Following the instructions from our half-Pinay, half-German CouchSurfing host Analie, we took the “Messe/ICC” Ringbahn (loop train) to Gesundbrunnen (one of the main stations for the Ringbahn, S-bahn (railway train like MRT), U-bahn (metro/subway) and regional/international trains) and took the S-Bahn to where she lives. (So much “bahn” right? And we’re not talking about the buses and trams yet. While the transport system is quite efficient, one of the first few lessons in Berlin is that Bahn = train and going to one station using the right S-Bahn or U-Bahn requires tourists (and locals) to never underestimate the travel time necessary. haha)
Finally, after five days of getting pampered and sheltered in Copenhagen with breakfasts, dinners, afternoon walks, cups of tea, [failed] snowball fight, a Royal Opera performance, and the warmth of Merete’s candlelit sitting room, we are now on the road (and currently almost by the sea) to Berlin, Germany and after a few days, to Prague, Czech Republic.
At about 630am this morning, Niklas and I boarded the quite comfortable (nice reclining seats, wide legroom, heater) Eurolines Bus leaving Copenhagen and arriving at Berlin by 230pm. Yep, this bus travel is about 730 hours, more or less the same time (not sure about distance) on the bus from Manila to Ilocos Sur, maybe even until Vigan. The difference: we are crossing countries and not provinces or regions. Also, we are boarding a ferry for an almost 2-hour crossing of the Baltic Sea from Denmark to Germany. Continue reading Copenhagen to Berlin: notes from the road and the sea→
Roughly 4-5 hours from Manila lies Fortune Island, a semi-isolated-used-to-be-super-private island off Nasugbu, Batangas. They say this is as close to Greek’s ancient ruins as could be possible, with the clear blue waters as your backdrop! Who would have thought that the typhoon destruction to an uber exclusive island paradise would result to a steadily becoming popular destination for beach bums and island campers? Known for its picturesque rows of Athens-like pillars and half-destroyed half-gorgeous statues, Fortune Island gives each traveler a nice reward for climbing atop the stairway-lined hill that leads to it’s “viewpoint ruins” and, as my friends saw and experienced, cliffs and caves. To reach Fortune Island, take the San Agustin Bus line at Coastal Mall in Pasay, going to Nasugbu (3-4 hours, PhP 200-220 AC (about $5), PhP 130-150 (about $3.5) non-AC). From there, take a 15-minute tricycle ride to Fortune Resort Dive Center (pre-booking necessary with caretakers Mang Dante 09394895292 or Chris 09087225628 is necessary) which is the jump-off point to Fortune Island. The 45-minute 10 pax-max boat ride costs around PhP 6000/$135, plus PhP 400/$9 island entry fee (overnight price, negotiable; day trip is cheaper). With upper limit calculations, that’s about PhP 1250/$28. Add in food, booze and other expenses, a beach camping (yep, no rooms) weekend at Fortune Island would be about PhP 1700/$38 which, I must say, is quite cheap to “experience” Greece and of course, enjoy the Philippines’ endless summer with the company of family and friends under the sun and stars. [Special thanks to Hazelle for organizing this CouchSurfing trip back in May and providing all these info I’ve already forgotten.]
The sun slowly setting, the wind mildly blowing, and the ukulele songs that keep on playing — if only we can freeze time at Scout Island, we probably would. ‘Twas a really charming Saturday afternoon at the Hundred Islands National Park as we set camp on the “undeveloped” Scout Island (read: no structures or facilities) where we spent the night. After a full day of bus travel (about 5-6 hours from Manila to Alaminos, Pangasinan), snorkeling, swimming and island hopping, the quiet, rustic and peaceful vibe of Scout Island gave us the solace that we were looking for. Though devoid of material comforts, choosing Scout Island turned out to be an awesome choice — white sand beach for our bed, magic planktons (green phosporescent aka Life of Pi aka The Avatar) for our entertainment, and an entire island to ourselves!
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!
Life is short so take a leap of faith. Let’s wander, explore and discover. Come and journey with me.