Monday, January 7, 2008

Boats and Touts

Sorry I've been quiet, but I have quite a lot of shit to post soon, it's just a matter of sorting it out. I just got back from the Philippines last week, and the trip totally kicked ass, one of my best trips in years and an absolute lock to win this year's roadtrip bracket. Anyway, the first thing I'm writing is also the longest, so I'll post the first part now-

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To send a Todd toward an untimely demise on a dusty Philippine “highway.” But I’ll come back to that.

I had a pretty hilarious adventure, traveling from the world class beaches and tourist haven of Boracay to the earthier, trashier diving resort of Puerta Gallera, Little Laguna beach specifically. Getting from Manila to Boracay required a $120, 35 minute flight on a rock star killer, which turned out to be the easy, safe way to get around. My trip from Boracay to Little Laguna (2/3 of the way back to Manila) required 7 different modes of transport, 2 days, and a cool $22.

I left Boracay two days shy of Christmas Day, first taking a tricycle (basically a motorcycle rickshaw) to the boat dock on the other side of the island, then a 10 minute boat ride in a small, crowded outrigger boat to Caticlan. Caticlan has the small airstrip I originally landed on, and it’s also the place to catch a bus to the larger airport in Kalibo or a fast boat to Manila. As I got off the outrigger in Caticaln, it would be the last time I would see a non-Filipino person for the next 2 days. I bought my ticket to Roxas on the island of Mindoro and had an hour to kill, which I did in a ramshackle lunch counter that, not surprisingly, served beer.

From there, I took a large ferry boat, with probably 1,000 people on it for the 4 hour trip to Roxas. A strange prayer video came on the screen in the room I was in. Most everybody in the room signed the cross. Pretty hard-core Catholic country, the Philippines. The other evidence of this was the insane number of kids that I saw everywhere I went. My favorite part of Philippine Catholicism? Unlike every other Asian country I’ve been to, there are no missionaries. It’s possible to walk through the center of town with out somebody wanting to talk to me about the bible and the churchy. Much like being in Utah, everybody assumed that I was a believer already and left me alone. Okay, the Utah thing I ripped off from Bill Bryson, who I was reading at the time I was on this boat.

After landing in Roxas, I was soon confronted by a tout. I have to say, I was shocked. I mean, I expected touts everywhere in Boracay and Manila, but Roxas? I was literally the only foreigner on this boat of 1,000 people, yet there’s still a shady guy at the docks whose bothered to learn enough English and develop a good enough western accent to fuck over travelers. It’s really the equivalent of learning Portuguese and hanging out at the Lawrence Greyhound bus stop, in the hopes that a Brazilian happens to get off the Hound in Lawrence that day. I told the tout I was going into town. He said that the hotels in town were closed, and that a tricycle ride at night would cost an extortionate 100 pesos. I found a tricycle driver. He drove me into town for 50 pesos, to the nicest hotel in town. TV, AC, in the center of Roxas for $12 a night. Not too shabby. I hate touts.

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