Palau is Heaven on Earth

 

Palau is not just an Island in the Pacific, like most people think. Palau is actually made up by more than a hundres islands, divided by shallow, turquil and warm water. The Islands look like the are elevated from the water and draped in lush tropical greenery. It is a mystery to us why neither the British, the Russian or the Germans have reached this destination. It is a unhurried, relaxing place, rich in stunning natural beauty.

palaupadlingThe Japaneese are over respresented among the tourists here, so much of the tour brochures and restaurant menues were in Japanese only. The local language was also told to have some similarities to Japanese and some locals had learned to speak the language fully to work with tourism. We joined one of the Japanese tour companies for a day trip where we had an English speaking guide to ourselves, as the rest of the tourists were all Japanese.

On our daytrip we went snorkling in both the ocean and in a small lake called Jelly Fish Lake, which had almost just as much jellyfish in it as it had water. We could swim through huge clouds of jellyfish, without getting stung at all. It was only when I kissed one of them that I could feel a little numbness in my lips.

 

We also got to do some kayaking among the smaller beutiful Rock Islands, where some of the islands were connected, creating arches to swim through and small lagoons to relax in. Many of the islands had beautiful beaches as well. We stopped at a few and had a good lunch on one of them.

Palau is a bit more expensive that we have gotten used through, coming from China and Philippines. The tours require goverment permits that cost 100 dollars per person, and the cheapest accomodation (e.g the ok Lehns Motel where we stayed) start at 65USD per room per night. Exept from that we found Palau just perfect both underneath and over the water surface. It is by far the most beutiful destination that we have traveled to and our reccommendation would be to go there as soon as possible, before the charter tourists from Europe and the US find their way there.

jellyfish

Diving in Palau




Palau is known for having some of the Worlds best dive sites, both because of its unique underwater landscape and also because of the diverse and sprawling underwater life. My instructor and dive buddies who had dived in Palau plenty of times told me that I had been lucky with the dive sites chosen for the day, as the Blue Corner and Blue Hole were their favorite dive sites in Palau. In my log book I wrote the following about my three dives today:


Location: Blue Hole and Blue Corner (Max depth 23m)
Conditions: Calm Water and good visibility
Comments/observations: Amazing dropping down the hole and lighting up the Devils Nest to see disco clams at the bottom. We dove through a smaller hole in the wall, bringing us out to the Blue Corner where we saw lots of fish, sharks and turtles swim by as we finished our last hundred bar before returning to the surface. Definately a dive to remember!


Location: The other side of Blue Corner (Max depth 13m)
Conditions: Very strong current and good visibility

Comments/observations: Because there was a tidal wave coming up, bringing huge amounts of fish, our instructor convinced us to return to the Blue Corner, but just on the other side. The current was very strong so we hooked us onto the reef, inflated our BCDs so that we could fly as being on a kite while watching huge tuna fish and reef sharks hunt the big streams of fish that swam by together with a couple of turtles that swam past us, just a meter from my face. When the others returned to the surface I had more air left and swam with a turtle who did not mind me getting close. Amazing!


Location: Chandellier Cave (Max depth 6m)
Conditions: Calm Water and very bad visibility (very dark)

Comments/observations: The entrance of the cave was hidden at a depth at approximately five meters, where all the visibility dissapeared and it instantly turned pitch dark. With our flashlights we visited five chambers to see the salt rocks hanging from the ceiling. I learned that I find diving in underwater caves scary and that it is not my favorite. Afterwards we swam outside and saw a family of prawn fish/razorfish swim horizontally by sideways. Fascinating.

Snorkeling at Jellyfish Lake

Jellyfish lake is a unique place where you can go snorkeling with thousands of jellyfish. After kissing a few of them my lips got really numb, because the skin on the lips is so thin, but for the rest of the body you will not feel them sting at all.

48 hours of Manila


Manila is a huge, weird Asian – Latino hybrid with spanish names on everything, siesta culture, lots of catholic churches. It is laying on the eastern corner of Asia, feeling almost as if it was closer to Central America.

The city is overwhelming and the best way to experience it is to go as if you were one of the 11 million locals. If you are travelling with Jeepneys and eating from the street vendors or Jolly Jeeps it might be one of the cheapest places to go. People are not pushy and really friendly too, except from a Calesa (horse drawn carriage) driver, no one has tried to rip us off or been unfriendly in any way.


Sights are many, but most of them are historical monuments and churches, like the Spanish Old City Intramuros with Philippines oldest church San Agustin and the Manila Cathedral which was not too exciting for us adventure seeking travelers, but just spending the time in the Worlds oldest Chinatown and in the lively streets and in the parks was well worth our visit to Manila.

The people are really friendly. Going to the Ritzal park and sunbathing on the grass or relaxing at a bench of one of the icecream shops, you will see that people sitting next to you are very interested in knowing more about you and your homecountry. A guy even walked with us throughout the whole Intramuros while sharing his knowledge about the country and the buildings that he had learned from being a tour guide. And not asking for money or anything in return afterwards!

Transport options are many with two elevated train lines: the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) and the LRT (Light Rail Transit). Taxis are cheap running on the meter, but they might ask for an extra 50 pesos to go on meter in rush hour or 20 pesos to use the highway. Usually the cheapest and most fun alternative is going by Jeepney, a custom build jeep with benches along the sides in the back. Just saying the name of where you are going and people on the street will help you get in the right ones.

Eating is also a big part of the Philippine experience. Jolly Jeeps and other street vendors sell all kinds of food in Makati City and the rest of the huge city of Manila. The local specialities are many, including “Balut” which is a week old egg, with a fetus inside. A chicken abortion in other words. I tried it myself and it tasted very much like a normal egg, just with some crunchy beaks and bones (video coming up!).

Our favorite moments from Manila must be laying in the Ritzal Park watching the fountain show go off while eating icecream. It was also quite an interesting experience buying meals off the street and then being invited to come inside his home and eat the food right next to the sellers bed. The people you meet are also the things you remember the most, and the Filippinos will definately be among the top of the most friendly people I have met.

Jilbert M. Vargas: a friendly stranger who showed us around town

Eating a Filippine Food Speciality: Balut

The question that should be asked to everyone who returnes from the Philippines is did you eat balut? Balut is a Philippino dish consisting of a fertilized chicken egg that has been left for 7 days so that there is a little chicken inside. A chicken abortion in other words. And if you ask me if I tasted it when I return, my answer will be yes!