I’ve wanted to see my wife’s home country again, and the chance is soon to be here. We have our tickets bought and will be leaving soon. We’ve got a 24/7 house sitter/cat sitter lined out, gifts for friends, and tickets for travel around the islands.
I thought I’d write a little bit about the preparations.
Air travel is getting very expensive. I was looking around for fares this June and spotted round trip tickets from Lewiston, Idaho to Cebu,Philippines for $1238 each on Asiana. After a short deliberation, I jumped at ’em. Last time I went to the PR, it was $960 round trip out of Spokane, WA. And oil was about $55 per barrel. So I think I did pretty good.
I love planning trips. It made a very onerous working year go by quickly. If the plans meet well with reality, we should have a great trip. Briefly, we will (weather and situations permitting)…Lounge a few days on the island of Siquijor. Spend one week at a friends house on Negros. Go to a cock fight. Take a stateroom (best on the ship) Superferry trip from Dumaguete to Manila. Have two low key parties with friends, schoolmates, and relatives in Manila. Fly from Manila to Tacloban, Leyte on CebuAir. Enjoy another low key party with relatives in Salcedo, Eastern Sumar. Go to the Sinulog in Cebu, with seats at the sports arena to watch the dancing competition. Take the Seoul City Tour in Seoul, South Korea and see the sights.
On the wish/hope/possibilities list…Snorkel with whale sharks. A day tour to Corregidor. A visit to Baguio. A side trip to Bohol. Visiting a friend’s sick mother in Ilo Ilo and a day or two at Boracay. The Camotes Islands.
Things I’m not sure about…Balut. Durian. Getting close to an active volcano (Mayon). Fishing from a small boat. Europe making a mess of the world economy. Weather and the associated flooding.
Unknown list…I am very creative at sniffing out unusual and off-the-beaten-track points of interest. I look for the crowds of tourists, then turn around 180 degrees and start moving.
Sound ambitious? We have 7 weeks to get this accomplished!
Sound expensive? It isn’t, except for the flight to/from the US. You will be amazed.
Sound risky? Not particularly, unless you are unlucky or careless.
Getting ready; the devil is in the details. There are soo many things to do when preparing for an extended trip. First and foremost in my mind is health. Foreign countries in the tropics have unique dangers for travelers, especially travelers and races that are not accustomed to the diseases in that area. So, I go to the travel clinic at the Pullman Regional Hospital for advice and inoculations. I’ve had shots for Hep A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus, and Japanese Encephalitis over the years. Plus pills for things like Montezuma’s revenge and malaria. And seasick patches for the ferry and fishing. The areas we are going are not high risk for mosquito borne disease, but no sense in taking chances.
Money is also something to think about. Capital One has the best deal for cash advances of any company I have found. My debit card is second best, but I don’t like using it that much. Pretty risky. And I don’t like travelers checks, in spite of what people tell me. They can be very difficult and many times impossible to cash in small towns. And there are usually long lines at banks large enough to handle those checks. Here is a little tip for readers, how to exchange large bills. ATMs pay off in large notes, that way more will fit in the machine. But the average person on the street in many countries may not ever even have enough money to own one of those bills, let alone change it. And you might have 10 of them. Gas stations have a large supply of cash, almost all of them accept cash only. Be sure to tip the attendant for his trouble.
One of the biggest mistakes travelers can make is allowing themselves to be an easy target. I make myself seem difficult to deal with and hope the scurrilous individuals look for an easier mark. I am also big and strong looking compared to the locals in the Philippines. Another important thing to do is not “look the part” of a tourist. Even if you are confused or lost, act confident. That attitude erodes the confidence of crooks. I’ve had pickpockets stalking me and my party, and a dirty look gets rid of them quick. I’ve also had scam artists send cute little 6-10 year old girls out to charm me. Doesn’t fly.
With the advent of “date rape” drugs, another danger has reared it’s head. Even big, tough men can be easily subdued by slipping something into their food or drink. Never take anything edible from someone you don’t know, unless it is an organized eatery that everyone is patronizing. Especially if you are traveling alone.
Luggage is a concern as well. We will be allowed 4 luggages with a maximum weight of 50lbs. each. I don’t want to deal with near that much weight, I’ve got my baggage on a diet. I also have a backpack carry on that will contain: SLR camera, video camera, spare clothes, medications, netbook computer, book, crossword puzzles, pencil, headphones, reading glasses, toothbrush and toothpaste, toiletries, and paperwork for customs. (Note, I’ve got it packed and the sucker is heavy. Bummer) We are taking a good Coleman 3 day cooler. Coolers are expensive in the Philippines, this one would be around $60-80 dollars. We have a spare and it’s going to relatives in Praxy’s home village in Eastern Sumar. It’s a 1-2 hour drive to the nearest town of any size.
Since Praxy was born in the Philippines, we do not need to get a tourist visa. That saves $60 and the hassle of sending our passports to the Philippine Consul in San Francisco. We are allowed a one year stay. We can’t afford to go that long, and I don’t want to spend the summer there. Too hot.
One reason to check out Baguio is that the elevation is high and the weather is much cooler. I’m going to be watching for coolish places during our travels with a wintertime retirement cottage in mind. Housing is inexpensive in remote areas. But, there has to be a compromise between cost and accessibility for supplies and medical care. Housing in the larger cities is lower than the US, but they are still expensive on my budget.
Next update will probably be from Sea-Tac. We have a long layover and I’m going to need something to do. I’m hoping there is an electrical outlet to charge my computer.