I stumbled on a plane this morning half asleep and flew to another island. When I finally navigated to my new hostel and used the rest room I knew something was up; I definitely wasn’t in a third world country anymore.
Any westerner who travels to Asia will notice something right away; buckets with scoopers, and sometimes when things get really fancy, a sprayer mounted to the wall of the bathroom. Both of these are for washing your backside, a gross and barbaric substitute for toilet paper… until you use them. They’re F’n brilliant and you learn to love and respect them.
Well, I’m never going back! This is what I walked into today.
One of the challenges with the Philippines is trying to decide what to do and where to go. It’s not yet a very popular destination for travelers, so not much is known about the best spots. This can be both good and bad. The Good; You can still find hidden gems and enjoy them with a few close friends. The Bad; Trying to find the hidden gems.
That being said, I found one.
The Island is called Camotes and it’s two hours by boat from Cebu which has a major airport making it easy to get to.
I traveled there with a friend named Jay-Lee from California who now lives in Manila. The day we met in Cebu we still didn’t know where we were going to travel. In the airport she talked to a backpacker who recommended Camotes and a beach called Santiago Bay Beach. No one knew anything about it but we decided, screw it, why not?
We’re glad we did!
For $18 each we stayed in a resort on the beach with two pools, bars, a secret abandoned cove, jet skis, mopeds, trampolines on the ocean… the works. For two days we lived the high life for pocket change on a beautiful Island.
I never posted this but it’s funny and oddly good! The guitar only had 4 strings left, the back of the guitar was half attached and dude rapping wasn’t a rapper; but he killed it!
When you watch it you’ll notice the girls were totally in to us! That’s what those repulsed looks mean right?
Truth is, I asked them to look bored and they killed it too. We recorded it twice and the first time they looked WAY to into the music for what it was. So I asked them to look more relaxed and cocky like girls you’d see in a music video… you can decided their success. Enjoy!
Now in the Phillipines! Hong Kong, and so far in the Phillipines, could mostly be described as a vacation from a vacation. I’ve done stuff, but not a lot. Although one activity in Manila did make me feel good about my self which I’ll talk about later.
A lot of people said to escape Manila as quickly as you can, and I now see why! I stayed at a hostel with a Pool, Bar, and terrible view for an expensive $10 a day. Really tough living!
*(The place was great and easy to meet people. It’s called “Pink Manila” and is run and owned by and awesome girl from Florida.)
Manila was actually a lot better then most described and seems to be growing quite a backpacking culture. It’s also said to have one of the most robust couch surfing committees in the world. It has a good night life, shopping, it’s pretty affordable and you can get circumcisions the same place you buy rice. Convenient! But the islands are suppose to be amazing and that is why it’s my next destination.
Shortly I’m catching a flight to the islands with a crew of four (One Canadian guy and two Danish girls) and will get productive again. So I hope.
I escaped Nepal with my life and feeling good! It took 20 hours to get here but already I can tell this is going to be a good visit.
One, they have Seven Eleven, so you know you’re dealing with a society with good taste. Two, even their money says let’s party!
The last few times I came out of the gate fully energized, something was always waiting to zap the energy right out of me. But not today!
Not going to get robbed $115. Not going to drop two cameras in the water. I’m not going to get sick or food poisoning. Not going to fall in love and forget what she looks like… Twice. I have no package coming. I can’t watch the street go by through the floor of a bus in a city I wasn’t suppose to fly to.
I’ve been stuck in my room for the past 5 days and I’m about to lose my mind. So, I’ve had time to come up with two theories;
1. Nepal is in fact trying to kill me. The operatives that poisoned me on the way to Everest Base Camp failed, so someone infiltrated my guest house in Kathmandu and poisoned my Chicken Mo Mo several days ago. To combat this I’ve sworn off all foods that don’t come sealed in plastic or a can.
2. Nepal believes I’ve gotten a little overweight after 8 months of drinking beer and eating everything I want, so put me on a genius weight loss program!
Step One – Eat bad meat.
Step Two – Skinny!
They’re some ugly steps in the middle, but it works! Zero exercise or self control needed and I’ve watched the lbs scarily vanish in days!
I hear stories about people traveling around the world and having life changing epiphanies then moving home and making billions. Steve Jobs, acid in India, 10.2 Billion. John Paulson, uncles apartment South America, 12.5 Billion.
Well I think this is my idea. Carl’s two step weight loss program!
For those of you asking yourself, “Did Carl really take a picture of himself shirtless in his guest house then post it online?” The answers is; Yes. I’ve been stuck in a room for 5 days with nothing to do and no internet, so be happy it didn’t get weirder.
I’m losing it!
I would tell you where I’m going next, but the operatives… you understand.
One of the most aggravating aspects of travel is trying to find a flight. Prices swing seemingly uncontrolled and airports a $10 taxi ride apart can vary hundreds of dollars.
As I’m sure you figured out, when backpacking you don’t need to be anywhere in particular at any time. Most travel is dictated by cost. You’d think this flexibly would make finding cheap flights easy, but it doesn’t.
There are a few tricks I’ve learned that help, but the greatest discovery just happened.
For the sake of being complete; here are a few other tricks I like:
Google: Type “origin city” to “destination city” (Some times adding the word “flight” helps). Example:
If there are any direct flights between those two cities Google will give you the carrier and a link to the homepage at the top of the search. Sometimes you can find cheap flights that don’t show up on the flight search websites.
Wikipedia: The cheapest flights are usually local budget airlines (ie Jetstar, Air Asia [So. East Asia], Ryan Air [Europe]). Wikipedia will give you a list of these budget airlines if you ask it. Just pay close attention to extra fees; baggage, ticket printing, etc.
Google Flights: Google launched this over year ago but kept it pretty quite. It’s only good for flights within the USA, but it’s pretty awesome.
Kayak: Another good place to check out flights. It was my starting point to gauge prices with the “+-3 day option”, until I discovered skyscanner.
Trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC) was no joke. I thought it would be. Over the two weeks four people died, many were evacuated via helicopters, 1 in 4 got food poisoning, and even more felt the painful first stage of altitude sickness.
Fortunately I only added to two of those figures. By the time I reached Base Camp I was well into the first stages of altitude sickness due to dehydration from five days of food poisoning that hit me four days into the trek (meat sanitation is extremely poor past the the town of “Namche” as it’s all carried un-refrigerated on the backs of porters. While I avoided meat, I most likely got food poising from cross contamination from the kitchen staff. Thank you Hotel Hilayan.).
Altitude Sickness: At 18,200 ft, Everest Base Camp has 2/3rds the oxygen of sea level which is why it’s a good place to acclimatize your body before heading further up the worlds tallest peak. The lack of oxygen causes a myriad of issues. The most common is a bad headache. From there your body can further deteriorate leading to Pulmonary Edema (your lungs filling with fluid) and death.
*(Make shift helicopter pads, and the constant buzz of helicopters overhead serve as a bleak reminder of the stream of people being evacuated off the mountain.)
The scariest thing about Altitude sickness is its vague symptoms and how it randomly selects its victims. An Olympic athlete could be hit with altitude sickness while your grandmother carelessly snaps photos of the pretty high altitude scenery.
So, If you decide to go… take it seriously.
Aside from the dangers, it is unbelievably beautiful and far more rewarding then I could have imagined.
I went with a guide from Advanced Adventures (Laxman, aka “the Locks-A-Nator”) and couldn’t have been happier that I did. You can go on your own and you’d probably be fine and save a little money, but make sure you do your research and can handle carrying your bag the equivalent distance of halfway across the country of Nepal. In the end, I’d pay extra for the safety and convenience.
With a guide and two porters to carrier our heavy bags it cost $1,150 a person. This includes accommodation and food for the whole trek (About 14 days). (Not including water. You can buy water for 150-300 Rupees [$2-4 liter, at minimum of 3 liters a day], or buy purification tabs).
It takes about 10 days from Lukla (Airport) to ascend to base camp (8,800 vertical feet). Two of those days are acclimatization days where you hang out with other travelers and go on small hikes to keep your body adjusting to the lack of oxygen. The hiking it self is pretty easy and straight forward with a well worn path and short hiking days to help acclimatize. The challenge is your fighting your body. With less oxygen your heart pumps faster and your breathing spikes. You also must force water and food into you body which gets old quick. If you find your self lucky enough to avoid food poisoning and altitude sickness, it’s a pretty easy hike.
The decent from base camp can be done in 3 days or less.
I unfortunately suffered from a catch 22; I couldn’t retain water because of the food poisoning and I was getting increasingly hit by the effects of altitude sickness because I wasn’t retaining enough water. By the time we ascended from base camp I was barely able to get myself out of bed where I’d repeat the phrase,”One foot in front of the other”.
I was complaining to an english guy about 2 days away from base camp about our similar symptoms. We got word while accending from base camp that he was evacuated by Helicopter from Chola Pass with the symptoms of Pulmonary Edema and was held in the hospital for 3 days.
One important note; Have travel insurance! Helicopter evacuation, which can be life or death, runs $6,000-$10,000 US.
Other than the obvious dangers, it’s an amazing trip!