2 weeks in The Philippines, split between 2 centres - Donsol and El Nido followed by 3 days in Hong Kong.
Population: 88m (UK = 60m)
Area: 300,000sq km (UK = 245,000)
Famous for: 1) Imelda Marcos' shoes,
being made up of 7000 islands Cost of a can of Coke in a restaurant (the new standard!): 50p
Temperature in Feb/Mar: "Warm & wet " 26-28'C day and night . 80-90% humidity. Local food: chicken fat & bones. £1.20 Flight cost: £350 to Hong Kong + £90 to Manila
40 hours in transit, via flights to Hong Kong, Manila (stay overnight) and Legaspi, we finally rolled up at Donsol. A one horse town on the edge of nowhere. There isn't even a horse here, but luckily there are whale sharks... For a few months each year it's possibly the most reliable place in the world to see these rare 10-15m long giants.
Day 3-6: Whale shark sensations
It's the reason we came all this way. A chance to see the biggest fish there is. They come here reliably this time each year because the water is full of plankton which they feed on.
There were 13 ricketty boats with 6 people each searching the ocean hoping to stumble across one, so you can jump in an snorkel along with it until it dives too deep.
After a few hours, the first one was spotted by another boat and by the time we got there it had gone deep. Michelle caught a fleeting glimpse of the monster as it disappeared into the murky depths. I was there only seconds later and saw nothing.
Then came our chance. This time we were the second boat to arrive and we jumped in ahead of the 12m long monster shark. It's so cloudy you can only see a few metres, but then all of a sudden, filling your view like an IMAX cinema, appears the colossal and beautiful beast gracefully swimming towards you like a gargantuan Hoover. We stayed with it for maybe 5 mins, struggling to comprehend the magnitude of what we were seeing.
On the second day we didn't see any and then on the third day we saw 3 more.
The food here leaves a lot to be desired. If you like chicken fat and bones it's not too bad, but otherwise the only option is fish. So we quickly learnt how to eat fish... (which was amazingly quite nice! But made me feel guilty when I saw them swimming in the sea the next day...)
Transfer to Manila A strange place and much maligned. No one ever has a good word to say about Manila. We weren't there long enough to really know. They drive fanastically. All horn and lane changing. But no anger, everyone just accepts it and keeps their wits about them.
Rather alarmingly they didn't let you in most places with your guns. But I suppose that's a good thing.
We got ripped off by a cycle-taxi big style. We agreed a fare of 30p, but after a few miles journey it turned out to be 30p each... We therefore couldn't afford to eat that night...
Day 8: Transfer to El Nido
It was one of those planes where the safety briefing just states "The emergency exit is there" and they point at the door you and the other 6 passengers just came through. There's no toilets either. If you need a wee, you go to the back of the plane and wind down the window.
We landed on a dirt strip runway.
Days 9-13: El Nido
Our little hut was on the beach and it came with it's own supply of wildlife.
We had a fantastic red spotted gecko who lived in the roof, a cockroach who lived on the bog roll, and biting ants which lived in the bed! We ended up moving rooms as the ants were a nightmare.
We spent each day visiting different beaches and snorkelling
This is a remora - one of the fishes which attaches itself to big fishes for a ride. He followed us for 20 mins until we got out.
Jellyfish were all over the place. Most didn't sting, but some did. I got stung on the lips which is far from pleasant...
This sea snake is venomous, but I think I was too big for him to try and eat.
Day 13-16: Hong Kong
It had been very humid in the Philippines (80%) so our clothes never dried and were starting to fester and the food had been poor. We had also been ill for while - this adventuring lark isn't all glamour...
So it was a very welcome 3 days relaxing on the way back in Hong Kong - in the world's poshest hotel. It had things like hot water and electricity. At breakfast I was almost overcome with joy when faced with the availability of familiar hygenic Frosties.
It's a really nice city, no litter and everything is clean and sparkly. Once we'd washed our clothes we fitted in OK.
Every night is a sound and light show. Very impressive.