Archives for June 2013

Whale Sharks, the Big Friendly Giants

I was always told that seeing a whale shark in the water with you will leave you awe struck and speechless. If you know me in real life, then you know that there are very few times that I am speechless, much to hubs disappointment (especially when he’s trying to sleep).
snorkeling with whale sharks oslob philippines
We made great time on our road trip and arrived in Oslob by around 9:30. As soon as you reach the small town, you’re bombarded with signs leading to businesses that will take you out to see the whale sharks. I admit that it was a huge tourist trap but sometimes you just have to suck it up, put on your ‘I love Cebu’ T-shirt and fanny pack and join the other tourists in order to see one of the most amazing things I have ever laid my eyes on.
snorkeling with whale sharks oslob philippines
We first had to sit through a five minute safety and informational speech. They explained to us that each day they send boats out that throw small fish into the water to attract the whale sharks. This is yes, for the purpose of tourism, but also so scientists in the area can come tag them, study their behavior and hopefully use this information to protect them in the future. Around 12 o’clock, the feeding stops so the whale sharks will go back into the wilderness and hunt on their own, therefore discouraging dependency on the program.
Once in a lifetime experience to snorkel with Whalesharks
They also explained (with diagrams I might add) that we must at all times stay at least four meters away from the whale sharks. If we did not adhere to this law we were warned that we could either be fined (about $50) or sent to jail for a few weeks. No problem we thought. Don’t touch…got it. We had no idea just how difficult that would be until we got in the water with them. We headed away from the information tent and towards the water. As soon as we stepped foot on the beach, we could see fins stretching out of the water and towards the sky, along with massive shadows lurking beneath the surface.
Getting up close and personal with whale sharks in the philippines
Technically a shark but getting the name because it’s as big as some whales; these giants can get up to almost 12 meters (41.5 ft) long and can weigh more than 47,000 tons. Their mouth alone can reach up to 5 feet in length! But don’t worry, they’re filter feeders, eating only small fish, plankton and krill. The largest we saw that day was over 9 meters (29.5 feet) long.
closeup of whale shark in philippines
We hopped in one of the small narrow boats that littered the water front, filled with people anxious for a glimpse of the infamous giants. We prepped inside the boat and donned our mask and fins as quickly as we could so we wouldn’t waste a minute of our allotted 35 minutes in the water. Once we ducked under the water we knew what people meant when they said we would be in awe. We did not see just one whale shark, but nine gliding through the crystal clear waters, taking turns it seemed, to surface and gulp down the tiny fish the boats were pouring into the waters. 
split view of whale shark in philippines
As I was hanging onto the boat, readjusting my goggles, my feet dangling in the water, I felt a sudden jolt under my feet. Shocked and curious, I put my head down in the water and saw one of the massive beings swimming just inches under me. It had quite literally ran into me. See what I mean about it being difficult to stay far away? Panicked, I looked up to my tour guide to see if he had caught what had just happened. He let out a small chuckle and told me not to worry, it happened all the time. All they want is food and many times they pay no attention to the dozens of swimmers in the water around them. There were even times when I looked over at hubs and had to hurriedly motion for him to move out of the way because one of the whale sharks, mouth wide open, was just inches behind him, heading his way.snorkeling with whale sharks oslob philippines
whale sharks oslob philippines
After spending every last moment we could in the water, we headed back for shore, not being able to wipe the childish grins off of our faces. On the way back home, the rain caught up with us as we rode the last hour in the pouring rain. Soaked to the bone as we arrived back at our hotel, smiles still plastered on our faces, the staff questioned us about how it went. It was the perfect ending to the perfect weekend getaway.
snorkeling with whale sharks cebu philippines

On the Road to Whale Sharks

We got a flat tire. In the middle of no where. In a third world country. On the road to whale sharks. Most people would panic and trust me, I had my times that I wanted to, but thank goodness the people in the Philippines are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. Oh! And most speak perfect English. I’m pretty sure my ‘almost’ freak out would have most definitely turned into a full blown freak out if we were in a country where we didn’t speak the same language. Just another one of those times that are truly unpredictable in traveling and you have no option but to sit back, laugh, and wait as your tire gets fixed.

broken down motorbike moalboal philippines

So first things first. Let’s start from the beginning. We woke up at the crack of dawn…ok, it was more like 6am but I’m pretty sure on vacation that can be considered before the crack of dawn. We woke up to the sound of pouring down rain on our little bungalow and immediately felt our hearts sink. Our plan for the day was to take our rented motorbike on the two hour trip to the town of Oslob where whale sharks can be seen daily. 

We would have been just fine waiting until the rain passed but the whale sharks usually leave the area around 11am. We were on a deadline. We were told that if we didn’t leave by 7am there was a chance we wouldn’t make it in time. As we looked out the window at the rain clouds that surrounded our hotel, we knew that it was now or never.
We gathered enough determination and decided that despite the rain, we would head out anyway, through the pouring rain and onto the whale sharks. Might I add that this is probably making it seem like we were a whole lot more upbeat than we were. I believe our exact words were along the lines of ‘screw the rain, let’s go see the whale sharks’.
Thankfully by the time we headed out at 7, the rain had cleared up. We went about twenty minutes out of Moalboal and were making our way through the countryside, dotted with modest wooden and concrete homes. I remember thinking how amazing this was and even with the rain, everything was working out perfectly. Tip: don’t ever think that because the minute you do, your motorbike will begin to swerve and slow down and you will find out you have a very.flat.tire. At least that’s what happened to us.

Broken down motorbike in Cebu Philippines

We rolled to a stop in front of a large wooden box of a house. No windows, no lights inside, this is what was common to see in the countryside of the Philippines. A friendly couple inside must have seen us and directed that there was a bike shop about a kilometer down the road. Well since the bike wouldn’t drive, especially with two people on it, I hopped off and told hubs to go on ahead and I would catch up on foot. I know, I should have been more worried and hubs gave me several nervous looks before I finally convinced him and he slowly rode off. But it’s hard to be worried or nervous when every person I encountered is so genuinely nice. I had several people stopping what they were doing to say hello and ask me if I was ok. Once I told them I got a flat tire, they nodded knowingly and pointed down the road. They must have seen hubs pass by just minutes before. When I finally arrived at the infamous bike shop, I saw five guys huddled around our bike staring at the gaping hole in the tube. Finally, the owner of the shop nodded his head and told us no problem, he’ll have it fixed shortly.

I was relieved but apprehensive as I watched our mechanic use technics that haven’t been seen in the states in decades if not longer. When he finally finished, and went to fill the tube with air, we were met with another disappointment. That hole was fixed, but there were five more that he hadn’t seen before. He shook his head and set it down. We would have to go to the next town over and buy a new tire. By now I was getting really anxious as it was nearing eight o’clock and we had hardly begun our two hour journey. Hubs jumped on the back of a workers motorbike and I sat at the shop playing an unofficial game of peek-a-boo with the shy little girls in the shop next door. As one point, I prayed ‘Why don’t you want us to see the whale sharks God?!’ It seemed like the trip just wan’t going to work out. After checking at two different stores, hubs finally found the last tube available and returned looking triumphant. Things were finally starting to turn around. He quickly installed the new tube but the most important question was still to be answered. How much? We were obviously tourist and in a country that blatantly posts two different prices for locals and tourists, we were expecting the worst.
Fixing motorbike in Cebu Philippines
Fixing motorbike in Cebu Philippines
The owner looked down, thinking of what to tell us, then talked with his shop mates to confirm. The total cost for his labor? 50 pesos or $1.25. As a traveler and tourist, these are the times when you double or triple the asking price without question. The total bill for labor, a new tube and paying the young man who drove to get the new tube was 280 pesos or $6.50.
broken down motorbike moalboal philippines
In our short time in the Philippines, I was amazed not only by the prices, not only by the genuine friendliness that you encounter, but also by the simple way of life. It’s a humbling experience to see how others live and to see a young man’s face light up when you give him the equivalence of a dollar for driving you a short distance. It is these experiences and realizations that I cherish from our trips abroad.
Linking up with Rolled Up Pretty and Shanna 

Rushing Water and Lines of Rope

I never thought that I would be able to mark ‘waterfall rappelling’ off my bucket list. Then again, it was never on my bucket list to begin with. But leave it to hubs to find a new activity that I have never heard of and make me fall in love with it.
When we arrived in the Philippines, hubs only had one thing planned and that was waterfall rappelling. The gist of it was that we took about an hour ride in the beast, hiked for 45 up the side of a mountain and then hiked/repelled down waterfalls on the Montaneza River until we reached the bottom. We repelled down a total of five waterfalls, the largest of them being 30 meters.
The walk up the mountain was a little less than enjoyable. The views were fantastic, the company was great, but walking uphill for 45 minutes in what my guess was 100% humidity was not my idea of fun.
moalboal, philippines
waterfall rappelling, moalboal, philippines
With it being low season right now in the Philippines, we were actually the only two that had signed up for the trip. This was great because we not only could we go at our own pace, but we got to know our guides a whole lot better.
rappelling down waterfalls,moalboal, philippines
action adventure in moalboal, philippines
Rappelling down waterfalls, cebu philippines

This was just one of the many ‘iffy’ walking paths that we had to take. Good thing we had helmets on!

Montaneza River moalboal philippines
Montaneza River moalboal philippines

After we were finished, we ended back where we had started and the driver had prepared a feast of a  meal including fruit, barbecue chicken and fish, rice wrapped in bamboo and and my favorite, shandies. I tried to get hubs to stay behind so he could learn how to cook but it was a no go. 

action adventure moalboal philippines
I couldn’t get over the landscape in the Philippines. Everything was lush and green when we went and the areas around the river were astounding. I would highly recommend if you ever make it over to the Philippines, find a spot to go repelling!

The Simple Life

I’ll be the first to admit that the Philippines was not high on my travel bucket list. I’ve heard great things about their beaches but with us being more of the ‘go go go’ type of travelers, beaches alone didn’t draw me in. With the Philippines being just a short four hour flight from Korea and with tickets as low as $150 per person, it’s the perfect getaway for a long, or even in our case, a short relaxing getaway.
Moalboal, Philippines
Moalboal Philippines ocean view
Gorgeous views in Moalboal, Philippines
Children by the water in Cebu Philippines
Ocean pier in Cebu, Philippines
We stayed at the Tipolo Beach Resort in Moalboal, Philippines, about  two hour drive south of Cebu City. While I admit, it’s nothing luxurious with basic rooms including a bed, wardrobe, mini fridge and nothing else, the genuinely friendly staff and ocean views far made up for it.
Tipolo Beach Resort Cebu Philippines
The hotel has a total of eight rooms, three of which offer prime ocean views. But don’t worry, they are all close enough to the water that you can fall asleep to the sound of the tide breaking against the shore. And that alone is worth the four hour plane ride.
View from Tipolo Beach Resort Cebu Philippines
I can’t speak highly enough about the staff here. They go out of their way to help you and to make sure that your trip is everything you hoped it would be. Many times we sat around chatting with the staff after eating or while we sat by the ocean. This is part of the reason I love staying at smaller accommodations. You have the chance to get to know the staff, their lives and more about their culture.
Tipolo Resort, Moalboal, Philippines
They also had absolutely amazing food! (that’s the most important part right?) Breakfast, lunch and dinner, residents from other resorts walk over to try their food. Wood-brick oven pizzas, mango smoothies and….well we stuck with that because once you find a good thing you should stick with it right? The staff also introduced me to a new drink. This probably isn’t new to anyone else but the concept of mixing beer and Sprite blew my mind. Finally, a beer drink that I can get behind!
Shandis in Cebu Philippines
Brickoven Pizza at Tipolo Beach Resort, Cebu Philippines
As a part of the hotel, they also have a side business, Planet Action Adventures. You can sign up through the hotel to go on day excursions like repelling down waterfalls (what we picked), river climbing (what we want to do next time), horseback riding, mountain biking, and city tours. Below is a picture of the beast that took us to the waterfall location, custom built by the hotel workers.
Plenty of activities at the Tipolo Beach Resort, Cebu Philippines
On our last day, we called a ‘tricycle’ to come pick us up and take us to the taxi stop. These are extremely popular here and both tourists and locals alike use them. Pretty much a small cab attached to a motorbike or bicycle. A great and cheap way to get around. 
Tricyle, Moalboal, Philippines
Tricyle, Moalboal, Philippines
Some of these tricycles serve as food vendors. My favorite by far were the ones that served up fresh pastries. You could see locals carrying around huge bags of these and at only 5pesos(12cents) each (seriously guys…12 cents for fresh pastries. My jaw literally dropped when I converted it), I was stocking up too!
Street food, Philippines
Stay tuned next week when I highlight repelling down waterfalls and our motorbike road trip through the pouring rain!
moalboal, philippines

A Birthday Surprise 6 Months in the Making

Don’t you just love his wrapping job?
Both Jeremy and I are horrible at surprises. If we get something we usually spill the beans within 48 hours because we just can’t contain our excitement. That’s why I was so shocked to find out that he had been planning a surprise for my birthday for over 6 months!
Probably about a month ago, I suggested that we take a spontaneous trip overseas in June. We had a holiday on a Thursday and we don’t have our regular classes on Fridays. I just work a few hours at an academy that I can easily make up classes for and hubs just teaches an intensive class every other week. Perfect opportunity for a getaway right? He wasn’t against the idea but he didn’t seem as thrilled about it as I was. Little did I know, he had already bought tickets to the Philippines for that weekend back in December.
In the weeks leading up to his reveal, I sensed something was going on, that he had something up his sleeve but I tried as hard as I could to ignore it so I wouldn’t be disappointed if I was wrong. I even tried flat out asking him if he had something planned but even through his nervous laughter, he convinced me he had nothing to hide. I’m not sure what changed, or if he was just that good at throwing me off (he even had our bosses in on it, telling me lies to distract me) but by Tuesday afternoon, just two days before we would leave, I was certain nothing was going on and I had imagined the whole thing. I was convinced that we were going to Seoul that weekend (his cover up destination) and was looking forward to getting out of town.
Thursday morning we woke up late with the plans of a big American style breakfast of french toast and bacon(bacon being a delicacy in our house because of it’s high price here in Korea) and maybe heading to a nearby town to explore for the day. Hubs woke me up that morning and asked if I wanted my birthday present early. He plays this game every year, too excited to wait any longer, and I tell him every year that he needs to wait for the actual day. I told him no as usual but he was extra persistent this time. I gave in and he bounded out of the room and came back with a large wrapped box in hand. Inside, taped to the bottom, were two round trip tickets to Cebu, Philippines. Our plan was to fly out that night and spend three days basking in the sun in the secluded town of Moalboal. I think it’s goes without saying that I am blessed beyond belief and this birthday is one for the books.