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Pirate’s Cove

by becca on March 8, 2010

Nine hours overland from Padre Burgos (3 hours of which were impossibly bumpy), we finally arrived in Borongan, a little visited town on the Pacific coast in Eastern Samar. We were welcomed to Pirate’s Cove Beach and Surf Resort by the owner, Pete, an American surfer who’s been there for over 20 years. Lonely Planet promised us a mosaic covered paradise complete with a waterpark, multiple swimming pools, fish tanks, and outdoor kitchens, and we were not let down. Though the price quoted in LP was a bit misleading and required us to spend our budget for the week almost entirely on accommodation, we were able to save money by sharing the costs of day trips and homemade meals with the only other guests in the place — a couple of French surfers who we got to know quite well during our five-day stay.

Cooking in a real kitchen appealed to me greatly after over five months of only eating in restaurants. Each day we took a trip to the market, where we purchased fish basically straight out of the water and vegetables straight from the ground. I learned a great deal about cooking fish from Yann, who makes his living as a sailor and previously as a fisherman. Our menu varied each night, but the star of the meal was always mahi-mahi. We made kinilaw, a traditional Filipino dish consisting of fresh raw fish and vegetables with chili, ginger and vinegar; grilled mahi-mahi with a spicy mango salsa; a yellow fish curry; and steamed mussels cooked with beer in place of white wine.

The resort was a nice change from our typical low-cost digs and the four massive windows in our room facing the ocean also framed a sunrise that was worth waking up for each morning. We planned on learning to surf while there, but one day of battling the waves over the dead, razor sharp reef cut up my legs enough for the entire week. Our French friends seemed to enjoy surfing Pete’s private wave though — yes, he actually rents the area right where the wave breaks — as I think most experienced surfers would, especially when Pete cranks up the music: he’s got megaphones blasting his music of choice out into the ocean where you can hear the jams while riding the wave. I have to hand it to Pete who has created his surf temple in the middle of nowhere and maintains an area that attracts locals to come play for the day (for a fee of course) and a destination in itself for foreign tourists.

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Island Life in the Philippines

by becca on February 12, 2010

We spent a week in a little guesthouse on Panagsama beach in Moalboal. The door to our room opened onto a porch that faced the beach: a small sandy and rocky patch, with calm waves lapping, barely covering a wonderland of coral, and in the distance the mountainous outline of the island of Negros. The dive shop next door used our little beach front to load and unload tanks each morning and afternoon. I did a bit of diving and saw some magnificent walls of coral, a sea turtle, blue-banded sea snake, eels and a few other fishes. More exciting really, was the snorkeling Nate and I did right in front of our place.

The guesthouse was run by a Filipino woman called Cora who invited me to join her at the weekend market one morning. The photo in the set above showing a few women sitting on a cement pier and some men and kayaks in the water — that was the “fish market.” Unfortunately, they hadn’t been very successful that particular morning. This was no problem however as there was plenty of fruit at the market, happily fueling us for breakfast, lunch, and every snack time in between.

When the sun turned that warm yellow signaling late afternoon, groups of young happy children would come to swim just in front of us, providing hours of entertainment. I thought it was really interesting to watch the kids’ relationship to the ocean. Even though they live there, they don’t seem to take it for granted. They seem to understand what an infinite playground the ocean and the beach can be, and the thrill of the water hasn’t lost it’s edge. Everyone went home as the sun set and we sat on our porch, entranced each evening as it dipped behind the bumpy horizon.

We visited the “Message in a Bottle Museum” run by a charming couple who moved from the city to Moalboal, the wife’s home village, after their daughter finished law school. To keep busy, they maintain this little museum in the front of their home. They spoke about how unlucky people with no “home” outside the city are and say the fresh air and slow pace of the beach town have helped them stay young and healthy. The husband even brags about how a special kind of tea grown in their garden has completely cured his diabetes and he no longer depends on insulin.

The night before we left, a new family came to stay at Cora’s: an older woman, her four grown children, one grandchild and one German son-in-law. They enthusiastically invited us to eat dinner with them. We had “beach food”: fresh tuna grilled whole then dipped with hands in a soy sauce or spicy vinegar and garlic mixture; fresh sea cucumbers with green tomatoes, onions, garlic and vinegar (they have a consistency similar to squid but with a crunchy exterior); seaweed that had the texture of thin rice noodles; and mangoes for dessert. For hours we learned about their family and listened as they spoke with pride about their country and the places we should visit while we’re here. They also told us how to tell if fish are fresh or not, good to know!

Many of the interactions we had in Moalboal and many we have yet to have are enabled by two simple characteristics of Filipinos: 1) They are extremely friendly and curious and 2) most speak at least a bit of English, if not fluent English in an American accent. These two factors combined with the newness and uncallused world of tourism in the Philippines allow casual but genuine and unique interactions.

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“Malaysia, Truly Malaysia!”

February 3, 2010

Kuala Lumpur, affectionately referred to as KL, is the capital of Malaysia, and has become a symbol and shining beacon of the country. The city boasts a handful of 8+ story malls featuring the latest couture fashion and tech concept stores, museums to suit a wide range of interests, and wealth plus standard of living much higher […]

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George Town Eats

January 25, 2010

The city of George Town on the island of Penang, Malaysia was settled in 1786 by the British East India Company. George Town was declared a free port to compete with Dutch traders, and as such, attracted people from all over the world. The majority populations today are Chinese, Malay, and Indian. They all co-exist […]

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Chiang Mai Cooking Class

December 23, 2009

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s shining star of the north, full of culture and the means to help tourists take some of that culture home with them. From a wealth of options, we chose to take a Thai cooking class and over the course of the five-hour session we learned to make some of our favorite […]

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Nightcrawlers

November 22, 2009

Friday was our second day in Thailand and what better way to shift gears from one country to the next than to dive into the adventurously tasty local night market? Early in the day we met a group of French travelers who were also in town for the Surin Elephant Round Up. After “aperitifs” on […]

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Life in the Mekong Delta

November 3, 2009

The Mekong Delta is the area in the Southwest of Vietnam where the mighty Mekong River fans out and flows into the sea. Through a tour company that prides itself on off the beaten track experiences, we were able to spend a night in a homestay in the heart of the area, in Vinh Long […]

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Fishing from a Basket Boat

November 3, 2009

Doc and his friends were very welcoming to Nate and I, and made sure we saw a side of Nha Trang that the common visitor wouldn’t typically see. We ate a few times with him at Local Restaurant where we met the owner, Son. From a small village a few hours from Nha Trang, Son […]

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Vietnamese Iced Coffee

October 26, 2009

When Nate and I first arrived in Vietnam, we made a conscious decision to stop drinking coffee. After a few days of headaches from a lack of caffiene, this was going great. Then, my birthday rolled around. It was 8am and we were sitting in a classroom watching DVDs on diving. I made the mistake […]

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Nha Trang – I love this place

October 17, 2009

We’re currently in Nha Trang, and man, do I love this place. The first photo in the slideshow is the view from our hotel room, which is costing us a steep $8/night. We spent the first day on the beach, relaxing in beach chairs under a big bamboo umbrella. Tough life, but someone’s got to […]

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