Far from the madding crowd… in god’s own country 

Palolem.  I could have stayed there forever.  The bus dropped me (for once) in front of my hostel.  SUMMER by thehostelcrowd has recently opened its doors.  It’s a bizzarre construction with the chill out zone outside the hostel itself on a mezzanine level. But the rooms are clean and spacious, and the only bathroom is close to the European standards.  The included breakfast is also very generous and the guys adapted to my dietary restrictions. 

But I went there for the beach so I was curiousto check it out… and this time it was more than decent.  It is a big and wide streak of sand, with very shallow waters.  It didn’t give me much of an opportunity to swim as I’m used to but I was still very happy.  And although Palolem is a very popular place for tourists the place is very quiet and peaceful.  There are a few very nice restaurants.  I tried Magic Italy,  an Italian (doh!) restaurant where both pizzas and pastas are very good.  Then I also tried Zest that is a very cosy place and even if the food is very good an interesting is far too expensive.  Then I had lunch once at Avocado Garden where I tried the vegan burger and I had a hard time to finish it.  

During my days in Palolem I spent some time with Chim a very pleasant girl met previously in Jaipur.  Chim has a shop in Palolem where she sells her own design clothing,  soaps and most interesting she sells pure coconut oil.  And although this was not time to make it she took me to the “mill” where she gets it done. The mill is still built of stone and until recently it was operated by bulls.  Now they modernized and it’s a small tractor that does the “dirty” job.  But it is still oil cold pressed and it couldn’t be more natural than that. 

So I after extending my stay in Palolem twice and getting some sun tan I was ready to leave otherwise I would have stay there for the entire time I had left in India.  On the night of my fourth day I boarded a train at 12.40am (one hour late of course…) and got off in Cochin in the afternoon of the following day.  I left Goa to Kerala,  god’s won country as they call it here.  The landscape is beautiful but it is more trafficked than Goa and I had time to get used again to honking and traffic after the peaceful break of Palolem.  

Hostel by the Sea is a hostel located in a kind of government building. Very curious by all in all not bad.  They don’t have hot water (because the temperatures outside are hot!) or PoS machine but it is very cheap and very conveniently located.  Cochin (or Kochi) is a very small town on the sea where Vasco de Gama landed first when he arrived in India.  There is really not much to do and after a couple of laps the tour is done but still a nice place for a couple of days. You can take the ferry to the mainland for 4 rupees each way and it’s a 20 boat ride but the mainland Cochin is just another big city not particularly interesting.  After 2 days there I was supposed to go to Alleppy to your the backwaters but if I wanted to visit the east coast I didn’t have time.  I had to decide what to do.  Alleppy?  Munnar?  Madurai  or Pondicherry?  I decided for the last one and took a direct bus at 4pm scheduled to arrive at 6am the following day. 


Island hopping part three: Perenthian island 

So.  I took a bus from Penang to go to Perenthian island on the east coast.  It’s a long and boring trip but it’s worth the effort. The bus arrived in Kuala Besut and from there is the ferry.  

The bus arrived at KB at around  5am.  The first ferry is at 7. To kill time I started to talk to people that arrived with me and we had a very bad tea at the local restaurant.  We paid our ferry fee to this guy that “attacked” us (standard here) and waited.  Time comes to go to the ferry and we discover that to get to the island we have to pay an extra 30RM (around 6€) for the environment.  Happy to pay if the island is spotless (guess what … It was not) 

I get a little mad at this rule especially because once again for the local is 5 times cheaper and truth to be said its the locals who throw all the garbage around… But anyways… 

1/2 an hour ride and we finally arrive to the island (Kecil).  I didn’t book any hostel but in Travelfish website (https://www.travelfish.org/accommodation/malaysia/peninsular_malaysia/terengganu/perhentian_islands/all) I read about this place called “Butterfly chalet” a self check-in place directly on the sea.  The ferry arrived at Long Beach where the parties are but thankgod Butterfly is on Coral Beach on the other side of the island,  just 10 minutes walk across the jungle. 

Arrived at the chalets luckily I can check in immediately as 3 people had just checked out.  I choose the chalet number 2 as it is the closer to the beach.  The view is beautiful,  directly on the sea and behind me, the jungle. 

The rooms are very basic but I gladly paid 14€ a night (room only)  to sleep peacefully in this corner of paradise. 

The following day I was exhausted and slept the whole day.  I don’t know what happened but I just couldn’t do anything else.  I just slept.  I guess that 2 months moving around like a pinball had taken their toll on me.  In the evening I managed to wake up and went for dinner at this super posh (for the beach standards)  place called “Shari La Island Resort” (http://sharilaresort.com/) where they serve buffet all you can eat for the equivalent of 3€. Thus I was able to stuff my face with a lot of yummy food without having to worry if it was vegetarian or not. 

The following day I just beach combed as I wanted to finish a book that I was dragging around since the beginning of my trip and so I just did nothing and enjoyed every word of my book. 

Once again I didn’t do any scooba diving,  or snorkelling (except in front of my chalet and during my morning swim)  or visited any beach close by.  But I really enjoyed my time there.  The food is good. In general expensive but on Long Beach there is this local place called “Kak Yah Local Food” where you can eat cheap and the portions are important.

I needed a break from my wanderings and I got it.  I managed to recharge my batteries before starting my volunteering time in KL. 

Island hopping (or not)

I was finally ready to go to some island and get some rest.

The way back from Sagada was a little brisky. The valley was covered in a thick fog and it felt like a movie from Stephen King. 

As we arrived on the plain, it was almost midnight. We were in the bus, half asleep when we heard a noise, like a bullet hitting a glass and as a matter of fact two of the windows were smashed in thousand pieces. One was the one I was sitting next to. Luckily we were not hurt but it was a bit scary and it took us out of schedule for almost 2 hours. Apparently someone threw rocks at our bus and the driver had to report it to the police.

Finally arrived in Manila, me and a couple of the Spaniards met in Sagada went looking for an  internet café. I was supposed to fly to Palawan that same afternoon and I needed internet connection. 

We found a bar with WiFi and took a coffee to be able to use internet. The connection was very slow so I didn’t manange to get connected and buy my ticket. I decided to go directly to the airport and buy the ticket from the counter. As per script, it took me forever to get to the airport and once I got there I had to wait an hour in line to speak to one clerck. By this time the ticket had more than doubled it’s price so I decided it was not really worth it.

Heartbroken and disappointed I contacted my CS host to ask for advice. He suggested to go to Puerto Galera the following say (as the day was approaching it’s end) and that I could spend the night at his place as he was not there. I went to his place and after giving me the keys he left and I showered. I wanted so badly to go to Harversters Vegetarian but by the time I got there it was already closed. (Here, unlike in Spain, people eat VERY early and places close down accordingly). So I headed home and on my way I found this little chinese restaurant called “Kimpo Tea House” (Banawe St.) and decided it was good enough for my dinner. 

I ordered a bowl of noodles and vegetables that came with a complementary tea. I thought it was pretty strange to get hot food in that heat but inside the café there was AC and I was SO THIRSTY that I didn’t really care. I needed to hydrate myself. The noodles were delicious!!!

After dinner I went home and the following day I headed to the harbour that is “very close” to Manila. To get to Batangas harbour, I had to take a jeepney and then a bus. It all took me 3 hours. Once there I had to wait an extra hour to finally get on board and then 2 additional hours to arrive in Puerto Galera. And how disapponted I was when I saw the beach… It is apparently spot number one for all the Manileños that decide to spend the weekend at the beach. 

 The actual beach is pretty small and on weekend it gets packed. Also plenty of “banana boats” and sellers of all type. I almost cried. I figured myself spending a few days at the beach, nice and quite but the reality was very different. I decided to look for a room for the night and the minum they charge in high season is 1500 PHP (almost 30€ a night) for a room with a fan and a bathroom that is no larger that 1×1 sq meter.

 Once again  my cards didn’t work and I was not ready to spend all that money for that situation so I decided to stay the night and going back to Manila the following day. I took a room at “Buena Lynnes” Inn and after taking a shower I went to the supermarket to by something to eat. The room in Buena Lynnes is decent but the bathroom is very minimal and the WiFi very slow (and I had to ask for password as it was not given to me at check-in). Everything is very expensive there, even the local supermarket.

The following day I got up early and went for a swim. I might as well profit of the surrounding water as I hadn’t swam in more than a month!!! The water was just fantastic, clean and lukewarm and I enjoyed every single moment of my time in the water. After drying up, I packed my bags and went to the “muelle” (a strip of sand a little further down from the actual beach) and of course I had to pay 10PHP fee to enter. 

I arrived in Manila around 6pm and walked to the hostel that is only 15mins walk from the bus station.

“Pink Manila Hostel” is located in Bautista St, just a little off the main street. I chose it because it has a swimming pool and free breakfast but thank god I only have to stay here 2 days. Personnell is very nice but the cleaning staff shine for their absence. 

The good thing about this place is that I could use the kitchen to cook for myself and it was the best meal ever!!

Now I just need to rest a little bit, organize my next move and get ready for my trip to Taiwan.