After a depressing yesterday, I got up knowing there was little I could do today. With my right hand slightly injured, enjoying the rides at Universal Studios Sentosa was ruled out. I couldn’t go to Marina Bay Sands either because I needed my 70-200mm lens, which I had to give for repair.
After freshening up, I sat at the dining table to have a cup of coffee. I picked up a newspaper and decided to actually read about what goes on in this tiny city state. I couldn’t help but notice the real estate property ads, not because of how good the properties looked, but mainly because just about every condominium advertised cost over a million dollars! And I thought to myself: “How on earth do the locals even afford to buy property here?”
Surely not everybody lives in the posh condos being advertised. That’s when I decided on what to do today – take the bus and see inner Singapore. Now, I didn’t know where exactly to go, but today I didn’t have anything else planned until I got the call from John 3:16 to come pick up my lens from their store.
I laid open my map of Singapore and just pointed to the centre of the island. My finger landed on some area called Bukit Timah. So Bukit Timah it was. Off to the nearest bus stop I went (the MRT doesn’t cover every nook and cranny of Singapore, thus the decision to ride the bus)
I didn’t really know where to get down, so when I saw a sign pointing to Bukit Timah Shopping Center, I got down at the next stop.
Just then my friend Aimee called, saying she might be coming to Orchard Road and that we could meet in the evening. But since I still had a few more hours to kill, I wondered how to spend it.
The bus drove around and as it neared Orchard road, it passed by the Singapore Botanical Gardens. In a split second, I decided to get down at the very next bus stop.
But this exit didn’t have a bus stop anywhere nearby, so I hailed a taxi and made it to ION Orchard mall.
After checking out a few stores, we stepped out on to Orchard Road. I promised Aimee I would make her look good this time, as neither of us were happy with the photos I took of her in Manila.
I felt better knowing, despite my injury, I wasn’t going to leave Singapore without some great photos. I wasn’t going to give up. Tomorrow, I visit the Marina Bay Sands Casino – my first time gambling!
Woke up really early today morning — like, 5am early! I left Banwa Arthouse and managed to catch a passing tricycle taxi to take me to the Puerto Princesa bus stop. It was a bit of a drive away, but I managed to get there in time. Anyway, I had called up the bus company (called Eulen Joy) the previous day and secured a seat for myself.
Now, despite reserving a seat, the bus is nothing fancy. Anything but! In fact, to get my seat right in the front, I had to walk over luggage belong to the other passengers. When I was instructed to do so, I kept looking at the other passengers with a mental “Im sorry but I have no other choice” look — but all they did was smile back.
The one-way bus ride to El Nido cost ₱380 ($8/€6) and I opted to take the local bus instead of a private van (which cost more) not simply to save a few hundred pesos, but for the very same reason I chose to take tricycle taxi in Bohol — to take clear photos along the way.
Nearly 2 hours into the journey, with the sun hitting my eyes, I felt sleepy again and dozed off after keeping my camera back in.
I was woken up an hour later by the bus driver, who using the universal hand gesture, asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I politely said “no thanks”. The bus had stopped and the passengers got out for a break. I wasn’t hungry but an ice cream vendor on a bicycle asked me if I would like some ice cream. Now, I wasn’t very keen on having ice cream from a bicycle vendor in a remote village for health risks, but he had cones and buns.
By 11am, the smooth concreted roads eventually gave way to unpaved ones.
Even though the bus journey is longer, and less comfortable, I still enjoyed the experience of what life is to these locals on this remote island.
I finally reached the El Nido bus station as it neared 1pm. I didn’t have a reservation anywhere but I did make a list of accommodation by the beach that suited my budget.
After stopping by one or two hotels I didn’t end up liking (and some that were full), I walked to Spider Pension House — a place I had called the day before and asked for a room to be kept available in case I were to stop by. Fortunately, one private fan room (but common toilet) was still available, so I checked in. I got the room for ₱700, for two nights.
After dumping my bags, I didn’t waste any time and made my way to Art Cafe — the most popular and one of the earliest businesses to promote El Nido tourism.
Besides lunch, I was also here to book a tour for tomorrow. Though there are primarily three tours on offer, I opted for Tour A as it would give me a good enough experience of what all El Nido has to offer. Paid some money as advance and sat down for lunch.
Once I got back to Spider Pension House, I sat on the porch and simply stared out into the sunset, listening to the ever relaxing sound of waves crashing. I ordered a coconut milkshake (or ‘boku juice’ as per the menu) and Joy, whose mother owns the place, sat beside me for a chat.
Even though the sun had set, I still sat there, feeling very relaxed and drinking my second coconut juice (didn’t feel like drinking beer at all). Unfortunately, when I ordered my third glass of boku juice, the electricity went.
I was joined by another guest staying at Spider Pension House (Aldo was his name I believe). A Spaniard based in London, a regular to El Nido and one who liked staying at Spider Pension House so much that he decided to help the owners by creating a Facebook page to help them with promotion.
Since there was no electricity, it was pointless to go to my dark room upstairs, so I continued chatting away to the sound of waves crashing. When it came time to make plans for dinner, Aldo told me there was so much pork leftover from yesterday, that he asked Joy to make something for tonight as well. He had bought an entire pig from the market to be roasted a lalechon style – which they did (he showed me his photos). But needless to say, there was quite a lot of meat left over.
Just as I took out my wallet and asked “How much?,” Aldo gestured “no” with his hand. It was on him, so “thanks” was all I could say.
I finally went up to my room after the electricity did come back, as I had to copy over today’s photos to my back-up hard drive and prepare for tomorrow’s island tour. I had to make the most of the electricity available, because if there’s one thing you need to know about El Nido, it’s this: electricity goes off everyday from 6am to 2pm.
Sigh, I guess I knew what time I was going to wake up tomorrow — that too with the humidity!
After 4 splendid days in Chiang Mai (amid some disappointments), today I left the city to go further up north. I went to the main bus station and only managed to get a ticket for 12 noon as all others were sold out. (Don’t remember exactly how much I paid for the ticket, but it was around ฿100)
The bus first stopped at what looked like a new bus station. I didn’t get down here because a lot of the Thais stayed in their seats. So I assumed this was not the final stop. Unfortunately some western tourists did get down and started hailing for taxis towards their hotels.
For which there was no need for, because the very same bus started again and drove straight into the city in 5 minutes time. This bus station was according my prior research, very close to the night market.
I hired a tuk-tuk and checked into my hotel.
The room cost ฿350 for the night and I was only going to be staying one night. My flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok was the next day evening. I know one day isn’t much in Chiang Rai, but this was my first time here and as always with first visits, this would be more a surveillance visit than any other.
I dropped by a few travel agents and tour operators along the way and asked them about day trips to the Golden Triangle. But because it was already late in the evening, nobody could assure me a spot as they needed few more tourists to fill up a group as tomorrow’s first group were already full.
A British guy who was behind, overheard me and told me he was in the same situation as I. So we chatted for a bit and exchanged numbers in case either of us managed to get into a group tour that was going tomorrow morning.
I rested for some time after applying some Vicks. I just didn’t want to fall sick. It’s the worst thing that can happen on one’s vacation. Well, one of the worst things.
I got up at around 8pm and craved to have some hot Thai soup for dinner.
Post dinner, I scanned the shops a bit. Unlike last year, when I bought 10 t-shirts from Thailand, I figured I wouldn’t need to buy much this time.
Alas, I ended buying two from a small vendor at the night bazaar after bargaining it down to ฿300 for both. Oh well, we’ll see how many t-shirts I end up buying this year.
As I needed more rest for an early start tomorrow, I headed back. Plus, there was little else to do in Chiang Rai. There is barely any nightlife in Chiang Rai. It’s a lot quieter (and smaller) than Chiang Mai.
As I was clicking this photo, I bumped into the same British guy I had met earlier at the travel office. He told me he met up with a group of people who were planning on going on a trek (Chiang Rai is famous for trekking and cycling) and asked me if I wanted to join them. I told him I was unfortunately not in the best of health and that I had to be back in town early enough for my evening flight to Bangkok.
We wished each other well and parted ways.
I reached my room, freshened up, dabbed some more Vicks and snuggled up for a good night’s sleep.