Saturday, August 18, 2012

Let's Get High

Let's do this darn thing.

Sometimes you just gotta fly.
Thanks to a great connection,
I learned there is a paragliding team 
stationed out of Pyeongtaek headed by
a fellow English speaking foreigner.

So, for my birthday,
I did what many have recommended for years,
I went and jumped off a cliff...
and let myself soar.

It was worth every penny,
even if my feet had never left the ground.
The mountains you go off are stunning.
The people you hang out with are the best kind.
There couldn't have been a better way to celebrate
getting older and living another day.

If you want to give it a try, 
you can find Fly to the Sky here: 
ask for Greg Succop.  He will hook you up.

Waiting on the mountain top feels like a friend I've always known.

Craig, our fearless leader.
Life is like paragliding, you've gotta throw yourself into it, never look back and let it take you.

Looking out into the future.  It's an amazing view.
Fashion sense.
Wings and things.
Gear up.
A birds eye view.
An adorable little pest found it's way into the gear.
Looking back on a year well spent, makes me smile.
 Once again, if you wanna give this a try,
you know, with someone who speaks English,

you can contact Craig Succop via  Fly to the Sky 
or also visit this group Paragliding in South Korea.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Philippines or Bust: Part 5

Home Again, Home Again, Lickety Split

From deserted to hectic.
The world seemed to be on fast forward on the mainland.

In the Saturday traffic and festivities,
what was a four hour trip became a seven hour trip.
Once back in Cebu I asked the cabbie for an affordable airport hotel and he found it for me.
The most expensive and scariest place I stayed.
Despite being terrifying and $20 a night,
it was only a 5 minute walk from the gate.
So, a little bit awesome.
I enjoyed a leisurely wait for my plane, excited to get back.

Headed home.

It will take me a while to really know what I thought about the Philippines.
It was such a whirlwind trip I'm still getting my head around what I saw and learned.

My first thought and most regular thought is that it's the "Asian Central America".
With the heavy influences of both Spanish and US culture,
it often felt like I was in Honduras or parts of Mexico.
If felt very familiar.

In addition many of the people I met were warm and delightful.
Overall, I ended up feeling safer then I'd expected,
mostly because so many kind people took it upon themselves to ensure I was cared for.

Price wise, it was amazing. 
From Korea, you don't really need much money to get to the Philippines
or to enjoy your vacation there.
In fact, if I'd had money to spend I don't even know what I would have done with it.

It was a wonderful trip and I ready to be home.
I went, I saw, I conquered.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Philippines or Bust: Part 4


When the bus arrives at the rural ferry terminal. I learn the regular ferry isn't running.  The water is too dangerous and choppy right now.  However, there is a guy with a boat that will take us for the right price.  It's more expensive than usual, and he explains it's because we might die.

Once we are on the open water, it becomes readily apparent that he wasn't kidding. The crossing makes everyone nervous, including the crew.  Thankfully, the captain and his mate are good at what they do.   We move carefully and effectively through the rough waters.
When we arrive it feels like this is what I've been searching for, this is my paradise.
I decide to spend a little more for a nice room.
It costs $9 a night.
Later I learn the owner  had died the day we arrived.
For the next three days they hold the wake in the main building.
It is an intimate and surreal experience.
I'm also lucky enough to make a friend.
As fate would have it,  he is another English teacher on vacation from Prague.
We explore the island together.
Enjoying the $1.50 meals and winding paths.
As usual, my keen eye for anything mysterious-in-a-bucket uncovers a delightful, delicious surprise.
No, I don't know what it was but I know I liked it.

While my friend looks for scuba trips.
I discover some of the islands efforts to make their world better for folks like this little guys.

Lunch alone turns into lunch with the islands school children.

We decide to lay low on day two and go scuba diving instead of diving. It costs all of $7 for 3.5 hours.
Truth be told, I couldn't be happier.
I could play on the beach forever.
One the way home we discover what that awful smell is, lol,  dried sea urchin.
The island is nothing less than stunning.
And I love to watch my food simmer in cast-iron pots.
Since it was my last night, my friend and I left the rum on the porch
and headed to the beach for a few light hearted evening cocktails.
A few of the children stop by my porch to hang out for a bit.
I tried to savor my morning and my memories on my final day.
Alas the end finally came.
As one last act of rest, I get a two hour Thai massage for $25.
The busses had wrecked havoc on my back.
Might as well fix it while I could afford it.
Then it really was time to go home.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Philippines or Bust: Part 3

So I'm off again. Watching the funny transportation scurry around me.
I still don't know much about where I am or where I am going.
I just need to get to Cebu so I keep saying that to people and they keep putting me on busses.
Like Mexico.  The bus food in the Philippines is fantastic.
Grilled corn and fried bananas show the Spanish influence clearly.
The bus stops can be quite organic.
Finally I arrive at my boat.
I was lucky that my taxi driver knew of the first ship being allowed to leave after the Typhoon.
Everyone has been stuck in Ilioilo waiting to get to Cebu.
It's freighter not a ferry.
I dine by candle light in a corner food stall.
The rain is still coming down. 
The freighter is lovely.  Very clean, in fact its won awards for excellence.
Since the weather still isn't all that great,
I'm really happy to be on a BIG ship for this overnight trip.
We leave at 7pm and it's straight through to Cebu.
I have no idea when we will arrive.
I end up getting my own room for next to no money.
I get to read and sleep like a baby.
Maybe the most restful boat ride of my life.

As we arrive in Cebu we are met by the "boat gypsies".
I also meet a new friend who tells me of an island that I will like north of the city.
I decide to take his advice.
When we leave the ferry terminal he waves down my taxi and tells the driver where to take me.
I'm off to a new island whose name I can't quite remember.
The trip is long and beautiful.
Cebu is an island of lyme stone so it's quite different from anything else I have seen.
It also has a LOT more money then any other places I have been so far.
24 hours later I find myself looking for another small ferry to another even tinier island.
I'm hoping this is the paradise I've come to find.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Philippines or Bust: Part 2


So I catch a quick tricycle ride to the ferry to Boracay.
It costs all of $.25.
It looks like having no money is going to work out ok.
The sky opens up and the Typhoon begins again minutes after arriving in Boracay and I get drenched.
My scooter/taxi boy stops to let me wait out the rain in a restaurant.
After tucking my phone in a waterproof pouch,
we head back out into the suddenly flooding streets and torrential rains.
I tell my scooter boy I have no money. I need an inexpensive hotel.  He takes me to Tree House. It sits the quiet end of white beach and has shared rooms for $6.  It's perfect.  He offers to take me around the island the next day. I tell me I don't want to spend money, he says that's ok and we decided he will pick me up at 10am for a tour.
The next morning there he is.
I give me $11 and say, "Here is what I have to spend."
He says ok and we are off.

Our first stop is a "remote" and undeveloped beach.
It's stunning, but the waves are treacherous.
They make no sense as the winds create new currents.
It's terrifying to be out in these waves and I quickly realize, not safe.
However, even with the insane wind. It feels like paradise.
For the first time in two years I get to go to a beach in a swimsuit instead of shorts and t-shirt.
It feels weird, but I'm committed to enjoying the freedom.
After, we head to the highest point and I get to see all sides of the island.
I see there is an area that looks calm.
I ask if we can go there to play in the ocean.
Sure enough, there is a protected area on the far side of the island where the winds don't go.
Children, on vacation during the Typhoon warning,
are having boat races.
We bond over their boat building savvy.
We returned home in the early afternoon after seeing all the island had to offer.
I had paid $2 an hour for my guide and transportation.
After napping, I spent the evening discovering what White beach had to offer.

After waking up I decided it was time to move on.
Boracay is lovely, but not for me.

So I say goodbye to my little slice of almost-paradise
and head out for the next part of my adventure.
On the ferry back the rough waters leave me repeatedly drenched.
It's a good start to the new adventure.