We departed the protected cove of our resort on Miniloc Island, each paddling our own kayaks. As we made our way out of the cove, we caught a glimpse of “Hiwa”, the resident three-flippered Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
Making quick time, we rounded two massive limestone cliffsides jutting out over the Philippine Sea to find throngs of tourists all hoping to catch a glimpse of the “Big Lagoon” on Miniloc. As the tides were quite low, most people were walking into the lagoon through the knee-high, crystal clear waters. Continuing forward we were greeted by an empty lagoon; the absence of boats and people milling about brought forward the sounds of the rainforest – teeming with birds and a rather mysterious jostling of tree branches. Just as Tarin started to say how badly she wanted to see the indigenous Long-Tailed Macaque monkey, I spotted one fishing at the edge of a limestone rock not more than a stones throw. We slowed our kayaks to get a better view when we realized that the tree branches moving about were Mr. Macaque’s buddies, munching on ripe fruits aplenty. The longer we observed, the greater the number we saw. Mom’s carrying their little ones, adolescents playing with one another and a watchful male (I am sure you can imagine how we decided we was a male) keeping eyes on us at all times. We estimated that this group was 20 strong. They never appeared too concerned about us floating along, all the while ooing and ahhing at a sight we had never witnessed.
We kept our distance so as not to disrupt their afternoon foraging but not without shooting some video. No recorded media can do this experience justice but we hope some of the serenity and beauty of this place is palpable.
We have had the pleasure of visiting the Philippines for the last 10 days and we couldn’t be any happier that we came to this island paradise. We started our journey by visiting the Island of Cebu and spent most of our time in my colleague’s home town of Carmen. It seems as though the island never sleeps, there is constant chaos on the road and its difficult to imagine making a life here.To drive though shanty towns next to massive shopping malls was rather disheartening. It was difficult for us to realize and grasp the third world reality.
We thoroughly enjoyed our ‘family’ time in Carmen and couldn’t believe how many people came through to meet Rizza’s friends (us!). The home cooked Filipino food is to die for! We both agree it has been the best meal we have had the whole time while in the Philippines. Our last day with the family was spent driving 4 hours (in each direction), starting at 3 am to head south for swimming with whale sharks. Yes, you read that correctly, one of the oldest known and largest fish species on planey earth. I was, of course, nervous about the whole thing but they really are peaceful creatures who are not concerned with anything but the food coming from the boats. Our GoPro wasn’t working properly, so if you want to know what it’s like, YouTube “Whale Shark Swimming in Oslob, Cebu”. It was incredible. They were massive and made us realize how small and insignificant we humans are.
Our next island destination was our first ‘honeymoon’ spot – Miniloc Island. Imagine those images of thatch-roofed water cottages against limestone rocks with the jungle draping over, this is where we were for seven nights. It was only supposed to be five nights, but when a natural disaster occurs (Typhoon Kuppo) and the Coast Guard won’t allow boats to make mainland transfers you learn to accept paradise for an additional 2 full days and nights. Can you really be bummed? The weather wasn’t superb here, but the heat and humidity has been without fail. So, to ‘lay out’ in the sun didn’t need to occur in order to sweat and constantly feel the need to be in the water snorkeling the reef right off the dock. We certainly chose the right day for our island hop and picnic lunch on another island – since that day, all boats have been docked due to high surf.
We have had the chance to kayak, snorkel and play plenty of cards and dice enjoying our sea-view room. For the record, T kicked Nick’s butt in all but one hand of cards! There were plenty of naps on the white sand beaches and ample opportunity to drink the bar out of their local beers as it poured rain. We can look back and say we survived a Typhoon, in the classiest manner! We have been treated so well here, and have enjoyed our ‘honeymoon resort’ part of this trip, probably too much! Thankfully, we keep pinching each other and realizing how spoiled we treated ourselves.
Due to our extension, we did have to shorten our time in Moshi, Tanzania; and we are still hopeful that we will get off the Island and head out of Manila to catch our Safari on time. We will be meandering about the Serengeti during Nick’s 30th Birthday (Oct. 27th, for those who don’t know), so please send him lots of love for the dirty thirty! We will get that once we return to wi-fi, which may not be until we leave Africa.
Lying here on my ultra thin “bed” placed on the tatami mat of our Ryokan… in a bit of a beer-induced haze from last night…
Another amazing night in Japan, this time filled with traditional performance arts (including Geisha) and modern brews. We spent the evening in the Gion district, famous for it’s centuries old buildings and regular Geisha sightings. We will post some pics soon!
For all you beer lovers out there reading this, craft brews have hit Japan and you MUST come try. I filled my belly with a delicious IPA and T had a caramel-filled amber ale. Japan is in love with their dry, crisp lagers (Asahi, Sopporo, etc) which are definitely easy to drink…but there had to be something else to try in this land of refinement, right? Just ask your Ryokan staff for a recommendation and, voilà! True to form, we had good service, oishi food and a unique setting.
As we round out our time in the Japanese Alps, we have visited several neighborhoods, shrines, temples and markets throughout Tokyo and the Hida prefectures. And, we are in love! To think that this was a dream location for Nick and a place I would have never thought to go, it’s incredible to realize how much I know about this culture and how many things I love now having visited. Nick has been like a little kid in a candy store, finding himself often speechless. One, by the travel and the fact that we are living out a dream, but two, that we are in Japan, a place he has dreamt about since he was a young boy. I find pure joy in being by his side, living out his dream. Of course, I am taking the reins with the camera, with some slight nudges from my husband. It’s been a lot of fun getting back into my hobby, and the surroundings we have put ourselves in is a true dream. It’s just now starting to fall into Autumn here, although its been rather hot, both Nick and I have red cheeks today after our bike riding! But, the leaves have really started to change here in Takayama and goodness, do we both love Autumn. It’s very special to realize that we chose our perfect season for our wedding and for this travel.
Some of the more interesting things we have found in our week here in Japan is that its rather family oriented. They just dote over their little ones, and us newlyweds can’t get enough of the little munchkins. We have seen both moms and dads taking the kids to school in the morning and the whole family unit out in parks enjoying each others company.
The notion that one should be nervous to come to such a foreign place has been erased for us – all of the transit stations are in Japanese and English and they have information stations everywhere, with English speaking employees. There is a lot of hand gesturing and pointing at maps, but overall we get the point across. We bow our heads and say thanks (arigato!) more than once.
Another part of the Japanese culture that may be unknown is their genuine friendliness. Most smile as you walk by (with a bow of the head too) and will give a salutation as well. They will go out of their way to assist. We couldn’t find the ramen joint in our Tokyo neighborhood so we asked a local shopkeep – to our surprise, he walked us to the door of the restaurant which was at least 300 feet from his shop! It was crazy.
We are also surprised at how quiet Tokyo was, being such a large metropolitan. Our neighborhood was bustling in the morning, but you could hardly hear anything whether in your room or even on the streets (save the occasional loud truck or motorcycle). Without exaggerating, we heard ONE car horn honk in our three days in Tokyo! When we compare to our home in Newark CA, it’s astounding. There are also a lot of signs on the metro reminding passengers to refrain from talking on the phone. Nick and I paid close attention to the Japanese riders and noticed that we should be darn near whispering most of the time but were still able to hear one another clearly. Certainly a different manner of carrying one’s self than we are used to.
Have you ever used the NYC metro? Ever realized how nasty is it? Well, come over to this side of the Pacific and you will be amazed – the subway, the streets, everything is spotless. They wash the sidewalks and entrances of buildings every morning. Before our countryside bike tour yesterday we saw a group of bankers outside cleaning the sidewalks together before the opening of business. Their attention to detail is really something to take into consideration.
One of the biggest interests in our travel around this world is to discover the food we love in the places they originate and try food we have never encountered. Japan is certainly showing us some new flavors and preparation methods while also showing us their refinement. It’s been quite a shock to our palette. We’ve found it’s hard to finish a whole meal because the flavors are so new and rich. Oishi! (yummy, tasty). We have had some incredible sushi and have learned the traditional way for eating this beloved food. Thankfully, it’s your choice here to use chopsticks or your hands with a piece of sushi, so if the little sticks aren’t cooperating put them down and dig in!
The big city of Tokyo enjoys it’s fashion. Nick and I love to people watch and we have seem some great outfits. Specifically, both men and women have unique shoes. We have seen every sort of style, both some we would want and others… not so much. Keep in mind, they remove their shoes before entering any dwelling, so the fancy shoes everyone wears is only for the world to see! It’s been a lot of fun experiencing the culture embracing such individuality.
We have been tracking our walking mileage with a pedometer in our backpack and spent the last two days on bikes. So far, in this last week we have walked a shade over 25 miles and riden approximately 12 miles on bikes 🙂 No rest for the weary, although this jet lag has been very hard, although I think we are both finally over the hump!