As part of my great East Indian journey where I saw my first snow-capped mountain in Darjeeling and learned more about colonial India in Kolkata two years ago while volunteering in India, I paid my VSO batchmate co-volunteer Sue a visit at her placement area in Puri, Odisha.
Before traveling to anywhere, I always research first for the top 3 things to see, do or eat — and my final tourist travel in the Indian sub-continent to Kerala and south India was no exemption. It’s like my non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter whether I’m staying 6 hours or 6 days — I must be able to see/do/eat the top 3 things. After that, I feel happy and accomplished, ready to move on to the next destination. So, when I was checking out things to do in Kochi, the first European colony in India and one of the major metropolitan cities of the south Indian state of Kerala, the Chinese Fishing Nets definitely was on the list. Called Cheena vala in Malyalam (the local language), the Chinese Fishing Nets at Vasco da Gama square in Fort Kochi is a popular tourist spot, especially at sunset. The silhouette of the Cheena vala lining up the shore is such a sight that you wouldn’t imagine it for its actual purpose — a fishing net!
Over the weekend, I had a really fun, active and amazing beach camping trip with fellow CouchSurfers and friends at Grande Island in Pagbilao, Quezon. We played Frisbeach (frisbee at the beach), Tug of War and Takeshi bang bang! Add drinking brandy under the stars, eating smores and Banana de Hanne (chocolate-stuffed char-grilled bananas), playing with magical luminous planktons, and the pleasure of CouchSurfers’ company — yep, an awesome 27th Frisbeach Weekend indeed! Home to the so-called Puting Buhangin (translation: white sand), the Grande Island also has the Kwebang Lampas as it’s main attraction. Kweba means “cave” and Lampas (with the meaning earlier debated in the group) in this case means “through” — you can enter the cave from the main beach on one end and then come out on the other end of the beach. We only went to the cave at low tide so no swimming through for us! We were so enamored (big word! haha) with the beauty of Puting Buhangin –sand so white, sky so blue and water so clear — that we only checked out Kwebang Lampas the morning before we departed!
How to get there: The area where we stayed is not the easiest to reach, especially on public transport. We left the Jam Bus Terminal in Buendia at about 3am (fare P210), arrived at Lucena Grand Terminal at about 7am, had breakfast and then got on a rented jeepney to Pagbilao to do our supplies shopping. From there, we proceeded to Brgy, Ibabang Polo (fare if total commute: P20 (?) to Pagbilao, P35, for Ibabang Polo and 50-100 for tricycle) as our final land transport stop. Towards the end of the Pagbilao Power Station, a coal-fired thermal power plant, we took a short banca (outrigger boat) ride to Grande Island (P185, including camping fee). From this point, and carrying all the supplies, the 18 weekend campers set on foot for about 10 minutes (seemed like forever!) navigating through some kind of forest trail. It was almost 10 or later I think when we finally reached the “entrance gate” of Grande Island. Give or take our stops, that’s about 5-6 hours of travel! But again, the charm and pull of Puting Buhangin and Kwebang Lampas more than compensated for it!
Since it’s been a while since I posted photo 26 on my instagram account, it took me some time to re-figure out that this photo was taken while staying at Long Beach Resort Hotel in Bauang, La Union. As one of the many coastlines of northwestern Philippines, Bauang is known for its spectacular sunsets. This photo, however, was taken at sunrise and it has taken me by surprise! And yes, I woke up super early coz that was the only way I’d get some R&R time as this trip was actually official! 🙂 I didn’t realize it could be a really nice view as well, with the super calm waters and the fiery hue of the sky! And no, I didn’t use any digital imaging with this photo since, at the time it was taken in mid-2009, hashtags aren’t even born yet and #nofilter more so! So this is just plain ‘ol Bauang sunrise and natural goodness for y’all!
Surfing is an adrenaline-filled water sport that is increasingly becoming popular among Filipinos, not just for adventure- and thrill-seekers but also for families wanting to try something new and exciting. I never thought I’ll ever be able to go surfing because a) I didn’t realize we have it here; b) I always thought it’s expensive and c) well, I was never sure if I’ll ever be able to stand on my board and look cool like everyone on TV!