to Oslob on Cebu island.

When our van was full we were driven to Momo beach, on the other side of the island.
Together with a group of others waiting at the beach, we walked a couple of meters knee deep on the water to board a small vessel which took us to a big outrigger canoe further out at sea. Slowly the boat filled up and we departed at 7,00am.

The ferry (left and right) and the small boat behind the ferry

The trip took about 1,30h and it went very well, and I even managed to take a nap.
On arrival at Quartel Beach at 8,30am, we were helped by the crew to disembark from the ferry and climb onto a small boat.

Boat coming to get us from the ferry

Once the boat was full, it would get pulled with ropes by two young men until it got close to the beach. When we got off we waded through the water until the beach. 

At the beach another crew member collected an extra php 20 (aud 0,50) landing fee from each person to pay the beach staff who pulled the boats, we were told.
I hope that money really went to them, as they work very hard.

Isabelle and Max at Quartel Beach

The 7 of us climbed onto 3 tricycles, and were dropped at the Whale Shark Reserve about 20 minutes later.

Karina and Thomas on the tricycle behind ours

At the Reserve under a covered room, dozens of people sat, others waited in line, and others were putting on life-jackets and masks.
Karina joined the queue to buy the tickets and hire the diving masks. She bought 4 for diving and 1 for watching only (me).
I'm no good under water, but wanted to see the whale-sharks (butandings) up close, so I volunteered to film and photograph. 
Isabelle didn't want to go and unfortunately Thomas couldn't dive as per Dr's orders, as he had an emergency operation 3 weeks earlier to remove his appendix.

We all sat down to hear instruction from a lady to those diving on how to behave near the butandings - no getting closer than 5 metres, no sunscreen, no flash photography....
It all looked chaotic but was actually very well organized.

Going out to sea

At the beach groups of 10 people were called to each non-motorized banca (outrigger canoes) paddled by two local fishermen.
They rowed further out to sea and then everybody climbed out. Soon I saw two whale-sharks circling the area going to the canoes where fishermen were feeding them krill.

Feeding the whale-shark. Jose in the blue t-shirt

You are only in the water for 30 min and then return to land and hand in your life-saving vest and diving mask.
After we returned to land I didn't see any other boats going out to sea, so I presume they only feed the sharks for a couple of hours each day.

Even though I didn't see them from below the water and only saw part of them from above, for all of us it was an amazing experience to see these gentle giants.

The whale shark encounters at Oslob are controversial because the animals aren't migrating as they should, as they have became dependent on these feeding sessions.

The whale sharks used to have a migratory path in this area for decades but were previously regarded as pests by local fishermen who would lure them away from their fishing nets, and in certain areas in the Philippines they would even be slaughtered, until the fishermen realized it would be more lucrative to keep the animals around to attract tourists.

Oslob formally a sleepy fishing village is now a famous tourist spot around the globe.

Back to the beach

At the beach we changed from our swimming costumes into dry clothes and got back into our waiting tricycles who drove us to Quartel Beach.
Unfortunately this tour left us no time to go around the island to see the old Spanish ruins or to go to Tumalog Falls or even to eat...
From there the same procedure, walk knee deep in water to a paddle boat being pulled by a rope until the ferry. It departed at 11,30am with expected arrival at Momo Beach at 1pm.

This time the ferry was totally full, and a lot of people made life difficult for others looking for seats as they just kept their backpacks on the seats or put their feet on the seats next to them, which I thought was rude as they could see people going up and down the ferry looking for seats.
Eventually one of the staff members came around and asked some people to move closer to make space.

About 15 minutes after departure I started to feel very hot and could feel that I wasn't well.
Jose, Thomas and Benoir were sitting outside at the back (the bow), Karina who had been sitting on the opposite side had disappeared. I told Max and Isabelle to look after my small backpack as I wasn't well and went outside. 
It obviously didn't help that I had been rocking back and forth on the banga while watching the whale sharks....I was already a bit nauseous then.

As soon as I went outside I saw that Karina was already there, also not feeling well.
It didn't take long for me to start feeling sick. The waves were swelling up and hitting us and soon we were both totally wet. Karina held well but I was sick twice more, so I was glad all I had eaten that morning was 1 dry biscuit.
Soon a few more people joined us on the side deck and just sat on the floor getting wet with each high wave that hit the boat.
I looked at my watch every 5 minutes it seems, and just willed time to go fast, but instead of the 1,30h that had taken us to go to Oslob it took us just over 2 hours to get to Panglao!

When we finally arrived we got our backpacks and waited our turn to be helped off the ferry onto the small boat taking us to the beach.
When I caught up with Jose he told me I looked very pale and I told him my ordeal. 
He apparently had a great time talking to the crew who had cooked a fish stew for lunch and they had offered him lunch, which he tasted and said was delicious...

The van from the agency was there to pick us up and take us to the shop.

We hadn't eaten the whole day, it was well past 2pm and the family decided they would stay in the village centre and eat. I couldn't face any food, was still wet (so was Karina but she decided to eat), so I got into a tricycle and went to the Resort.

Once in the room I had a wonderful shower and went to sleep. I woke up at about 5pm when Jose opened the room's glass sliding door. I felt refreshed and myself again.

After everyone had a shower and change of clothes we met up at the Resort Bar for Happy Hour drinks. Afterwards we ordered 3 tricycles at Reception and went back to the village to have dinner at the Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant at Alona Beach.

Above the Bee Farm Ice-Cream shop, the restaurant was modern and well decorated, open front to the beach for a sea breeze, the staff were friendly and efficient.
They took Karina's Gluten free list to the Chef and came back with the 2 options Isabelle could eat. Food was delicious and in the end we were given a few scoops of their ice-cream to try. The ice-creams were vegetarian we were told and the cone was made of cassava (tapioca) flour, which is gluten-free so Isabelle could have some.

After dinner we walked back to the main road to get a tricycle to the resort and get a good night's rest after our exciting day.
Hope you enjoyed this very long post or at least enjoyed seeing the whale sharks 😊

Next week: The wedding!

This is one of my videos of the encounter with whale-sharks:

This Daily Mail article from 2012 has some beautiful photos of the whale-sharks and how the fishermen and the whales became friends.   from 2012

A day return ferry ticket costs from Panglao to Oslob - Php1000 (Aud $26)
Local landing fee at Quartel Beach -Php20 (Aud0,50)
Whale-shark reserve -30 min. Watching : Domestic visitors Php300 (Aud $8), 
foreign visitors  Php500  (Aud $13).
                                   - 30 min. Snorkeling: Domestic visitors Php500 (Aud $13), 
foreign visitors  Php1000 (Aud $26).
Tricycles - to Whale-Shark reserve - php150 (Aud $4.00)
                 - from Bohol centre to Bluewater resort - php100 (Aud $2.60) 

Online booking :

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Philippines - Panglao and Bohol Islands Day tour

Monday, 17th December -  The small island of Panglao where our resort was located is linked to the island of Bohol by two bridges and most of our day tour was conducted in Bohol. 

Bohol is the tenth largest island in the Philippines, in the Central Visayas, with 3,300 square kms, 100.000 residents, with 30 smaller islands around it, with Panglao being one of them.

Instead of joining an organized tour, Sunshine (my daughter's wedding planner) had recommended a friend who had a van and could take us around at our own pace.
Before being picked up at the resort, we had time for an early breakfast at the resort which was included in our daily rate. 
The buffet at the Aplaya cabana catered mainly for Asian taste buds. As for the few Westerners at the resort we had 
bacon and eggs, sausages, bread and fruit, and of course coffee and juices. Not bad, but there could be more variety...

Aplaya Restaurant (cabana) by the beach

In the parking lot by the Reception these two very colourful jeepneys awaited to take hotel residents on tours. Everyone decorates their jeepney or tricycles as they wish, using colour, tassells, curtains, quotes, names... 

Colourful Jeepneys

Reynaldo, our tour guide picked us up at 9am, and after introductions we were on our way to our first destination - the Tarsier Sanctuary in the forest foothills of Corella town in the island of Bohol.

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation administers the sanctuary which is dedicated to the preservation and research of this tiny endangered species. They are the world's smallest primates and are found mostly in the Philippines.

We paid the entrance fee of PHP50 (Aud1,30) and were told to keep our voices down, no sudden moves and not to use flash photography while going around the sanctuary.

Tarsiers, one of the world's smallest mammals range from 8.5 to 16cm and weigh about 80 to 160gr. Their eyes which are disproportionately large provide the tarsier with excellent night vision. The eyes are fixed and don't move in their sockets but the neck rotates 180°.
They can live up to 24 years in the wild, but only 2 to 12 years if in captivity mainly due to stress. Being very sensitive they are known to commit suicide if disturbed by light and noise.

We were told that every morning a couple of trackers would go around the sanctuary searching for tarsiers. When they have located a few, a guide will be positioned near the various trees so he can show the visitors where they are.  We saw 8 tarsiers that day.

The whole family at the Tarsier Sanctuary and a tarsier skeleton

One of the little tarsiers we encountered at the Sanctuary

Next we drove through the Man Made Forest in the town of Billar
It's a 2km long stretch of road, where according to our driver, school kids planted mahogany trees on their way to school.  Nothing special, but it's of course good for the environment and makes for a cool stretch of road.

A stretch of the Man Made Forest

We stopped for coffee at Mayang Maye Carenderia (Carenderia = a food stall with a small seating area, typically in a market or at a roadside in the Philippines). 
Just as in most businesses we came across there were lots of staff, some in training apparently, and we were the only customers. Coffee was ordered, and I had coconut water from a real coconut that I bought from a stall across the road.

The restaurant which was quite big, was surrounded at the back by a lush garden, and at the entrance a lot of plants in pots inside stiffened jeans.
When we left we had to laugh as the young waitresses were rehearsing some dance moves to the sound of music.  Even though we came across lots of very simple people, everyone seems to be have a smile on their faces all the time!

The garden behind the restaurant (left and bottom right) and pot plants in jeans at the front of restaurant

The driver had asked if we wanted to ride Quad bikes at the foot of Chocolate Hills. The men were all for it of course!  I presume the driver/guides must also get a commission from bringing in clients.

We stopped at Chocolate Hills ATV rental on the main road to the town of Carmen.
At the back of the property a big cage with parakeets amused us while the staff prepared the bikes. Some of them would go into the coconut shells and poke their heads out.

Parakeets in the cage. Loving gestures and hiding in the coconut shell

After paying for a 30min ride, Isabelle and Max (Thomas's parents) climbed in the only shared bike and the rest of us had single bikes.
After kitting ourselves with plastic overalls (uff, they made us sweat, they were so hot!) we did a trial ride in the property. 

The team kitted out for the ride (I'm the photographer

It was my first ever ride on a quad bike and I promptly accelerated and went into a small ditch. One of the young helpers said he could ride with me for a while to make sure I was ok which I gladly accepted.

Behind a staff member riding ahead of us we left the property onto the main road and onto a dirt road to the left.
Once in a while we would stop and have photos taken by the staff member. After a while the guy riding with me said I could take over as I would be ok and I managed to do well.

The team on the road, me on the quad bike

I had chosen not to wear the plastic trousers as they were really hot, Jose chose not to wear any protection, but in certain spots we rode through mud puddles and our legs got splashed.

We stopped at the feet of the Chocolate Hills, Bohol's number 1 attraction to take photos, before returning to the rental place and get our legs spray washed. What fun!!

The team at the foot of Chocolate Hills and Jose and I 

After our adventure we got back to our waiting van, and debated whether we should go to Chocolate Hills or have lunch first, but decided on lunch. 
At the first tiny restaurant we stopped at, the Chef was a bit confused with the "no gluten" request for Isabelle and then didn't have enough chicken for all of us and nothing else appealed to our taste.

We left and decided to go back to the friendly restaurant where we had coffee earlier in the morning.

The young waitresses welcomed us again and we ordered our dishes and the Chef made a plate of vegetables and eggs for Isabelle as nothing else was suitable (she's Celiac).

Mayang Maye Carenderia

 Menu - "Native chicken" is local bred chickens (not commercially raised)

Reynaldo, the driver joined us for lunch of course and it was funny that even though he had been asked to order whatever he wanted for himself as we would pay, he ordered chicken but then would help himself to whatever else each of us had ordered. 
Jose wasn't too happy when he started picking on his plate of prawns 😋.
I suppose that is the family/community way the Filipinos share their meals.

Once in a while one of the young Chinese girls sitting next to our table would come and peer at our table to see what we were eating as they still hadn't ordered.
Jose being cheeky asked one of them if she wanted to eat with us and she said they were just seeing what looked good to order. 
Then she wanted to know what nationality we were and then pointing to Benoir, Thomas's brother, she said "uhh, he's good looking".
Jose told her he was single, and she said she was also single and wouldn't mind a French boyfriend. The poor guy didn't know where to hide  😂 😂.

Happy and with our tummies full we returned to Chocolate Hills
These consist of about 1776 hills spread over an area of 50 square kms (20 sq mi) and range from 30 (98ft) to 120mt (390ft) in height. 
During dry season (Summer) the grass covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown like "chocolate kisses" which give the area its name.  
The hills were green when we were there, as it was considered Winter... with temperatures of 28C (82F) !!  I'm sure everybody wants winter temperature like that.

Chocolate Hills - 214 steps to the top, the steps with inscriptions, and the Tourist office below

There are 214 steps to the observation deck at the top, but worth the climb for the views.
A line of people waited to take their selfies and then we still had to contend with a "model" going to and fro to one of the corners while the photographer filmed and photographed her in various positions. Oh patience....

Observation Hill from afar

View of thousands of hills below

Chocolate Hills sign with the family

Panoramic photo of Chocolate Hills

On the way home we went past rice paddies and asked the driver to stop so we could take photos of the water buffaloes that people use to plough their fields.

Rice fields and water buffaloes

We had earlier talked with the driver about local fruits and he said that on the way home we could stop at the Central Public Market to buy fruit.
While Jose and Karina went through the market searching for fruits they wanted to try out, the rest of us went across the road to Island City Mall.
When we returned from the Mall we "ran" through the market searching for them and were surprised at the huge variety of fish, seafood, vegetables and fruit on offer, most of which I had never seen before.

At Bohol Central Public Market
Island City Mall, a tempting array of cakes, Christmas decor - I loved the "Gone to the beach" sign on Father Christmas chair

About 40 min later we were deposited at our Resort, tired but happy with a day full of great experiences.

After a shower and change of clothes we met half an hour later at the Resort's Baroto Bar for our usual "Happy Hour" drink.
I ordered a mango daiquiri, with real mango juice from the resort's mango trees. So delicious...

The Baroto Bar at the Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort

We were told the Aplaya (meals Cabana) was closed for dinner due to a wedding celebration, so we had to order simple meals that would be delivered to the Bar.

Unfortunately the wait was close to 40min, and everybody was getting inpatient and hungry, and the bar waitress kept on calling the kitchen to see what was happening.
I presume they were just far too busy with the wedding, but they probably should have not suggested people eat at the bar...  We could have gone to the village to eat and would be cheaper too.

Eventually our food came, most people had ordered Tuna Melt sandwiches, Isabelle and I had Chicken Salad.
The desserts we had ordered were spectacularly presented  - a platter of fruit, Ube Pannacota (ube=purple yam), Trio of Creme Brule (Pandan, Mango & Ube) and Tiramisu.

Mango Daiquiri - Tuna Melt sandwich w/chips
Fruit platter, Ube Pannacota, Trio of Creme Brule and Tiramisu.

Night photos of the pool and accommodation, with the Baroto bar at the end.

And it was an early night for us as the next day we would have to be at the Reception by 5,45am for our next adventure...swimming with whale sharks.

Unfortunately there were Chinese guests below our room, who sat outside their room for hours laughing and talking loudly to each other...
Jose was already fast asleep but he can sleep through an earthquake, unfortunately I can't, so eventually I called Reception and asked if they could get those people to go into their room and talk inside...softly preferably.
The receptionist apologized and said she would deal with it immediately, and 5 minutes later there was silence. 
Again great service from the Bluewater Panglao resort.